Sunday, January 6, 2013
Richard Bazley gives an exclusive interview about his new feature film - The Chimeran
Richard Bazley is an animator and director who has worked on many Hollywood films including Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, Hercules, The Iron Giant, Tarzan and The Illusionist. FLIP asked him some questions about his newest project, a live action feature film with CG creatures - The Chimeran.
FLIP: You are working with Star Wars Producer Gary Kurtz on a new independent feature film titled The Chimeran. Tell us about the film.
Richard: For years I had been fascinated by the original 1968 Planet of the Apes film, and the moral implications that lay beneath. I was also knocked out by the fabulous film District 9 which explores similar themes. The Chimeran is not just a creature movie - there are many such movies out there, and I am not interested in creature animation for its own sake, or visual effects for the sake of visual effects. I am more interested in the human condition, and how a thought-provoking tale can be told - one that just happens to use creature animation and great visual effects.
Right now there are moral issues that prevent us from creating genetic hybrids. Consider this premise: what if, with our planet's natural resources running out, our society has to make a moral leap for the survival of our species. Human labour is cheap and animal labour even cheaper. What if we had to combine the two in order to survive? This is a concept that fascinates me. If we did this, and a multitude of hybrid animal and human creatures resulted - what sort of society would we have? We would have very new racial issues, and how would these be overcome? For some people the whole idea is disturbing - and so it should be. But this is something that, in the near future, we may have to confront.
The Chimeran is a project that tackles head-on the kind of world we might live in if some of the genetic experiments that are happening right now continue unchecked.
The story focuses on a secret camp where the government have created an experimental society with Chimerans, genetically bred-for-purpose hybrids, at the heart of their community. They work the fields and look after the children in the camp, becoming integral tools in the production of food and goods. It's a test to see if it could work on a national scale and solve the world's mass production problems in a sustainable fashion. The problems come when it becomes clear that the chimerans, although they were made for production and farming - like knives and axes before them - can also be used as weapons.
It's not a simple story of right and wrong, it's a story of hard decisions that need to be made during harder times. Without giving too much away, we all believe that film should take you places you've never been, and show you things you've never seen, and I can guarantee that's the case with The Chimeran - it's really pushing forward the boundaries of sci-fi, but through exploring moral questions, not just the visual effects.
FLIP: How big an undertaking has it been to get an independent feature film like this off the ground?
Richard: Extremely big. Especially at the moment, when people are far more risk-averse. Luckily we have the experience of seasoned producer Gary Kurtz. When Gary produced the first two Star Wars films, many of the things they did had never been done before. They were in new territory. The dynamics of the film industry has also changed vastly since then and many new avenues of funding are being explored.
We are still in the process of fund-raising so we can’t give you the complete picture yet. We were able to secure some seed money for development - an area that nowadays is notoriously difficult, but we have people who fiercely believe in the project the way I do. We have a great script by Paul Goodenough and Simon Furman as well as top notch visual development work by Ryan Firchau. Gary Kurtz is now in the process of putting it all together to approach investors, so watch this space!
FLIP: You have worked for many big studios including Disney, WB and Sony. How different an experience is it working on your own project?
Richard: Very Different! At Disney or any of the big studios you fulfill one role and that is it. You neatly fit into a niche job to perform a certain task. With a project of your own you have to think outside the box and wear many hats. There is no single way to get these productions done. Creatively I have more of a free hand in my own projects. I am also attached as Director to this one so of course I have a large input.
We (Gary Kurtz, Paul Goodenough and myself) created GBK Hybrid as an umbrella company for our own projects, the sort of projects we want to see get made. When I work for other companies I am a “gun for hire”, even as a director. Certain things will already be in place and I have to live with that. In the case of our projects at GBK Hybrid, I can mould them into something that appeals to my sensibility. Luckily both Gary and Paul and I seem to all be on the same wave length, with similar interests and goals, which is why we set up GBK Hybrid together.
Gary has a vast knowledge of the film business, Paul is a web entrepreneur (who also runs Aerian Studios as well as the Film Network) who has a great knowledge of new media. I have a thorough grounding in all aspect of animation and film production. Working at Disney and the big studios was a great experience, but now breaking out on my own creates a new set of challenges that are equally if not more exciting - no matter how hard it is.
FLIP: What advice would you give to anyone hoping to get their own independent film off the ground?
Richard: It really depends on who you are. If you are well-established, it will be a different road altogether. But if you are not, then you must look for ways to prove your idea before asking for money. Put yourself in the place of the investor - why will your project work? How can you prove that it will? And if you can't prove it will work, can you at least show them how it might look?
The digital world has really helped to get new ideas seen quickly, potentially by millions of people. Every person who likes your project online is another little tick in the box for proving that the project works. And it allows you to test your theories. This might be an alternative take in the same world as your story, or it may just be the actual script. If you can say "I know people like it and here's the proof" that's a lot stronger than saying "Trust me - people will like it".
Also there is crowd-sourced funding and services devoted to helping get your film made. The Internet will soon help with distribution deals too, I'm sure.
For more details about The Chimeran and GBK Hybrid go to www.thechimeran.com and www.gbkhybrid.com
(Editor's note: For more interviews with animation producers, see our interview with animation legend Don Hahn, read what Claus Toksvig has to say about producing independent animated films, hear Nathan Erasmus explain how to get your project off the ground, and see what Paul Harrison has to say about financing animated TV Series....)