Caradog W. James is a British
filmmaker who's new film The Machine is a stylish and frightening
depiction of a future where intelligent machines are being developed and
trained to wage war.
How does it feel with the film
about to finally come out after all the work? There have been some very
positive initial reviews but is it a tense time for you?
It is a little, yes. People said we couldnít get a sci-fi film made for a
budget of less than £1 million and we nearly didnít, but the thing we didnít
understand was that itís very hard to make people aware the film exists
once you have made it. The model most films have is to spend the same on
marketing and distribution as on producing the actual film and we had
nowhere near that. If Iím tense itís because I want to make sure that
people go and see it for everyone who worked so hard on the film.
With the low budget how did
you achieve the visually striking images you did in The
Part of it comes down to the fact that John (Giwa-Amuu: producer) and
myself come from a short film background before we eventually got together
to form Red & Black films. What that gave us is the ethos that with the
budgets on short films you need to be as prepared and as organised as
possible. That means a lot of rehearsal time as you have limited time on
set, restricted locations and so on, and this type of approach allows you
to put as much of the money on the screen as possible. The other thing was
that people really responded to the script. When we sent it out to
potential visual FX companies two of them clearly just wanted to be
involved, not really for monetary reasons and they were Minimo VFX in
Barcelona and Bait Studio in Cardiff.
There has been justifiable
talk of Blade Runner influences in the film but I wondered where the
initial idea began for you and did it change and develop a great deal over
The script was about 2 years in the writing and for the first year it was
mainly about research into robotics, A.I. and then reading about futurists
and quantum physics but that became a little hard going. I made notes but
didnít always get through them! (laughs) What it did though was give me a
grounding and somehow John arranged this off the record meeting with a guy
from the Ministry Of Defence who was actually doing all this stuff. He
explained how they hadmmapped a slug brain and then a mouse brain, and
that now they were working on a chimp brain. If they can then do that to a
human then where will it go from there? Where is the humanity if the copy
is exactly the same as the human brain? The second thing was that their
A.I. was being taught how to interact with the world in the way that
mentally disabled kids were taught so I went and spoke to the families of
severely autistic children and they were so inspiring that this inspired
where Vincentís character came from. I wanted then to base my story in the
real world but heavily influenced by filmmakers like Ridley Scott, Stanley
Kubrick and John Carpenter for their lighting and sound and
Caradog: "Caity has a dance and gymnastic background so we were able to push it further and further".
Visually the film is stunning
but it centres on the relationship between Vincent and The Machine. Was
that chemistry difficult to achieve?
This again is a short film technique. We saw a lot of actresses before
Caity (Lotz) but she understood in her audition that The Machine is the
most human character. For Toby (Stephens) he really responded to the
script. What we did though was insist on a long rehearsal period for those
two so they could become friends and develop a connection which they did.
They also needed to trust me which enabled them to open up on screen.
Did Caity have to undergo any
particular training for the role because it becomes very physically
With low budget filmmaking you need a certain amount of luck and we
definitely got that with Caity. With the dancing scene it was just me and
her in a warehouse and we decided to improvise quite a lot. Then without
prompting she did this back flip. Caity has a dance and gymnastic
background so we were able to push it further and further and were trying
constantly to see what else we could do. On top of all that she has a
martial artist background so she ended up doing all her own fights and
stunts which was a massive help to the production.
How important is it for
directors and production companies to push the boundaries as much as
possible within these low budgets given the difficulty with financing in
the film industry?
Whatís always driven us is to try and make the kind of films that inspired
us. Our ambition was to make elevated genre films that have more meaning
and story behind them. Itís a very tough climate to get films made and
there is little room for new filmmakers like ourselves to exist. You have
to be as ambitious as possible though so we aimed really high and worked
really hard with some great collaborators to get The Machine made. As far
as actual funding goes we basically went on tour and pitched in front of
all these people, a bit like Dragons Den! It was really tough because some
people werenít even listening and the last thing they wanted to invest in
was a film. People just didnít think you could make a film like this for
less than a million but we did.
What are your thoughts on
anyone these days having access to the technology required to make a film?
Do you think this dilutes the market at all?
I think itís fantastic that anyone can now go out and make a film but the
model as I said is a difficult one. Making the film is one thing but it
still comes down to the marketing. You can spend £5 million getting a star
to get your project made but then spend the same again to get it
publicised. New technology hasnít changed that. You might make a great
film but itís still possible no-one will hear about it.
Caradog: "Making the film is one thing but it still comes down to the marketing".
You mentioned Kubrick and
Scott earlier. Were there other directors who inspired you to become a
filmmaker alongside these two greats?
With Scott and Kubrick they were both very interested in composition and
lighting and I think thatís also what excites me the most, the creating of
an startling image. Itís about something that generates emotion not just
from the actor but as a combination of art and craft. What was fantastic
about Kubrick in particularly was the way he created layers within the
genre, almost smuggling in big ideas and I think thatís a great way to
approach filmmaking. Iíd love to be able to copy that, to make a film thatís
interesting enough to get people talking.
What will see from you
Iím very excited about a horror movie we have on our slate, something in
the vein of The Conjuring or The Exorcist. Not necessarily gory but very
frightening. What I like about it is that not only does it have something
to say but itís very visual as well. We possibly have some interesting
projects coming on the back of people liking The Machine which is very
"Thank you ever so much for taking part in this interview
And we wish you the very best of luck in the future."
'The Machine' arrives in cinemas and on VOD on 21 March and on DVD/Blu-ray from 31