Your new movie Exit
- in a few words, what is it about?
The basic question underlying the whole thing is: what is reality?
One of the voices in Y’s head actually asks the question: Is anything
real? Maybe everything is, maybe nothing is.
Suppose you live inside a Virtual Reality construct but don’t
realise it until the whole thing starts falling apart. Then you struggle
to understand what you’re seeing. Exit
tries to capture what it might be
like to experience that. It’s also an experiment in having three
different realities going on at once, any or none of which may be real.
Is Y actually living inside a virtual reality? Is he a writer writing
about a character living inside a virtual reality? Or a catatonic inmate
of an asylum imagining a writer writing about a character living inside a
virtual reality? You decide.
being a piece of antiutopian cinema, to what extent is it based on the way
you see the world of today?
It was based on how I see
seaside estates of empty holiday homes. Beautifully-landscaped estates
which are almost empty for two thirds of the year, giving the surreal
feeling of the homes being mere facades. Like film sets designed to trick
people into believing they’re in some ordinary reality when the opposite
is true. The rest of it was based on my fascination with the idea of
realities inside realities like Russian Dolls, and the concepts behind
(Other) sources of
inspiration when writing Exit?
I would change the word ‘writing’ to ‘developing’ Although I
had a screenplay of sorts, it wasn’t really a scripted project. It came
about organically, shooting ideas as they came to me in the classical
experimental style. I only wrote a rough screenplay so as to give the
other cast and crew members some idea of what they would be doing.
The most rigorous part of writing was the voice overs, two-thirds of which
were dropped from the finished film.
Inspiration for the multi-tiered ‘storyline’ came from the whole
idea of quantum physics in which all of time is basically happening all at
once on many different levels, but human beings - like slugs crawling
along a ruler - only experience one thing at a time on a linear level.
They never get the ‘big picture’.
On a filmmaking level, I was inspired (without in any way copying) by
the works of Andrei Tarkovsky (Stalker), US film artist Matthew Barney
(The Cremaster Cycle), and Japanese experimental filmmaker Shuji
Terayama (The Labyrinth, 16 + 1) .
is rather associative when it comes to storytelling - so do talk about
that approach of yours, and how hard was it to not lose the plot in the
There wasn’t any desire to have a story in the normal sense of the
word. It was conceived as a series of interlinking ideas around a theme.
Shifting ideas around to achieve a balance was relatively easy. Some
ideas got thrown out because they didn’t fit easily with the rest. It
was intended as an experimental art film aimed more at art galleries than
cinemas. For this reason, it’s good that the Overkill Festival in
Netherlands (25 - 27 November) is screening it as an installation instead
of as a movie. It’s not intended to be experienced as a ‘story’ that
needs to be followed from beginning to end, but as a visual and aural
odyssey where you can experience as much or as little as you wish from any
point you wish.
You also play the lead in Exit
- so do talk about your character, and have you written him with yourself
in mind from the get-go?
It was never intentional. I began filming myself as part of
experimenting with a new camera. I didn’t expect to be the lead
character in a movie. For a long time, I didn’t even know I was making
any kind of movie, experimental or otherwise. I was just playing around
with a camera to see what it could do and what I could do with it. When I
finally realised I was shooting a film of sorts, I had so much footage of
myself, I had literally no choice but to continue. It was that or re-shoot
everything with another person.
I didn’t have any character notes or back story because Y himself
doesn’t really know who he is or what he is. He lives from
‘day-to-day’ in a kind of abstract soulless limbo where nothing ever
changes and no one ever asks why. Their VR constructs are not programmed
to ask such questions. The only thing he can experience when it all starts
breaking down around him is bewilderment and the desire to find out
what’s real. That’s when the very idea of reality itself gets called
What can you tell us about the
rest of your cast, and why exactly these people?
Once I realised I had some sort of experimental art film and that I
would need more than myself and my partner to complete it, I put ads in
the local newspapers and community bulletins asking for volunteers. I
didn’t expect to find more than a couple of people interested. To my
great surprise, I was literally overwhelmed with interest and had to turn
some very enthusiastic people down because they were too young for the
roles on offer.
There are three main characters - Y who is played by me, U who is
played by my partner Andrea, and R, the Psychiatrist, who is played
by Ed Mylan. Andrea and I played roles because we were both
available and obviously weren’t going to charge anything. Ed was a
filmmaker from the USA and provided some gear for the shoot. Originally he
wanted to get involved in editing, but his appearance convinced me he was
right for the role of the Psychiatrist. He was also the main compsositor
for the green screen work, some of which we made deliberately rough to
capture the feeling of things falling apart.
