Simon Phillips is a busy, busy guy. Having regularly collaborated with director and often-times producing partner Dominic Burns on a number of features, he recently stretched his legs a little more with his directorial debut, GBH (you can read our review here). No sooner was that released than we’ve been treated to the exclusive trailer for UFO, which sees Simon back on acting and producing duties, while Dominic steps once again behind the camera.
We were able to catch up with Simon this week, to chat about GBH and how these various projects of his are coming along.
HeyUGuys: When we last spoke it was for the release of How To Stop Being A Loser, since when you have directed GBH, released White Collar Hooligan and now wrapped on UFO. Your days must be pretty full?
Simon Phillips: Yes – but it’s good to be busy. I meet a lot of people who spend a great deal of time talking about making films, whereas we don’t really bother to talk about them – we just make them. This year has been non-stop for me, not that I’m complaining – it’s the best job in the world!
In relation to GBH, was directing an itch you had long wanted to scratch, or was it not part of a longer-term plan?
Not as such. I’ve always wanted to direct something, it just needed the right project to come along. I actually witnessed the Riots first hand, living in Ealing at the time, so the story and script spoke to me a great deal. It came to me as an opportunity to take one of the lead roles, but I didn’t feel anything was particularly right for me and still wanted to tell the story – so why not direct it?
As an actor and producer you are pretty prolific. Did the idea of starring in GBH as well as directing it feel like a bridge too far?
Yes, even when putting together the production I was tempted to take a supporting role – but being both sides camera felt like a bridge too far. I am sure that I’ll want that challenge one day – and again it’ll be spurred on by the right project.
Do you feel that now having directed, you are a better (or at least easier) actor to direct? Did Dom comment on any noticeable differences when directing you in UFO?
Actually UFO was shot before I directed GBH – so Dom just got the ‘same old Simon’ for that one! UFO has taken slightly longer in post production because of all the Alien spaceships and visual effects that it needed. But directing was an amazing experience for me, not least of all because most of my production team are very well bedded in by now – so it was wonderful to shake things up and see what I could do. It also helped that my leading man was Nick – he’s become a very close friend over the short time we’ve known each other and it was nice for me to give him something completely different to what we might normally cast him in! I think I’ll be on set with Dom again soon, so we’ll have to see if I become any easier to direct…but my bets are I’ve just become a slight more ‘pain in the ass’ as I’ll have an opinion on things I used to keep quiet about before!
On the subject of UFO, our posting of the trailer has elicited a wide range of responses, some kind, some ingracious. How do you feel the film has come together? On what I can only imagine is a comparatively meagre budget, the trailer looks impressive.
UFO is gonna make a big splash this Christmas – we’re all really looking forward to it. It will surely be the highest profile feature film that I have ever been involved with – we’re getting crazy promotions in random places (I was sat in LA with Dom just a few days ago and he told me we’re getting a big theatrical release in Japan!) It really is amazing to have such wide attention on a British film – our market is usually much more focused to just UK/Europe – but UFO seems to have opened us all up to a much wider world. And as for the haters? There’s always gonna be jealous people looking at us and wondering how we pull it off – those people have never bothered me before, if they did I’d have stopped a long time ago.
British independent film-making doesn’t often stray into sci-fi, or at least not with much notable success (Attack the Block notwithstanding). Does UFO feel like a gamble? Do you feel that there is a lack of ambition amongst your peers?
Not a lack of ambition, and we certainly have the talent – just a lack of support. the UK film council never really did its job supporting us, and now they’ve not been replaced so it means we have no elected/supported body to develop young talent into a commercial world of feature film making. The government needs to support our young artists or they’ll do what they’ve been doing for years – go to the US!
What of Airborne? Last we heard you secured a UK distribution deal. Where is that project at now?
Airborne is out now on DVD in the UK, and it’s received a very warm response from the science fiction audience (always the toughest to win over). It also earned a small theatrical release in the US – a first for us. Dom and I watched keenly how this was delivered to that market, not having made a science fiction film before, and used what we learned to prep the UFO release this Christmas.
You’ve now worked with Mark Hamill and Jean Claude Van Damme. Who’s next on your wish list?
I’ve got several projects on the go now. We’ve actually just wrapped filming on the sequel to White Collar Hooligan which was set in London, Spain and New York – so that was a great experience for myself and Paul Tanter as we’d always said we wanted to do a film with that wonderful backdrop – and six films later we finally managed it. 2013 looks to be a very exciting year for us, we’re really pushing the boat out here on some seriously exciting projects – so watch this space.