Friday, July 16, 2010

THE HIT SQUAD - A BADASS DIRECTOR INTERVIEW



What follows is an interview with Chris Blundell, director of the upcoming pixilated film THE HIT SQUAD.

THE HIT SQUAD

Q. What gave you the idea to make an entire film pixilated like the video games we all remember?

A. First of all, it started as a matter of need. My artistic skills are a little limited, so doing them in low resolution seemed like a logical step. The lower the resolution, the less mistakes I can make. If I shot in HD then it would be a completely different project.

Secondly, as a kid I loved all of these pixilated stories of Monkey Island, Beneath a Steel Sky, Sam and Max; they had such character and charm that can only come across in very low resolution. As soon as Monkey Island got to game 3, it just felt different. With all the higher resolution graphics, it suddenly seemed strange that Guybrush wasn't smiling when happy or frowning when sad. Our imaginations were used less, and we became a little too distanced from the characters. That's why games are still being made in pixel graphics, even film licensed games like Scott Pilgrim Versus the World. They have a certain character that can't be done in any other medium.

Q. Chris, as writer and director, do you have anyone else working on THE HIT SQUAD? If so, what do they contribute to the project?

A. The Hit Squad core team is mainly myself with additional animators. My colleague Laura Mulhern has taken on a big proportion of production tasks also. But to be truthful, so many people have helped in so many different ways from funding the film, to giving me an idea for a fictional brand of cola that it's difficult to describe! Also Facebook and Twitter have been godsends!

Q. How long have you been working on this film?

A. I came up with the original concept about 2 years ago. I wrote 10 scripts as a TV series, discussed it with TV companies, and nearly got it commissioned. But it got shelved. After that I decided to revisit it and get it released. Since I decided to revive the project it’s been about 4 months, all of it screenwriting and pre-production.

Q. So is this an animated film? Or have you programmed all of the characters?

A. A bit of both! I use a piece of computer game making software to draw and animate all of the characters and backgrounds, but then I take all of the frames and run it through specialist animation software to be able to add certain effects and flourishes.


Q. How do you plan to distribute it?

A. We'll be taking The Hit Squad to film festivals throughout the next year, however we'll be releasing it online through various channels with a simultaneous DVD release which instantly means that we won't be accepted into Cannes and the like as they like to have the world premiere at their festivals. But it does mean that when it's out, it’s out for everyone to enjoy!

Q. Video games are a part of the genesis of this film. Can you cite which games/systems really played into THE HIT SQUAD idea?

A. I'd have to say the Amiga 500 as well as both the Sega Genesis/Mega Drive and the Super Nintendo were the three consoles that the animation is inspired by. The Hit Squad are stuck in their ways, and their success stopped in the early 90s. So that’s why their world is represented in this late 80s, early 90s style. For the geeks out there, we work with only 256 colors which makes us VGA and officially 8 bit.

Q. 80s music is also a major part of this film. What is the genesis for this idea?

A. I just love 80s music, so over-the-top, so theatrical and distinctive. I'm originally a musician and I just think the 80s had such character that no one has managed to replicate since. The invention of synthesizers, drum machines, and turntables was the equivalent of taking a child to a toy store and saying "go crazy." A bunch of coke-fueled musicians suddenly just went mental. The Hit Squad is about what happened when the world got bored of that sound.

Q. Supporters have the opportunity to be a part of this film. Can you elaborate on that aspect?

A. For £40 (go to http://the-hit-squad.com) people can buy themselves into the movie. They can literally be part of a scene whether they're drinking at a bar or knocked over by one of the characters. We're pixilating people and putting them in the film. They send me a photo of themselves, and I or my artists get them pixilated and animated as an extra. For their £40 people also get a free copy of the movie on DVD plus their name in the credits! This is why the cast list is not officially released yet. We're still waiting on some confirmations, and I want to release the cast list all at once. But it will be worth waiting for!

Q. Including supporters, how many roles are in this film?

A. I counted the other day. It's 76 so far.

Q. So originally, you pitched the idea of a pixilated television show. Can you elaborate on that experience?

A. It was a real learning curve. I emailed a lot of different people and got loads of good responses. That's how I knew the idea was good. Unfortunately my screenwriting, storytelling, and character design skills weren't up to scratch, so that’s why the TV project died. I kinda knew it at the time; it felt really unfinished, and I think the TV companies knew it wasn't quite polished enough. Since then, I basically read everything I could about storytelling, screenwriting, directing, animation, and obviously, the 80s. It is only really these years later that I feel like THE HIT SQUAD has matured enough to be released.

Q. What is your next project after THE HIT SQUAD?

A. Funny, this is the second time I've been asked that question, and I haven't even released The Hit Squad yet! I do have another project in the planning stages. It will be something a little more sci-fi based, possibly a series. I'll be announcing my plans after The Hit Squad is released.

-Mediasaurus Rex

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