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Categories: Interviews

Gene Fallaize is a director whose latest project is the afterlife epic “Dark Ascension”. Gene spoke with The Spread about the film and his experiences working as a producer, writer and director. 

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What was the inspiration behind Dark Ascension?

One of the writers, Marcus Ako, came up with the idea of being on a train that ended up in Purgatory a few years back whilst stuck on a delayed train. I joined the project some time afterwards, and brought Scotty Spiegel on board, writer of Evil Dead II, and with co-writer Tony Cook we rewrote major parts of the script to make it have more of an epic ‘Lord of the Rings’ fantasy feel, using the afterlife as this amazing setting that hasn’t really been used like this in a film before, and that excites me very much.

How far along in the production is Dark Ascension?

We are currently in pre-production, with all-but three roles left to cast, which will be our top-level ‘marquee’ names that will sell the picture to distributors and bring in major audiences. We have many well-known cast already on board the film, including Bruce Campbell, Sean Young, Mackenzie Crook, Nathan Jones, Paul Blackthorne and others. We also have some of the production designs completed, as well as much of the costume designs and even some of the music score has been spotted ahead of filming which is due to take place in London next April.

Dark Ascension will be the first in a trilogy of films. Do you already have plans for the sequels laid out – if so, what can you tell us about them? 

That’s right, and unlike a lot of trilogies which have to come up with sequels after the release of the first one, which can lead to some unusual storylines and continuity issues, Dark Ascension was written as one larger story spread over three films, but with the first one written so it also works as a standalone film, layered with some very subtle teasers to the second and third parts, but without being overly teasing (or annoying to audiences!).

How would you describe your approach to and style of directing? What about this do you think will help Dark Ascension stand out?

I think as a director you can’t have a standard approach, it’s all about being able to adapt to be able to tell the story at hand in the best possible way, as the story is ultimately what it’s all about. Dark Ascension is an action/fantasy film with a relatively modest budget, but that is being used cleverly to be able to give it a real epic feel, so the approach is very different to that of one of my other upcoming projects, for example, a biopic, which requires a totally different approach and way of thinking, but ultimately the main focus is the same with both, of telling a really good story to audiences being what matters.

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What are your plans for the look and feel of the film? How dark or light of a tone are you aiming for? 

Being set in the afterlife, this gives me a huge canvas to work with creatively, as I have an entire realm that hasn’t really been used to its full extent on film before, but that everyone kind of ‘knows’ in their minds, so it’s a case of making something that feels familiar, but being able to take creative liberties and make a really fantastic landscape filled with great characters, creatures and locations. The setting, being an entire afterlife at war, is very dark, like some of Lord of the Rings, but is offset by some witty humour and differing characters, with more of an Joss Whedon Avengers tone, not taking itself too seriously.

Will you use a lot of visual effects?

We will be using a variety of techniques, from traditional prosthetics, models and physical matte paintings, to modern CGI, but mainly with layering. I didn’t want a ‘CGI-fest’, but instead [wanted to] make the best use of all available techniques to be able to make audiences truly believe what they are watching. The verisimilitude is one of my main focuses for the film, and I don’t want audiences to be distracted with certain effects.

What sets Dark Ascension apart from the other films you’ve worked on?

As a director, I like to take on a wide variety of projects and stories, and being an action/fantasy is something I haven’t done before, so I’m very much enjoying doing something different, and much bigger than I have done previously. The budget is the biggest I have worked with yet, increasing over the course of the trilogy too, so it gives me more flexibility to be able to go bigger, and really expand on this universe we have created.

Looking at your credits, you’ve worked in a wide variety of jobs in the industry, such as a producer, writer, and director. Do you have a favorite job that you generally stick to, or do you like to do a little bit of everything?

Well I can only speak from personal experience, but it was never an intentional thing to move roles, or even to work in film at all, as I first wanted to work in the radio industry, which I did, which led quite naturally into working and producing for television, and then naturally into producing for film. After 7 years of producing, I decided to give directing a go, as I have always had a very close creative input in everything I have worked on, and I realized that it was truly where I was meant to be, as it’s simply the greatest job in the world. Tough, in every way, of course, but still the greatest job, and now directing is almost exclusively what I do, though I still have a producing involvement, which compliments my work as a director perfectly.

What advice would you give to young filmmakers trying to break into the industry?

The advice I give to everyone, is that it is one of the hardest industries in the world to get into, and only if you REALLY want it, and stick to it against literally all odds, then will you have a chance at making it. If you can even contemplate giving it up, or not giving it 110%, then it’s not going to work, and you should do something else, as it will take many years of extremely hard work and dedication, unpaid work, and a thousand reasons to make you want to quit. If you can put up with all of that, and still want to do it when you come out the other side, then you’re a born filmmaker, and you’re in with a good shot at making a career for yourself in the industry. 

Follow Gene on Twitter @genefallaize, on his Facebook page, and at his website, genefallaize.com. You can find out more info about Dark Ascension on the film’s Facebook page and @ascensionofevil on Twitter.

Some of the cast and crew of Dark Ascension will be holding special panels at the Optimus Film & Television Convention in August and at the MCM London Comic Con in October. 

Cameron Johnson

Cameron Johnson is a writer and filmmaker born in England, based in Michigan, USA, and currently living in Enniscrone, Ireland. He writes about all things entertainment with a speciality in film criticism. He has been working on films ever since middle school, when his shorts "Moving Stateside" and "The Random News" competed in the West Branch Children's Film Festival. Since then he's written and directed a number of his own films and worked in many different crew jobs. Follow him on Twitter @GambasUK and look at his daily film diary at letterboxd.com/gambasUK.

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Posted on Jul 6, 2015

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