Daniel Kummer is a filmmaker, producer and editor from London who studied Film and Media at the University of Cape Town, South Africa. Producer and director Lucy Harvey spent 17 years as a fashion designer in London and lecturing in design art and visual culture at Nottingham School of Art and New Bucks University. “Alien On Stage” is Comer and Harvey’s first documentary.
“Alien On Stage” is shown at the 2021 SXSW Film Festival, which is taking place online from March 16-20.
W&H: Describe the movie in your own words.
DK: “Alien On Stage” is an exciting documentary that celebrates the underdog and the creative power of society. A group of bus drivers from rural England adapt Ridley Scott’s play “Alien” and, with a heart of fate, they find themselves taking their unusual home show to a theater in London’s famous West End. We follow them on this exciting journey and meet this fun British group of amateur drama buffs.
LH: A true story of ordinary people creating something unique and magical. It undermines our exclusive thoughts about fear-and-ego-based success and mastering your creativity before anyone sees it. “Alien On Stage” replaces these precious concepts with raw, unconscious holism and fearless optimism.
W&H: What drew you to this story?
DK: The performers’ love for each other and the way they left nothing in stages meant they were really fun to be around. When we first saw the show in Wimborne, they were so excited that a group of Londoners drove three hours to see them, and we were just as excited that a group of bus drivers had a great idea to create a stage show for “Alien”.
When we found out that the show was going to London, we knew this was going to be a really fun documentary. Even though we never made a full documentary before, and we didn’t have any equipment or funding, we took inspiration from the bus drivers and just went.
LH: Knowing an “alien” really, it was pure curiosity that drew us to them. How would a group of bus drivers achieve an amateur theatrical run of this cool and cool Gothic science fiction movie with homemade props in the Village Hall? Will it be any good?
W&H: What do you want people to think about after seeing the movie?
David Kelly: It’s a testament to what you can achieve when you work together – for pure love, joy and creativity. Since we were isolated from each other during COVID-19, we have found that audiences are as responsive to community visions and shared experiences as being in the theater. It reminds us of how wonderful these things are, and how well we, as humans, thrive with communication and creativity.
LH: I want viewers to think about how restrictive we are in the way we measure the value of things, and that success can come in various forms. Don’t hold yourself to standards for what is good or worry about what other people think. As long as your intention is good and you are authentic, your work is valuable.
W&H: What’s the biggest challenge in making a movie?
DK: As a first-time director, there are many things that present themselves as challenges. Funding is tough: Lack of funds meant the project took a long time to take off after the initial filming. Self-belief can be difficult when you embark on a big project for the first time, as is trusting your instincts and expressing your opinions. Having to wear many hats – producer, director, and editor – was sometimes difficult as well. Not being able to focus your energy only on creative decisions and having to deal with a lot of logistics was difficult. However, it’s amazing how much she learns from throwing you deep, and this experience alone is invaluable.
LH: Dealing with lengthy timeframes, reduced momentum and energy depletion was challenging. It was maintaining the focus and optimism needed to overcome the negativity of those who did not believe in the value of what another experiment did. Holding on to a vision and not being able to rest until you come is exhausting, especially if you have to overcome unnecessary obstacles to get there.
W&H: How did you get your film funded?
DK: We are a completely independent production. The lack of a clear funding path was difficult and meant the project was stalled for a few years. Being unfamiliar with how these things work, figuring out how to best obtain funding and support and how to take the film to the next level was one of the factors we had to contend with.
The initial filming took place cheaply with a team of two women: I film and Lucy is recording the audio and doing the interviews. We borrowed all equipment from friends and acquaintances. For display shooting, we asked for advantages from other camera operators. Then we raised £ 10,000 (about $ 14,000 USD) through Kickstarter to fund post-production, which was when we could focus on the movie, and give it our full attention.
We set up a liberation group on the coast of northern Spain in a small town called Portbo, near Lucy’s headquarters. This meant that the rental costs were low and we could enjoy the beautiful surroundings when we weren’t editing, and taking breaks from editing to go jumping in the sea was a great perk.
LH: I put my spare money into it without thinking about what it will take in the long run. It could have been made by leaps and bounds, with just a few bells and whistles, and it’s still a great story. The film costs very little. However, it was difficult to manage the allocation of time for editing. Part-time between paid work won’t cut it in the end, we ran Kickstarter to raise money. This allowed us to take a large part of the vacation to treat it as a suitable job.
