Only A Couple Of Days To Go Until Sci-Fi London 2005

With only a couple of days to go until SCI-FI-LONDON 2005 kicks off, one of the films that has been going plenty of hype is SLIPSTREAM. This will be the World Premiere of SLIPSTREAM, starring Sean Astin (Lord of the Rings), Vinnie Jones (Two Smoking Barrels) and Ivana Milicevic (Paycheck)

The Film Was Shot On Location In Cape Town

The movie tells the tale of Professor Stuart Conway (Astin) a disgruntled employee at a science 'megacorp'.  After losing his research funding plots a bank robbery based around his newest invention - a time travel gadget that will send its user 10 minutes into the past. Not sure what he is up to Stuart's employers suspect something and call in some help - Sarah Tanner (Milicevic), an undercover police officer. 

Sean Astin

 Everything seems to be going according to plan at the bank, until a group of violent thieves arrive, lead by the notorious Winston Briggs (Jones), they've planned a heist for the same day.

Ivana Millicevic

Chaos ensues and the time travel device falls into the robbers hands.  Stuart and Sarah, who has been trailing him, go after the device and find themselves face to face with the volatile Briggs.

Vinnie Jones

Produced for Sci Fi Films in the U.S. and shot on location in Cape Town, South Africa, Slipstream is a stylish, tongue-in-cheek take on the standard action/sci-fi rollercoaster ride. World Premiere screening is on Thursday 3rd Feb 2005 in London.

Directed by David van Eyssen who has been at the leading edge of advertising for major consumer brands since 1997. For the past two years, he has been involved in the production and direction of feature-films which he believes will one day merge with the world of advertising.

His original interactive film "THE PASSENGER", which he later co-developed into the award-winning BMW Films series, "The Hire", starring Clive
Owen, established him as one of the pioneers of branded entertainment. David's background both as installation artist and computer games
designer led him to direct commercials and music videos for renowned production house, Propaganda Films, in Los Angeles.

He later acted as a one-man advertising agency for numerous dot-com clients during the boom years of the Internet and developed a highly progressive catalogue of projects including "BLU.MONSTER", a serialized interactive rock opera for Warner/Extasy Records that, to this day, remains a benchmark in non-traditional music promotion.

In 2004, David completed the feature-film, "SLIPSTREAM", with Sean Astin ("LORD OF THE RINGS") and Vinnie Jones ("LOCK, STOCK"). He is in development on several projects of his own including a multi-part feature with "EVENT HORIZON" writer, Philip Eisner, and "GEORGIA", an innovatively branded psychological thriller set in Tokyo.

The busy director took time out to conduct an interview;

1)    Can you tell me about yourself and what you have done?

I was born and educated in London, went to UCLA to study English Lit. but ended up acting and directing. Adapted some early Beckett fiction to the stage for the first time for my thesis project. Became a conceptual artist on the London scene after college and was introduced to the videogames industry through a collector that owned Activision. I developed my first interactive project for Chrysalis Records, a history of the American comic book with the inimitable Christopher Lee. After that, I did a series of similar projects with Japanese manga artists and an interactive version of Fritz Lang's "M" - which was quite unique. On the strength of that work, I was signed by Propaganda films in LA to direct commercials and music videos which I did for several years for a wide range of consumer brands. As time passed, I began to get more involved in the creation of ad campaigns and started working with agencies directly, eventually becoming co-creator of the BMW Films Series starring Clive Owen which was based on my web-based film, "Passenger", which I'd developed four years earlier. Around the same time as BMW, I developed "BluMonster" for Warner Records -- an interactive rock opera also for the web.Since then, I've turned my attention to making films and to exploring the way new technologies enhance the experience of watching a two-hour narrative unfold. What the success of BMW taught me was that audiences are online, in theaters, watching television -- basically on the end of every pipe and channel that's out there -- waiting for something to move or excite them.

2)     Can you explain a bit of the plot of your latest film Slipstream? I guess you could call it a time travel heist movie?

