Getting your film in the coveted and prestigious BFI London Film Festival is the dream for many filmmaker and in autumn 2016, Alex Taylor made his mark by having his directorial debut, Spaceship, featured in the programme. With critics raving about how special it is, Spaceship has lifted off into the stratosphere of British independent films.
The movie, revolving around teenager identity and a faked alien abduction, is landing in cinemas this week and we were lucky enough to catch up with Taylor about his first feature film.
Spaceship is finally landing in cinemas this week, how are you feeling?
I can’t wait!
There’s been a lot of excitement around the film and was featured at BFI London Film Festival, getting screenings at prominent cinemas such as The Ritzy. How does it feel to have this prestigious backing?
It’s just humbling and great – it shows they care about provocative, original filmmaking, and it gives me a platform to do and say something different. It’s so important we try to make films with new voices.
How has the reception been since the festival?
It’s been amazing. Evening Standard gave us 4 stars and called it ‘magical’, you couldn’t hope for much better than that. It’s a film which provokes strong reactions – you’re not gonna come out of the film in an average mood, I guarantee that.
There is a slick visual style that has carried through marketing as well, was this neon vision on your mind from the beginning?
It’s the colour of the inside of a teenager’s mind. It was part of the fabric of the film early on – I hate those depressing brown and grey tints they do on some films to make it more ‘gritty’.
The core of the film is teenage identity – whether that’s style, sexuality, or drug use – what research was done to flesh this out?
I went down to Guildford and approached a bunch of cyber goths and punks. I spent a whole summer hanging out with them, talking, absorbing their ‘teenagerness’. I also filmed them and put some of it in the film – one day in the summer, when a skinny guy called Max cut himself and someone drew a smiley face in his blood, I thought, that’s it right there…that’s being a teenager.
What did you draw from your own childhood experience or small town knowledge?
I grew up in that area and we’d go to the local techno club with fake id’s and dance in the strobe lights, and next to us would be squaddies from the local army base doing the same, and I just remember thinking you know, we’re all the same, we’re all after the same thing, some kind of freedom.
There’s a great comment here about the relationship between the supernatural and teenage identity and, what’s even more fantastic, is the open interpretation of whether these phenomena are real or not. How did you balance these themes?
Being a teenager is like being alien – you feel like you’re from another planet and everything around you is trying to get used to you.
I had an amazing editor called Carmela Iandoli who helped me balance it, it was an 8 month long, psychedelic, mind-bending journey in itself – the edit!
What artists did you draw influence from?
I like the photographs of Nan Goldin and William Eggleston, Larry Clark. They celebrate their subject for who they are, they show them in honesty and courage, they’re unapologetic and they all celebrate ‘otherness’.
How important is it to back independent films such as Spaceship? What more could we do for filmmakers like yourself?
I think it’s vital to our emotional and psychological survival. Good independent films should be more than entertainment, they should act like a mirror to our soul, so we each see ourselves and get to know ourselves a little bit better. It’s been such a great response from cinemas, from Picturehouse to the Rio and the Genesis, among others, so it feels like there’s a good support at the moment!
What is the next project for yourself?
I’m in development with the BFI on my second feature, I can’t give too much away yet, but it’s about changing identities and hidden personalities in adulthood!