Being a fan of local independent film, I was looking at forthcoming productions when I discovered a trailer for a web series called Horizon, a story which follows lives of five people as they are forever changed when a mysterious alien ship appears on the skyline over Bristol.
With the ship’s intentions unclear, the disparate group attempt to flee the city and reach loved ones, but their efforts are impeded by a city in panic, looters, and the threat of military attack. As they battle to stick together, loyalties and relationships are tested, and an even larger question remains: who are these mysterious visitors and why are they here?
Having watched the first few episodes (check them out http://www.horizonwebseries.com) I was really impressed by the cast, the story and the production value of the series.
I was intrigued to find out how the series came together and what it was like to be on set. I recently caught up with director of the series Paul Dudbridge and rising star Kate M Davies, who plays Nicole in the series, to find out more.
Over to you Paul and Kate:
Paul, tell us about how Horizon came about?
Well, we had made feature films, short films and music videos before but never told a story in this format. We like TV shows that can tell a story over a series of episodes, with cliffhangers at the end to get you to watch the next episode. A web series format enabled us to do that but online as opposed to on TV.
You have assembled an impressive creative team, introduce some of them to us.
Sure. Our cast consisted of Paul Tonkin, Alicia Ancel, Simon Pearce, Kate Davies, Kessie Bartlett and Jason Allen. Behind the camera, the show was written by Simon Pearce, Chris Marshfield and myself. Layan Nourouz co-produced with Simon Pearce and myself. Rich Simms was our sound recordist, Alex Hudd did all our post-production sound and Josh Wynter composed all the scores. Shows and films like this cannot be a one-man band and so the trick is to surround yourself with the best team that you can to help pull it off.
How did the local community support you and your creative team in the making of Horizon?
We had some wonderful people in the filmmaking community offer their services for nothing to help get the project made. Friends and family also came along to help on the shoots too. We also had a host of local part-time actors come along to be supporting artists/extras in the show as well.
What has been your most challenging aspect of filming?
The most challenging aspect was the special effects which I’ll come on to next, but filming in January was also tough due to us losing the light very early in the day so we really had to be on our game to get the whole episode that we were shooting that particular day, done.
We chose to film in January because as freelancers in the film industry, it is a quiet time for us and colleagues who could make themselves available to shoot the show.
How was post production on the film, especially with the special effects in the series?
I love the post-production process. It’s probably my favourite aspect of production. We edited the episodes early in 2014 and continued to finesse and tweak throughout the year. Then we would begin to export shots to the visual effects artists for them to start work.
Once they had completed a shot, we would then bring it back in to the edit timeline. Some visual effect shots went through many versions before finally locking it in. Some shots might only last literally a second but could take up to three or four days to finish. Some were large effect shots like a fully CGI ship with a moving camera or could be a smaller sky replacement shot or gun muzzle flash.
We had over 140 visual effects shots in the completed show and they all added up and that is why the Post-Production schedule was over 18 months.
Once the edit was locked with all the visual effects shot in, we could then send it to the composer and sound mixer. They would then do their work to make the episode really shine. As they were working on their bits, we could then grade the picture to make it all look the best it can be.
What’s next for the series ?
Well, we have a few interested parties looking to take the show to a wider audience and sell it abroad so that looks promising, but it’s early days. We also have a lot of ideas for a second season to continue the story and characters.
Do you have any advice for any aspiring filmmakers out there who are thinking of doing a web series?
I would say, have a plan. Not only a plan for the shoot but also for the marketing and how you want people to see it. We decided early on what the length of the episodes would be and why, how and when we were going to release it and what would be the best way to get the show out there.
Some web series are too long and they release one episode and then go and make the next. I think there’s a risk of losing the audience in the interim.
We started our marketing plan early, drip-feeding photos, information, casting and events all through the writing, production and post-production. You have to create the audience as the show is being made and before it is released, not just in the two weeks leading up to the release.
The other thing is, is to have the highest standard you can. Some shows have poor sound and lighting, and technically it’s just not as polished as it could be. So whatever you need to do, learn or hire to make it the best it can be, do that.
