Remakes seem to have a stigma against them. In the current Hollywood climate, the word “remake” brings to mind images of unoriginality and laziness. But what about for the indie filmmaker? What about for the projects that could’ve been bigger, better or different, given more resources or a different angle? For me, a quality reason for a remake is to improve upon or re-imagine the original, which brings us to this week’s Certified Film Threat in Progress, David Paul Baker’s Mission X remake, a project he is currently crowdfunding and crowdsourcing via his own website.
Tell us a little about yourself: where do you come from, how many movies have you made, etc?
My name is David Baker, and I come from Scotland. I wrote, produced, directed, and acted in my latest film Mission X. My background is in acting, but I began to write screenplays just over ten years ago. I spent three years trying to fund my first movie, and I eventually got a $500,000 deal to make it. This was a decent budget by today’s standards for an indie film, but it was classed as a very low budget ten years ago. It was funded by a distribution company, sales agent, and one of Guy Ritchie’s private funders. It was a silly caper comedy set in Scotland, LA, and Las Vegas.
It got a limited theatrical in the UK, DVD, TV etc, and made the investors a profit. I got other offers, but I ended my career as soon as it started. The whole experience of making a movie by committee really killed my passion for filmmaking for a few years. You expect a lot of voices on a bigger budget film, but not on a smaller budget. I didn’t even use the movie as a calling card, because I hated it so much for years.
I changed my attitude about four years ago when I saw an interview online with Tarantino one night. He talked about being embarrassed by his first film, My Best Friend’s Birthday. He said his first film was his film school. I then saw value in what I had learned, even though the film was not great. I had never shot anything before, but I shot a movie on film, all over the world, with about 55 set ups a day, seventy locations, in 3-4 weeks, and the film made a profit! Corman would have gave me a job after that, but I killed myself. So I got my a*s moving after I woke up to this.
What is Mission X? What is it about? Where can people watch it?
Mission X is the name of a Mission in Iraq in the movie, although the film is set in a UK city. The film is about a young film student, a military video gamer who gets to interview a disillusioned self-destructive mercenary from Iraq. He wants to ask him ten questions about war, missions, and death. He gets to hang out with the mercenary for a day on the move, but he then realizes that the mercenary is in the city to recruit men for a mission: A revenge attack on a government mercenary agency. The attack will take place in this city in 24 hours. So instead of asking questions for his documentary, he’s going to get the chance to go on a very dangerous mission. He also gets to hang out with the gang a few hours before the attack, asking them questions. He then goes on the assault with them.
The movie can be bought from the website, DVD, downloads, VOD. It’s also being released on VODO in a few days.
Where did the idea for Mission X come from?
I had just spent two years raising a $1m budget for a horror movie, and I lost the private investment right at the start of collapse of the global financial markets. Just weeks before the shoot in LA. So I decided within 48 hours I just had to shoot a no-budget movie. I had read Rodriguez’s book about El Mariachi, and had read an interview about Christopher Nolan’s $6,000 film Following. I then realized that lots of top filmmakers had self-funded their first work with small budgets, which in turn means they could control what they wanted from Day One. Something I lost on my first film.
I took the kind of Blair Witch attitude, where I had to come up with a story where it would work with a cheap DV camera, no lights, unknowns, no composed music etc. I created this story about these men before an attack. Kind of Reservoir Dogs style, in the sense the story is about the men you hang out with, and bits and pieces of action, thriller coming in and out of time frames. Like a stage play with some injections of cinema. I had also been watching a lot of videos from Iraq, so I then shot this very gritty reality action, almost like these war videos. I shot and posted the film over a year for $5,000.
A filmmaker re-making their own independent film is not without precedent: Sam Raimi somewhat remade Evil Dead into Evil Dead 2, and Robert Rodriguez took $7,000 El Mariachi and created $7,000,000 Desperado. Still, why do you want to remake your film?
Considering the budget level I had, I was happy with the results. But after I saw it, I could also see a bigger version. A top sales agent wanted the film, and the Cineworld multiplex chain here wanted it, after I showed it to one of their bookers. But the film was still too small to reach a global market. I didn’t want to raise investment to get a tiny movie out there that could not really travel well. The Scottish accents are strong, and it can’t go into the action genre label, because its really a talky, character-driven film.
