Interview with Peter Stray of Canaries movie
Hi Peter, Canaries movie – are we talking little yellow song birds used for mining, or are we looking at a threat of attacking Birds akin to Hitchcock film?
What is so sinister about Canaries in your movie and can you tell us more about your film?
Peter: The title in some ways is open to interpretation, a la “Reservoir Dogs” but also if you look at a Department of Defence Folder in the film you’ll spot its headed ‘Project Canary’ – as a UFO geek I was thinking of a logical next step to Project Blue Book, which was a real US Government investigation into flying saucers. So, delving into the plot without too many spoilers, we meet American characters who operate in very much an X-Files / Bourne style world, and a bunch of drunken Welsh people on New Year’s Eve, more in the world you or I might have experienced in any number of pubs! How those worlds collide is another story…
How are you distributing the film, will it be through festivals, streaming or cinema?
Peter: We’ll be submitting to festivals and meeting with sales agents. In fact, some people who saw the IMDB page, and were intrigued by the plot and the cast have already approached us.
Is it crowdfunded, as many seem to be these days?
Peter: Not in a public sense – we crowd funded it through word of mouth without having to do a public internet campaign. Dominique Dauwe is our Exec Producer and he sourced most of the funding. Others contributed by providing key elements for free or not much at all – UK producer Craig Russell and US producer Steve Dunayer have places near our locations, so they were able to house cast and crew.
You have three familiar faces from Torchwood in your film, Kai Owen, Steven Meo and Robert Pugh – are these actors the main cast, and is the film mostly set around Wales?
Peter: Yes, it is – although key scenes were also shot on Martha’s Vineyard, location for Jaws, (If you watch the trailer, you might spot a familiar ferry) Washington DC and Vietnam. Kai, Steven and Bob were all brilliant. Top actors and top people –they loved the script and were keen to help out.
What part of Wales is the story based? Is it a fictitious place?
Peter: We’re very proud that Wales is not only in the film, but it plays itself. I believe we’re also the first to shoot in Lower Cwmtwrch, a beautiful - and real - place, which is the ‘star’ of the film.
How different is your film to what is currently in the cinema or coming to it this year?
Peter: It is certainly by far the best and only film to be shot in the USA, Vietnam and Lower Cwmtwrch! Also, it’s a sci-fi-horror-comedy, or sciforroromedy if you will, and there aren’t as many of those about. Some films in that vein want to be heavily comic and almost make fun of the horror or sci fi genre - but I think we’ve blended the genres in such a way you’ll feel the creepiness, tension and humour without it being jarring. Some good tone-setters when writing and shooting were Attack the Block and Cabin in the Woods. You laugh with - and get to know and like - the characters. Then feel genuinely sad when they die horribly.
How do your aliens differ from what we’ve come to expect from sci fi?
Peter: Well, anyone expecting large CGI creatures with ten eyes will be disappointed – they’re all practical. I love zombies, vampires and little green men, but we've created something a bit different – the mythology of the aliens and how our villains were created is totally unique. We had a tremendous make up team in Jess Heath and Alice Pinney and a great sculptor named Helena James-Lewis who helped make our villains creepy and memorable.
Kevin McCurdy, who we recently interviewed is also in the film – are we to expect a fair bit of fisticuffs and fight scenes?
Peter: Oh yeeees! It’s not all out action straight away – I’m a fan of the slow build. But Kev brought along a terrific team of actor-fighters and himself was a tremendous force on set. Richard Mylan (Waterloo Road, Don’t Knock Twice) who plays Nav has worked on tons of films and TV but was just saying how much he learnt from Kev and his fight scenes. You will see punch-ups, gory deaths and inventive use of everyday objects as weapons!
Is this your first movie project? If not, what have you worked on before that we may have seen?
Peter: This is my first feature film, yes. Before this I wrote and directed four shorts and two series, including “Secludio” (www.secludio.com) about a guy living in a cabin trying to finish his novel and skyping the outside world - each episode is about 5 mins and features a tremendous cast.
As an actor, I’ve been in tons of plays plus a small role in “Lost” and a TV movie with Summer Glau from “Firefly”. I’m a total geek for all that stuff which is why I wanted to make “Canaries” – it’s the film I’d want to discover as an audience member. I’ve also just had a screenplay optioned that someone else is directing, and I’m loving the collaboration.
When can we expect to see the film?
Peter: This year will have special screenings and festivals – hopefully by the end of the year it’ll be available to everyone.
Will there be a sequel?
Peter: I would love that. I think the characters and the mythology are rich enough that it can expand in several different ways - there are several elements to the ‘story bible’ that can be paid off in future films.
How important is it to you that the cast was diverse and strong?
Peter: There’s a larger conversation to be had about diversity in the industry and it was a challenge to find non-Caucasian actors to audition for some roles.
So many actors-of-colour either never made it to drama school through lack of opportunity (or got out and instantly went to Hollywood!) but we tried to make it as diverse as we could within the casting resources we had.
Given my influences and being raised by a feminist anthropologist – there are hopefully no thankless female roles in the film and we have a great, diverse cast.
This is not just a British enterprise, is it?
Peter: Post-production is a totally international event!
We have a great post production team finishing off the film right now – Milk VFX (Oscar winners for Ex Machina) in London, composer Marengast (LA) some great songs form terrific artists, (all over the place) sound mixer Paul Tristram, (Cardiff) editor Anthony Arkin, and colourist Artificial Peach (both NYC).
Thank you, Peter, for a great interview.
To see the trailer released last Thursday, then copy and paste, or click on the link below. I personally cannot wait for the release of the film. It looks awesome.