AYAMÉ is an independent sci-fi project from Irish film maker Conor Maloney. Work was recently completed on the trailer, for a planned full feature to be released next year. A teaser trailer has already been produced and the full trailer will be released in the New Year. We spoke to Conor about the project, its inspiration and where it goes next…
Conor, we’ve seen the teaser trailer for AYAMÉ but can you tell us a little bit more about the idea behind it?
AYAMÉ revolves around one soldier, played by Laura Graham who is involved in a brutal futuristic battle. The story takes place many years in the future, but it won’t involve an unrealistic view of what the future will hold, such as flying cars or teleportation. It will be a dirty future, and not just on the ground level, but the people will have changed and evolved too. There is a lot of twists in the script which I can’t give away at the moment because I want to surprise the audience. But hopefully when you see the final piece it will be like nothing you have ever experienced or emotionally felt before.
“It will be a dirty future and not just on the ground level, but the people will have changed and evolved too”
How did you come up with the script and concept for AYAMÉ?
AYAMÉ was very much born from a life long love of horror and science fiction films. Little bits of ideas had been growing in my mind for well over three years, and I’d write them all down in a specific journal just for this project. Then I slowly started to piece it all together. It was then I started to realize I was onto something good. I did up some concept drawings and tried to get the story correct in my mind before I brought it to anyone. Several hundred mood boards later, I was ready to show people. I firstly showed Jason Foran of Jang Productions and he instantly loved it and was on board to help out in any way possible. The next person was Steven Tully. I had been writing scripts with him for a while and thought it would be something he’d love. After I explained everything to him, it turned out he had been working on something similar with his brother Alan whom I work with a lot as a director. We have been combining the ideas together for some time now, and I think we have a story which people will really remember after they leave the theatre.
What made you want to make this your first feature-length project? Sci-fi is quite the challenge for a first, low-budget feature.
I think that any genre is a challenge for a first time feature project. There is always risk involved. Coming from a background in commercials I knew technically I could pull it off in short form, I am very well trained in that area. But I wanted to evolve my way of thinking to long form. The Irish Film Board don’t really help out young film makers unless you fit into a certain category. That category is usually over-the-top Irishness and I just don’t want to make that type of film at all. I like things that make you think and don’t wrap up everything in a nice neat package. I had this idea and thought it would be an amazing piece. If I could get something out there to show people the potential, maybe someone would take a chance and go for it. So that’s what I did. At the moment it’s a six or seven minute piece that’s a taster of what is to come. But I am toying with the idea of making it into a short film also to really get people interested in the idea and the potential it has.
“The Irish Film Board don’t really help out young film makers unless [it’s] over-the-top Irishness and I just don’t want to make that type of film at all”
Did you have any particular sci-fi favourite or inspiration in mind when shooting the trailer?
There really is too many to mention. My main inspirations for making me get into film are Stanley Kubrick, Ridley Scott and David Fincher but for this I actually looked on the work of Alfred Hitchcock. I know that sounds a bit weird but I wanted to do things a little differently. The understanding today with sci-fi is to go over the top with massive visual effects and in my opinion, the story suffers in some places. I wanted to go back to basics and make a piece of work that really holds your attention for the six minutes and when it’s over you will want to see more. During principal photography, I did as much as I could in camera. I worked extremely closely with my director of photography Piers McGrail on achieving what I wanted and the best way to do a lot of the effects for real. I managed to get the best to do the physical effects in Team FX, so I knew I could take it as far as I could with those guys to get nearly all of the effects for real in camera. Then I needed to place this futuristic soldier in a setting. I went old school again and got an artist called Phil Cullen to hand draw me a world. I love the old matte paintings and that’s the look I wanted to achieve. I think he has produced something beautiful and chilling as the setting for this film to take place.
“[I] got an artist called Phil Cullen to hand draw me a world. I love the old matte paintings and that’s the look I wanted to achieve”
There seems to be a lot of people involved for no fee, did it take a while to get a team together?
