Third Contact, Simon Horrocks’ directorial debut, was shot on a miniscule budget showing yet again that films don’t need major studio funding in order to be excellent. The reviews for the film so far have been great, with one even referring to it as a “masterful piece of art.”
The film tells the story of Dr. David Wright, a depressed psychotherapist, who embarks on an obsessive investigation after a second patient takes their own life in mysterious circumstances. Wright sets out to find out who or what is behind those deaths before any more lives are lost.
Horrocks is getting ready to kickoff a crowdfunding campaign in order to give his film the release it deserves. In honour of that upcoming campaign, I had the opportunity to talk to him about the film. We discussed his inspiration, why he’s searching for public funding, and much more.
Check out the full interview below.
WGTC: Describe the film for those who aren’t familiar.
Horrocks: The film is kind of a strange, mysterious film, and it’s about a a psychotherapist who has two patients die and there’s an unusual, strange, mysterious link between the two deaths. He gets involved in a bit of an investigation into what’s going on.
WGTC: Where’d you draw the inspiration for that story from?
Horrocks: It actually started with a different script I had written a couple years previously. It was called The Man With A Bullet In His Brain. The script did quite well and I got into the whole idea that was behind it which was a bit sci-fi. The thing was it was quite high budget. We didn’t manage to get the money that was required to make the thing, so basically I just got to the point where I thought, ‘I need to make a film.’ I’d been writing for a long time and, just like with many people, you get stuck behind the wall of, ‘No sorry. No sorry.’ The constant no. I just thought, ‘You know what, I’m going to have a go. I’m going to do it.’ I just got a camera, and got some friends together, cast a few actors, and started filming.
The ideas behind it were a lot of different things going on at the time. My sort-of life situation. Splitting up with my partner of like twenty years. Also, some philosophical ideas, reading about things like quantum suicide and all the multi-world, multi-verse concepts. All these ideas just came together really into this one story in a kind of interesting way. I worked on it for about 9 months with someone else giving me feedback. And that was it really.
WGTC: Why’d you opt for black and white?
Horrocks: I just love film noir. But also that whole concept of shooting with very minimal resources. I was basically doing all the camera work myself. I’d never filmed anything before either. I had one light. I wasn’t even going to have one light, I was just going to be using normal lamps and practicals and daylight until someone found this one light in a cupboard in the back of the BBC. That’s old-style film noir. Very limited light, which is why you get that dramatic lighting in a lot of those old black and white noirs. So I just went along with that same kind of idea. It kind of suits the story. Suits the mood of the story. That atmospheric black and white. Also, it plays a role in the story as well. There are some moments which are in color, kind of flashbacks. In that way, there’s also a sort of contrast.
WGTC: Were there any films or filmmakers that you directly drew inspiration from?
Horrocks: I was getting some ideas from Chris Marker, the La Jetee film which is all black and white stills. Had some similar ideas going on. Vertigo also, the idea of obsession with the past and the cycle, how things repeat themselves.
In terms of how we went about making the film, I’d read about Christopher Nolan, his first film, called Following. They designed the whole film around shooting with the whole cast and crew in a taxi. So it was very scaled down. They shot it over a year, sort of in their spare time, which is what I did, so I think to do that gives you more space. When you don’t have any funds, I think it can be a mistake to squeeze in a whole feature film shoot. Maybe you can’t afford to do six weeks so you just do two or three, and I didn’t really want to do that. We decided to follow that path, and it worked really well actually.
WGTC: How’d the reception to the film been so far?
Horrocks: Everything I’ve heard is good. I keep waiting for an average review or something. But everything is amazing reviews, which is very kind. In my mind, this is just my first film, I shot it on a camcorder, in some ways I was just thinking this was practice and it was going to be my showreel. But every time I think that another review comes out and people seem to be really excited about it. So that’s inspired me to keep going with it and try to get it in cinemas, since I think maybe it deserves it.
WGTC: Why searching for public funding now? What’s your goal with that?
Horrocks: Well basically because the whole process with this film, the way it started was for me to do this outside of the industry and just to make the film I wanted to make, without anyone interfering or saying, ‘No you can’t do this, you can’t do that, that won’t sell.’ The whole journey has been self-sufficient, so this is sort of the final chapter of that self-sufficiency, to go straight to the audience, which I actually really enjoy. I enjoy to go the audience and communicate with them. I think that’s important. I think this is a a good way to do it.
WGTC: What do you think of the recent mega-Kickstarter projects such as the Veronica Mars one or Zach Braff’s new film? How do you think that’s changing the whole mold of public funding.
Horrocks: It’s an interesting question. It’s kind of concerning for the small people. For the little guys. In a way this is a small niche that’s been found for guys who are trying to do things that wouldn’t necessarily get funding. So it’s kind of concerning when you see people that would probably get funding in traditional ways who can just come in and probably throw money at PR companies and from day 1 they’ve got big press, so they mop up.
In a way it’s kind of worrying because perhaps it could go the way of cinema distribution which is dominated very strongly by the major projects, major money. It’s interesting. We’ll see. There’s already a bit of a backlash against those guys. Online you can see people who aren’t too happy about it.
WGTC: In terms of your project, if someone was on the fence about contributing, what would your quick pitch to them be?
Horrocks: I would just say that if you think this looks interesting, I think you need to remember that the people doing interesting things need a bit of encouragement. If you go to the cinema and you’re going, ‘Oh god this is the same old stuff. Why don’t we get anything that’s a bit more imaginative, that’s a bit more creative?’ Well the answer is because those guys aren’t getting the money. You mention crowdfunding, I was reading about Darren Aronofsky who made Pi in 1996, and if you check out the website, which is still up even though they designed it in 1996, you can see that he’s talking about crowdfunding then. Because the producer who he was working with came up with this idea to basically go through the rolodex and send out letters to friends and family asking for $100 each. That film basically got made through that. Through people being generous and throwing in $100 here and there. The rest is history kind of thing. Without that support maybe there wouldn’t be Darren Aronofsky out making films like Black Swan and Requiem for a Dream and all those other titles. Maybe they wouldn’t be there. So that’s why it’s important to chip in I’d say.
WGTC: Do you have anything else planned? Another film in the works right now?
Horrocks: I’ve got a screenplay which I wrote at the end of last year. But basically a lot of what I’m doing with Third Contact is going to be quite important with what happens with the next one. Basically the success of your first project is going to help the success of your next project. So that’s on the back-burner for the moment while I put everything into this campaign.
That concludes our interview, but I’d like to thank Simon for taking the time to talk. If you think Third Contact sounds interesting, head to the film’s website for more information.