UPDATE (19/06/2015): We said we’d get back to you with the details of the screening when they became public – and they have, with the release of the CCI-IFF screening listings today. No cast on hand, I’m afraid, but a chance to see this great film on a big screen!
- Thursday, July 9 – 10.30pm-10.45pm: Captcha
One of the unexpected benefits of setting this website up has been that I’ve been lucky to be contacted by a number of UK-based comics, television and film producers, beating their own path into getting projects off the ground, taking in San Diego Comic-Con along the way and asking if I would be interested in sharing their story.
One of the most ambitious of these projects is Edward Tracy’s Captcha, a film noir spy thriller, set in a ‘steam punk’ 1940’s London, where an unassuming government scientist has unknowingly been ‘spiked’ with a love implant. His implant is failing, but the spy who put it there has fallen in love for real. Will she choose to betray her mission and save her lover? And if he knew her deception, could he ever forgive her, let alone love her?
The film is a fifteen minute short film backed by the B.F.I. (awarding funds from the National Lottery ‘Film Forever’ arts grants) and Film 4 – an impressive alliance for a short by a filmmaker with a pitch which involves hard steampunk sci-fi and a lot of green screen, you would think.
Until you realise that Tracy’s entire career has been built on acclaimed high-wire acts of daring do, including creating the multi award-winning Fonejacker/Facejacker television shows, collaborating with renegade artist Banksy on The Antics Roadshow and producing/directing music videos for the likes of Dizzee Rascal and Riz MC, utilizing plenty of SFX and green screen filmmaking.
With such a background, Film 4 were certainly of the opinion that Tracy’s first stab at a feature film calling card would be in a humourous vein. “I’d pitched the idea of doing a thriller. Film 4 expected me to do a kind of a comedy. One of the Film 4 execs had said, “It doesn’t matter what it is, just make sure it’s effing funny.” I think I didn’t tell them that there was no comedy in it for fear they might pull the plug on the whole thing!”
What actually came out the other end was something a lot more dark, more sci-fi and certainly more ambitious than anyone expected when the production first began. Now, with a completed short film in the can, starring Doctor Who’s Arthur Darvill, Amy Beth Hayes (Mr. Selfridge), Nigel Lindsey (Four Lions/Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa), Danny Babington (Quills/Hart’s War), Kayvan Novak (Fonejacker/Syriana) and the voice of esteemed actress Zoe Wanamaker (…er, bloody everything – so much to simply list here!), it’s time to take the film on the road and put the ‘calling card’ to the test.
Arthur Darvill talks about the very independent process of constructing the world of Captcha: “It was bit of a mad, bonkers process to making this, not only did we film in this tiny, tiny green screen studio that was [as big as a postage stamp], the whole thing of not quite knowing what everything was going to look like, we really had to work out what was in each room and where we were because we had little bits of set and Ed created all of this world around us. Because there wasn’t the space and because it was just actors talking to each other, in a room with nothing else around, we had to rely on each other and the script which is why we spent a lot of time refining the script during the shooting.”
This meant that a lot of faith was placed in Tracy in creating this epic world, alongside long-time collaborator and Captcha Director Of Photography Charlie Granger. The company that was then charged to realising the imagination of the world of the film was Soho-based SFX geniuses The Mill who took the futuristic cityscapes and steampunk accoutrements of the production design and animatics, and brought them to life. Capped with a sumptuous score by Sam Williams, conducted by Allan Wilson and performed by the Budapest Symphony Orchestra, the whole reeks of a quality and scale which belies the budget that the short came in under.
Having seen the short film, I can tell you, it’s a staggeringly impressive looking piece of work: visually striking, wonderfully acted with deft, subtle performances from everyone involved and with woven with the grand intent which all good sci-fi should do: to make you think. Considering that the production pretty much existed in the realms of the computer – the shoot was almost entirely conducted on a tiny green screen – Tracy ties together all the disparate elements of a CGI production with a deftness I haven’t seen since Kerry Conran’s Sky Captain & The World Of Tomorrow. (Don’t look at me like that, I’m a fan of that flick!)
Tracy’s end goal is, of course, to break the constraints of a short film and make a feature – Captcha is certainly the flag-waving, attention-grabbing introduction by which to open those doors. Part of that process of getting the studios attention is by getting Captcha screened at San Diego Comic-Con this year as part of the CCI:International Film Festival, an ideal platform when all of the major players in film production will be in town.
On Thursday 9th July, Captcha will be getting its North American debut at the CCI:IFF – we’ve no word yet on whether the cast, including fan favourite Darvill, will be in attendance but his is the sort of name that would bring the Whovians out of the woodwork to see the film. I hope to be catching up with Edward Tracy and the team in attendance to get a few words and bask in the glow of what I am sure is going to be a highly successful screening. If you’re in town and you want to support this truly British production, make sure you check Captcha out – watch this space for screening and panel details when they’re announced.
You can support the film by heading over to https://www.wearecolony.com/captcha and, for just £2.49, you can watch the short film in its entirety, as well as getting access to a ton of behind-the-scenes video and interviews, production materials, concept art, animatics, the shooting script and more. Trust me, it’s worth ten times that. Enjoy.