Big Budget Indie Films and Creative Freedom with Neill Blomkamp
Ever since I saw District 9 and learned of all the mythical stories behind the short film becoming a feature, I have been a massive fan of today’s guest, Neill Blomkamp. Though Neill is here today to talk about his new sci-fi horror fiction film, Demonic, we also chatted up about his other films that have been successful over the years.
Released in August 2021, Demonic follows a young woman who unleashes terrifying demons when supernatural forces at the root of a decades-old rift between mother and daughter are ruthlessly revealed.
Neill is a South African Canadian film director, producer, screenwriter, and animator, best known for writing and directing multiple-award-winning films such as Chappie, Elysium, and the iconic District 9, along with a plethora of short films, commercials, and special effect credits.
If you have seen a few of Neill’s works already, you would already know and admire his dystopian, action, and sci-fi style of writing and filmmaking. He depicts the short film in documentary style, with xenophobic social segregation themes.
In 2009 Neill and his wife, Canadian screenwriter Terri Tatchell, co-wrote a short film titled, Alive in Joburg, which later became his feature film debut, District 9. Neill received an Academy Award nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Picture for this $210.8 million-grossing film from a $30 million budget.
District 9 was a critically acclaimed splash, earning multiple awards, including the Bafta, the Academy, Golden Globes, etc., for its visual effects, editing, screenplay, and picture. And a 90% on rotten tomato. But the success of this film is truly in the story it tells and the inspiration that drove it.
In 1982, a massive star ship bearing a bedraggled alien population, nicknamed “The Prawns,” appeared over Johannesburg, South Africa. Twenty-eight years later, the initial welcome by the human population has faded. The refugee camp where the aliens were located has deteriorated into a militarized ghetto called District 9, where they are confined and exploited in squalor.
In 2010, the munitions corporation, Multi-National United, was contracted to forcibly evict the population with operative Wikus van der Merwe in charge. In this operation, Wikus is exposed to a strange alien chemical and must rely on the help of his only two new ‘Prawn’ friends.
As you will hear in our conversation, this project was inspired by parts of Johannesburg in South Africa’s history Neill was learning. His journey involved gaining awareness of xenophobia from relatively poor South Africans against immigrants from Mozambique, Nigeria, and Malawi — a sentiment is still prevalent with some South Africans to this day.
The initial short film, Alive In Joburg that preceded District 9, had a socio-political theme shot in realism-based style paired with sci-fi but of performers sharing real-life experiences of illegal aliens/immigrants in South Africa.
By the time he had to adapt the script for the feature, District 9, Neill had moved into an interest of South Africa’s history, including apartheid, and precisely its border war period in the 1980s.
As mentioned earlier, Neill started his career in this industry through visual effects and animation in commercials. When he moved to Canada at 18 years old, the pathway opened up for him to finally pursue his childhood dream of working in the film industry.
He did Ads animation for some years while closely following the works of film directors who had gone the commercials to film directing route. One of his most prominent commercials to date, which was shelved by the clients based on creative differences, was a short film Superbowl ad for Nike.
Even though he spent a short time doing commercials, Neill has held on to all the transferable lessons and tips to his filmmaking and screenwriting.
IN 2015, Neill released his third feature film, dystopian sci-fi action fiction, Chappie, co-written with his wife, Tatchell — starring Sharlto Copley, Dev Patel, and Hugh Jackman. Chappie became a massive success at the box office with a gross of from a $49 million budget.
Chappie, an artificial general intelligence law enforcement robot, is captured during a patrol and reprogrammed by gangsters after being stolen. He becomes the first robot with the ability to think and feel for himself.
Wanting to experiment and have more creative freedom Neill created Oats Studios. Oats Studios makes experimental short films, a testing ground for ideas and creativity leading to full scale feature films based on ideas created here. One of the studios most popular shorts is Rakka.
Not to give too much away, let’s dig into my interview with our incredible and inspiring guest, Neill Blomkamp.
LINKS AND RESOURCES MENTIONED IN THIS EPISODE
- Neill Blomkamp – IMDB
- Oats Studios
- Oats Studio – Youtube
- Watch: Demonic – Amazon
- Watch: District 9 – Amazon
- Watch: Chappie – Amazon
- Watch: Elysium – Amazon
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Alex Ferrari 0:09
I like to welcome the show Neill Blomkamp, man, how you doing, Neil?
Neill Blomkamp 0:12
Good. How's it going? Thanks for having me.
Alex Ferrari 0:14
Thank you so much for being on the show. Man. I am a huge fan of yours. You know, ever since district nine, and, and also the mythical story behind the short and how it became the feature, and then this world when that you went on, and we're gonna kind of talk about all that. But first of all, how did you get started in the business?
Neill Blomkamp 0:33
I suppose the, I suppose it was through visual effects and animation, really. But it was always as a stepping stone towards directing. So you know, when I when I, when I was living in South Africa, as a teenager, I, I always was very drawn to film. But I wasn't really sure whether I would be able to work in film or not, actually, I should I should qualify that I, I was, it didn't even occur to me that I could have a career in film. So it was when I moved to Canada at 18. And I realized I could actually work in the film industry. And there was, there's a visual effects company that I started working for as an animator. And pretty much from the time I started there, I was looking at a lot of my favorite directors having gone through commercials and music videos before becoming feature directors. And so I thought that, that would be a that would be an interesting path to try to, you know, to try out. And that is kind of what I ended up doing. I just spent very little time in the world of commercials before getting into features. So but that was that was the the sequence of events
Alex Ferrari 1:44
And those those directors because I came up around the same time you did, and I was following I got into the commercial world and direct the commercials and stuff. And I mean, I was the same thing during that time period. Commercials was see it seemed to be a gateway in it was one of the one of the paths that you can get in
Neill Blomkamp 2:01
it still is.
Alex Ferrari 2:02
To a certain Yeah, absolutely. But I think it was the first time I think, obviously Ridley and Tony Scott were the ones who kind of busted open the doors with commercial directors getting into features but who were those directors that who you were looking up to? I'd love to hear those. Those names?
Neill Blomkamp 2:17
Well, actually, I mean, RSA, RSA ended up signing me so that was because of Ridley and because of Tony that it felt like that was that was a good way to go. But really the the actually the more famous company was propaganda film, Steve, Steve Golan, and like what Steve golin was doing with people like David Fincher, I mean, millions of of directors were coming out of propaganda films. Oh, I it's, it's like unbelievable. From you know, Adrian line to Dominic Santa to Fincher,
Alex Ferrari 2:48
it's a Michael Bay, Spike Jones. And the list goes on and on
Neill Blomkamp 2:52
Fuqua. Exactly so and but I mean, Ridley with RSA was, you know, was was, it was weird, because they, Tony and Ridley were the ones directing the movies, and then the, the commercial directors in RSA, it's hard to think of RSA directors that went on to do features at that time. But it was like, as the owners of the company, they were the ones who were doing it and then a propaganda all the directors were moving into from commercials, music videos into film. So it just it just seemed like a very, like a very good path to go on. And I did, I did this, like, completely insane short film about this, this bipedal robot in Africa, right, that Wyden Kennedy watched, which is the company that does Nikes advertising. And I was like, really super lucky because one of the executives at the company, Mark Fitz Lof, saw that piece and then had me direct, a really low budget small Nike piece. And then the next Nike piece that I did was was massive It was a superbowl commercial with like, you know, an absolutely insane budget and and then it was shelved. It was like Nike told me that if anybody ever saw it, I'd get into you know, legal trouble with them, which is pretty hilarious. But but but I went through that process quite quickly of like, you know, direct directing commercials and getting a certain amount of like notoriety behind them because Wyden Kennedy was so well known, so I owe fits off a lot for that.
