The Hurlers is a beautiful post-apocalyptic sci fi thriller that touches on companionship, community and a search for identity. We chatted to filmmakers James Chegwyn and Mitchell Snell to find out what inspired them and what it was like working in Cornwall
D&CFilm: Tell us about your post-apocalyptic nightmare, Hurlers.
Mitchell: The Hurlers is a SciFi/Thriller about Carl and Millie who scour the torn nightmare the world has now become. They long and hunt for traces of their missing parents. A lost bunker, a lost home.
James: It’s a short film that hopefully takes the audience on an emotional journey, we have set the film in a not so distant future that essentially tells the story of a young man and his dog searching for their long lost family. Companionship and searching play big roles in this film, the connection we feel with our pets is sometimes unexplainable and we hope those feelings come across in the film.
D&CFilm: How did you come up with the idea and what’s it like working together – how do you ensure a smooth creative process?
Mitchell: The idea came from being homesick whilst I was away working. We had always wanted to shoot a short film in Cornwall, and I had seen some pretty incredible pictures of abandoned houses and desolate moorland and it came from that really. We are both cousins and have a lot of similar interests in terms of style of films, and the stories we want to tell.
James: We originally planned to make a shorter film last year before Christmas and we were thinking ‘what locations do we have access to?’ At the time my parents had an old caravan that we thought could work for a scene. But as time passed and we were both working abroad we couldn’t make the film. Mitchell started writing the script and we put all of our creative efforts and money into trying to lift the film off of the ground and start principal photography.
I think communication is key to a smooth creative process. We would stay up late watching post-apocalyptic films back-to-back and discuss what elements we thought could work in our own film. After that we would go through the script listening to soundscapes and music to get a feel for the film. Without these moments sharing our ideas and planning the film we probably would have a very different film to show people right now.
D&CFilm: Sci-fi can be used to explore human condition as well as contemporary ones? What are the themes you explore and is there any resonances to today in The Hurlers?
Mitchell: I agree. There are many themes within The Hurlers, but I think the main one that sticks out is companionship. Both Carl and Millie require a sense of community and hold questions of “where do I belong?” Just like a lot of people today; the uncertainty of not knowing who you should be, or what you should do and where do you go. There are a number of people plagued each day with either not having a home physically, mentally and emotionally.
James: It was important to focus on real emotions that relate to our modern world as the locations of our film are very lonely and desolate. I think also with the way us humans are polluting the world at the moment our film could be a good representation of what may happen in the future.
D&CFilm: What’s your background and how did you end up working together?
Mitchell: We are family and have been making films since we were quite young. Maybe from since the age of 12? James had got his first camera, and I had been going to quite a lot of youth theatre and drama clubs. Why not go play outside with a camera making tiny little films? In fact, we have always been involved quite creatively – we had our own band and then had our own family magic show duo. I believe our first was a Zombie film; I can’t remember what it was called. It mostly consisted of me wandering around with tomato ketchup on my neck with my sister’s old Goth style make up under my eyes.
James: We both grew up in Cornwall and were always active, playing outside in the fields or making short films. I was given a mini DV camera for Christmas when I was 12 and we would save up our pocket money to buy the tapes and shoot films during the day and start editing in the evenings. We made short westerns, fake commercials and zombie films which we thought we epic at the time. It was a fun creative world to explore and I think thanks to those moments that’s when I decided to try and make a career in filmmaking and cinematography.
D&CFilm: The images look fantastic. What are the locations you use and how important is location for the film?
Mitch: The use of location has been extremely important. We both know the area around our home town of Liskeard quite well so we used that to our advantage. We are quite lucky to have homes in a part of England where it is a filmmakers dream – the mix of landscapes is very eclectic. We shot in a mine, grassy plains, valleys, Abandoned Military bases, Airfields, Bunkers and Shelters plus various derelict homes. The locations within the film are extremely important and have been chosen quite carefully. We needed to create this desolate and isolated feeling. To get that we needed big wide shots to heighten the sense of “being truly alone”; which then contrasts to the scenes that are rather chilling where we have kept everything quite enclosed.
James: Like Mitch said the locations are very important for the film. It took us a while to scout locations and find the right places. They play a big part in The Hurlers as they represent the world that our characters live in – giving a sense of desperation and loneliness. We were pretty lucky with the Cornish public who let us film in their properties for free, without those kind people our film wouldn’t of been to be made in the way it was – so thank you!
D&CFilm: What were the decisions behind the Cinematography in the film?
James: The visual language of the film was important and we thought about this a lot before principal photography. We decided that the colour palette of the film should be desaturated and cold, something that would work well with our story. We knew that shooting the film during a Cornish summer would be quite difficult as those harsh sunny days weren’t quite what we were looking for. So a decision was made to get up at 4am to shoot the morning light every shoot day. Overcast days were a blessing because we could add some bounce and light the way we wanted.
Also the camera movement was important, I wanted to shoot a lot of the film handheld to give the audience a feeling that they were there experiencing what Carl was feeling in the scene. We tried a couple sliding shots, but it felt too forced and didn’t give that documentary feel that I like. Usually, I would be using my 35mm prime and just getting up close with the action. Sometimes playing with the shutter angle depending on the action. For the caravan scene, I used a couple 1k tungsten Lights outside with ½ CTB and we used a smoke machine to haze out this interior – hopefully giving quite an intense dramatic feel to it.
D&CFilm: What’s it like being filmmakers in Cornwall?
Mitch: We live and work in various locations, but we both have homes in Cornwall. I have never worked as a creative in the South West, but from what I have been told is that it’s extremely difficult. We know that there is an extreme amount of quality work and talent within Cornwall, and our main aim is to try and connect people so we all can tell great stories together.
James: I have spent over 10 years living outside of Cornwall. It has been great to travel the world and make films for different clients, but we always will consider Cornwall as our home. The idea with this film is to apply for funding to start producing more short films and bring productions down to Cornwall always with a hint of Cornish culture within the films. Fingers crossed.
D&CFilm: How did you find your crew?
Mitch: We are the crew. We knew it was going to be tough, but we had been planning this for almost a year. We have written, produced, directed, edited, acted, composed…. absolutely everything. It’s only been until now since we have started to branch out.
James: It was definitely one of the hardest shoot we have done, we were driving between locations and shooting for 14 hours – going back to the house to prepare the props and logistics for the next day on our own – along with just trying to make sure we eat and drink water. It has been great to see the film grow from from the initial idea to now going into the final edit and sound design. For the next one we would love to invite some keen filmmakers in the south west to collaborate and help out – send us a message if you are interested!
D&CFilm: When can we expect to see Hurlers?
Mitch: The Hurlers won’t be available for public release until next year. Our goal is to submit the film onto festivals; which will make it easier for us to apply to funding for our future projects.
James: We would love to screen the final film somewhere in the Liskeard area next year along with applying for film festivals, we will post all of this info on our Facebook page ‘The Hurlers Film‘ and on our website www.thehurlersfilm.com.
D&CFilm: What are the sort of things that excite you in a project and what, if anything is in the pipeline?
Mitch: There are a lot of things that excite me about projects, but at the end of the day there needs to be a great story with deep morals. We both want to see great character journeys with a lot of tense drama. We have talked about a few ideas; we grew up watching Western films and have toyed with some ideas of bringing that genre to Cornwall
James: Like Mitch said above, The story will always be the number one driving factor for our creativity and filmmaking. We have something in the pipeline for next year, It’s still in the early stages but we feel pretty passionate about the story. We both believe a Cornish – Western Hybrid film could be interesting!
D&CFilm: Looking forward to The Hurlers and more! Thanks for your time, James and Mitchell!