Bob Pipe in alien invasion mode at Soho Theatre yesterday
Six degrees of separation, eh?
Matt Roper, who performs as the singer Wilfredo, is living in my spare room for another couple of weeks.
I was talking to TV and video producer/director Bob Pipe at the Soho Theatre Bar yesterday and the fact that Bob recently directed the video for Wilfredo’s Christmas song (out soon) never came up because neither of us twigged that we had Matt in common.
Bob was talking to me about raising money for his feature film project The Day They Came to Suck Out Our Brains!
“We’re making a 90 minute version of our web series,” he told me. “We’ve written a first draft a lot of which encompasses the sketches from the web series. James Wren (of the Hen & Chickens theatre) is co-writing and co-producing it with me. Now we’re crowdfunding to get the development money – £13,586 – so we can hire a line producer and a script editor or script doctor.”
“Is there a market for 1950s-style sci-fi?” I asked.
Indiegogo crowdfunding appeal
“I think people do want the unexpected,” said Bob. “I mean, The Artist won Oscars – that was a silent movie in black & white – and George Clooney’s Good Night, and Good Luck was successful. I think there still is a market for honing old tropes.
“The Day They Came to Suck Out Our Brains! will have modern CGI special effects, a modern style of acting, modern editing. There won’t be wobbly sets!”
“So it’s not really a pastiche,” I said.
“No. It’s not going to be a parody or a spoof.”
“More like,” I suggested, “Star Wars, which was not a parody but an homage to 1930s sci-fi serials?”
“On a lower budget! But, yes. The web series is very much in that vein. With humour.”
“So the film comes out of the web series of the same name…”
“Yes, we did the original web series for £16,000 for a production company called ChannelFlip – part of Shine. YouTube were funding production companies to create original content and ChannelFlip was one of 10 or 12 who were given £1 million each to create original channels. What ChannelFlip pitched was The Multiverse, with sort-of sci-fi home of geek content and I heard about this and pitched the idea to them of The Day They Came to Suck Out Our Brains! and they said Oh, We want to do a 1950s sci fi alien invasion spoof! So they gave me £16,000 to make it.”
“How long did you have to make it? ” I asked.
“From commission, they gave me three weeks to supply a trailer. They wanted two trailers and then a series of ten episodes of 3-4 minutes. They wanted the trailers before the series, which was a challenge.”
“I made the first trailer. Then Warwick Davis saw it. ChannelFlip had him as an ‘ambassador’ for Multiverse to publicise their business. He loved it and asked if he could be in it, so I wrote a role specially for him. We shot all his stuff in one day up in Peterborough.”
“Showbiz is a glamorous world,” I said. “How did you start?”
“When I was in college, around 1998/1999, I did a HND in Media Production at North Oxfordshire School of Art & Design and our end-of-year project was to make short films. I made a 5 minute short version of The Day They Came to Suck Out Our Brains! back in 1999. I didn’t have access to proper actors and I had just watched Ed Wood’s Plan 9 From Outer Space and thought: I can do that!
“Then I started in TV as a runner and worked my way up to AP level – at North One and ITV. North One created the ‘list’ format.”
“Things like TV’s 100 Funniest Hats?” I asked.
“Yes. I worked on a lot of those shows. I worked for Endemol as a researcher on TV’s Naughtiest Blunders.
We thought – perhaps wrongly – it would be a good idea for Bob to pose with a milk jug to promote his science fiction film
“At Warner, in 2007, I co-set-up a comedy website called Comedy Box – record sales were going down and Warner were looking for new areas to invest in. We got John Lloyd in to be our figurehead, much like Warwick Davis was for ChannelFlip. We ran Comedy Box for a year – five sketches every week – but we couldn’t find revenue; this was only a year after YouTube had been set up.
“We were about to fold everything up and then MySpace came along – do you remember MySpace? They were setting up MySpace Comedy so they bought all our archive and we became their production company to supply original content. At that point, we went away from the John Lloyd esque sketches into more prank reality stuff. But, then, again, that part of MySpace folded in a year.
“And I’ve been freelancing ever since working on things like The Matt Lucas Awards – I did behind-the-scenes stuff for that; Dick and Dom’s Funny Business. I was a digital producer on The Voice this year – creating the content for their social media sites and producing the highlights show The Voice Louder on BBC iPlayer and YouTube.
“So why 1950s science fiction films?” I asked.
One of Bob’s 1950s movie inspirations
“I’m a big fan. Films like Earth vs The Flying Saucers, This Island Earth, The Day The Earth Stood Still, Forbidden Planet. And when I was growing up, on TV it was the era of Red Dwarf, Quantum Leap and Star Trek: The Next Generation.”
“Your interest,” I asked, “was in American B films, as opposed to British ones like Hammer and the Quatermasses.”
“Well, there’s a writer called Phil Whelans who used to write on The 11 O’Clock Show and be in Bill Bailey’s band and he runs an evening called Grand Theft Impro.
“When we made the web series last year, he brought an Englishness to The Day They Came to Suck Out Our Brains! and suggested we go for a more Quatermass kind of feel. He plays a Quatermass kind of doctor character in the web series: much more stoical than American.
“The challenge is trying to make a 1950s alien invasion movie applicable to the modern market. Do you remember the The Comic Strip Presents films with loads of celebrity cameos? There will be four or five strands running through our feature film, peppered with celebrity cameos.”
“Have you got an elevator pitch for it?” I asked.
“Our tagline is ALIEN INVASIONS REALLY SUCK.”
“What cost over-all?”
“We think between £250,000 to £500,000 but, if we get in some script doctor who has worked on major films and a great line producer… At the moment, the production company is The Forgery Club which is also a comedy night we run – a sketch, character and themed night.”
“How much have you raised so far?”
“We’ve raised £3,602 at the moment.”
“Out of £13,586…. When does the Indiegogo crowdfunding end?”
“Next Tuesday, December 2nd. Hopefully, with some private investors I know and this production company, I think we’re going to make it.”
There is a 30-minute compilation version of the web series on Vimeo.