Features Film

INTERVIEW: Andy Collier, Director of The Seventeenth Kind

Written by Robert Porter

We recently caught up with Andy Collier and spoke with him about his film adaptation of Michael Marshall Smith‘s The Seventeenth Kind. If you enjoy wacky sci-fi madness, then The Seventeenth Kind is absolutely for you. Check out the film’s website, where you can find more information about the cast and crew, and even purchase your very own copy of the film to watch at home! Let’s get to it!

AP2HYC: Some of our readers may not be familiar with The Seventeenth Kind. Would you give us a little background on the story?

Collier: It’s about a failed movie star wannabe who ends up a presenter on a low end home shopping TV channel. He loves and hates the job like he loves and hates himself. Mostly, he hates it. One night a guest inventor/salesman brings a very unusual, miracle product to sell on the show, which escalates quickly and leads to the possible extinction of the human race. Can our hero save the day? Probably not.

AP2HYC: As a director, what drew you towards The Seventeenth Kind?

Collier: I love stories that surprise the audience and take turns you could never have predicted in a million years. The Seventeenth Kind is so surreal and audacious, and genuinely funny that it was love at first reading. Adapting it for the screen…I thought it would either work amazingly well or be a complete, unmitigated disaster. Hopefully it mostly turned into the former.

AP2HYC: Are there any major differences between Michael Marshall Smith’s story and your film?

Collier: Yes and no. We stuck very closely to the meat of Mike’s story and, especially in the second half, pretty much transcribed it beat for beat- dialogue and all. However, we had to mess around a lot to make the first half, the set up for the rest of the story, work on screen. The original story is written as a first person monologue stream of consciousness from the main character, which doesn’t work so well cinematically. So we essentially added in a new first act to allow us to stick closely to the original in a way that was more interesting visually.

AP2HYC: Talk a bit about the shot involving the thirty-plus cameras.

Collier: Pretty much all the action in the story takes place in a broadcast TV studio, so we had to be careful to move the point of view around a little so it didn’t get too monotonous for the audience. In the story the aliens freeze time while they decide whether or not to vapourise planet Earth, so we decided to mix up the visuals by throwing in some “frozen time” shots around some of London’s most famous landmarks. Getting those shots done by specialist VFX (visual effects) houses turned out to be expensive- like twice the budget for the entire film level expensive- so our DoP  (director of photography) did some research and jerry-rigged a system that allowed us to fire 36 Canon 5Ds at the same time. The hardest part was then hiring 36 identical cameras and lenses. That was pretty much all the hire stock available in the UK that week!

We then had to turn all 36 frames into 108 using some computer magic, and we had 4 seconds of footage for each frozen time shot. The shots came out really well given that we did it so cheaply; kudos to our DoP Lorenzo Levrini and our legendary VFX artist Paul Lada, who share the credit equally.

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AP2HYC: Tony Curran‘s performance is especially entertaining. What was it like for you to work with him?

Collier: Fantastic. Tony brought a lot to the role and really made it his own. The “wee Jimmy Richard from Glasgow” he slips into when he forgets himself was entirely Tony’s creation. It was a very collaborative relationship; I would work with Tony again at the drop of a hat.

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AP2HYC: What do you think we can all learn from Tony Curran’s character, James Richard?

Collier: Good question. I think that James has a rare moment of clarity in the opening scene, when he realises how he threw away the only thing that ever made him truly happy; don’t do that, I guess. Realise what is important to you, and never lose sight of it. Or alternatively, if you follow the film to its literal conclusion, maybe the lesson is “when the chips are down, being a drug addled bull**** artist is the best way to save the world.” – From Brian Blessed. It could equally well be that.

AP2HYC: What are some of your favorite films?

Collier: As above, ones that take unexpected directions. So, particular favourites: High Plains Drifter, Angel Heart, Roman Polanski‘s Repulsion, Django Unchained, A Clockwork Orange. My favourite film ever is The Thirteenth Warrior. Everybody else in the world hated it, but everybody else is wrong!

AP2HYC: What’s next for you as a filmmaker?

Collier: We’re still pushing the TV show of The Seventeenth Kind; basically a what happens next for which the short film you’ve just seen is the genesis story.

Also putting together a medieval western revenge thriller set somewhere near The Holy Land just after the time of the first Crusade. That’s quite an expansive project and won’t shoot until 2017.

The next thing we’re shooting though is a smart psychological horror-thriller that I’m really excited about. If I saw it at the cinema without knowing what it was about beforehand I would love it, anyway. Hopefully that’s a good thing, given that I also loved The Thirteenth Warrior. I’m co-directing that with my writing partner Tor Mian (who also co-wrote it, unsurprisingly). We seem to be reasonably capable at getting along with other children, so far…

AP2HYC: Thanks Andy!

If that wasn’t enough to get you geared up for The Seventeenth Kind, check out the trailer here, and then take a look at some of Andy Collier’s other projects at Loose Canon Films’ website!

Are you interested in this zany sci-fi adventure? If you have seen it, what did you think? Let us know in the comments section and on our Twitter page!

About the author

Robert Porter