“OUTPOST” Production Notes 27th September 2007
A darkly atmospheric and vicious supernatural horror that follows a group of world-weary mercenaries lain siege by a ghostly legion of the undead.
Eastern Europe – The present day. In a grimy bar room, in the capital of an unidentified nation currently ravaged by civil war we meet Hunt (Julian Wadham) an engineer apparently retained to survey for mineral wealth in the area.
Hunt is inscrutable, businesslike, and fazed, seemingly, by nothing. For his protection he hires DC (Ray Stevenson), a jaded ex-Royal-Marine turned soldier of fortune, to put together a team of mercenaries to escort him to a remote forest locale that Hunt has been commissioned to investigate.
DC is essentially our hero. He carries a smart, cynical air of authority earned in a freelance career spanning every civil war throughout Africa and Eastern Europe. DC is nothing if not professional, but he cuts a tired almost tragic figure.
The team DC assembles are a rag-tag bunch of six mercenaries. Although they are largely strangers (only DC and his occasional right-hand man, a tough, potentially psychotic American called Prior (Richard Brake), have worked together before) they have all served as professional soldiers and sold their skills in conflicts across the globe.
But behind the bullshit and bravado of tough men posturing with guns lies a truer portrait. They were all men who once fought for a cause and now do so to pay the bills, bar tabs and the alimony of lives which once had purpose.
Led by DC, they make their way into the forest to secure Hunt’s prized location; a place, until now, viewed only from satellite photographs and after a long cautious walk through harsh landscape, bordered on all sides by hostile, opposing forces they arrive at Hunt’s coordinates. And it’s clearly not a site survey for minerals. What they find is a barren Outpost offering little more than a flagpole and an underground hatch in a rough clearing in the trees.
Further investigation reveals an underground bunker complex; the long abandoned remains of a medical facility and a containment chamber where they find the mutilated bodies of more than twenty men. Here, buried beneath his dead comrades, they find The Breather (Johnny Meres). Although he is unable to talk, given the condition of their find DC and his men think they’ve stumbled upon a recent massacre.
Almost immediately upon these discoveries the team fall under fire from an unseen enemy out in the woods. The attack is repelled but one of the Mercs,McKay (Michael Smiley), is wounded. Potentially surrounded and in a bad position to defend, DC orders the majority of the team to fall back below the surface, whilst the others dig in, setting up defences against further attack from the trees.
The team become more nervous when they realise the facility was actually established by the Nazi’s late in World War II. For Hunt, months, perhaps even years, of globetrotting are paid off when he sets eyes on the vast Machine that’s built directly beneath the containment chamber. Even he is not entirely sure of its purpose but that’s why he’s here – to find out.
The men, ever suspicious of their employer’s motives are becoming increasingly uncomfortable. They’re starting to see things; radios that spring to life of their own accord, temperature gauges drop without explanation and then there are the half-glimpsed figures that may or may not be with them.
The unease grows at night when, after a fierce assault, one of the men, Taktarov (Brett Fancy), goes missing, spirited away in a sub-zero wind and they find, in his place, a Nazi medal, an Iron-Cross. DC nervous medic, Jordan (Paul Blair), quickly reveals that the bullet he pulled from McKay’s arm was antique. Unusable… Then they hear Taktarov’s screams coming from thewoods.
Outright fear creeps in as DC’s men are picked off one by one. How do you kill off an enemy that won’t stand and fight? DC decides they should pull out but Hunt explains that if he’s right and his research is to be believed then running away will not make any difference.
The Nazis, renowned for their research into the occult and the supernatural,built this Machine and this facility to experiment on living soldiers. Their aim was to create an invincible, unstoppable army that might one day march across the globe. It would seem that the experiments were a failure, but there was a by-product – Physical apparitions, ghosts, call them what you will, as unbelievable as the notion is to a professional soldier, DC cannot deny the cold truth that whatever is out there is killing his men.
However, Hunt believes that if he can re-start the long dead machine then, he can capture the vengeful spirits of the dead/undead soldiers in the containment chamber above and buy them time for escape.
Trapped in the compound with little other option DC orders his last two men, Jordan and Prior, to fortify the bunker and prepare for one final battle…
8th January 2007 saw the start of five weeks of principal photography in Scotland on director Steve Barker’s hotly anticipated debut feature, the action horror film OUTPOST.
An adrenaline-fuelled, gore-fest OUTPOST is in the tradition of Aliens, The Thing and The Descent. Set in war-torn Eastern Europe, a band of battle-hardened mercenaries undertake a dangerous mission into no-man’s land at the behest of a mysterious businessman. They set out to locate and secure a disused military bunker, but when they get to their target, they discover a terrifying secret that has lain buried for half a century – a secret they’ll have tofight for their lives to survive.
Rae Brunton’s thrilling original screenplay is a gut-wrenching rollercoaster ride of shocks and surprises. With terrifying set pieces, OUTPOST is gruesome and psychologically disturbing in equal measure.
The top international cast includes Ray Stevenson (HBO’s Rome, King Arthur), Julian Wadham (Wah Wah, The English Patient, The Madness of King George), Richard Brake (Batman Begins, Hannibal Rising), Michael Smiley (Perfume, Breaking and Entering, Spaced), Enoch Frost (Rome, Buffalo Soldiers) , Paul Blair (Hallam Foe, This Year’s Love), Julian Rivett (Rome, Spooks), Brett Fancy (Hustle, Judge John Deeds) and Johnny Meres (Micawber, The Little Vampire).