Where can we find out about you and your films?
I have a website for my work at www.hanoverpictures.co.uk and most of my past work can be found on there.
Over to Kate on what it was like to be one of the cast in the series
How did you become involved in the series ?
Hiya John, thanks for taking the time to ask me some questions about Horizon and my role in the series. I became involved in the show after the director Paul Dudbridge and I worked on another film together a few months prior to the shoot.
Paul contacted me and said that having met me on the set of The Levels (by John Faria) he had written a character with me in mind (which is flattering for any actor to hear).
We spoke about the series and I knew without hesitation that it was going to be something that I wanted to be involved in. It’s quite risky to commit to certain projects (particularly ones that seem overly ambitious) but as I had seen and enjoyed much of Paul’s and the team’s previous work, I knew that above all else they were going to do absolutely whatever they could to make something that people would really enjoy.
Tell us a bit about your character in Horizon?
I absolutely loved played the role of Nicole. She’s very unlike any other character that I have played before. On the surface she’s openly frosty, rude, self-absorbed but if I’ve done my job properly you may notice a slight character arc taking place throughout the series.
I love playing characters that I believe to be the polar opposite of myself (I would never be as rude as Nicole seems to be). I also really enjoy the dynamic between her and the various characters that she meets on her adventures. There is one scene in episode six where the audience will get a better idea of what kind of person Nicole really is.
What was it like on set?
Every day was different, I really enjoyed how shooting day was very different to the rest. I particularly enjoyed the scenes when we worked with a very large cast and crew; the opening episode filmed at the ‘Road to Nowhere’ and the day we looted the set of Sky TV’s ‘Trollied’ were two of my personal favourites. It was exciting working with some exceptional background artists who made the scenes really lively and incredibly believable to be part of.
There were days when we would film with just one other actor and a small crew, that was lovely too as it was more intimate and we got a chance to discover a little more of our own characters and step away from the action for a moment. I can honestly say that I loved every second of working on the set of Horizon even when I was just sitting around and getting to know some of the other people involved.
What was the most challenging part of the production?
It was quite a hectic schedule with very long shoot days, battling the cold wasn’t fun but we all got through it with smiles on our faces. The toughest day for me was when I shot episode 8 and I had to get over my fear of heights to sprint along a narrow gantry which was seven stories high (and wobbled when we walked!). Other than that I couldn’t pick out any specific challenges, everyone was just having a blast doing something that they love.
Have you any advice for inspiring actors out there who are trying to get into the industry?
Gosh its hard to know where to begin really (I could talk about this all day). Firstly, don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do it. Nothing kills passion and drive more than people telling you that acting is too tough and all this other nonsense.
If you enjoy it, go and do it, simple. Start from the ground and work your way up. Set goals and try and hit as many as you can, gather experience from any opportunity you find. Sell yourself, definitely use social media to raise your profile, just keep busy. Try theatre, film, school tours, anything you can do until you find yourself a niche. Only be picky when you can afford to be so and enjoy networking at filmmaking events, making contacts is a huge part of an actor’s career. Be humble, have fun and help your colleagues out along the way.
I have actually made a series of video blogs on one of my YouTube pages offering as much guidance as I’m able which I would love to share with aspiring actors. Lastly, remember that everyone’s experience, training and personal goals are going to be different to the next, from drama school to learning while working. You can’t go wrong if you just go for it.
What’s the next film production for you?
My next film release is an indie feature film called Labyrintha, it’s coming out by the end of October as far as I know. My next confirmed project is a TV Pilot which I’ll be shooting in Sweden called ‘The Lifeline’s Chronicles’ (it’s also a SciFi). I have a few other things in place but I better not mention those at this time. I also have an audition for something tomorrow so by the time you read this I hope to add another project to my lineup (Crossing fingers). I am waiting on a few things that I have auditioned for over the last fortnight, what will be will be…
Where can we find out more about your films?
You can check my IMDB page which gets updated by various film companies on my behalf or check out my Facebook business page.
Thank you both for you time and good luck with the series. Which readers I highly recommend to you check out now :)