Alex Ferrari 4:30
And but I just have to ask why did they shelve it? What was the problem with I mean, if you, I mean, I've never heard of that. I mean, I've heard that a little bit, but not that at that level.
Neill Blomkamp 4:40
I think I think there were two things happening simultaneously like the one thing was, I'm not totally sure about this, but I think that Nike went through, I think it was at the time that Phil Knight was stepping down and someone else's replacing him and there was like a change of regime regime change. Yeah. And and, and then also the ad itself was very I think it was, I don't know if aggressive is the right word, but it was, it was a little bit different for what Nike normally was doing. So it was a combination of those two things.
Alex Ferrari 5:10
Got it. Got it. Now, I also came in, I also came up in post production, more on the editing and color grading and post supervising side, I did do some VFX stuff as well. But you came in through VFX working on some cool shows like Dark Angel, I remember Dark Angel and all that stuff. What are the lessons that you brought from post production into your directing?
Neill Blomkamp 5:34
It's hard to say I mean, I guess maybe? I honestly, I don't know. I don't know. Because I think I think that the way that I think about doing visual effects isn't necessarily something that I brought with me from post production to directing. I think it's more like that's an artistic style that would have been there regardless of you know, so it's, it's, it's hard to say, I mean, I don't know.
Alex Ferrari 6:02
I mean, I think I think I think in your work, from my point of view, at least, the line between visual effects and story are so blurred, as opposed to, it's just incorporated so heavily in the storytelling process that it's, it just is, as opposed to, we need a transforming robot. Can we throw one in there? It's, it's, you know, it's a little bit different the way you did it, so I understand it, but but from at least from my point of view, post production, at least when I'm on set, I know what I can do in post production, hence helping me move a little faster on set that I'm assuming that helps you as well.
Neill Blomkamp 6:39
Right? Um, I don't know. I mean, I think that as time has gone on, I've definitely tried to shed everything and just only look at it from the point of view of directing. And and kind of, I mean, I suppose your besides besides trying to make something compelling with with actors, and cinematography, the only other thing that you have to do, you know, it's not blow the budget or blow your days, really. So, you know what I mean? So it's like, as long as you're as long as you're doing as best as you can creatively. I mean, that's all that really matters. And I don't know how much of it is influenced by that background? I mean, it's an interesting question. But when I when I think of, when I think of VFX it's, it's no different than mechanical effects, or prosthetics, or wardrobe really, or makeup, it's, it's, it's just another tool that's there to help flesh out the scale of the world, it's just that a lot of a lot of the fantastical elements tend to rely on VFX to a greater degree because they can do more.
Alex Ferrari 7:44
Neill Blomkamp 7:45
But it's like, you know, it's your job to try to convince the audience that that stuff is real, and the world that they're existing in for the duration of the movie Is real.
Alex Ferrari 7:53
Now, where did you come up with the idea for district nine? And how did that whole little short get put together?
Neill Blomkamp 8:01
Well, you know, it's, it's, it's weird, because when I lived in South Africa, I mean, I was obsessed with movies like Blade Runner, obviously. And, and films that have this kind of cyberpunk feel to them. And in South Africa, you can only get your driver's license at 18. But you can get a motorbike license at 16. So I had I had a bike where I would just ride through the streets of downtown Joburg, which is, you know, relatively cyberpunk on its own. And I started realizing that I was, like, a lot of South African directors or South Africans in general, that are creative tend to or anywhere in the world really tends to look at the US as like, the sort of the, you know, the, the creative landmark or sort of the milestone that you're going off to write like, you wouldn't you wouldn't set something in your in your backyard, necessarily, if you're from South Africa, or or Australia, you, you try to you try to emulate some sort of New York, LA sort of feel to things. And I started noticing that I was very interested in this city that I'd grown up. And as I got older, and when I moved to Canada at 18, I realized I was really, really interested in it. And so every trip back like besides besides seeing family, I was also seeking out parts of Johannesburg in South Africa's history that I hadn't really gone into much when I lived there. And one of the things that started that I started becoming aware of was this feeling among relatively poor South Africans that that immigrants from Mozambique and Nigeria and Malawi were taking jobs per seat where they were perceiving them as taking jobs from from them. And there was this like wave of of illegal and legal immigration into South Africa. And so initially, the short, the short film that I did was was real South Africans talking about real, illegal aliens. And, and when you mix that with having an interest in science fiction, but then also being interested in the socio political stuff, it kind of I turned that into the idea that the aliens were, in fact, actually alien. But the performances, but they weren't performances, the documentary based realism of what I was, I was, you know, interviewing people and what they were saying was based completely in, in reality. So that short was this kind of strange combination of, of real documentary filmmaking mixed with science fiction.
Alex Ferrari 10:44
When did you? Did you add the science fiction afterwards? Was that all? It was all planned?
Neill Blomkamp 10:48
When you would do it was it was planned? Yeah, it was planned, but it was it was it the idea came from speaking to South Africans like, I mean, if you, you know, if you live in Johannesburg, the sort of north of the city would be wealthier. And then when you get in, when you go beyond downtown, you'd get into Soweto or areas within Soweto or other townships, townships, like tembisa, or, you know, there's a whole bunch of them, and got those areas, I just didn't, I didn't spend much time in those areas when I lived there. And when you go into them, and you start actually speaking to people, it just it's sort of like a different, it's a different point of view of things. And it started to it started to merge with some of the science fiction ideas that I was having, where at the time, I was really interested about using science fiction in, in socio political or just discussions about culture, and, you know, economic stratification across clauses, class warfare. And I think all of those topics are kind of inescapable, if you if they reside in your mind a lot. If you're, if you come from a country like like South Africa, you know, or India or Brazil, where there's huge wealth inequality and huge different class stratification. So, yeah, I guess it's almost like two pieces of two things that are interesting. Like one is just the filmmaker kid interested in Blade Runner. And then the other one is, is more of a look at the culture that I had come from. And the short film is sort of a merging of those two things. But then in the space between making the film and making district nine, I started to become more interested in in the 1980s. I mean, apartheid, you know, is much longer than obviously, just the 1980s. But the 80s is what I lived through, up until basically either 1990, the early, very early 90s, when Mandela was released, or 1994, when the the ANC actually took over when Mandela's governments actually took over. So I was 14, when the government switched. So in the period between making the short and then district nine, I had kind of moved away from the idea of illegal immigrants in South Africa with how native South Africans were perceiving them, and moved into an interest of just the history, the entire history of apartheid, and specifically the 1980s, because South Africa was also fighting the border war over the same period where they were fighting, and golance that were supported by Russia and by Cuba. It's weird, like South Africa went to war with 50,000 Cubans in Angola.