I never planned for anybody to see it outside my country, because I was really just making a small movie to get my spirit back for filmmaking. I also turned down some small offers, because I wanted to have the control and freedom to experiment with it. Possibly even experiment with bi-torrent. Which I am doing in a few days, after VODO accepted it. However, my gut feeling is to remake it. This is also based on feedback from audiences, and positive reactions from the industry. Remaking it with a bigger budget, means I could take it to the global arena. I don’t even mean theatrical but probably a deal on the video gamer channels. It can also show my potential as a filmmaker to the industry. I want to do freelance industry work, and build a DIY audience
online too. Industry work could help me cultivate a bigger market for my own studio I want to own in 5-7 years.
Is it a complete remake, entirely re-shot, or will you utilize bits and pieces from the previous film? How will the remake differ from the original?
It’s a complete remake. Bigger reality action scenes in the city on streets, tube trains, through shopping malls etc. More bloody, gritty, an assault on the senses. I can’t afford to do The Expendables, but I don’t want to.
I want to do the type of hardcore action flick that Hollywood might buy, but they wouldn’t shoot. Something that looks real and still has three dimensional characters. Characters that you could believe would blow you away without thinking twice about it if you were in their way. No famous faces that bring baggage. My goal with the action is to top the battle scene in Heat when it comes to the city mayhem. I don’t want to do stuff we have seen before. I like trying for the impossible.
Indies have to raise the bar in the type of movies they do, I want to be one of them that does it.
The first film was a character driven film, mainly set in the room before the attack. More mockumentary talky. The new film will be an action thriller. So its more about taking the audience on a 90 min rollercoaster. Watching the events unfold, rather than mockumentary talking heads. It will still have the approach like Black Hawk Down, where it established the characters at the start, but it then races like a Cloverfield / [REC] movie, as these men attack the building. It will have very bloody reality gun battles, then the last of the men try to escape the city as a ring of steel closes in on them. The concept is the same, but this will be a bigger film. 50 mercenaries, and the leads will also have accents from all over the world.
Why call it a remake at all, why not portray it, as other filmmakers have, as a sequel or brand-new project?
It’s a remake because I believe in the concept. That’s not burnt out yet. There’s only a few thousand people in the world who have saw or heard about the first version. I believe in the idea of A young gamer who is thinking about going to Iraq. Him and his friends live dull lives, that consist of drinking, and playing games. He calls them “armchair adventurers,” but then 24 hours later, he is literally transported into a bloody war in his city. I believe a lot of people in the world would be into this, but it needs to deliver what it says on the tin. I don’t need stars, as the concept can be the star, like a lot of past indie films that have done well, but it does need bigger action, accents that can be understood internationally etc.
I “might” change the name. I have the time to do that, because the main website wont be the movie’s site. I am building a blog, and making it look real as if it’s the film students documentary site. So the name might change.
There is also a sequel, an Assault On Precinct 13-style sequel. The other reason I am remaking this, is so I can create another universe for the film too. Which I explain in my video crowd source pitch. That’s really exciting to me. I want to be one of the filmmakers that helps to evolve movie making to the web too.
On your website, you appear to be doing two things for the re-make: crowdfunding and crowdsourcing. For the latter, what are you looking to source from the audience/crowd?
As for crowd sourcing, to take the action scenes to the level of a Hollywood film, I really need to push the envelope on this. I know how to do this in terms of shooting, but I can’t afford hundreds of extras for gun battles in traffic jams. However, I have been recruiting people for months to a mailing list in my city. Via twitter, FB, forums, military airsoft gamer sites etc. This is a very reality-based action film, not a CGI film, but I will need some touch-ups here and there on the film, so I have been connecting with talented people all over the world.
I am also crowdsourcing people’s apartments in the city, old cars I can blow up, everything I can get for the film. I can hustle around a $1m worth of things, but we all know there’s a level where you need cash flow too. Wages, food, paying for police on streets, gunfire etc. There’s a baseline of cash you need. If this was ten years ago, it would probably cost me $10m. Cheap cams, post, web, social media, changes all this.