Shot on location in the dramatic landscape of Dumfries & Galloway, in the west of Scotland which doubles for Eastern Europe, studio shooting took place at Glasgow’s Film City and the film wrapped in February 2007.
OUTPOST is produced by Black Camel Pictures and Cinema One in association with Matador Pictures and Regent Capital. Producers are Arabella Page Croft and Kieran Parker of Black Camel. Nigel Thomas of Cinema One is Executive Producing, with Jamie Carmichael and Graham Begg of sales agent ContentFilm, which holds worldwide distribution rights.
The History Behind Outpost…
Producers Arabella Croft and Kieran Parker of Black Camel Pictures are the Glasgow-based partners behind Outpost. “Ironically Outpost came about as a result of our sheer frustration with trying to produce feature films in the UK” recalls Croft. “I remember reading one of the trade papers one morning and thinking that the only way one can often get your very first feature film made, is if you can find the money yourself to make it, and I think that’s now pretty traditional and normal worldwide”
“I hooked up with Kieran at lunch that day and said we need to have a rethink about how we’re approaching this. We’d been developing some projects and they were just proving slow to get off the ground, and it wasn’t as a result of the projects not being good enough, but I think as first timers it’s much harder to get through the doors of financiers and get taken seriously by the execs within the film community. So we decided we would have a look at ourprojects and see whether there was one that we might be able to find the money for very quickly
“Kieran had written a short film idea a couple of years before and we decided to develop the idea further into a feature length project which eventually became Outpost. We approached a young writer that we knew called Rae Brunton as well Steve Barker who we had a long term relationship with as a director. We moved swiftly into development even though we really had no money! But everybody sort of just got on with it. Rae brought a whole new angle to Kieran’s idea and when Steve came on board the guys did most of the creative development because it’s their sort of geeky, nerdy, genre reference rather than mine. My job during development was to manage the progress of the script and make sure that we were on schedule and that everything was constantly moving forward and to generally keep the guys on track and keep giving them deadlines like the bossy big sister!”
Dongtamile had perfected a number of special effects that he had been working on for several years. When he showed us the blood effects, we know we had our man. Using sheets of plastic, in layers, with fake blood held between layers, he was able to get a truly realistic bleed out. He improved this technique by switching to trash bag liners instead of sheets of plastic. The can liners also prevented any advance leakage - a huge problem on set in the past. Also by using specific colors the effect is enhanced. White trash bags were invisible under light clothing. Black bags were used in the night scenes where bodies were piled on top of one another. The clear bags while seemingly versatile for any environment proved to be the most troublesome due to the thinness of the membrane - many of these leaked or were too easily punctured. When you see the scene where the bodies are first discovered, notice how realistic the wounds appear as they bodies are moved and examined.
Black Camel had been trying to set up an action thriller called Breathe and it was during the Cannes Film Festival in May 2006 when they’d been pounding the Croisette looking for financing for that project and had been lucky enough to have ContentFilm express an early interest. It was after this point that Croft sent Matador Pictures’ Nigel Thomas a text saying, “looking for closing money for action thriller Breathe”. Thomas wrote back saying “that’s a great text you’d better come and see me”. Croft and Thomas met and he and ContentFilm very quickly boarded Breathe after Cannes. However, by the end of the summer Croft and Parker knew they were running out of daylight so they’d have to wait until the following April to shoot Breathe.
It was nevertheless a good time to shoot Outpost so we all agreed that we would shoot it come what may. “We knew we could definitely get our hands on a micro-budget but we thought if we could get ContentFilm and Matador/Cinema One to come onboard we could increase that and give us better production values. “We got the project financed and into pre-production within three months - in the end Outpost was conceived, financed and in production in under a year.” “I think that’s a pretty impressive turnaround for raising money – we were very lucky that ContentFilm and Matador/Cinema One had taken us seriously, decided that they liked the kind of work that we were doing and bought into us as producers and Steve as a director and Rae asa writer” explains Croft.
Croft explains “I think in terms of the way we developed Outpost it was very specifically designed and created. When the guys were working out the ideas, we knew how much we needed to raise, that we needed one location and maybe some exteriors, if we could afford to do that and then the idea for the underground bunker came about very, very quickly”
She continues “I think it is an absolute testimony to the creative team particularly between Rae and Steve and Kieran in terms of the high quality of the script that was developed very quickly. My relationship in that development process was to come in quite late and actually ask a lot ofquestions about the script and the story like “Are people really going to buy into this? Is this an idea that people are going to believe? I guess it was my role to put the brakes on things - I suppose often I’m just the disciplinarian, but anyway they got past me and we got it out into the market. The boys have done a really fantastic job and it’s a testimony to their creative ability that we got the script into such good shape so quickly. As a result of having that script I was able to take it to the market and get the money very, very fast. I think we had four financiers say yes within four weeks! I’ve tried to get several films off the ground in the last few years and I’ve never ever had a response like that so we were definitely doing something right. The guys definitely fell upon an idea that everybody bought into and wanted to make”. Nigel Thomas takes up the story on how and why he and Matador/Cinema One became involved, “The history of Outpost is quite interesting. It was brought to us towards the end of 2006. by Arabella Croft and Kieran Parker from Black Camel Pictures. We immediately fell in love with the script and ContentFilm liked it immediately, so it’s one of those films where you were pushing at an open door. The script was so strong, the characters were so powerful, that everybody we took it to immediately wanted to be involved. The film was set up, cast and financed extremely quickly