Alex Ferrari 13:25
That's insane. I'm Cuban. Yeah, that's insane. Yeah, I've never I've never even heard of that.
Neill Blomkamp 13:30
Yeah, you probably there probably be people in you know, far enough into your family history that may have been involved in that somehow, because Fidel sent 50 to 60,000 Cuban troops to Africa. So what was happening was, was the the perceived threat of communism was was pushing down Africa, because Moscow eventually actually wanted the cape from South Africa as like, obviously, as the strategic points in the in the, at the height of the Cold War. So they were building bases and, and, and turning a lot of African countries communist on the way down to putting pressure on on South Africa, which, despite apartheid was a massive ally of the US. And, and so it boiled Oh, it started to get kind of crazy in the late 60s. And then in the 70s, they went to war with one another. And it just, it just continued in this upward intensity, where the 1980s was, was, you know, just it was like, completely intense through all the way through the through the 80s. In the end, that in 1989, the conflict ended, but that there was still Africa had this weird mixture of militarization outside of the country, fighting a war and then it was using some of those tools within the borders to control anti apartheid, you know, probe pro black movements that were happening within the country over the same period of time. But yeah, it was it was, you know, pieces of Angola had become communist and they were they were basically fighting over Namibia and and at the time South Africa controlled Namibia. And so as the Angolans pushed down south africa pushed up and then and the more pressure they put on Angola, Russia started to put started to use Cuba essentially as as a as a communist ally to to funnel troops into a goal that pushed us Africans back down. So at its height, it was like 60,000 60,000 Cubans, and tons and tons of Russian, like Russian generals and Russian advisors that were that were fighting with the Cubans and the Angolans against the South Africans, Jesus man.
Alex Ferrari 15:43
Well, so with with the short, and the feature, it was the first time I mean, I was raised here in the states all my life. So it was the first time I'd seen kind of like this bigger budget action, sci fi film, not set in the United States. It was kind of mine, it was kind of mind blowing. Essentially, the short, you were like, Wow, man, this was it just I think when the short came out, it kind of it was in 2004 2005, if I'm not mistaken. And the internet was, you know, 505 and YouTube was YouTube is just getting started.
Neill Blomkamp 16:18
How did I even remember if it was on YouTube? I think it may not have been because I think YouTube didn't exist? I'm not actually sure. I don't think it really, I don't think it was didn't exist.
Alex Ferrari 16:28
I don't think it I think 2005 it launched I think in February of 2005. Because I put some stuff up in August 2005 with my films. But what I'm How did it get into the hands of Peter Jackson, who eventually helped you get the feature made?
Neill Blomkamp 16:47
That was because of RSA. So like I was saying earlier, I joined RSA with an eye to getting into feature films, I only really cared about filmmaking, like features. I never never really wanted to do commercials. So when, when I signed with RSA, Jules Daly ran the commercial division, and I told her exactly what I wanted to do. And so now all of a sudden, I was in a production company that had signed me that was, you know, that was well known and had had a lot of creative force behind it. And so she, she was like, let me introduce you to a bunch of agents, because you're gonna need an agent to you know, start directing films. So I was like, Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. And so I met a man a few agents that she put me in contact with, and I really just didn't like, at all. And then she was like, Listen, there's one more agent that you should meet, but he's like, way more unusual than the other ones. And, and he's, he's, he's, you know, he's down to meet with you. And at the time, I didn't realize how much of how much how much of a massive beneficial leg up this would be. But the agent was Ari Emanuel, who, you know, like, I mean, our he's our is what very well known in Hollywood, so and I, when I met him, I really liked him. I liked how honest and just I really, really loved him from the minute that I met him. And so I think at the time it was endeavor, it wasn't totally me, but endeavor assigned me and the second that that Ari, and two ever signed me. And then there was a younger agent at the time. Who's you know, is my age now? Phil gammacore. Those guys put my work in front of Mary parent who was producing Halo at Universal, and she was producing it with Pete So she gave Pete all of the stuff and she was like, you should check out Neil stuff. This is like a, you know, a young, commercial director. And, and then Pete was into it. So I flew down to New Zealand and met him and met the team that was assembled to do Halo, like, you know, everyone at whadda. And when it's digital, and I just moved there with my family and started working on Halo. But But I did have a it was interesting, because I kind of had a discussion with myself beforehand about I mean, before before anything to do with Halo came up. I had a pretty firm idea, because I had already made and I live in Joburg, which we were just speaking about. And I had a pretty firm idea of wanting to only do things that were kind of my own ideas, or I like the weirdness of of what alive in Joburg had turned out to be. And I felt like that felt like me and I wanted to make films that were like that. So I didn't want to do the spider man's and you know, the Hollywood stuff. I just didn't want to really do it. And I was incredibly aware of that. Like it wasn't like a small thought it was. It was a strategic. I mean, well, it's anti strategic because you're shooting yourself in the foot. But it was it was incredibly clear to me that that is not what I wanted to do. And and then I was in New York, and I got this call where endeavour was like Peter Jackson wants to meet you for Halo and I was like, fuck it. I'm doing it. I just threw it out. Funny. It was like Tesla testing the theoretical mental model, which was put to the test and it failed miserably. It feels completely fucking bottomed out. So, yeah, and the second I got there it was, it was reinforced with how much of a brilliant decision it was because of just you know how amazing weather was, and I never I, the the world that Peter had created for himself is sort of a creative, you know, structure around him was just so it was just really cool. So I started working on Halo. And I was like, you know, very heavily invested in it for six or seven or eight months until universal and Fox just collapsed the whole process and the film, that particular incarnation of the film died.
Alex Ferrari 20:51
And then and then Pete said, hey, let's make district nine, I'll help you produce it.
Neill Blomkamp 20:56
Well what happened was, I think there were at least 50, if not 60 or 70 people that were on payroll on Halo, right. And we'd spent a bunch of money building stuff. And, you know, we had a few different writers that we were working with, and the second that that collapsed. I was there with my wife and young daughter, and we'd been living there for well over half a year, she was in school in New Zealand. And it was like, Well, okay, I guess I'm packing my bags and leaving. And I think Peter and Fran Walsh, were both they both felt that it was it was sort of it was just a terrible ending to the way that all of the work that we had put into Halo had happened. And they and they said, what, what else do you want to do? Is there something else you want to do? And I think it was actually Fran that suggested doing a live in Joburg into a feature. And by it was literally like in the morning, the film collapsed. And in the afternoon, we were working on what would become district nine. So then, yeah, so then everyone, you know, like the crew diminish to like, basically, my assistant, Victoria. Everybody else, like there was just nothing really to do. And then and then as we started slowly writing it and conceptualizing the movie, then wet a workshop came back on board and started designing the creatures and, and the world. And I went to South Africa a bunch of times to sort of, you know, from a writing perspective, but also to shoot tests of certain things. And one of the tests that I shot was with Sharlto who, who hadn't acted in anything, but, and I wasn't putting him forward as the actor for the movie, I was trying to show Peter and Fran, what this South African bureaucrats might look like, because I knew that he would be really good at judges bringing that kind of thing to life. But he was so convincing, that it felt like we should just put this guy in the lead of the movie and because and because everything was sort of really happening only with Peter and Fran and there was no there was no typical studio structure to how we were doing things we could make creative choices that were that crazy.
Alex Ferrari 23:10
Yeah, because I mean you normally don't put a no name actor note without any bankable you know, anything or in believable I felt
Neill Blomkamp 23:17
like that. It's not even that you that it was a no name actors that he wasn't an actor,
Alex Ferrari 23:22
even even, again, taking it to another level.
Neill Blomkamp 23:26
He was more like Sasha Baron Cohen in the way that like he would mess with people he would he wanted to, he will not want it to be Shaw was a sort of, he was very much a filmmaker behind the camera. But he would do he would do things that were more like, more like Sasha Cohen like skits that he would have been doing in front of the camera, where he'd be manipulating people. And, and it was that level of manipulation and improvisation that I always knew him as, as my friend in South Africa that I knew if I explained what this character was, he would just pull it off amazingly, for a test for us to then later get some other actors. But he was so convincing that it was like, let's just use Sharlto and that's that's what happened.
Alex Ferrari 24:08
So then so then the movie gets released it you know, it explodes around the world, people love it. You get nominated for a handful of Oscars. What is it like being in the center of that? That kind of world when that nightmare hurricane? Because it's it's intense. I've spoken to others who have been in that in that little eye of the storm it What was it? Like? How did you handle it? What was that all about?
Neill Blomkamp 24:32
I mean, I definitely was aware of the fact that I felt very, very lucky that things have turned out that way. You know, you never, you never really know how something is going to be especially especially when it's a little bit weird. I mean, obviously, if you do if you make films that are a bit more generic that could be economically very profitable by by being very predictable, and that fit between the rails perfectly. The outcome may be more, more predictable, but with something like that, I mean, it's obviously high. unpredictable. I remember when we were filming it, I remember absolutely clearly thinking to myself, like, I know that I like this movie. And I know that if I was an audience member watching this, I would like it. So I'm going to assume that there is at least a small number of people that would be like me that would like this. But beyond that, I cannot really imagine other people liking it or not liking it. It's It's It's absolutely unclear to me, like South African setting. Right, you know, political statements and political concepts wrapped in science fiction, it just just didn't, wasn't clear to me. So I know that when it was received, well, I felt very, I felt lucky. You know, like that, that, okay, like, it turned out in a way that the people liked it.
Alex Ferrari 25:47
You got it, you got the puck through the through the net, if you will. Yeah. You just sneaked it through. And that's, that's always amazing when I see films like district nine, and many of your other films that have a budget that have the scope of story, and you're either either able to work within the studio system, or at least get it made, it's so much more interesting than the kind of homogenous the things that come out of Hollywood, and I enjoy to enjoy some of the superhero movies and things like that. But at a certain point, you'd like to have something with a little little meat to it. District nine has a lot of meat to it. There's a lot of stuff, you're saying a lot of stuff. It's not just aliens fighting, you know, you know, shooting around and killing people and stuff. It definitely says something. So I always find it so interesting. And you've continuously seem to been able to do that throughout your career like with with your next film after that. It's I can never pronounce it. Utilize, at least at least him? Thank you. illicium. Yeah. What was it like jumping from district nine to a basically a big studio movie with big movie stars? And you know, all that.
Neill Blomkamp 26:50
Yeah, it was interesting. I mean, you know, again, at least cm at its core, is the core topics that it's talking about are not completely normal inside the genre that it was being presented as. So it was also an unusual enemy. Now, it's another film that like it could have could have worked or not works, or, you know, you again, you just you just don't know, if you're doing chappies even more, it's like, each one of them was like slightly more unpredictable in the way that they would be received. But no, at least, you know, people often ask me about because now I've spent a bunch of time essentially making YouTube videos without studios, and demonic is a self funded paranormal activity. And so it's like, well, what's, what's it like? You know, what, what is the difference between the high budget stuff and the low budget stuff, and what's really interesting is, day to day stuff doesn't actually feel that different to me, the day to day shooting of it is not different, which is interesting. Because maybe it's like you're facing the same problems, and you're facing the same, you know, thought processes, about how to deal with things, but it's only really on a theoretical level. Like if this, if this endeavor doesn't do well, you know, will it make it harder to get other things like the screen lads? It's sort of bigger theoretical questions like that, because working with working with Hugh Jackman, or or Matt or something, you know, or Jody or or Sigourney, it's like, it's, they're just very cool actors to work with. They're very easy to work with. It's not. Again, it's not like a radically different situation. So yeah, it's more, it's more on the theoretical side than the practical side, I would say the differences.
Alex Ferrari 28:34
Now on, you know, as a director, there's always that moment on set, at least on all the projects I've ever worked on, where you feel like the world is this is the world's going to swallow me up. This is like, everything's going wrong. I'm losing the light, the actor is not working. The practical effects isn't working, you're already giggling because you're already going through. But so what was on either on either district nine or chapter, or lithium, which was the day that sticks out in your head is like the like the like, this whole thing is going to come crashing down around me. And what did you learn from it?
Neill Blomkamp 29:12
Well, I mean, in a way, you're asking two questions in one question. Like, are you when you say the whole thing is going to come crashing down around me? One way to look at that is, is this day just sucks and it's incredibly difficult to make this day. But another way to look at it is, is I'm completely fucked. And the entire movie is a piece of shit. Like which, which one do you
Alex Ferrari 29:32
see? Yeah, you're absolutely right. Because it could be like, this is just a really bad day. Or what and then generally, like Martin Scorsese says is like if you don't look at your first cut and think it's absolute crap, you've done something wrong. So I guess it would be like the I think it's a combination. So it's a combination of like, maybe it's been getting a couple days have been bad and other things have been going off and it just pops on this day. You're just like, oh my god, am I gonna get this movie finished is the story. Definitely. I
Neill Blomkamp 30:00
definitely remember a lot of incidences of just difficult shooting days. But there were always sort of buffeted by the feeling that you could make up for it the next day. Like I never, I never totally felt like I had lost in La Mancha kind of situation.
Alex Ferrari 30:15
What a great movie, you know what I
Neill Blomkamp 30:16
mean? But, but I mean, like one of them was in illicium, when we were shooting and in the area where Carlisle's ship crashes the billionaire's Bugatti crashes in the garbage dump, and they basically heist the information out of him. That was the second biggest garbage dump in the world. And it was a real garbage dump in Mexico City. And the top layer of soil was, you know, completely toxic because of all of the garbage and so production at the scrape the whole top of the garbage dump, like the sand, it's sort of like the Utah herbs, the salt flats, were to remove that and then put in fresh, you know, Art Department soil that looks similar. Similar. So in that environment, there were there, we were using a lot of helicopters to and there were there were days there that were just those were probably the hardest shooting days, I think, just in terms of how rancid the environment was how hard some of the shots were, that we were trying to do how we were running out of light. Yeah, it was those were those were consciously memorable as being just really difficult for me.
Alex Ferrari 31:28
And did you and those on those days did you like why did I come up with Why did I? Why is there a scene in this garbage dump? I've written this somewhere else.
Neill Blomkamp 31:36
Yeah, I think I do think that often. But I would also say that pretty much all of District nine felt that way.
Alex Ferrari 31:42
Neill Blomkamp 31:44
It was district nine was by far the most difficult shoes. And you know, there's this thing that happens sometimes where, where art and reality kind of line up in a way that there's some serendipitous alignment with the universe. That I mean, in the, in the story, district nine is the flipped digit where district six in South Africa has its own real history, it's in the cape. It's not, it's not by Johannesburg, but it was a forced eviction under apartheid, where this in this entire community was forced to relocate, the government just drew a circle around that and said, like this is no longer where you will be living, and they moved everybody out of it. And so the district six relocation is quite quite a well known thing. And so the nine is a play on the sixth just being rotated. So, that was a way to, to, from a plot engine device to say that, that as as the as the story engine in terms of plot, we will say that this entire group of aliens needs to be forcibly evicted and relocated. And then the the the character and emotional storylines can intersect with that with that plot storyline. So we needed to find an area that looked like, like a South African shanty town, that preferably was real, because we couldn't afford to build something at the scale that I wanted. And that we would then you know, have ownership over and we could we could move all of these these aliens out of this area in the story. So in real life in southern Johannesburg, in Soweto, there's an area called kliptown which is where we shot and we ended up shooting there because the the government although this is the ANC government so it's it's Mandela's government's even though he wasn't around at this point, was forcibly relocating. 1000s of residents of this part of club town to somewhere else, unlike apartheid, it wasn't a racially based thing. And it was more about there's these government funded houses called RDP housing, which are built by the government and you know, have proper plumbing and and they're theoretically much better for the residents than living in, in tin shacks that are, you know, true poverty. But still, a lot of people didn't want to go because they're from here. I mean, obviously, it's like the government comes in and just moves you maybe the house is better, but you it's it should be your choice, whether or not you're going to move. So they were moved out of this area, like forcibly by the government. So this event that I base, the plot structure on of was was occurring in real life in a way that was happening in front of us, and we were moving into these shacks that were left over by the residents that were moved out. So that's pretty that's pretty crazy, you know, for that, for that level of of I don't know whether it's alignment or, you know, I mean, it's not misfortune because it was good for the movie, but it was bad for the people being moved out, I think. But how how bizarre is that? So anyway, the point is we had, you know, 50 or 60 vehicles that would go into this particular area, which was super rough every day for the duration of shooting, and that's where we were based. And it was, it was. That's why I say it was just it was just really difficult on multiple levels shooting that film. I mean, and psychologically, I guess I was, you know, maybe the crew didn't feel it as much as I was because there was a bunch of different things, but the crew would agree that it was pretty tough.
Alex Ferrari 35:28
Right? And, and they tell you also your first feature, and you know, you're you're taking, you're taking a big swing a bat on your first feature here. I mean, if this doesn't go well, chances of you getting the second feature, and I'm sure that was weighing on you as well. And I think a lot of filmmakers listening.
Neill Blomkamp 35:42
I don't know, I don't know about that. I don't know, I the statement is true. If this doesn't go well, you may have trouble in future that is a true statement. Whether it's weighing on me, I would say I don't think it's weighing on me. Too many other things. give a shit like that way. I don't care. Like, I'd never ever have cared.
Alex Ferrari 35:57
That makes that makes all the sense
Neill Blomkamp 35:59
that we spent four years making YouTube videos and then shooting to Monica self funded film. You don't mean I just don't care. I don't care.
Alex Ferrari 36:07
And that is why your films are the way they are met. Because you just don't give a shit in that in that the best way possible with that statement. And you're a brave filmmaker and a lot of filmmakers who aren't brave that they go down the safe route and you definitely are like, Nope, I'm going to go down the road that makes me feel the way I want to feel. Yeah, tell the stories I want to tell. Which brings me to chapter four good or bad. Yeah. Exactly for good or bad. Now which brings me to Chappie which I absolutely love Chappie, man has so much heart in it, man, how did you come up with chubby? You know, I
Neill Blomkamp 36:42
think choppy is choppy, maybe the weirdest of all of them. But it was a combination of I'm really interested in, in gnostic ideas and Gnosticism in general, which kind of dovetails a little bit into pessimistic philosophy. But there's this idea in Gnosticism, that, that, by existing in the physical world, like if you're a soul, there's there's a, there's a de Cartesian dualism to to, to Gnosticism where, with dualism, obviously, you're saying there is the immaterial which is the soul and then there is the material, which is the physical body in the physical world. So this immaterial, you know, non dimensional thing is injected innervates the the material body and when the material body dies, the soul leaves again, right. And it may be reincarnated. I mean, everyone has a different religious point of view, or not a non religious point of view of what all of this means. But the Gnostic point of view is that immaterial being and immateriality is true, and it's good. So there, the the soul, prior to being infused into a physical body is pure, and it is correct. And the act of physical lising, it just the nature of basically, of birthing into the world is already an act of Defilement. So the physical world is actually it's actually a jail. It's like a prison that's here to break you. Right? It's why it dovetails into pessimistic philosophy, because there's a lot of Schopenhauer and Spinoza and gore, Jeff and you know, all of them talk about these similar ideas that the world will just kind of break you and physical reality is no good. So so the movie is not about AI, the movie was using a robot to, to try to put forward the idea of that, over time, the physical reality will corrupt you. Okay. And then it was also it was also meant to be presented in a totally absurd tone. So these massive philosophical concepts were meant to be presented as like bubblegum pot. Fucking insanity that looks that is irreverent and looks like it should never be talking about these topics. And the unfolds as a South African rap group seemed like a really interesting way to say that, like, none of the serious, it's all fun and crazy. But actually, if you look more deeply, it is serious. So on the surface level, it looks like D on foot music video, and then on the deeper level, you know, it's it's, it's, it's meant to put forward these huge ideas of these existential questions. That's what the goal was, and I don't know really what order that took in the way that it was conceived. But it that's kind of what happened. And then I think one of the main reasons that the audience didn't, didn't click with it was that was the exact thing that I was trying to do, which is that why are these two tonal things existing in the same movie, like either it's serious and it should just be Serious or it's like totally, you know, not serious, which is. And that schizophrenic nature is what I love. Even though perhaps it's a bit too, you know, a bit too out there a
Alex Ferrari 40:11
bit too out there for, for normal for normal people to accept as far as their entertainments concerned. Now I love that it challenges you and I love that kind of erratic nature of the film. And I was when I saw it, I was a very big fan of it. And again, it was just like, I always wondered about how you were getting this how you were getting the puck through? Like, I was always wondering like, man, how is he? How is he taking these swings with these budgets? And that's the thing is like, you know, there's there's, there's a handful of filmmakers out there who do take some big swings at bat. And Nolan is taking huge swings at bat with massive budgets, and there's very few guys like him in the world. But you do it as well with your projects. I always just found it fascinating how you were able to do that. So when I saw champions, like how the hell did he get this thing made? Like, it's amazing. How do
Neill Blomkamp 40:59
we get it I kind of agree with you like looking back on it, like I saw it, I saw it, you know, six or eight months ago or something? And I was like, how in the fuck is going on? Yeah, just makes me more stoked that it's,
Alex Ferrari 41:14
what's the wait a minute, so I got this one made, maybe I can get another. Maybe I could get another one. We could take another swing, which and then I saw, you know, four years ago when you came out with old studios. Like, what how did that whole because again, now you're just like, you know what? Screw it. I'm going to YouTube. Which of course was what most studio most, you know, big directors or successful directors do is like, I'm just gonna make shorts on on YouTube. How did that whole How did the whole concept about studios and what you're doing with old studios come to be?
