Invasion Of The Not Quite Dead
Film director’s personal descent into darkness translates into big screen horror movie
The mist continues to gently roll across the tarmac of the abandoned truck stop. A shadowy figure slowly stumbles into view as the sunrise highlights its outline, reflecting off of the morning vapour. it’s unclear whether this disease can ever be cured… and CUT!
A small roadside café and area of scrubland in Sellindge (near Ashford) have been transformed into the set of Invasion Of The Not Quite Dead, a film by Antony D Lane.
Kent has played the back drop to many a movie – see Les Misérables (2012) The Mummy (1999) Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 (2010) The Other Boleyn Girl (2008) Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides (2011) World War Z (2013) and many more – but few as dark or shrouded in mystery as Invasion (as we will now refer to it).
The first point to note is that Invasion has taken, up to this point, 12 years to complete. It has been on the brink of financial ruin on numerous occasions, while the cinematic millstone has weighed heavy around the neck of its creator, pushing him into a mental breakdown along its journey to fruition.
“We are finally in post-production,” says Lane, with a slight air of disbelief. “Everything is shot. It is officially wrapped, and I am about 80% through the editing now.”
Graduating from Newport University in Wales, with renowned controversial and pioneering British director Ken Russell as his mentor, Lane set about the task of creating his first feature-length flick in 2007/08.
“I had such big plans for this film,” he recalls. “I just didn’t want to make a film that looked like something a uni student would make. Quality was so important to me.
“I had been making short films and documentaries for years, so I wanted to put something out that would be independent but could still look good in a cinema.”
With an eye on the dark humourous subtleties of Simon Pegg’s Shaun Of The Dead, a zombie-style epic was on the cards, but with one problem – the money.
“I started crowdfunding for it using Twitter,” says Lane. “It was kind of before crowdfunding was a thing. Back in the day I called it Fan Funding.”
Plonked in-front of his webcam, Lane would offer chances to be in the film as an extra or to be in the credits in exchange for donations, before embarking on his own zombifying process.
“I would do no-sleep fundraisers. Each month, I would see how long I could go without sleep. It started with 50 hours, then 55, then 60, it would go up by five hours every month.
“The webcam would just be on for the whole time, so people could tune in and see me start to deteriorate as time went on. I would just about be able to send the link out for people to donate.
“People were just interested to see how insane I was sounding and looking. And that drew a crowd and got out there on Twitter and really helped the product to launch.”
After two years, and a top figure of 106 hours without sleep, Lane had raised enough funds for a first shoot, in Bulgaria.
“The film starts off in 1978, where a virus has attacked this little village in Bulgaria, and there is an organisation of soldiers and scientists there to collect the virus,” explains Lane.
“I knew it was going to be a standalone sequence, so once we had done the Bulgaria shoot, I knew that we wouldn’t need those actors again. Of course, I didn’t think it was going to take me over a decade to put it together at that point, but I did think that if I did a stand-alone shoot, I knew I had more time to raise money for the rest of the project”
And it’s a good job, as the budget ran low once more.
The shots of the Bulgaria sequence were actually completed in 2016, in Kent, where Lane and 20 crew members snuck into an abandoned mental institute to complete.
An 18-month hiatus on filming ensued as Lane took a full-time job to pay off the debts he was accruing.
“I have taken loans out for the film and had a mixture of part-time and full-time work to oay for it,” says Lane. “I spent so long fundraising, I started to see a different film I wanted to make. It started tongue-in-cheek, but over the years, I didn’t have the love for the original script and started changing it and the characters.”
In 2014, Lane suffered what he refers to as a ‘nervous breakdown’, but rather than give up and move on, the director channelled his feelings and thoughts into the movie, giving it an altogether darker feeling.
“It was very therapeutic to be able to do that,” he says. “I ended up putting a lot of what I was going through into the script and turning the film into a mental illness metaphor.”
Set in fictional edge-of-London town of Little Grimsby, a the virus has taken hold. But the main focal point of the film follows a policeman called Sam Peterson.
Returning 15 years after he left to be a copper and to lead a different life, and ignore what had happened previously.
“He left after losing a child, and he couldn’t deal with it so he moved away from wife and three children,” says Lane. “It’s all about this character wanting to redemption.
“He is a bit of an anti-hero, you kind of like him as a viewer but you can tell there’s a little bit of a nasty streak to him; he’s a very flawed.
“My own personal journey into darkness caused the characters in the film, and its tone, to completely change.
“The film definitely caused me to have a break down, but I feel I was able to save myself because I was able to put that breakdown into a film.”
This culminated in a shoot where Lane had to step in at the last minute to replace an actor as a character that had contracted the virus.
“It would have been a domino effect that if we didn’t shoot that day people were going to be unavailable and it would have put us back. There was no time to rehearse or get somebody in so I just played an exaggerated version of me during my nervous breakdown. I had lived it, so I just had to tap into that and make it a bit more extrovert.
“Since then I’ve tried to inspire people on social media with the film, and, anyone having a tough time, I urge to message me and talk, because I’ve been through it. Hopefully I can help them feel less alone.”
Autumn 2018, and the cast and crew found themselves back at the Sellindge truck stop, filming long into the night to get the movie, finally, done.
A driving sequence through the woods, Lane sighted as the hardest scene to shoot.
“It was a wishlist scene. It wasn’t 100% needed. But it felt like a great way to end everything,” he explains.
“For my DOP (director of photography) Josh White, it was a very ambitious film shoot for him with his camera work. And for my make-up artist Kate Griffiths, as she had to make up so many people. For my visual effects guy Danny Allen it was tough. We had a rule that we didn’t want any CGI work so it all has to be done, by hand, on camera – the way they used to do it in the 1980s.”
As in all good zombie movies, the night shoots had to have mist blowing through the scene – four smoke machines were on the go at one point.
“A lot of our takes were based on whether or not we had enough mist. It was really tricky! This last scene, from a technical point of view, was a nightmare and we shot it all night, up to 10 minutes before the sun came up.”
Barring an ice cream addiction of one character - causing them to put on a little weight – Lane is happy that the 12-year slog doesn’t translate onto the big screen.
But in real life, he is full of thanks and praise for his colleagues for sticking with it for so long.
“They’ve been with me for five years most of them, and it’s as much of passion project for them as it is for me. I also just wanted to get across how important people are to the project, we're very much a close-knit film family.
“These are now friendships form that go beyond making a movie, for example at my wedding it was mainly cast and crew. It's because of how many people have put their faith in me, that I could never quit this project, from Ian Jones who travels from Edinburgh to Kent each time we shoot to our PR and composer Daniel White, who sadly lost his wife a few years back, leaving him with two little ones, who stuck with the project.
“Even when the project is destroying me mentally and physically, we kept going to find a way to keep it alive, no matter what. The irony is, it's a film project that's been Not Quite Dead a few times.”
Due for release in 2019, Invasion Of The Not Quite Dead is set to be submitted it to various film festivals as well as a possible tour of independent cinemas and some exciting interactive film events.
For more information visit invasionofthenotquitedeadmovie.com and follow @IOTNQDfilm on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.