Fango last reported on BLACK SHEEP, a bloody, wild and woolly tale of nature run amok that has been creating bales of interest ever since it was announced toward the end of 2005. The ad line says it all—“There are 40 million sheep in New Zealand…and they’re pissed off”—though a press release adds, “On a vast sheep station, a reckless genetic engineering experiment goes horribly wrong, turning sheep into bloodthirsty killers.” Even before BLACK SHEEP started shooting in Wellington, New Zealand March 6, Mel Gibson’s Icon Film Distribution had snapped up the theatrical rights for Australia, New Zealand and the UK. Financed by the triumvirate of the New Zealand Film Commission, NZ On Air and the Korean-based Daesung Group, BLACK SHEEP is the feature debut of writer/director and Fangoria enthusiast Jonathan King.
Fango corralled SHEEP’s busy producer Philippa Campbell long enough for her to obligingly supply a few insights into the project. “BLACK SHEEP is a combo of comedy and horror—real scares with a twist of comedy. The film is good-hearted, but it also plays with real contemporary anxieties. [It has] a distinctive voice that comes at our New Zealand tradition of ‘cinema of unease’ in a new way.”
Campbell is keen to comment on the internationally renowned FX house involved: “Weta Workshop is creating the creature effects; in the story, sheep do things that live ones can’t do,” he says. “We have animatronic sheep, and there is also a degree of prosthetic makeup involved in three transformation sequences designed by artists from Weta—notably Dave Elsey, a recent Academy Award nominee for his work on STAR WARS. This is a physical effects-driven film. We are capturing them on camera rather than creating the story’s realities digitally. There is an absolute minimum of CGI to enhance a couple of the key sequences.” Above is a sample of Weta’s concept art for the movie; you can see more here.
Regarding the violence content, Campbell is herself uneasy. “Tricky, this one,” she says. “Killer sheep attack people who fight back—I guess you can draw your own conclusions. Considering the rating is something we will of course have to do further down the track in consultation with our distributors.” The cast features newcomers Nathan Meister and Danielle Mason, alongside Oliver (SNAKESKIN) Driver, Tammy (WHALE RIDER) Davis, Peter Feeney and New Zealand industry veteran Glenis Levestam. The sheep apparently seek to remain anonymous. Fango plans to get close enough to BLACK SHEEP to inspect it for fly strike, so expect more coverage soon.
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