By Jay Kay (Host of Horror Happens Radio Show)
We spoke to filmmakers Turner Stewart and Dionne Copeland about their first feature //CYBERPUNKZZ//!
“//CYBERPUNKZZ//” is a brave feature from a very talented group of filmmakers. After working on more than five short films including some very powerful and visual projects like “Computer Hearts” and “S.I.D.S.”, this seems like the natural progression. What made “//CYBERPUNKZZ//” the right first feature and where did this story idea come from of gangs, the internet, and freedom?
Turner: Making Punkzz as our first feature just makes sense. Actually, Computer Hearts was originally going to be feature-length but we cut it way down into the 20-minute version that everyone knows now, so going into our first feature this year feels like a natural and necessary progression. In a way Punkzz is sort of a conceptual sequel to Computer Hearts, with all the themes and style I explored in that film taken to the next level. I’ve been describing Punkzz as The Warriors meets Altered States, with a story and aesthetic filtered through the techno-body horror style seen in our previous work.
Dionne: Right now Turner and I actually have two feature film scripts that we’re itching to produce, the other one being a feature-length adaption of my recently completed short film, Inferno. The one that gets made first will honestly just come down to whichever one we can get the financing nailed down for. Both projects will make excellent feature films, and we’re just excited to start filming something
They say a film is three different parts, pre, production and post. What has the preproduction been like for “//CYBERPUNKZZ//”? What is the shooting schedule look like and how import is post-production to “//CYBERPUNKZZ//”?
Turner: We’ve spent over a year working on the screenplay and assembling a team for Punkzz. Our artist Chance Hansen has storyboarded a good chunk of the script and now we’re starting the casting process. The next step for us is to settle down where we plan to shoot the film in Medicine Hat, Alberta and begin work on building sets and designing costumes. We are going to shoot the film for the first two weeks of June and then spend the rest of 2016 in post-production, working on getting all the pieces together just right.
However, right now our priority is to get the money together to ensure that we can actually make the film. We don’t want to get too far ahead of ourselves, since we havereally big plans for Punkzz and having the money from our Kickstarter is necessary before we get into the finer planning stages. We are trying to create a whole new post apocalyptic universe, one that could have additional stories follow in the path of Punkzz, so the proper execution of this script is key.
Talk about locations and set for this film, how much will actually be based in reality and what will be taken to a very digital landscape?
Turner: We want this film to have an authentic old-school vibe, so we’re not doing anything digitally. The “digital landscape” in the film will be wholly practical, with the virtual setting implied through the set and costume design, as well as the use of some crazy lighting tricks and retro camera gear.
As with your previous short films the practical aspect with makeup, prosthetics and FX are so respectfully done, resourceful and create images that are hard to shake as well as impacts the films. What can we expect on a larger scale project like “//CYBERPUNKZZ//” and what influences go into that crafting of FX and makeup?
Turner: We work very closely with our make-up effects artists to ensure that we always shoot their effects so that they look as good as possible. With Punkzz it will be no different, with exclusively practical effects and plenty of gore and violence. We have plans for an excessive amount of carnage and a solid amount of our budget is going into making sure that this film lives up to the standards we’ve set with our other films (and we can’t wait for the world to see Inferno later this year, which is a truly spectacular project!). We’ve worked with incredibly talented FX artists ever since we started making films, and we’ll definitely have them back on board for Punkzz once it gets funded.
A film like this broadens your cast greatly with the scope of story, increase in resources and larger than life ideas that will blow people away! When planning cast and crew as well as now assembling them, what has that process been like?
Turner: We are currently very early on in the casting process. So far we have our lead, Iso, cast as this amazing local up-and-comer Griffin Cork, whose excitement for this film and his character is something really special and rewarding. The rest of the cast is starting to come together and we’re going to have our hands full with auditions as we try to lock in the perfect Punkzz.
Dionne: I had an amazing cast on Inferno and I want to continue working with them if I have the opportunity. I’m hoping to see some familiar faces when we start auditioning the Punkzz, but I love the whole casting process and I’m so excited to see who comes out to audition!
Score and sound for me is so vital. As a fan, journalist, critic and more, it can raise a film to a higher level. Nothing like music to invoke a memory, create a mood or explore an emotion. With a film like this, the scope of the journey and the future that takes place on different levels of reality. What has been that process like for the score, sound and soundtrack? Is it evolving into something we have never heard before? Also any challenges to finding the right flow, mood and foundation with it?
