Filmmaker Interview by Chris Olson
UK Film Review were lucky enough to catch up with director Scott Vickers about his filmmaking. During the filmmaker interview we spoke about PTSD, working with an indie movie budget, and...of course...what he would say if he were a dolphin...
You made a short film, Advance to Contact, back in 2013. For those who don't know anything about it, can you tell us how the film came to be and why you wanted to tell this story?
I was inspired to make a film about Post Traumatic Stress Disorder within the armed forces after reading several articles about an epidemic of soldiers returning home after combat in Iraq and Afghanistan and taking their own lives. It was especially stirring for me as I’d been diagnosed with PTSD a decade earlier after a sudden death in the family.
Initially I was going to make a documentary but after a visit to Combat Stress I came in touch with a soldier who told me his story and it was so moving and astounding that I decided to base the story solely on his experience and make a drama.
PTSD is a harrowing theme, and films that depict stories with it are often dark in nature. Is this something you wanted to engage with or avoid?
I wanted to engage with the darkness. I wanted the audience see through the eyes of the main character “Ben” during his darkest moments. Ben was so disorientated through stress and severe lack of sleep that his nightmares started to merge with reality and he’d often hallucinate.
Were there any films or other influences that you really used for reference points when making Advance to Contact?
There was a documentary I watched called Battle Scarred and several newspaper articles that set the ball rolling.
You made the film on a really small budget. What becomes your priority during the filmmaking? And how do you overcome the inevitable obstacles that bigger budgets can tackle?
For me priority for any film being shot and especially on a tiny budget is planning. I knew that if I dropped a day or we got delayed in some way, the film would probably not be competed. I storyboarded every single shot, spent three weeks doing the storyboards and in the months leading up to production I made sure I had contingencies and everything was prepped.
Getting a committed cast and crew together is key; people who really believe in the script and the project, they have to really want to get the project done. And food - feed the crew well!
Are you going to make any more films about PTSD? What's next for you?
No more films about PTSD for me. My current project is a horror thriller shot on a micro budget. It's called MOTHER and is about a pregnant couple who are taken captive on a farm by a family who steal children and bring them up as their own.
We will be sure to look out for that! How do you approach finding an audience in 2017? Where are the successes and struggles?
I think there’s one genre that the studios don’t have control over and generally don’t do so well at and that's Horror.
All the best horrors I’ve seen in the last few years have been true indies. Finding an audience in this era of mass programming with the likes of Netflix is achieved by writing better scripts than the studios and working your arse off. There’s a lot of good stuff on Netflix and coming out of Hollywood, but there’s also a tonne of rubbish.
If you could offer any advice to new filmmakers, what would it be?
Make films! Write something, shoot it and edit it. Whatever you can afford. Even if it's a scene with a few mates. There is no substitute for just getting on with it and making something, that's how you learn. If you can, go to as many script writing seminars as you can and read scripts of the films you love and get to grips with story structure.
What would you say if you were a dolphin?
Please, humans, stop dumping plastic bags in the ocean, it's our home! They look just like jelly fish and we keep eating them, they are seriously bad for us! STOP IT!
Advance to Contact is available on iTunes and Amazon.