Regarding the crowdfunding aspect, the campaign on your site resembles the look of similar crowdfunding campaign sites like IndieGoGo and Kickstarter, complete with incentives and investment/donation tiers. Do you intend to utilize the more mainstream crowdfunding sites, or keep in all in-house? Overall, I’m getting the feeling that you’re a real DIY, keep it in-house kind of filmmaker…
I couldn’t apply for Kickstarter. You need a US bank account. I like the model where you get all or nothing. But I think it really depends on what type of project you have. I “might” have tried it because it could have traffic that is made up of people that obviously look to donate to projects. However, the flip side of that means you are also in a site full of other people who want funding. On a whole, I won’t go to any crowdfunding site now. Why? Because 98% of the people that get involved do so because I have already engaged with them online. Or I have given them free downloads to join my mail list. So I don’t want to pay another company a percentage for nothing. I like to get rid of many middle men as possible.
If you have never made a movie, I think these sites can be great for first timers, and for established people in many areas. It all depends on your project. But for me personally, I think people trust that I am dedicated to what I am doing. They can see I have done two small movies, so I personally don’t feel those sites are for me. Or maybe I am just a fricking control freak! Bit of both I guess! Others are doing it on their own sites too, but I still think Kickstarter and IndieGoGo are good for specific projects.
Tell me about the incentives you’re offering for those that invest/donate.
Well there’s no “invest” incentives at the moment. As far as I know, legally, we can’t offer “investment opportunties” in the crowd source model in public. Although I am looking into why I can’t have a biz plan on my website, as I see many for all sorts of businesses and other film companies. For the moment, I am selling products from my 1st MX film. Limited edition DVDs (last ever 500 in world). Also, AK-47 bullet flash drives. The movie is on the bullet, and you get a personal video message from me in the drive. No other film in the world offers these.
I am also selling “Dog Tags” with serial numbers. When the production starts, you get the chance to win a ton of stuff if you have signed up for my army, bought a dog tag. You get the chance to win the kind of perks that cost a lot, so everybody gets a chance. You can win a main producer credit in the movie, extra roles, 8mm camera footage, memorabilia, props, many more cool incentives. On a whole, I am trying to do a crowd fund where everybody could get something that is limited from this 1st movie.
If the remake becomes a hit, then these products from the first movie could have a little more value to them. I wont be making my behind-the-scenes public, so mail list people also get to see a private video channel on the shoot.
How much are you looking to raise via crowdfunding?
The budget is £50,000 (about $80,000). I have around £400,000 worth of free stuff, sponsorships, partnerships for military costumes etc. I am not just trying crowd fund for the cash, I also have biz plans going out to potential private investors. All non industry finance so I can keep the control. I really believe crowd funding is more effective after you have built an audience with a few projects, like Robert Greenwald has done.
What timeline do you have for raising and then filming the remake?
I am aiming to shoot in March-April 2011. With a fast 2-3 month post. If I don’t have enough cash by then, I will begin shooting all the scenes in the building with the guys. My past experience has taught me you have to get a project rolling, then people want to jump on board. Development hell, looking for cash for too long is to be avoided at all costs. Time is more precious to me than money
Where are you and your film a year from now, ideally?
My film and the whole MX universe could be complete and released. I am also going to show it to industry. I know the state of the indie scene, but Hollywood still pays for movies that tick the boxes for them. I am not after niche. I think I can pull off a pretty wild flick, an action movie indies don’t do, and Hollywood don’t do. So it’s not impossible I could get a good deal. Kickstart something. If that does not happen, I am still happy, as I will release my multiple videos, fake sites, viral-like plans on the web to promote the film. That might be my only route, as I am not censoring or compromising in any way on my content or release.
I am not a filmmaker that is really making money at the moment, but I am in a MUCH better place than I was last year. So I am confident I will be
in a much better place next year. I also want to shoot Screen next year.
If you’d like to know more about the Mission X remake, or we didn’t ask all the questions you’ve got, go ahead and comment below or head over to the official Mission X website and comment there. Next week we’ll be back with a new project for you to check out but, until then, we hope you enjoyed this closer look at David Baker’s Mission X remake.
DISCLAIMER: Donating or investing in a film or film-related project is always a risky endeavor, so it is important to keep that in mind before deciding to get financially involved with any film project. Film Threat, FilmThreat.com and our parent company, Hamster Stampede, LLC hold no liability or responsibility regarding any of the projects showcased on our site, their content or performance or the content or performance of any of the sites linked to in this article. Our involvement with the featured project is strictly what you see here: we find a work-in-progress project that sounds interesting to us, we ask all the questions we’d like to know the answers to and then we share that information with you, the audience. This should not be considered as personalized investment advice. What happens after you read this is your decision, and, again, before parting with any money for any film, think it through and BE CAREFUL.