Producing a great movie on a low budget is a true test of the filmmaker’s skills. Blockbusters hurl money at the screen hoping that some of it will stick. Usually it does. Even mediocre movies manage to cajole an audience into parting with their cash, at least for the opening weekend. But when you have no money, no stars and need to beg, borrow and do deals on equipment, then producing a movie that people will pay to see is a much tougher challenge.
The Search for Simon is a low budget British movie. A comedy scifi drama that premiered on Friday 3rd May at the BFI as part of the Sci-Fi London Festival.
The movie was introduced by Louis Savy, organiser of the festival and the film’s producer, and director Martin Gooch. This was the first time anyone had seen the film, mainly because Martin had still been editing and tweaking it just a few hours earlier. Scary.
Martin began with a maths calculation. He took the recent Tom Cruise blockbuster Oblivion, and divided its running time by the budget. The result was that Oblivion had cost nine hundred of dollars for every single frame of film!
In contrast The Search for Simon came in at 10 pence per frame. So either the producers of Oblivion are financial idiots or Martin’s producers are geniuses. Martin finished his speech. The lights went down. Time for us to find out.
The Search for Simon is the story of David, a man searching for his brother who was, at least according to his father, abducted by aliens when he was just a child. This improbable premise is milked for comedy in an endless series of gags about aliens, conspiracies, government agencies, dungeon and dragons gamers. It features numerous inside jokes, for example, the appearance of Simon Jones while David is reading a copy of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, that will keep fans amused.
Comedy aside there is a story though you’ll laugh more than you’ll feel any other kind of emotion for the characters, even when the story of the search turns into a rather sad tale.
The cast give their all moving from comedy to tragedy and everything in between. Special kudos to director Martin Gooch who took on the role of David and was, I have to say, amazingly good. The crew make do with whatever equipment they can muster, no doubt battling all kinds of challenges. Lighting is uneven, sometimes apparently none-existent. Sound varies with passing planes and sometimes passing people making an unscheduled appearance. And John Williams, Ennio Morricone and Vangelis all seem to have passed on providing the music.
However, the project is put together with a genuine passion and affection for the genre. And really the only reason it was made was to show it at the Sci-Fi Film Festival. How many people are going to do that just to amuse their friends? The Search for Simon is a film made by fans for fans. I doubt it will be turning up at an Odeon near you very soon but that’s not really the point. Here we were, all movie fans of one kind or another, sitting in Screen 1 of the British Film Institute supporting one of our own. Cast and crew laughed at every joke. The audience gave the movie a burst of rousing applause at its end. It’s what the British do best, sticking together in the faces of insurmountable odds, in this case the bottomless coffers of Hollywood.
As this was the first showing of the movie feedback forms were provided for everyone in the audience. Based on that, Martin Gooch might make further changes to the film.
I should point out in the interests of fairness that Oblivion was not the greatest movie I’ve seen this year. You can see my review here. According to Box Office Mojo it cost in the region of $120 million to make. However, as disappointing as it was, it has so far taken $204 million worldwide. And the DVD hasn’t even been released yet and then there are the television deals. Take from that what you will.
You can find out more about The Search for Simon and visit the movie Facebook page here.