Dionne: There are a lot of people lending their talents to Punkzz, but of course one of those people is the super talented Graham Trudeau who has helped us out on all of our projects. We’re very excited to work with him again and we will continue to work with him in the future. He’s a wizard.
Turner: Graham is the best, we collaborate with him every time we have the chance. I also have a good friend, Simon Rock, who has been hard at work sourcing local musical talent for the film’s soundtrack. From what we have so far I can guarantee Punkzz will be an audio-visual experience unlike anything before.
Talk the fan funding process so far with Kickstarter? Expectations and the fan involvement in this film?
Turner: Kickstarter has been one of the hardest things I’ve ever done! It’s always tough to predict how a film will be received, and even more difficult when you only have a screenplay to show and have to rely on your audience to trust you based on your previous work. It’s definitely been a roller-coaster so far, and we’ve tried to be innovative by making our screenplay available to read along with a detailed look at the film’s budget. Transparency and honesty have been key for us in this process and we’re hoping that we find success doing it this way.
Dionne: Fan involvement has been great so far, and if every share was worth a dollar we’d be making a million dollar film! It’s really exciting to see people getting amped up for this movie and wanting to be a part of it, whether that’s in front of the camera, behind the scenes, or just as a cheerleader. It would break my heart if we don’t reach our crowdfunding goal, since there are a lot of people counting on us to make this film.
How much does the technical side influence the story of “//CYBERPUNKZZ//”? What kind of cameras will be used as a part of it? In the funding video, you mention VHS which will make old school horror fans very happy!
Turner: Dionne and I are part of the last generation to grow up with VHS camcorders and weekly trips to the video store, so of course we want to make a film that feels authentic to a certain type of horror movie fan. We’re shooting the majority of the film on RED like we did with Inferno, except for Punkzz we dusted off our old VHS-camera and a Pixelvision 2000 that I modified. This combination of cameras is going to give the film a really unique aesthetic, and it’ll give us the freedom to experiment with how we depict the virtual world.
What does family mean to you in support of this first feature?
Dionne: Family support has been incredibly important for me through all of my films, as my parents have not only been financially supportive but my biggest cheerleaders. They have even done a little bit of producing of their own by getting the word out and even securing some locations for us for Punkzz. My parents have been my biggest supporters behind all of my films, and I wouldn’t be able to do it without them. We plan on staying with them when we shoot Punkzz and my mom will likely do the catering for us as well!
Turner: I wouldn’t love movies as much as I do without my parents, and of course they’ve been incredibly supportive of all of our work so far (although I never did let them watch Computer Hearts!).
You have worked on “Gutterballs 2”, any of the vastly talented filmmakers in the Vancouver area influencing or playing a part in the production of “//CYBERPUNKZZ//”?
Turner: Ryan Nicholson is a dear friend of ours, and he’s actually the reason I moved to Vancouver in the first place! I have nothing but the utmost respect and love for him and his work, so of course I’d hope for him to play a part in Punkzz if he can. Our friend Vince D’Amato has also played an inspirational role in our work over the last year, and he’ll be helping us put a lot of the perks together. But since everything is international now, especially filmmaking, we have crew support from all over the world with lots of people playing small and crucial roles.
Where can they find out more and what are some of the perks you had to make sure were a part of this campaign?
Turner: I urge anyone that likes unique horror to please check out the Punkzz campaign at https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/hentaicop/hentai-cop-films-feature-length-cyberpunk-movie. As collector’s ourselves, Dionne and I assembled the absolute coolest stuff that we could think of, and as everyone knows from our self-produced release of Computer Hearts we love to throw our fans more goodies than they paid for. There is something for everyone, including some excellent combo packs, and we’ve even made a pay-what-you-want option for a digital copy. Definitely take advantage of our low Canadian dollar!
Dionne: I’m a VHS collector, so obviously my favourite perk is Punkzz on VHS. We plan on making the tape an authentic experience in itself, with Punkzz presented in pan-and-scan as well as plenty of fake horror trailers and other cool details.
Check out the kickstarter campaign here https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/hentaicop/hentai-cop-films-feature-length-cyberpunk-movie.