• Serena Chloe Gardner

Being 'Anonymous' with Shell Out Productions

I am delighted to bring you an interview with the award-winning husband and wife team from Shell Out Productions; Alasdair Mackay and Karenina Angelique on the development of their micro-budget feature film Anonymous.

Known for their award-winning short films Glow, (which won ‘Best Short’ at prestigious TriForce Short Film Festival in 2016), Motherhood and Confession, I am super excited to find out what they're up to with their new feature.

Thank you so much for chatting with me today Alasdair and Karenina. How's the Covid-19 lockdown been for you both so far?

AM: Like a lot of industries, lockdown has taken a huge bite out of the film-making world. Financially it has been a struggle and emotionally it is tough to feel trapped, but I made it a point to use the time to develop something positive really early on and have actually really enjoyed the opportunity to get back to basics a little bit and to tackle the new challenges that a world in lockdown presents.

KA: For me, it's been a great time. My job had gone down to two days a week about three months before lockdown so by the time it happened, I had a routine in place and was focused. It's been an incredibly creative time writing and recording.

Tell us about your new feature film Anonymous.

AM: Anonymous is a film about addiction recovery. The story is set over one night, when a seemingly average man makes the potentially life-changing decision to go to an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting for the first time. Over the course of the night, the people he meets and the lives he is given a brief window into, will challenge him in ways he was never expecting.

KA: When Alasdair told me his original story idea on our lockdown walk for the day, I thought I'd misheard him. I had to double check it wasn't a short film. But since then he's fleshed out the story and characters and it’s an amazing window into the world of addiction and AA.

Why was it so important for you both to tell this story? Do you have any personal connection to the work?

AM: The film was born out of a necessity to create something make-able under the current circumstances, and the desire to make a difference to people facing new and renewed challenges. I wanted the film to focus on the heroic act of stepping into recovery, rather than the demonic side of addiction to alcohol or drugs, that has been glorified to some degree by the attention it gets in the arts. As I began researching the film, a very good friend of ours who is a recovering cocaine addict had a relapse. It’s impossible to say whether lockdown caused the relapse, but it certainly didn’t help. That made me even more determined to get the film made. And to get it made soon, right now is the time when it can help to turn more lives around.

KA: Within a week of Al coming up with the idea, a friend we hadn't heard from in while got in touch who struggles with cocaine addiction. Al was able to talk to him and get other resources from him to help with research for the film. Unfortunately, through the lockdown this same friend relapsed into his addiction, but we were there for him as much as we could be. Through letting friends know about the crowdfunding campaign it's come out that other friends who take drugs or have mental health issues have really struggled through lockdown because they haven't had their support network or routines to help them.

The Stolen actor Lukas Hinch has recently been announced as the lead. What are your plans for the shoot?

AM: We are planning to shoot later this summer but, obviously, it is all down to the ever-changing rules of lockdown. We have to be respectful to our cast and crew and their families, and, as an industry very much in the public eye, we have to set an example about how to approach things. All things being equal, we will shoot in London in August and September.

KA: As soon as we can and hopefully as locally as we can. The team has been out on location scouting walks in their areas around London looking for the prettiest community halls.

You're crowdfunding this film on Indiegogo, how has that been going for you so far?

AM: It is going well, but it can always go better. We have been amazed by the interest in film from all corners of the world – we have had contributions from Singapore, New Zealand, the USA and all over the UK and Europe. Right now, we are just under halfway to our target, which is encouraging, but we have to keep up the momentum and keep things fresh. We have loads of exciting things coming up and new perks for contributors being launched all the time.

KA: It's been an amazing experience. For myself, I've tried to release music in the past and thought, I don't want to push this too hard on my friends and it's not gone anywhere. To the point where some friends I've had for years tell me they didn't even know I had music on Spotify. So, with this I did everything I knew I should have done and have messaged as many people as I can, and I've had so much positivity come back in my inbox. It's so encouraging to see the support from people. Even in these tough economic times people are still willing to support us.

Anonymous Indiegogo campaign is available to view here.

What are your plans for releasing the film and when will it be finished?

AM: My plan was always to allow the film to have a festival run before cinema release. We have already spoken to Raindance in the UK, but we want Anonymous to be shown at festivals around the world, where it can have an impact amongst the film-making community. After this it will have its cinema run and then be released on a media platform.

How important were making short films to you as a filmmaker when starting out?

AM: Hugely important. You can’t start with a feature, there is a chasm of difference between the two as processes, it isn’t just a case of one being bigger than the other. One of the first things I learned after finishing at film-school was how much more I had to learn on the job. Film-sets are such complex places, it can be like you are speaking ten different languages to different people all at the same time. Getting this right takes practice and, in a sense, you don’t really find your voice as a storyteller until you have done a few films.

Do you have any advice for any up-coming filmmakers joining the industry now?

AM: It sounds like a cliché but go for it. There is so much to learn and understand about the differences between your perception of what the job is and what the job actually is and there is no time to waste. You cannot be afraid of failure and you cannot be put off by criticism – be your own harshest critic and accept that there will always be some people that love everything you do and some people that hate everything you do.

KA: Just go for it. You're going to make mistakes and 'fail' to begin with, but you'll just get better and better each time.

You can follow Shell Out Productions on:

Twitter: @Anonymous__Film

Vimeo: Alasdair Mackay