Neill Blomkamp 41:47
Well, it was initially not meant to be YouTube, it was meant to be steam, actually. Yeah, and because steam is a way to monetize it, if you you know, eventually you could you could start charging for things. But But video on Steam went through some some changes and stuff, and it may not be the best, the best destination for oats. So in the process of trying to reconfigure it and figure out what would be another version of steam, we just put everything that we had made onto YouTube, because it was going to be free initially. Regardless, no matter what we did, it was gonna be free. And so now i'm i'm pretty involved in in figuring out a different way to release another batch of stuff that that later could not being monetized is the wrong way to describe it. But figuring out a financial model to continue to release stuff like it, right. So that's, that's what I'm busy figuring out and it should be separate from Hollywood, you know, it shouldn't, it shouldn't be connected to Hollywood, it should, it's meant to act almost more like a video game company really than anything that would be in Hollywood. And what I mean by a video game company or an animation studio actually be another way to think of it. Because Because physical production is just a bunch of nomads that are brought together, they're they're coagulated for one production, and then they disseminate back into the wild. And that configuration would never really occur that way ever again. And if you look at Pixar, or you look at a lot of Game Studios, that isn't the case, right? These these, these are artists that are working under one roof for many years on many different projects. So I wanted oats to be a live action version of that, where everyone from production design to costume to visual effects, like everything would be under 111 roof. And it would make everything from start to finish. So it was just it was just a theoretical film studio concept that I'm still very drawn to and I want to continue to try to figure
Alex Ferrari 43:49
out now it's good, because you're always on camera, like deleting, you know, the bleeding edge of technology with a lot of the stuff that you do. Is there any filmmaking technology or technology that you see in the in the horizon that you are hoping comes to be that they're like, oh, man, if I could just have this, like what they're doing with the Mandalorian and the volume there and all that kind of stuff? I know, that's but is there anything else that is coming? No, no, you're good right now?
Neill Blomkamp 44:17
No, I don't think so. I mean, I think all of the tools that filmmakers need have been there for a long time. You know, it's more just the case now of like, ease of use maybe or something, something that makes it easier, you know, because film making films is very difficult. It's super, super difficult, but ya know, there's, there's, I don't really look at it that way. It's, you know, the, the the, the volumetric capture that we used into Monique was something that I had sort of earmarked for, for one of the old studios film short films, right. It was like that. That's what I thought I was doing with it. And Oates is a perfect avenue to look at stuff like that where it's like, well, let's just use this wacky Technology. Oh yeah, let's do that sort of like we made a puppet show that we haven't released. But it's like, let's just make a puppet show. It doesn't have to be about technology. It's just about like interesting things that are maybe stuff I haven't done before. So volumetric capture was something that I was becoming increasingly more interested in, right up until the pandemic where prior to COVID-19, I, I thought that the next film that I would do would be in a in a sort of like, you know, a Chappie ish budget range. And and then I would have separately I would have this old studios, creative stuff that I was doing. So let's use the experimental volumetric capture in something like oats, which is where it should be, and then we can fuck around with it and put it on YouTube. So we started speaking to Mehta stage in Los Angeles, who was really helpful and super cool. There, there were volumetric Capture Studio. And I would speak to them about like, well, how would you do this? And how does this work and you know, just because I was obsessed with with volumetric capture, and I knew what that what the three dimensional outcome of that would would look like, and what it would be like to you to play with it in 3d and figure out stuff. So when the pandemic happened, it was like, well, instead of doing an old studios thing that we release online, why don't we make something that's more like paranormal activity, just scale it up to like, you know, one and a half hours. And then we can use some of the stuff that we were thinking about, like volumetric capture. So demonic is also an unusual film, because this stuff that normally wouldn't have been in it in a feature sense just kind of came to be because there was some, you know, a good gap of time and a way to experiment with it. So, but in answer to your question, though, I don't sit around going like what technology could I use? It's, it's more a case of one half of my brain kind of looking at just being interested in stuff that is coming out and going, Oh, that would be fun to play with. Like, that would be interesting. Oh, that would be a cool look. You know, that could that could be interesting, in some story sense. And then the other the other part is like, if you have a pre existing idea or a script, then then does any of this make sense? And or is it worth changing something in to incorporate these ideas? And like often it may not be you know, it could just be the story. The story is story first, and then look, look in reverse demonic is weird, because it happened the other way around. So yes, it was birthed out of this reverse engineered way of coming to be
Alex Ferrari 47:32
so yeah, so tell me a little bit about demonic and how, how that actually got put together and you shot during the pandemic and what that whole process was like?
Neill Blomkamp 47:40
Well, I mean, each one of the shorts on the bigger shorts, like if you look at something like zygote, those are like, there are over $2 million, right? Like each of them. So demonic is under 2 million. So it was like we can we can make another short. Or, because there seems to be a bigger chunk of time. Now we could make something that's maybe more like paranormal activity, paranormal activity was always my reference point. Like I loved how, you know, the filmmakers just shot something that they just shot in their own house. And you know, the actors were the ones operating the camera, it just felt like a like a creative, interesting way to get a visceral response from the audience at a very low budget number. So it was like because the pandemic has has allowed for this gap in time where like, normal production is just on hold. And it was right at the point that I wanted to go back into Hollywood and start making stuff in a feature sense, then I just thought like, Well, why not make a feature just at this lower budget level. And we'll use the same approach that we use with a lot of the old stuff, and then use some of this weird technology that we want to play with. So that's basically what happened. So we, you know, it was it was a case of reverse engineering what we had access to like the locations and right. Yeah, and then just playing in that sandbox, which is what happened.
Alex Ferrari 49:03
So yes, it very much like parallel activity, like or El Mariachi is like, what do I have? I have a Mexican town. I have some guns. I have a turtle. I have a mariachi case. You are like, Okay, I have a volume. I have volume. So your tools just happened. You were just yeah. Reverse Engineering based on the toolset that you add.
