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An Interview with Aidan Barker-Dean, Director/Co-Writer, Marc Smith, Co-Writer/Cinematographer, and Hannah Skidmore, Producer of Sister Vengeance

by Mike Haberfelner

August 2013

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Your upcoming movie Sister Vengeance - in a few words, what is it about?


Aidan: Sister Vengeance is the story of a genetically engineered samurai nun from the distant future, who is on a quest for revenge against her diabolical brother after he massacred the rest of their ďfamilyĒ. That old chestnut.

Marc: An orgy of nuns, guns and badly-drawn puns.

Hannah: Sounds like the film I signed up for.


As far as I know, Sister Vengeance is your final year project in Media Production at the University of Lincoln, UK. So how did you band together and decide on exactly this project?


Aidan: I think it was one of those things where I suggested the idea semi-jokingly, but people sort of latched on to it. It was something that appealed to the whole group for different reasons, the humour, the violence, the action, the style, etc. There was something there that got all our respective creative juices flowing, and it was something ambitious and different to what any of us had done before.


I've read somewhere that Sister Vengeance is going to be "a cocktail of grindhouse cinema, samurai B-movies, pulpy science fiction and anime" - so what can you tell us about your love for these genres, and some of your genre favourites (for whatever reason)?


Aidan: What I love about all those genres mentioned is that they all present this warped version of reality. They donít play into the logic of the real world; so youíve just got to sort of go with the world the presented. That was a big inspiration for Sister Vengeance. I think we all relish the chance to create a world on screen that is very far from ours. Our main influences for Sister Vengeance has been stuff like Shogun Assassin, RoboCop, Claymore, Kill Bill, They Call Her One-Eye. There are definitely shades of all those mentioned and more in Sister Vengeance.

Hannah: I think itís safe to say that people will be sitting there watching, saying ďIíve seen something like this beforeĒ or ďThis scene is just likeÖĒ, but then thatís where weíll hit them! Sister Vengeance certainly dips into different genres and acts, as homage to different films, but thereís a streak of originality that we canít wait to show people.


What can you tell us about the film's writing process and your co-writer Marc Smith?


Aidan: I have never really co-written a screenplay, so itís been interesting. Itís been strange to invite someone else into the crazy internal world I inhabit when Iím writing, but itís certainly been fun. Marcís a big horror buff, so he comes at Sister Vengeance from that angle. Itís been useful for a project thatís so ďout thereĒ to have another perspective, either to say ďI think thatís too muchĒ or ďI think we need to go furtherĒ on various aspects of the story and script.


Do talk about the intended look and feel of your movie for a bit!


Aidan: The visual style weíve been talking about is very Ď70s. Like a spaghetti western on an even lower budget, so lots of open spaces, with very bright cinematography. Where we do want to differ, is that in terms of movement, we want more energy and more camera movement.

Marc: Yes, really reminiscent of 70ís grindhouse cinema, essentially creating a faux-grindhouse look that works well with modern filmmaking techniques.


Sister Vengeance seems to be quite a complex project - so where do you see the challenges of bringing your story to the screen on the production side of things?


Aidan: I think the biggest challenge is making the action not look shitty, to be frank. Set dressing, props and so on are easy enough, but to achieve this big, over the top action scenes on a low budget, and to do that safely, is going to be a challenge. A fun challenge, but a challenge all the same.

Hannah: That was the idea behind launching the IndieGoGo campaign - -, to raise a budget big enough to ensure that weíll be able to pull off Sister Vengeance without looking shitty. None of us have worked on university projects with budgets larger than £100, so itís going to be exciting if we reach our target.

Marc: Thankfully though to ensure that we can pull off the over the top action scenes, Ben, our sound guy, is trained in various martial arts so heíll be able to make a lot of the action scenes work for us.


Do talk about your key crew for a bit, and why exactly these people?


Hannah: Sister Vengeance will mark the first time that the five of us have worked together, but thereís already a really strong rapport between us all, and years of friendship between certain members. But from the word go, everyone has had his or her head in the game, showing clear determination to make sure this project succeeds. From a producing viewpoint, thatís the key ingredient.

Aidanís worked on a number of short films and sketches, ranging in genres, but having also worked on screen and stage as an actor himself, heís exactly the type of director you want on a project where youíre asking so much of your actors.

Cinematography is in the safe hands of Marc, whoís worked on a number of short films, which have tested his creative skillsets, and heís a firm believer that nothing too insane is impossible, which is perfect when youíre aiming to bring a screenplay like Sister Vengeance to life.

From the word go, Charlotte Dick, our Editor, understood the quality of work we were aiming to produce and simply wasnít fazed. Having edited fiction shorts as well as documentaries before, sheís geared up for the challenge and weíre thankful that weíll be placing the rushes in her hands.

Music and sound engineering is the responsibility of Ben Kelly, whose background includes various radio dramas and short films. Heís got an ear for sound and knows exactly what works and what doesnít. For Sister Vengeance the soundtrack will be one of the most importance factors, so having Ben on board will help us ensure that itís not a failure.

Iím undertaking the role of producer, so itís great to know that Iíll be working alongside a dedicated team, each determined to bring Sister Vengeance to life. My previous works include a variety of short films, as well as a feature length film that was shot this summer.


As far as I know, your movie's still in its fundraising stages as we speak. So what can you tell us about your fundraising efforts?


Hannah: The response that weíve received from the IndieGoGo campaign has been incredible. It was launched just over a week ago, and with over 20 days still remaining; weíve almost raised half of our £500 goal. Seeing that people are just as excited by the project as we are only makes us more determined to make this a success. Weíre offering various Ďperksí to anyone that donates, everything from signed scripts, DVDís to being an extra in the film. Each perk is our way of saying thank you for backing us.


