Stuart Black and Nick Mather are award-winning filmmakers who have made several shorts that have been shown at festivals all over the world. They won the prestigious Sci-Fi-London Short Film Challenge and BAFTA Rocliffe Film Prize. As well as being filmmakers, Mather is a television producer responsible for several hit shows, including ‘Pointless’, while Black is a film and theatre journalist.
Q & A
If the world you created in your film became a reality, is that a world you would want to live in? Is there a Sci-Fi world you’d buy a one-way ticket to?
Not particularly and especially not if I’d recently murdered someone. Our world sees the invention of a justice system which forces criminals to relive their crimes, action for action, and word for word, with the tantalising prospect of freedom for those who manage to break the patterns of the past. But the deck is stacked against them – our main protagonist Graham, guilty of a crime of passion, finds himself in a high stakes game of cat and mouse from which he may never escape. Just when he thinks he can find redemption, the system tricks him into repeating his mistakes. Westworld would be a fun place to visit, minus the murderous automatons. We’d also be so preoccupied about the idea that we could visit Jurassic Park, that we wouldn’t stop to think about whether we should.
Name a Sci-Fi character you relate to on a spiritual level? Who is your Sci-Fi spirit animal/spirit alien?
In the act of creation of a short film, whether at the writing, shooting, or editing stage it’s hard not to relate to Dr. Frankenstein. You bring all the pieces together, attempt to breathe life into them in the hope and cross your fingers and hope that you have not created some hideous creature that the world will reject.
Friend or Foe: humanoid robots with advanced artificial intelligence? What if robots start making their own Sci-Fi films? Will you support them in their endeavors?
Sci-Fi writers supporting robots to make their own Sci-Fi films feels like turkeys voting for Christmas. Having said that, we’d be fascinated to see what they could come up with. Is there such a thing as a perfect sci-fi? Could the algorithm perfectly blend every element of the genre to create a true work of art that humans could enjoy? Or would they make films for their own kind?
In 1996, Bugs Bunny recruited Michael Jordan and Bill Murray to form the greatest basketball squad of all-time, the Tune Squad; you’re Bugs, who’s on your Sci-Fi Tune Squad?
Just put the Alien mother by our side and we’ll take on all comers. Maybe a Predator or two for back up would be nice.
You’ve gotta go through some bad ideas to get to the good ones. Tell us one of your bad ideas. How do you get past the bad ones to find your spark?
Almost all ideas have the potential to be good and bad – it’s all in the execution. For us an idea is never just one line. While we might find the hook in a sentence, the film that results is from continuing to layer other ideas on top. With ‘The Second Hearing’ for example, we didn’t have the idea for ‘Phase 2’ until quite late on in the writing process, and now it’s our favourite bit, not least thanks to Christian McKay’s stunning cameo, and the performances of our two leads Guy Lewis and Lizzie Winkler.
Do you consider yourself part of a sci-fi community? Or when your brain is in the future and your body’s in the present, is that isolating?
We got into sci-fi because we’re excited by ideas and concepts. It’s exciting to be part of a community that continually asks the big ‘what if?’ questions.
Do you consider yourself more of an analog or digital person? What kind of balance do strike between the two? Is there a disconnect between the technology you make films about and the technology that you make films with?
Yes, there is one very big disconnect - money. Making low budget sci-fi we are always asking ourselves how we can achieve convincing effects for little outlay. We are very fortunate to have struck up a working relationship with talented FX specialist Christos Mavridis– responsible for bringing the world of ‘The Second Hearing’ to life.
When you’re creating the props and sets that make a new world, where do you look for inspiration? How do you create objects that are relatable but unfamiliar?
For ‘The Second Hearing’ we quite simply took familiar objects and gave them a little nudge towards the future – like the mirror and hair dryer that work together to offer you a style and then deliver your look.
Lightning round: Star Wars or Star Trek? Philip K. Dick or William S. Burroughs? Practical or CGI? Dystopia or Utopia? Post Apocalypse or Pre Apocalypse?
- Star Trek - Philip K Dick - Practical - Dystopia - Pre Apocolypse – we can make the post apocalypse films in about five years without troubling the budget too much.