The creation of ‘Solo’
I have always been fascinated by the vast ocean of space and what we as a human race have explored.
After the launching of NASA’s unmanned spacecraft, Cassini. I have kept a close eye on the mission ever since. What they have discovered and continue to discover is quite something, but in particular what grabbed my attention the most was a moon called, Titan, which orbits Saturn.
Although in habitable for a human, the moon is going through the same evolutionary stages as Earth. Not to bore you with all the details, I read an article that NASA may send another spacecraft to this moon. I thought I would take that idea and work with it.
It is unknown whether or not that the craft NASA intend to send will be manned, but in my version it is.
Solo - Official Trailer
The script and story
It was very clear to me from the beginning which direction I wanted to take the story. I didn’t want to fall into the realms of unrealistic space exploration. I wanted this mission to believable in today’s space travel.
Astronauts themselves sacrifice a huge amount for the benefit of humanity. I wanted to tell the story of a happily married couple who are going through this journey together. He of course floating in space and she at home expecting a child.
I wanted from the word go for the story to be a guilt ridden, emotional trip rather than the mission of a lifetime.
Cassini itself took six and half years to get to Titan. So in this version of my story I needed a young character who would be suitable for the mission to go on a fifteen year round trip.
My original idea was simple, tell the story of the relationship between him and his family through space travel, so it was important for me to not go overboard on the drama and make it unbelievable. I really wanted the audience to get lost in their situation, so the dialogue for me was really important as it was minimal action scene.
Solo was a rollercoaster ride to begin with. Rejections from production companies, unknown actors thinking they are too big for the roles etc. So I took all that was said to me and turned it into something positive, so I went ahead and produced it myself.
The first crew members and actors for Solo where good but not great for what I wanted to achieve. It took me a day of filming and a few months of post for me to realise that the project was not going in the direction I wanted it to go. Sadly I parted ways and started from the beginning again.
This time I decided to take hold of the directing. I have always felt, if you have written the script then you have already directed it. So I got in touch with my friend Grant who I worked with on my last project ‘The Brightest Star’ and we went from there.
For the lead role I hired an old friend of mine from school, who was just perfect for the role. I looked at his previous and current work and said no more, he fit the bill beautifully.
All the cast and crew were hired, thankfully they all loved the project and worked for free.
We managed to raise a small amount of money (£500) which helped us secure a mere three hours in a simulator to shoot 80% of the film and then the rest in a very cold storage unit. The task ahead was challenging.
Filming in the simulator we were met with a number of difficulties; One being space and the other, lighting.
Myself and Grant found it very difficult to get the angle of the camera and lighting correct because of light reflecting into the camera. There was almost nothing to hoist or prop the camera or lights because of no surface space due to the sheer volume of buttons everywhere.
It was quite stressful and things were not going to plan on set. I lost sight for few moments on how I wanted the film to look but I reverted back my original idea of just filming the actor head on and capturing all his actions and emotions. There was just no need to try and make this film into cinematic piece, sometimes the simplest idea is the best idea. I wanted the audience to feel and experience the claustrophobia which we were feeling on set and I think we achieved that.
Grant Pollard (cinematographer, lighting and sound) did a great job and saw my needs as a filmmaker met.
With the three hours that we were given we successfully completed filming.
Solo was filmed over two days. A few hours in a storage container and three hours in a simulator.
Post production was both exciting and interesting. There is always that thought in the back of your mind when looking at the footage saying “I don't remember it looking like this on set” but as we had no money to go back and shoot again I had to do the best I could with what I had.
Quite a bit of the original script was now scrapped along with the footage and I had to create almost a new story on what was filmed in the simulator. This, I felt, was the best decision for the production, keeping focus on the astronaut and not leaving that setting made the story so much more intense. The goal was to suck in the audience and really get you lost in the story. I wanted the viewer to go away and think “I’m glad I’m not in that situation”.
A huge appreciation, respect and thanks for all the actors, without their convincing story telling talent this whole mission could have been totally unbelievable.
The artwork for this project was created by a designer called, Angus Young. I wanted to take a step back from the generic poster work you see in films. Angus and I sat down brainstormed ideas and he came up with this whole minimal, vibrant 80’s sci-fi look. I think he nailed it. I would recommend him to anyone. Legend!
I can proudly say that I was in control of my own production every step of the way. I had written the script, produced, directed, edited, costume designed, casted, set designed and composed the music. I am totally glad I did not receive a finger of help from any production company and I would advise anyone who wishes to make their own film to just go head and do it.
It was myself and Grant who done everything. We used what little resources and money we had and turned it into the best possible product. I have seen a lot worse with 100 times the budget that we have had.
I am so proud of all the cast who saw this journey through. It was slow at times, but we got there in the end.
We came together on this mission, none of us did it for money but for the love and for the art of filmmaking. I hope viewers can see and appreciation the effort that we have gone through to tell a story with literally nothing. I think we have proved as a team that you do not need money, 50 crew members and all action to create a great story.
We can now sit back and enjoy our success whatever it may be.
“SOLO” Written, Directed and Produced by Lee O’Connor. Cinematography and Sound by Grant Pollard. Starring Cameron Moore, Roxanne Ebrahimi, Fiona Edgington and Peter Dykstra.
Twitter - https://twitter.com/Solo_film2015
IMDB - http://www.imdb.com/title/tt4528496/