All Of The Above had the chance to interview independent film director, Greg Richters about his first feature film '51 Degrees', film funding and the future of independent films, here's what brief synopsis and what Greg had to say:
51 Degrees (aka The Last Days on Earth) is an independent feature film by Greg Richters. It's not your typical End of the World movie as it mainly deals with how Damon Miller (the protagonist) and his relationships, work and daily life are affected by this.
• When did you decide you wanted to be a film-maker and who influenced you?
Greg - I decided to become a director pretty early on, at the age of six. I was a professional children photo model in Germany and saved some money which I spent on second hand gear like a Sony Hi-8 video camera. At that time I was greatly "influenced" by films like E.T., The Lion King and The Jungle Book ;-) As I grew older I loved all the movies by Steven Spielberg, Stanley Kubrick, Martin Scorsese and Billy Wilder.
You've made over 30 films and commercials through the years, what is your greatest achievement so far?
Greg- I guess my greatest achievement will be 51 Degrees, the movie I'm currently directing. It's my first feature film. Prior to that I made several shorts. The one I'm most proud of is a short film I made when I was 14, "Dean's Life". It was an incredible experience. We attracted major German stars like Mario Adorf to the project. I worked on it for three years and it turned out to be 35 minutes long. It basically followed "Dean" from his early 20s until after his death at the age of 83. The script which I co-wrote with German screenwriter Georg Ludy became the inspiration for the Hollywood movie "Click" and a Nespresso Commercial (with George Clooney and John Malkovich).
•You are currently in the production stage of '51 Degrees', can you tell us about the film?
Greg- On the surface, 51 Degrees is a movie about the End of the world. It is about an Asteroid that hits our planet and wipes us out. But on a deeper level the movie is really about Damon Miller (played by the great German actor Moritz von Zeddelmann) who is trying to deal with his own life problems. I am trying not to tell your typical End-of-the World film but making this experience much more personal. We shot the movie very "docu-style", using only HDSLR cameras and mixed fiction with non-fiction. We shot most of the film on the streets, guerilla style, mostly without permits. We had some great NASA scientists on our side helping us getting the facts straight. The film will be a very unique experience to the audience. It's something you haven't really seen before.
The story explores the life struggles of German filmmaker Damon Miller who lives and works in London. The movie follows Damon through his daily struggles which become trivial when confronted with the End of the World. He is told by the UK Space Agency (British NASA) that an Asteroid will hit Earth within a few weeks. They have built a Space station to ensure the survival of the human race. In exchange for Damon's services (capturing the End of the World) he is given one ticket to the Space station. He gives it to his girlfriend.
•In terms of funding '51Degrees', how hard is it to fund an independent film and how did you overcome them?
Greg- I am currently working on three other feature films. One of them I've been developing with my good friend Daniel Hendricks Simon, a filmmaker from New York. ItThe movie is called EMILY LAZARUS and we have worked on it since 2007 (he started working on it in 2002). It's been quite a difficult journey to get the right financing. When I moved from New York to London 18 months ago I decided to make a movie that is very small which I can finance out of my own pocket. This would not have been possible without the HDSLR revolution. But that's exactly what we did. Sometimes I feel like it's harder to make a movie with a low-budget than with no-budget. Why? Because once you start spending money it's a never ending process ;-)
•Indie film-making is being widely acknowledged by mainstream film-makers, where do you see indie film-making going in the next few years?
Greg- OH, indie filmmaking is the way to make movies in the future! Now with HDSLRs this industry is more powerful than Hollywood! I mean any 14 year old can grab a camera, watch a couple of tutorials and tell a story which can compete (even in terms of image quality) with most Hollywood-made movies. What I loved most about the experience of making this movie is the freedom I had. No one tells me "You can't do this and that or I'll take my money and run". It's all about the vision of the filmmaker and that's the only thing that counts.
•And finally, what advice can you give for any aspiring film-makers out there?
Greg- Don't stop!!! Don't stop dreaming! Don't stop shooting! Don't stop learning!
Don't talk about making a movie for a decade! Just do it!!! Go out there and show your talent to the world! You have nothing to lose! But at the End of the day it's really about having fun :-D
But '51 Degrees' didn't always run as smoothly as Greg wanted, "We experienced quite a few things during this production...While shooting a scene back in March on Tower bridge, a bus driver saw "Damon" cross the bridge carrying a suitcase and thought it contained a bomb. He immediately alerted the bomb squad!" but the most amazing event Greg had witnessed was the mass of extras who turned up on set, "we planned an End of the world scene at Piccadilly Circus. We expected 500 Extras but 1500 showed up! In a couple of takes you can't see the streets anymore. We are estimating an additional 1000 tourists came together and stood on the streets to watch the event. The police was forced to shut down the main streets for at least 5 minutes and diverted all traffic and passers-byers. It ended up being the 2nd largest film production in the history of Piccadilly Circus!"
Sound like an awesome film! Watch this space for more news about '51 Degrees' and more.
By George Kleanthous
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