November 14, 2012

Q&A with 'Outpost: Black Sun' director Steve Barker

Outpost: Black Sun was recently released on Blu-ray and DVD through XLrator Media's Screamfest imprint. You can read my review of the Nazi undead flick here. I also had the chance to ask director Steve Barker a few questions about Black Sun, British horror and more. Read on to see what he had to say!

-       Lair of Filth -  Congrats on Outpost: Black Sun hitting the US today! It has been available in the UK since August. How has the response been back across the pond, so far?

Steve Barker – I’ve got to admit I’m not really one for reading reviews for my own stuff. I think I’m worried that I’ll just end up either horribly depressed or hopelessly arrogant so I just avoid them. But the first audience we screened it for at Frightfest in London seemed to like it and from what I’ve heard the reviews are ok. I’ve also heard it’s doing ok in terms of numbers so I think everybody is pretty happy with it.   

-        LoF -  I enjoyed the first movie, although I did feel there was more to be told, in terms of the story. I thought at the time that there was plenty of scope to expand the story, and this is what you have done with Black Sun. What were your goals and plans for Black Sun from the very beginning?

      SB - All the initial ideas came simply from not wanting to repeat or rehash the first movie. The sequels I’ve always admired are the ones that try and do something new, you do risk alienating your original audience a little but I thought it was a risk worth taking here. In the first film we tried to use mystery and suspense to steadily crank the atmosphere through the first half of the picture and we could do that because the movie was fresh and the audience wasn’t entirely sure what was coming. Going into Black Sun my feeling was that if I simply tried to do that again it would quickly become tedious because the audience had already seen what was ultimately around the corner. So very early on we decided to shift genre slightly and make this more of an action adventure movie that, like you suggest, expanded the mythology a bit.Once we’d made that decision it became about trying to introduce elements into the narrative that would force us keep that promise to ourselves. So the character of Lena came from the fact that there were no female characters and there were no civilians in the first movie. Simply having her there was going to force us to write and shoot things differently. Everything else pretty much grew from there.

-         LoF - The film is set primarily in ‘Eastern Europe’; what were the actual shooting locations?

      SB – Both movies were shot entirely in Scotland, with Dumfries and Galloway being used for exteriors and interiors being shot in Glasgow.

-         LoF -  How was it there? Any problems you encountered?

      SB - Well I live in Glasgow and the vast majority of the creative team I try and work with on every project are also based here so we weren’t faced with any of those ‘going away to shoot’ issues. Scotland generally seems to be really welcoming to film crews and certainly the various local authorities we had to deal with were great. Even taking the unit away to Dumfries for the exteriors was ok since we’d learnt a lot of lessons making the first movie. So I guess that the biggest problems were either the ones you can’t foresee, like Scotland’s notoriously unpredictable weather or the standard problem for any movie… that you never have enough time or money.  
-       LoF - Zombies and Nazi’s always seem to go hand in hand; kind of like the two ultimate villains, if you like? In recent years we had the first Outpost movie, and also Dead Snow (of which has a completely different tone), did you have any film influences when coming up with the story? Klausner is almost Emperor-like (from Return of the Jedi) in Black Sun, with maybe a little Raiders of the Lost Ark thrown in?

-       SB – I know what you mean about Nazi zombies suddenly becoming popular. When we did the first movie it was a bit of creative goldmine since I don’t think anybody had done them since Shockwaves, but about a year later there was Dead Snow (which I also thought was fabulous), as well as the Call of Duty mini game which got really popular and suddenly Nazi ghouls were popping up everywhere. However, once I knew that I was doing a sequel I tried to avoid them for fear of being unduly influenced. I really like your idea of Klausener being the emperor, but actually the big influence for him and the other war criminal was actually ‘The Boy’s from Brazil’ and putting that kind of set-up into a genre context. Oh, and you’re completely spot-on about the influence of ‘Raiders’, particularly with the ending. Seeing ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark’ at the age of maybe nine or ten was one of those genuinely defining moments in me. I suddenly knew what I wanted to with my life and if I couldn’t be the guy in the hat then I wanted to make the guy in the hat, so from the moment we’d decided that we wanted to shift genres with this movie and do something that was a bit more of an action/adventure flick then I think it was inevitable that there’d be a big homage in there somewhere.      
-       LoF - What kind of budget did you have for the film? Was there anything you wanted to include, but couldn’t? I thought the look of Black Sun was very good
-       SB – Oh we had a very small budget, certainly in comparison to the film’s ambitions in terms of scope and visuals. The first movie was done for about 1 million pounds and Black Sun was made for a fraction more, about 1.3 million pounds, so yeah, there were plenty of ideas that went by the wayside, but in reality we always knew what the budgets were so those ideas never really got fully developed. The moment we thought we were heading down a path that meant an idea was out of our reach financially then we’d stop and either rethink the concept or go in a totally different direction. But I’m really proud of what we managed to put on screen for that money. I don’t think they look like they cost so little and I think that’s entirely down to the dedication and skill of the entire crew.
-       LoF - British cinema, in particular horror, has seen somewhat of a resurgence of late; not just in terms of volume, but quality as well. When I left the UK thinks were fairly quiet, now it seems there is a new film coming out every week. What are your thoughts on British horror, and where you fit into it?
-       SB – I think it’s great that there’s been a resurgence in British horror. I grew up just after the great Hammer era had ended and for a long time nothing really replaced that, but over the last ten years there’s been a really steady stream of excellent British genre films, not just horror, that sit very comfortably with bigger movies from around the world, be it Neil Marshall making ‘The Descent’, Edgar Wright doing ‘Shaun of the Dead’ or Joe Cornish with ‘Attack the Block’ and I think that’s given financiers a lot more confidence in British filmmakers. I’m really not sure where I fit into all that since I’ve only made two very small films but I do know that the general success of the British movies is starting to help all of us.  
-       LoF - What’s next in your plans? Will you be involved in the third Outpost movie (Rise of the Spetnaz)? Directorial plans?
-       SB – I’ve not been involved in the third movie, it was put together whilst I was still finishing Black Sun and to be honest I think I was a little ‘zombied-out’ by then. However it’s been directed by Kieran Parker who produced the first two and written by Rae Brunton who wrote on the first two, so it’s been kept ‘in the family’ and I’m finally going to be able to watch one of these films like a regular movie rather than something I’m sweating or agonising over which is pretty exciting. As for me, about a couple of months ago I finished the script for a neo-noir revenge flick that’s got a hint of vampire in it and I’m currently on deadline for the first draft of very dark thriller in the Silence of the Lambs mold. So Hopefully I’ll get somewhere close to shooting one of those two next year. 

No comments: