Hello All,

So I was planning on doing a sort of AMA (Ask Me Anything) session before, during, after the movie screening, but for a number of reasons, I have decided to put it down "on paper" - not least of all ‘cos I hate public speaking (and who really wants to hear me bang on about lens lengths and encoding formats - yawn!), and I currently have a terrible bout of bronchitis which means every time I try to speak I end up hacking up a lung (now there’s a good horror story right there!). I was even going to try and record a video for this, but this afore mentioned coughing resulting in loss of lung lobes, quickly killed that idea…

Well, what am I doing here, writing all this “blah blah blah" down? Well, I’ve been telling so many people about the movie - The Hellper, that I find myself repeating the same facts and anecdotes. So much so I thought I might as well collate them into one place and put them out to the world here. So here goes….

There are spoilers so you may want to read this after the screening.

The Hellper - The Origin Story

Believe it or not, this movie first came to light in June 2014 - yes, nearly 10 years ago, when I decided to write a short film as a prologue or cold open to a potential feature length movie. I knocked up a short script for the cold open, as well as a treatment and outline for the feature movie, which I then sent off to the  Hong Kong - Asia Film Financing Forum (HAF). Whilst the HAF were deliberating, I shot the short on the evening of 27 Dec 2014, with John Curran, Dave Doré and a couple of actors - including John’s 14 year old daughter, who has, in the time it has taken me to make The Hellper, graduated high school, got her under-grad degree and a post-grad masters, and is working in the UK! I feel like I’m dragging my heels somewhat?

After the shoot, Nia and I went cross country in Southern Africa, the HAF gave me a firm “fk off, we only fund films where gender fluid Nakhi stare at the sea for 14 hours lamenting the state of the Patagonian wild buttercup” (which is frustrating as that was an idea I was toying with), and I finished editing the short (well it only took a day back in Wales).

The original cold open for The Helper (it had only one “L” then) can be seen here…

This brings us to around May 2015, and Nia and I decide to quit work and go to Latin America for funsies. Within days, we would find ourselves in Playa del Carmen, Nia learning Spanish at a local school, and me writing the feature length version of The Helper from the back of a Mexican Starbucks. By mid June 2015 I had a 100+ page feature script written, and Nia had enough Spanish to convince Ecuadorian immigration that she was not Israeli.

Honestly, not much happened with the movie after the initial draft script was complete, until April 2021. We had in the interim extended our family, moved country once, moved house three times - but nothing related to The Hellper movie itself. There were other film projects that were supposed to feed into the production of The Hellper, but I feel these merely served to delay the making of this film.

So, right in the middle of COVID, we started filming, completing five days on location between 10 April 2021 and 20 June 2021. These were the five “easy” days as the location was my home, and easy to set up and pre-light etc., which then gave a false sense of security as to the commitment needed to move forward. It was also at this time that we lost some cast members due to personal reasons, and other cast members became busy with paid work, which created all number of scheduling conflicts. The only thing I could do was to retreat from further shooting, ride out COVID, and grumble about my ridiculous ambition to be a starving artist.

Well, I must have spent some time thinking about how the hell I was going to make the movie, because on 23 August 2022, we resumed filming! You see, the true basis of film-making is just problem solving - as a producer, director, camera crew, actor, you get a load of shit thrown at you, and you have to find a way to get around it. For me, and for this year in hiding, the problem was how am I going to make this movie when no one has time to commit to it, and there’s no money. Looking at this from the time / talent / money triangle, we never had any money, and now we didn’t have time. Talent alone can’t make a movie. So how was I going to make time, find time, create time to do this thing?

Thinking long and hard from my little hole in DB, I realised that the only thing I needed to do was to get the story off the page and into a different medium of presentation, and it didn’t really matter how, or in what format. I could have even made this a radio play if that’s what it came down to! So, I had all this acting talent ready to go, but on a limited time - the problem to solve was how can I shoot as fast as possible, and in as few days as possible? Any experienced film producer (and I feel I can count myself as one) will tell you one of the biggest time vacuums (as well as financial black hole) is location filming. Even if you have to only grab one or two shots in a location, you’ll end up writing off the whole day for transportation, finding somewhere to charge batteries, getting lattes… 

So, my solution to this was to film the entire movie in one place. The script for The Hellper demanded a number of locations, schools, playgrounds, bars, etc.. I had to find a way to get all these on screen, and came up with the idea of shooting it all in a green screen studio (like Robert Rodriguez’s Sin City). I didn’t have Miramax / Bruce Willis type money, but it was still a damn sight cheaper for me and John to build a green screen studio from scratch then it was to drag crew and cast all around HK. 

The result was compressing 40% of the film into 2 days filming at The Hive in Kennedy Town. The other 10 days were all in and around home in DB. This is one of the reasons the movie looks like it does, including why I decided to finish in black and white.

My grand theory behind it all was that it would be much cheaper to film the cast for fewer days, and to spend longer in post-production - which is only me and my laptop. The second phase of filming  was completed in 11 days. The post-production editing took a further 15 months!

Are you happy with it?

A good friend and fellow creative asked me the other day if I was happy with the final product. Well, yes and no! As a creative, is one ever happy with their work? Watching it now, I see so many problems and errors, but then I’ve been immersed in this movie for years. One has to get to a point where there’s good, and there’s good enough! Despite being a huge critic of my own work, I do believe there are parts, in fact many parts, of this film that are good, very good. But then there are parts which could do with more work, and these lie in the good enough camp.

There is the possibility of doing another cut of the movie, as there has been interest from distributors, and often they will need edits and changes to suit their clients. Let’s watch tis space and see if a remastered version comes out.

Good news, we do have one accolade so far, as part of the official selection of the Weekend of Fear in Germany! Hopefully a few festivals will bite.

Huge thanks to the talented cast and crew, for making this happen. I hope that this film serves to push the on screen talent further into their goals of bigger and better funded projects. Special shout out to Sarah Wun who had a huge amount to do for the film (being on screen for 90% of the time), and brought her great talent with grace and good humour - we may need to think about “The Hellper pt. II”. And also Gil De Clercq who was the only actor without formal training. Gil was interested in understanding the process of auditioning, so we did that, just for funsies! I ran an audition for him, and frankly, he was so good I had to give him the part!

An interesting fact, and this goes back to the way that we filmed the movie, many of the actors did not meet on set. Sarah and Miles were only together for a single shot, and Carla and Gil didn't met until after filming wrapped. It's the magic of the movies!

For now, I am keen to move on to some other projects, including another feature film that was shot in the same studio using left over hours, and a couple of short films. All of these projects are at the edit stage and will be released as and when they are complete. A selection of images below...

 Feel free to email me any burning question at... film@slicctv.com and I will do my best to answer them.