Yeah, it took a very long time to get everyone together. Since there was little or no money paid to each person, it meant I was working around their schedule. This involved a lot or running around and late nights. I think I spoke to Jason Foran of Jang Productions on the phone for at least two to three hours a day in the three months coming up to principal photography. There was a lot to do and a lot of props to be made before I started to shoot. A suit was hand textured and aged by Graeme Bird from Reel Creations. A helmet and backpack were constructed from scratch, and a massive futuristic gun was hand built. It seemed very daunting at the start because the idea was so massive and there was no money, I knew I needed to do something to be able to offer people something and also pay for materials, like the suit and the fake snow. So I cashed in a life insurance policy. My parents were very supportive and knew I wouldn’t waste the money. It really was face-to-face meetings after that with everyone from Ardmore Studios to costume designers and just explain the story and what I wanted, and everyone said yes. Not one person I asked said no so I was thrilled to see years of work coming together. Everyone was so behind me in making it. I think something like this hadn’t come out of Ireland in a long time, and they were all very excited and went above and beyond to get the best possible results. I really am so thankful to everyone involved because without them, this couldn’t have been achieved.
“I knew I needed to do something to be able to offer people something and also pay for materials, like the suit and the fake snow. So I cashed in a life insurance policy”
What was the hardest piece of the jigsaw to find and slot into place?
I think the hardest piece was getting the suit to look right. When I met with artist Phil Cullen, I talked him through what this soldier should look like and what we came up with was a stunning piece of work. I knew this was going to be one of the biggest challenges for AYAMÉ. Because science fiction is so hard to do right, everything usually comes under scrutiny. People watch so closely for flaws, and if something is not believable then the audience can lose interest very quickly. I met various different people and sought some advice on how to put it together. From fashion designers to tattoo artists, they all had interesting and different ideas. It wasn’t till I met Graeme Bird that I felt comfortable. I found all the raw materials for him to work with and then turned it over to him and Aoife Byrne. They went through several stages of aging the suit and all the materials. It was such an amazing experience seeing their work every time we would meet. They were on my wavelength from the very start, so there were very little changes needed. The day of the first fitting, I was so nervous. Laura disappeared into the changing room to get everything on. When she came out I couldn’t believe it. She was in full suit, helmet and backpack. It was just so believable to see this soldier standing in front of me. We gave her the huge gun and it was there. From concept to finished product, there is minor differences. When you see the end result, I think it will feel totally real. You can almost smell the level of decay on the costume. You really will be transported to this cold future place.
“…science fiction is so hard to do right, everything usually comes under scrutiny”
Has it become easier to get independent sci-fi films off the ground in recent years? Would you have been able to do this even 10 years ago?
I am not too sure if it could have been done even ten years ago. Sci-Fi usually requires a lot of money. Especially with the recession, things are ten times harder to get off the ground. I think anything can be achieved with a lot of hard work and passion. A film has to be pushed in the right way by a person with passion. Someone has to drive the bus to get things done. You can think of a hundred different reasons why not to do a film, and that drives me crazy, so it’s something that just has to be done if you have the passion for it. As long as you try your best, someone will pick up on that and help you out. And in the end even if things don’t work out, at least you will have tried.
What do you plan for the film when you complete it, will you try and get it on the film festival circuit?
When it’s finished in January, it will be a six minute segment showing a key scene from the overall film. Something similar to what they did with Tron and the release of the light cycle chase. I am beginning to plan out a possible additional shoot to make it into a working short film. This would enable me to enter it into the various festivals and reach a much wider audience. I really want to show people what can be done with little to no money and a passion to make great work. I also want as many people as possible to see that the Irish people can produce something completely different to the usual stereotype.
“You can think of a hundred different reasons why not to do a film, and that drives me crazy, so it’s something that just has to be done if you have the passion for it”
AYAMÉ has been shot at Ardmore Studios in Ireland, do you think Ireland would be the place to hold out the longest in the event of apocalyptic war?
I am not too sure about that one! I think the luck of the Irish would carry us through. We are a very small country and no everyone knows the talent that is here.
When can we expect to see the finished article?
AYAMÉ is due to go to picture grade and final sound mix in mid January. So fingers crossed, it will be ready to start doing the rounds after that. At the latest I would say early February. Hopefully, even if I do decide to shoot some further material it wont delay things too much. Maybe a week or two.