Neill Blomkamp 49:19
Yeah, exactly. El Mariachi is an interesting reference point. like no one's brought that up. And I haven't thought about that, but it's true. Actually. I should I should go and watch that.
Alex Ferrari 49:28
Yeah, mariachi, I mean, I've seen it but I haven't seen it recently. We know the history of it. Right? Exactly. It's just kind of like that backing into a story based on the stuff that you have in paranormal did dad and I think even Blair which to a certain extent did that as well but mariachi was specifically he wrote the script around like, what I have a bottle of great bottles in the scene. Yeah, that's
Neill Blomkamp 49:48
exactly that was exactly what happened. I mean, that's that's pretty much like exactly how it was. It was it was conceived which is even more constraint, way more constraining than the old stuff actually, because the old stuff was still a relatively normal process in terms of just think up any idea, right? And then let's figure out how to execute it. This This was because it was a longer running time, it was like, you know, you're taking the smaller amount of money over a longer period of time, you can't just make up whatever you want. So what what do you have access to around here, and Originally, I was on a filament in my own house, I mean, that's not what ended up happening. But and the initial idea was, let's just film it in my place.
Alex Ferrari 50:25
So in this is the thing that I find fascinating about your career, you've worked on, you know, big studio projects, but very few directors who work on big studio project, this will go all the way back down to the indie level and do something as insane as I'm gonna go shoot in my house. That's, that's extreme bravery. Or you just don't care, which is what you've stayed admitted to, like, I'm just gonna do what I want to do. Yeah, I
Neill Blomkamp 50:53
mean, I think, you know, yeah, it's, it's just a personal preference thing. Maybe like I, I really do feel I don't like being told what I have to do. And I don't I don't like there being any expectation on what I meant to do. I want to just do what I want to do. And if I want to shoot something that's like, really low budget, then I should be allowed to go and do that, you know? And, yeah, I'm curious to see, I mean, the next film that I want to do should feel it requires quite a lot of resources, I think, because it has some real scope to it, like, has some serious scope to it. So it'll probably feel you'll probably feel a lot bigger than what I've been doing lately. Are you? I mean, that's because I want to do it. It's because I had an idea that I love the idea behind it.
Alex Ferrari 51:43
So are you are you going to go back to this kind of demonic style of filmmaking again, because it's so free. It's so free. As an artist, you just like, let's just go I don't have to worry about anything. I don't have to go. You just go and do?
Neill Blomkamp 51:56
Yeah, no, it's definitely possible. I mean, it's like, yeah, you know, it's, it's completely possible. I mean, the thing that I would say is more almost more certain, in a way is more is more of the oats kind of stuff. That that is that is almost certainly going to happen. The features at the lower budget level, it's like, sure, if there's something cool, like I'll probably do it. So your stuff is a real goal.
Alex Ferrari 52:21
Got it. So you So what you're saying is you want to be a YouTuber for the rest of your life is what? I'm joking, because remember,
Neill Blomkamp 52:27
I was saying it wouldn't be. It wouldn't be. It wouldn't be YouTube, like it was steam. It was steam. And I know I'm joking. I joke it. Actually, it could there's a possibility it could be YouTube.
Alex Ferrari 52:37
That'd be that'd be interesting.
Neill Blomkamp 52:39
I mean, again, like there's a lot of there's a lot of creativity happening with YouTubers that I don't necessarily see happening at the same level in Hollywood is so it's so stilted. I mean, there are there are a handful of directors that are doing super interesting stuff. But for the most part, it's that's not the feeling that I get, the feeling I get in general is just highly homogenized, like least the what is the least offensive thing that we can do that checks these boxes of whatever particular particular genre that it's in, like, I'm not overly stimulated by stuff that I'm seeing, unless it's from a handful of like directors that are that are, you know, pretty awesome. So the youtubers, on the other hand, just fucking do whatever they want. And it's like, that feels much, you know, much more interesting to me. Like, they're not making feature films, but they're, they're doing what they want to do. And, and I really enjoy that. And anytime you can give an artist free rein and some resources to do whatever they want to do is cool stuffs gonna
Alex Ferrari 53:38
come out and you've been able to build that world for yourself in a in a very large way. So I applaud you as a fellow artist that you have been able to do that for us and that you are just brave beyond compared to some you just don't give a crap. And that's what's so wonderful about it. Because the best filmmakers in the world are the ones who just did you hear like what copalis doing now? Yeah, I just read. That's insane. He's like, How old is he now? He's like, I'm just gonna throw $100 million. I'm gonna write a check for $100 million. Because of all that, why all that wind money I've been making over the last decade. And I'm just gonna make the move because I'm crazy. He was destroying it in the wine industry. He's been crushed like he's been crushing it. No pun intended. He's been crushing. Yeah.
Neill Blomkamp 54:22
And the cool though, I mean, it's definitely like, it's refreshing to see that.
Alex Ferrari 54:27
Exactly. And if anyone's ever seen hearts of darkness, you understand the documentary about Apocalypse Now? You just know. He's as insane as they come. And he's he's the originating one of the originating insane guys.
Neill Blomkamp 54:40
Yeah. Yeah, I mean, yeah, Coppola is very cool American zoetrope, you know the whole the whole thing is pretty amazing.
Alex Ferrari 54:46
The whole thing that he did you hear what he tried to do multiple times and and is able to been able to pull off with American zoetrope is, is is interesting. Now I have to ask you a question. Is there any piece of advice that you would give You wish you would have gotten, or you would be able to give yourself your younger self? If you can go back, is there anything?
Neill Blomkamp 55:11
Jesus? That's an interesting question. I mean, it would probably be something along the lines of just sticking to what you believe in, like, don't let people knock you off the rails that you're that you're on, you know, like, really just double down and, and completely commit to what you believe in and don't let people talk you out of things will probably be something along those lines.
Alex Ferrari 55:31
That's a great piece of advice, because you're right, people are always always in for good intentions or bad intentions are always trying to either work you or push you and tug you in different directions. And director says it has to stand firm sometimes.
Neill Blomkamp 55:44
Yeah, I think that would, you know, that would be I mean, I'm, I'm relatively like that, but I could be more, it could be more like that. And I think if I was younger, it would have would have been something that probably would have been like, quite helpful. Now,
Alex Ferrari 55:58
what is the lesson that took you the longest to learn whether in the film industry or in life,
Neill Blomkamp 56:09
I mean, I don't know whether I have even learned this. But one thing that I'm aware of, now as I get older is, regardless of how fucked up things become, or how, just how, like, you know, how, how terrible it things may appear to be, or maybe a different way of describing it is regardless of the level of pressure that you are under. Always just try to try to not let that infect the way that you treat other people and try it try to always have a sense of politeness or dealing with other people in a way that you're not bringing your bullshit into the into the situation. I don't know if that makes sense or not. It's, yeah, it's something along those lines that I'm more aware of lately, that I that I'm trying to do.
Alex Ferrari 57:03
You know, you seem very fearless. When you do all of the work that you've been doing over the course of your career, is there a moment where you were definitely afraid, and you had to break through that fear to get a project done? Or to do something that was really testing you? As a writer or director?