Sean Astin plays Stuart Conway, a frustrated scientist -- frustrated in more
ways than one -- who decides to "borrow" a 10-minute "temporal displacement device" called the Slipstream 2.4 from his company's research lab. Shadowed by two suspicious FBI agents, Sarah Tanner (Ivana Milicevic) and her lover, Jake Hallman (Kevin Otto), Stuart tries out the device at a local bank where he finds that he can jump back in time to cash his paycheck repeatedly. Unexpectedly, the bank's robbed by a team of professional "raiders" led by the volatile Briggs, played by Vinnie Jones. Of course, Briggs does more than rob the bank, he steals the Slipstream too and, in the process kills Hallman. Now Sarah's got to get the device back so she can turn back time and save Hallman, the man she could never commit to but now can't live without, and Stuart has to get the device back before he loses his job and winds up doing jail time for fraud. Add to this Briggs' unpredictable and violent behavior and you can imagine the chaos that ensues.

3)    How did the story line come about and what was the process as the story evolved

The film's producer had made a time travel film called Retroactive which was bought by HBO a few years ago and he wanted to do a film in a similar vein, but find a different visual style for it. He and the other producers had seen my reel and approached me to direct. I quickly realized that the schedule was tight and that it wouldn't be possible to drop action sequences in favor of dramatic development but I did see a way of bridging the gap between an action film and something that was more character-driven and conceptual.

So I made the choice to spend some time at the outset of the film focussing on Stuart's world because I felt we needed both a frame for the film (and he was the right character, as the Slipstream's creator, to provide it) and we also needed to know more about him. I wrote the voiceover and, after scouting Cape Town where we shot the film, came up with the intro sequence using locations that required virtually no additional lighting. Merging Stuart's "meditation on time" into the title sequence (which was, in itself, a visual code for time travel) I decided to make the first five minutes into a self-contained short which created a context for the rest of the film. The key was to make this sequence visually compelling so the audience didn't have to endure several minutes of dry philosophy tacked on to the front of the film.

I also made another important choice, which was to play the film very tongue-in-cheek, since the whole idea of time-travel was either extraordinary or absurd and, since the script made no pretense about coming to terms with the subject in a serious way, this seemed the right tone for the film. That decision influenced my direction of the actors, of course.
Playing it for humor though, didn't exclude all emotional truth -- Briggs really can be pretty frightening and Stuart is reassuringly human. (Vulnerability is Sean's great gift as an actor and I would have been a fool not to let him reveal it.)

Having figured out where the film was headed tonally, I knew that I had to "bring up" Briggs' character in some way, to find the human dimension in him too. That's where some new writing was also needed. While we went for the post-punk look to communicate Briggs' and Gillian's anarchic sense of humor, I wanted to give them a "mythology" to believe in, something that would bring them closer to us. There was a little of it in the original script, but the Bonnie and Clyde/Butch and Sundance elements in the film really became a basic way of the characters relating to their circumstances. The scene with Briggs talking to Gillian as she's dying was something I wrote for exactly that reason.

Knowing who these characters were helped us when things occasionally went wrong on set. In one scene, when we had to replace an entire set of windows in the hijacked bus and couldn't afford any downtime, I asked Vinnie to do a sing-a-long with the bus passengers which turns out to be a great moment in the film. That was something we didn't expect and certainly wasn't scripted but, in the end, I think we were all glad it happened that way. Perhaps because we were in a tight corner with the budget, and because pages were being cut or not being added in the way that I had originally planned, we often found ourselves improvising scenes just minutes before we had to shoot them. I think of what we did as a kind of shorthand, not the slow-burn character development you'd see in a more reflective film, but the only means we had at our disposal of signalling that these people had interior lives, emotions, stories before the cameras started rolling.

4)    What was the working relationship with Sean and Vinny as these two actors have  reputations for both wanting to lead rather than follow?

Both Sean and Vinnie are leader-type personalities but in very different ways. That's why the scenes between them work so well. Physically and psychologically, they're polar opposites -- and that's certainly true of the characters they play in the film. Fortunately for me, they let me lead as a director!

5)    What is your favorite scene in the film and explain why?

It's difficult to say which scene is my favorite. I like different scenes for different reasons. I like Sean's scene with the bank teller. It goes on for so long you can really feel her embarrassment. I like the opening of the film, not just because I wrote it but because it's really about something that I think about a lot, how small and unaware we are in the scheme of things. I like the scene between Sean and Vinnie on the bus because they're really talking to each other. There are also some magical moments in the film that I don't want to spoil for your readers so I think I should stop here.

6)    I know you were on a tight budget and times lines were short but do you think you did all the things you wanted to do with this film?