There is also Gemma Papalia who plays the Face of Ecstasy, and Gemma
Wells who turned out to be an excellent Newsreader. The final character is
the Madwoman in the asylum played by retired local actor Lorraine Hall who
also co-produced the film. These people basically looked right for the
roles. The rest of the cast are extras who double in various places since
we never see who they are.
Christine Monjaret, for example, was a figure in the asylum scenes and
also provided the voice of the telecommunications system in Y’s
dwelling. Andrew Hills was another extra who also played one of the voices
in Y’s head.
about your directorial approach to your story at hand!
I had to find ways of shooting scenes which would make it immediately
clear that this had nothing to do with the real world. So I shot close ups
of hands and mouths and silhouettes against glaring white backgrounds. As
a hearing impaired person, I’m always looking at people’s mouths to
try and lipread them. It’s normal for me. But most people don’t
perceive other people as merely mouths so this served to create a
heightened sense of unreality. Ditto for the silhouette shots where we see
the inmates of the asylum only as slow-moving shadows. The seaside estates
had their own sense of unreality - row after row of beautiful houses
with beautiful landscaping, empty and silent. Much of the film takes
place inside Y’s mind so I used a variety of visual and aural
techniques to try and capture the way his thoughts were playing out and
the way he experienced his world disintegrating around him.
With my actors and extras, I simply kept all acting requirements to a
minimum. Sometimes, they surprised me.
few words about the shoot as such, and the on-set atmosphere?
On the DVD there are interviews with the cast and crew who basically
say how much they enjoyed the experience and how eye-opening it was for
many of them. Few of them had ever worked on a film before so it was a
learning experience. I had to show some of them how to do what needed to
be done. The rest of the time it was just me and a camera, or Andrea and
me and a camera. It was a very simple and basic type of shoot. For those
who had worked on a professional film before, it was eye-opening for that
reason. As Lorraine Hall said - having been on sets with 50 or 60 people
around, it was a shock to come on my set and find only two or three people
to do everything.
But it all contributed to a greater sense of enjoyment.
$64-question of course, when and where will Exit
be released onto the general public?
is being released as a limited edition DVD. Only 30 copies will
ever be made. We’ve already sold about half to people who are interested
in this type of film. We’re also selling to institutions i.e.
universities and libraries.
If anyone is interested in purchasing a DVD, they can contact me direct
via my email address (email@example.com), or via The Overkill
Festival, or leave a message with you. They can also contact me on
It won’t be streaming online anywhere primarily because the DVD is
intended as a work of art in itself, an object to own and cherish.
You can, however, see the trailer online on YouTube , Vimeo or
Anything you can
tell us about audience and critical reception of your film yet?
won Best Director award at the Hell Chess Film Festival in Madrid,
Spain in July this year. This was an official event of the Cultural
Affairs Department of Madrid and drew an audience of between 200 and 300
people, mostly avant garde film buffs of one sort or another. The festival
has a very rigorous selection procedure and screened only nine films from
all over the world.
The organiers compared Exit
in theme to Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A
Space Odyssey and declared it a “brilliant, brave and bold attempt to
challenge old narrative methods” I was told it was only a couple of
votes from winning Best Film award.
Frank Schonewille, who publishes Cultzine in the Netherlands, described
it as “Existentialism in all its glory”, and Stuart Anderson who
publishes The Fifth Dimension called it “Mind-bending”.
Most people who have seen it either privately or at the premiere have
been impressed and conveyed to me their pleasure at being fortunate enough
to experience such a work.
I have no doubt there would be plenty of people in the world who would
hate Exit, but I didn’t make it for them.
future projects you'd like to share?
Talking about future
projects is like giving Murphy a personal invitation to come along and
stuff them up before they even get to first base. My advice is don’t.
website, Facebook, whatever else?
Feeling lucky ?
any of my partnershops yourself
for more, better results ?
The links below
will take you
The trailer is on YouTube at
on Facebook at
of the film can be seen at
More information on me can be found at
Anything else you're
dying to mention and I have merely forgotten to ask?
I hope I’m not dying yet but I’ll let you know about that after I get
the test results back.
for the interview!
Thanks again for the opportunity!