We also have a team of people to work on the movie aggressively, full time. Otherwise, I would not have reached the final amendment. Kickstarter also paid for the finishing touches, including original music and graphics. It was nice to be able to hire other people and collaborate creatively. Having some money to pay the skilled people makes everything easier and more fun.
W&H: What inspired you to become a filmmaker?
DK: I’ve always found a strong connection to the stories in the movie and I feel it’s a great way for people to relate to experiences different from ours. As I get older, I find myself more sympathetic to other stories, cry more, and feel more – bringing it all to the audience is a really cool feeling.
LH: Same story. We’re part of the story and I knew it really had to be filmed – it was too good to miss. I lived with Danielle, and we both worked in movies. I studied film theory, modeling and creative direction, and Danielle studied filmmaking, learned how to operate a camera, and how to edit. It seemed like the obvious thing to do.
W&H: What’s the best and worst advice you’ve received?
DK: The best advice I heard recently was from The Blindboy Podcast: Don’t worry about what other people think of you and do a creative job just for yourself. Don’t pay too much attention to whether other people enjoy it or not, because if you create it for yourself and really communicate with it, that’s what matters.
LH: The best advice I’ve had is to get out of your way: You are the only thing holding you back. The worst advice is to focus on anything other than finishing the movie. The movie is the most important thing. If it’s fine, then everything else will fall into place.
W&H: What advice do you have for other female directors?
DK: Don’t be afraid to ask yourself, introduce yourself, ask questions, introduce yourself, and make connections. Do something that you want to see and don’t try to make things for anyone else. Find your voice.
LH: The parental club is falling apart, so don’t bother with the sticker given of your identity – if your business is good and genuine, it can bypass these arbitrary barriers. If you exist as though these perceived limitations don’t apply to you and you meet everyone equally, you will do well.
W&H: Name your favorite movie directed by women and why.
DK: It’s hard to pick a favorite. I loved the movie “Saint Maud” written and directed by Rose Glass. It was the last movie I saw in the cinema. It’s well executed, really tense all the way. You really feel Maud’s inner struggles, and the real world and the supernatural have merged so well. It’s scary and exciting, Rose did an amazing job.
LH: “American Psycho” written by Jennifer Turner and Mary Aaron and directed by the latter. I wouldn’t say it’s my all-time favorite. There are a lot of movies to choose from. But “American Psycho” made an impression on me when I started theoretically analyzing films. I watched it eight times for an article but never tired of it. Done right and smart. You can know that every detail has been considered. I really liked it
W&H: How do you adjust to life during the COVID-19 pandemic? Do you maintain your creativity, and if so, how?
DK: It was a busy year completing the film’s final cut and then the film festival’s requests. I tried a little watercolor painting recently. That was fun.
I’m also part of a feminist choir, the F * choir, which still meets every two weeks on Zoom, and we recently had an outdoor rehearsal in the park in pairs.
LH: Everything is fine with me here in Spain. I have a local community within a five minute walk and have a lot of small creative outlets. Also, we can meet in groups of six. I recently transcribed scenes from a very British TV series, Coronation Street, so we can act, which turns out to be a shout out.
We also had a Clue board masquerade party. We write rap and poetry we record and share with each other. I shot a little for a crowd-sourced documentary called “Our Lockdown” produced by some friends. Other friends hosted Zoom encounters for movie clubs and theater improvement. There is a lot going on. We’re starting to be able to host live events here as well as things are opening up.
W&H: The film industry has a long history of underrepresenting people of color on screen and behind the scenes and reinforcing – and creating – negative stereotypes. What measures do you think should be taken to make Hollywood and / or the world of documents more inclusive?
DK: It’s really important to create space for underrepresented groups of people. Giving people a chance and looking beyond the world of patronage is really vital until places like Hollywood change.
People are taking steps in the right direction, but once you look at the number of films that people of color have produced and directed, things are clearly happening slowly and need to be ramped up. Being part of the gig economy and freelance work means that formal employment structures are not in place. Opening your door and supporting you can be really important.
LH: Hand over the means of production to people of color and allow them to continue with it. Untie the white fanatic’s grip on everything and hand over the controls. Don’t simply allow people of color into your space: save space, invest in talent, and walk away from it.