Neill Blomkamp 57:32
I don't know. I don't know. I mean, I, you know, when the films aren't received? Well, it's difficult because it makes you question who you're making the films for, that's probably the closest I've come to just, it just makes you question things. And maybe maybe that's the closest when when I'm, I'm pretty good at when I'm making stuff, just make it the way that I want to make it like the way the way that I look at it is, like we were talking about before, if you're doing a bunch of generic stuff, you can be highly predictable with the outcome, right you can be you can be relatively, you can be relatively assured in the way that the film will be received. If you do certain things. The more the more you venture away from that, you're you're venturing into a place where the film could be a massive failure, and it could be a massive success. And it could could be somewhere in the middle. But But what is definitely happening is that you're venturing into the world of unpredictable and and and that there is no, there's there is no way to know how the audience is going to take it. So over the course of my career, I would prefer to have made even if I make a bunch of films that really don't work with audiences, there will be some in there that massively do work. And the only way to discover which those are is to continue to like hold the course and make stuff that you know, you just feel like you believe in, right. So there's there's something in that approach that I think is quite mentally challenging and quite difficult. But that that also feels truthful. So yeah, it would be somewhere in there that
Alex Ferrari 59:11
I think Yeah. And then you and you basically live in that place with every project you do. Essentially, you've as you've been telling me every single feature that you've done, and that is much with the old stuff. Maybe I shouldn't do that so much like and what are three of your favorite films man of all time?
Neill Blomkamp 59:30
Well, one right at the absolute top would be Dr. Strangelove. Awesome. And, yeah, I think I think Strangelove is is very extremely applicable to me in the sense that there's this, this dark satire about you know, it's humorous satire about these, these incredibly dark concepts that that lie at the core of human nature. So strange love would be like way up there on the list. The Matrix may be like, almost I don't know. Number two, like the matrix is the matrix is a huge deal to me, because it's it's philosophical. And it's just pure popcorn entertainment. It's both things wrapped up in the most amazing way. Right? So that the matrix would be, you know, would be there. And I guess, probably, potentially alien. I'm talking about three films. I mean, obviously, that list changes, but like, yeah, alien would probably be in there too. Yeah, man is, is all of these other elements like, the, the it's operating on a psychological level that is very interesting. And then it has all of the design elements. And as the straightforward science fiction elements, you know, the way that it's shot, it's just, yeah, it's another home run.
Alex Ferrari 1:00:50
So all three of those movies are something in the front, on surface, but then they have a big debt, well goes really deep. All three of those films do I mean, obviously, there's no fighting in the war room. But the matrix I mean, when I remember seeing the matrix, when they came out in 99, I saw it four times in theater, like, yes. So I mean,
Neill Blomkamp 1:01:12
I was just talking to a friend of mine about that. And yeah, we thought it was like five times.
Alex Ferrari 1:01:19
Neill Blomkamp 1:01:20
It was the same thing. He actually went, he actually went on to do the VFX on the next two, on two and three, because, you know, like,
Alex Ferrari 1:01:28
he thought he needed to be a part of it, you want to just jump on it. And that was the thing is like, when that movie came out, you just like, for people that weren't around at that time, you have to understand there's just like, a, like an atom bomb going off. And in film, it just changed the trajectory of I think there was, yeah, there's certain movies that just change the trajectory of cinema. And that's just one of them. Like, how, how could you stick a popcorn movie with so much immense philosophical conversations and themes that on the surface, most people don't even get, but if for other people, and you can get it at multiple layers, and that's like Kubrick's work. I mean, Kubrick, you just keep seeing layers and layers and layers. And it ages very well. Even that film ages extremely well.
Neill Blomkamp 1:02:10
Yeah. Yeah, the matrix is pretty incredible. How old are you?
Alex Ferrari 1:02:16
I'm 47. Okay. Yeah,
Neill Blomkamp 1:02:19
yeah, I was, I would have been, I think I was 19. When it came out. It was exactly at the point that I realized I could work in that I was working in film as an animator, but I mean that I could direct movies. So it was it was like, ground shattering for me.
Alex Ferrari 1:02:35
Yeah, exactly. So yeah, it does. There's certain movies that hit you at certain points in your life and that was definitely one for me. I was 24 I think at that point. Yeah. And it just like afterwards, just like Jesus Christ. Now where can people see demonic man and when is it coming out?
Neill Blomkamp 1:02:51
Well, it was out on August 20, in a very limited theatrical run and now it's just video on demand.
Alex Ferrari 1:02:59
It's um, it's available right now on video. I'm doing Yeah. Awesome. So I will definitely put the links in the show notes for everybody to definitely check out your latest man.
Neill Blomkamp 1:03:08
You know what another another I mean, this isn't it's not the same in terms of depth but it came out I think a year off to the matrix was that I just loved I saw it multiple times was Gladiator. Oh, I mean that it's like I mean office Jesus I could
Alex Ferrari 1:03:21
turn that on right now.
Neill Blomkamp 1:03:22
The way Ridley shoot stuff you know like it's it's I'm such a fan of his just because of the variety of stuff that he does but also it feels like it's one of his films and Gladiator very much feels like it has this kind of this classic Ridley Scott feel to it. That I just love
Alex Ferrari 1:03:42
me. You can see me you're looking at like, alien. Then Blade Runner Thelma and Louise. Gladiator like you just like oh, in the movie he did with Russell in the in the French and in the in France. A good a good year, a good year, which I love as well. Like it's so all over the place. Like he has so many different things.
Neill Blomkamp 1:04:04
But you know, you know what one of my favorite films is that he's done and and it's a movie that I love in general, but it's probably because I love Cormac McCarthy. And I feel like it was just not at all given a fair a fair shake was the counselor. Yeah, I actually really like the counselor. I like how dark and and sort of nihilistic it is. I love it. And I love that it was Cormac McCarthy's only feature script that he's written. I love that movie. But you know, it's a lot of people haven't seen it.
Alex Ferrari 1:04:37
It's just I just had a quick curiosity who are the directors now who are inspiring you who are working like who are like, you know, the top three or five guys or gals out there just going like they're nailing it, man and I just I'm first first, first in line when something comes out.
Neill Blomkamp 1:04:54
Well, Ridley Ridley would be up there. James Cameron would be like, you know, the next avatar. ours, Cameron I love
Alex Ferrari 1:05:03
Neill Blomkamp 1:05:07
Yeah. fengjia and Nolan. I love Nolan stuff. I love the dark. The Dark Knight is the The Dark Knight trilogy is some of my favorite films. I love those movies.
Alex Ferrari 1:05:18
Yeah. And also again, they're supposed to be popcorn movies, but they have a lot of conversation going on underneath it. Yeah. No, man. It's been a pleasure talking to you, brother. It really has. Thank you so much for not only being on the show, man for fighting the good fight out there taking those big swings at Batman. We really appreciate you what you do, man. So keep up the good work, brother. Okay, thanks, Alex.
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