I'm sure no director ever does all the things he or she wants to. Sometimes we did things we hadn't planned at all and we really seized on those opportunities when it seemed right or necessary (such as Sean's intro or Vinnie's bus sing-a-long). And when you realize that you're onto something, even when it's born of necessity, that comes as a welcome surprise. But, yes, I would have liked more time to shoot the film, of course. We completed Slisptream in 24 days which has to be some kind of record when you take into account that just about every shot was done with the A Crew and half the shots involved a high degree of camera movement. There was a little second unit stuff that was carefully designed ahead of time so I knew exactly what shots I would be getting, but 98% of this film was shot by the DP and myself. I always felt I wanted to explore the characters in more depth and slow the film down a little in areas but, because there's a real forward momentum in the film after Jake's death, the film might have dragged in the end if we'd done that.
 
7)    Would you like to do SS2 or remake SS1 with more budget and follow it straight away with 2?

Slipstream has a very entertaining premise and I think you could come up with some incredible stuff if you had the time and budget. At a script level, you'd certainly want to be free to explore the characters and story in more depth and the visual possibilities are endless. Sure, if people like this film (which fortunately they seem to), I'd think about making a sequel or, possibly, remaking this one. Who knows, with all the remakes going on these days, maybe the next trend will be to remake our own films.

8)    Can you see this as a good brand for the SCI FI channel as they paid for this first film and maybe it could be turned into a mini series?

I think it could make a great series. There are really two divisions at SCI-FI, original films and the guys at episodic TV/miniseries, and I'm not sure that there's that much crossover, although it must happen from time to time. Time travel stories, especially ones with a twist, tend to do quite well historically - possibly because we've all wanted to be able to go back in time at least once and change something we said or did! 

9)    What would be your biggest regret in this project?

I don't have regrets about the film because, when I sit down and look at it now, it's very entertaining and shifts gears in an interesting way between these mysterious, rather beautiful moments and the action and comedy sequences. It's not perfect but, even with all the money and time in the world, I don't know if any movie ever is. Okay, I take that back, but probably no film ever seems perfect to the director. Or should.

10)     Would you do another film with both actors together again?

In a New York second. In the same film or in two different ones.

11)    Finally what are your plans and what are your working on at the moment

I'm in the UK to promote Slipstream and then we travel back to the States where I've been doing development work on a project I'm very excited about, a remake of NEAR DARK. I told you we're all doing remakes! I can't say much more about the film at the moment except that we're expecting to move into preproduction soon. I'm also working on a second advertising-linked project, a generational next-step from the BMW Films Series.

12)    Can you explain why you made the film web site so exciting?

I'm a bit of a technology freak and, perhaps because of my advertising background, I couldn't resist the "What if..?" scenario of a website for a time travel device. And, naturally, it made sense that a company like Apple (or Pear Industries) would be the manufacturer. Slipstream's the I-Pod of time travel. In a way, I think the site is an extension of the film not just a promotional tool. It lets people get inside the characters' heads, to explore how Stuart, Briggs and Sarah think. It's as if we've gone beyond the edges of the film itself. So the question is, where does the Slipstream experience begin and end? The film captures a piece of that experience, in a linear 92 minute story, but the web is also there to extend and enhance. I think that's what people are looking for, not just another trailer on the web.

13)    How long did it take to create this site?

Three months on and off.

14)    what do you think makes a good or bad site?

A good film site is an experience in its own right. It makes you want to see the film but can also open up areas the film just touches on. A website exists in a parallel world to the theatrical or cable release. I think it's a medium that's still underrated and not properly understood. Whether it's the future distribution channel of the short film or simply a place to experiment with form and content, the internet can play a vital role not just in spreading the word about a film but in communicating added dimensions of story and character.

Now in its fourth year, SCI-FI-LONDON is the UK's international film festival dedicated to sci-fi and fantastic film. The festival delivers a mix of movies new to the UK as well as a crop of rare classics, short films and events. For 2005, it has extended its West End run by two more days and takes place from Wed 2nd - Sun 6th February 2005 at the Curzon SOHO, Odeon Panton Street, Odeon Covent Garden, Prince Charles and UGC Trocadero.  The festival goes on tour for the first time in 2005 at four UK city venues.

SCI-FI-LONDON is proud to have SFX, the UK's best selling sci-fi and fantasy magazine, as its magazine sponsor and co-presenter of the All-nighters.

If you would like to check out the super original website for Slipstream you can go to: www.slipstreamfilm.com
 
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 


 

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