Once the funds are raised, any idea when and where the film will be released onto the general public?


Hannah: Pre-production is currently underway, with filming set to begin in October/November and post-production beginning towards the end of November. Due to the project being part of our university course, our first priority is to submit it to our tutors in December. We are aiming to upload the film around the same time, to sites such as Vimeo, but anyone that has donated and claimed one of the perks, that include a DVD copy of the film, will receive these before Sister Vengeance is released publicly online.


Any future projects you'd like to share?


Marc: Weíre in the process of forming our own production company, Aidan, Hannah and myself; so various projects are in the pipeline for sure.

Aidan: Weíve got a few things coming up after Sister Vengeance, including a horror flick thatíll be interesting for people to see after the release of this project.

Hannah: Our minds are constantly running away with new ideas, and after the positive response that Sister Vengeance has received, thereís no doubt that weíll begin production on a new project as soon as this one has finished. After all, filmmaking is what weíre passionate about.


How did you get into filmmaking to begin with, and what can you tell us about your filmwork prior to Sister Vengeance?


Aidan: For me personally, Iíve always been into film. My parents showed me a lot of stuff, and actively discussed films and stories with me, so itíd always been encouraged. I think what made me actually sit up and think ďI can do that!Ē is the movie Shaun of the Dead. Before that came out, movie making felt like a very American enterprise and I felt like the only British movies Iíd seen were either very dated comedies or very serious dramas. Seeing something fresh and crazy like Shaun of the Dead, that was not just a comedy, but also a genuine zombie movie, was a revelation to me at that age. Since then Iíve discovered many other influences, but I think the suggestion that I could make movies, and they could be something different and out there, was planted in my brain by Shaun of the Dead.

Marc: I got into film-making when I was a teenager, it was a case of getting together with my friends, with a crap mobile phone camera and being like ďHey guys, letís make a film!Ē We made a terrible horror short in the woods near my house, but the experience of that was so much fun that I wanted to keep doing it. Once I left school, I immediately signed up for the Film & Television course at my local college and the rest is history. Recently Iíve become involved with Backyard Productions, working in the PR department, as well working on the first feature length production from GS Productions What Goes Up, and those experiences have brought so many new things to the table for me.

Hannah: Iíve been quite lucky in knowing where Iíve wanted my career to head for a few years now. My overly active imagination met its muse in filmmaking during sixth form. Unlike most of the students, Media Studies wasnít a Ďdossí subject choice for me. The course gave me the creative freedom to bring all of my ideas to life. Iíd always had a stronger interest in films and their productions than most people I was surrounded by, so deciding to work towards gaining a Media Production degree at university finally felt like Iíd arrived home. For the past two years, being surrounded by people just as creative and determined, as myself has been incredible. However the real career push came last year, when I realised that I wanted to focus on the producing side of filmmaking. The opportunities Iíve been granted this year, such as producing the feature length film What Goes Up and the short film Magique, which is lined up for future festivals, are ones that I never pictured myself receiving whilst studying for my degree. Itís the challenges that keep me motivated.


How would you describe yourselves as producer and director, respectively?


Aidan: I think that itís for other people to discuss the actual work we produce, but in terms of my on-set attitude Iím a laid back, collaborative director. I know what I want, I have a clear vision for each project, but Iím not a dictator.

Hannah: Organisation is key, without it thereís no point in starting a project. I make sure that everyone involved in the production feels like theyíre on the same page. Everyone has an equal role to play and itís important thatís not forgotten. Iím fair, I know exactly what needs to be done and by when. I treat the cast and crew with the same respect I expect back.


Filmmakers who inspire you?


Aidan: So many. To list off a few, the Coen Brothers, Quentin Tarantino, Edgar Wright, Terry Gilliam, John Carpenter, Park Chan-Wook, Guillermo Del Toro, Stanley Kubrick, Krzysztof Kieslowski. Thatís a real mixed bag, but I think itís best to be open to many varied influences.

Marc: Personally, Iím influenced by Dario Argento, Rob Zombie, John Carpenter, David Lynch, Stanley Kubrick, directors who have their own styles grab my attention.

Hannah: Where to start? Paul Thomas Anderson, Stanley Kubrick, Martin Scorsese, Park Chan-Wook. Christopher Nolan, Pedro Almodovar, Garth Edwards and Lynee Ramsey. My biggest influence though is David Lynch.


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Aidan: I have too many to list just a few easily, but The Shining, Panís Labyrinth and Let The Right One In are ones that always come up when I discuss favourite movies.

Marc: Off the top of my head, the original Halloween, Suspiria, the original Black Christmas, Battle Royale, and on the flip-side of that, films such as Forrest Gump, Bicentennial Man, Full Metal Jacket, The Goonies, Big Trouble in Little China.

Hannah: Thereís a real variety for me: Blue Velvet, Oldboy, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, His Girl Friday, Lost In Translation, One Flew Over the Cuckcooís Nest, to name a few. Thereís also a special place in my heart for Toy Story.


... and of course, films you really deplore?


Aidan: ďDeploreĒ is a very strong word and I donít know if Iíd apply it to any work of artÖ unless of course M. Night Shyamalan directed it.

Marc: I used to really dislike rom-coms, but after working on What Goes Up, and enjoying it so much, I feel I canít really speak too harshly of them now.

Hannah: Any film that Jason Friedberg has worked on and ever will work on.


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Thanks for the interview!


© by Mike Haberfelner

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written by
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