In part two of The Edge‘s interview with director-producer team Keir and Dédé Burrows, the names behind Raindance favourite Worm, we continued to talk about the brilliance of sci-fi, including our favourite sci-fi’s, and whether Alex Garland’s Ex Machina can really stand the test the time…
One of the questions Worm tries to answer, or at least bring up, is what it means to be human and to be alive, and that’s something that a lot of sci-fi’s aim to cover as well. Why did you decide to take that particular direction you did with ‘Worm’ to cover that?
Keir: I guess for starters, with any movie, whether it’s sci-fi or not, at least with what I want to make, it’s going to try and tell a story that has more to it than just the events that are happening. So it’s not just “let’s get from A to B and save the world” it’s “let’s get from A to B and save the world but show how that relates to our real world.” It just gives you a little bit more to think about, a little bit more to take away from the viewing experience. And with that, though, is to make sure it never goes too deep into that and ignores the entertainment factor. It’s all about trying to keep that balance between fun and exciting and what the hell’s going to happen next, and also have a little bit of depth and layers to it, essentially. So with Worm, it happened simultaneously, it wasn’t that I set out to say “oh I want to make a movie about the dangers of scientific overreach” or “are we more than matter” or “do we have a soul,” all of these sorts of questions, but those are questions that have interested me.
Is sci-fi a particularly attractive genre for you?
K: Yes! Yeah, definitely. Absolutely, I love sci-fi, I always have, not exclusively, I have no intention of only doing sci-fi in the next three feature scripts that I’ve written and working on at the moment. One’s a sci-fi, one’s a horror, the other’s a war film. But I do like genre films, you can use genre to tell an exciting story. I’m repeating myself here but you can add layers, you can create stuff. What’s great with sci-fi is that you can present an implausible, hypothetical situation on screen very easily because of the medium. So you can make someone create a wormhole, all this crazy shit happens, and you don’t have to spend fourteen chapters of a book explaining the world that they’re in and why it works.
What are your top three favourite sci-fi’s?
K: Oh god, good question. I literally keep a list on my phone of my favourite movies. If I see a film I like, I’ll go on the list and see where exactly it goes. But my memory’s shitty, so I guess off the top of my head, Moon, The Matrix, and, hm gosh, really need to look at my list! I’ll see if something pops up in my head later
I really like ‘Ex Machina’, that’s my favourite sci-fi
K: I did see that one. I definitely need to see it a second time because I think I went into with too high expectations. Especially the end, I definitely need to watch it again. When I know what it’s about and I can focus on the details. It happens a lot with movies.
Dédé: I was focused a lot, too much, on the aesthetic [of ‘Ex Machina’]because that was, for me, the striking point of sci-fi, and of the film
K: Yeah, and I guess with Alex Garland [writer and director of ‘Ex Machina’], he wrote The Beach and then wrote a whole bunch of films scripts for Danny Boyle, which were all amazing film scripts, and now he’s a film’s director! Legend!
Obviously Raindance is a pretty amazing congregation of some of the best independent cinematic efforts around from all kinds of background and budgets. So what advice would you give to any aspiring filmmakers who maybe don’t have the big budgets of the Hollywood big-shots.
K: Take it slow, prepare. Prepare, prepare, prepare. There’s no point running out and shooting something unless you’ve got a script that is amazing. Because making a movie that’s like six out of ten isn’t going to do anything for you unless you’ve got Brad Pitt in it or someone like that. So that’s probably the biggest thing I would say, don’t rush out, and just roll cameras immediately, you gotta have a really good idea first and if you don’t think your idea is the most amazing idea you’ve ever seen, then try and come up with something better
D: Yeah, and try and find someone to work with. I mean the reason, I guess, that we can do it is that we can work together, we’re married, so we can always have the time to work together.
K: We can stay up until three in the morning and work on it every single day.
D: Yeah, but if you want to direct but you can’t write a good script, then get someone to write some scripts. And you gotta click with your writer, you really do.
K: Oh also, do a lot of shorts. I mean that’s just from our experience, but we made a lot of shorts and I was like “oh maybe one more and then a feature” and then we made six shorts. And Worm would have been the worst movie if we hadn’t, because of the people we’ve met, and y’know you make big mistakes in short films and it’s like “okay we won’t show anyone that one” whilst the feature is such a big thing that you generally have to put it out there, and then another and then you live and die on these things essentially.
Any final words on Worm?
K: Go watch it! Good riddance! I’m proud of it, I am. There were so many times I was just like ‘ugh this is just the biggest pile of shit’ and I just wanted to curl up into a ball and die, but –
D: Especially during the editing, where you’d just feel like it wasn’t good enough after editing certain chunks
K: Yeah the first edit on the film was like two and a half hours. So we just got rid of 35 minutes of – like whatever
D: What was even in there? Clearly wasn’t important
K: But yeah, I’m proud of it. Looking forward to doing something else and I really look forward to doing something else more properly rather than trying to self-finance it, to do it over several periods of time. I think yeah, just mentally it’s so exhausting and for the final product it worked but it took a toll. That’s my final words. Smash, throw shit around, jump out the window!
Worm was shown as part of last month’s Raindance film festival.