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that 1940's FELINE

Australian indie horror feature Attack of the Cat People is currently part way through it's indiegogo campaign. We spoke to Writer/Director Sarah Stephenson about the project. If you're a fan of 1940's noir and Universal Classic Horror, it'll be right up your street.

Meteorites, cat-like super creatures, the Pacific Ocean! Where did the inspiration for the storyline come from?  


I have always had a love of the old Horror, Sci-Fi & Thriller Films of the 40’s and 50’s. The idea of creatures and monsters, either from outer space or created, really inspires my imagination. Seeing the development of the how, when, where and why in these films is both entertaining and inspirational. Films such as King Kong & Creature from the Black Lagoon are among my favourites.


The script for the ‘Attack of the Cat People’ is my own work and is original.

I had two ideas for the story line so I initially wrote two separate stories for film. My original ideas were inspired by movies like ‘The Island of Lost Souls (1939)’ & ‘Dr. Cyclops (1940)’. But I decided to take my story in a different direction.


I have also been influenced by many Independent filmmakers & their works. Filmmakers such as Joshua Kennedy & Anna Biller come to mind. Their involvement in the independent film industry has encouraged me to do the same. This is where I want to be at this stage of my career. From their efforts I have learnt to look outside the square. To seek out new & better ways to make films without forgetting the skills of the old masters.


Attack of the Cat People is described as a 'tribute to 1940's and 1950's horror'. Why make a film in classic horror style?


I’ve always had a strong connection to those old films, mostly through their strong but basic storylines. They were exciting and new back then. The themes and stories were fresh and had not been used before. Each new movie was an independent creation. The story lines drew you in and your imagination did the rest. You can almost feel the director’s creative energy coming out of the screen and there is nothing like a good scare to get the blood racing!


What are some of your favourite horror movies from that era and why do they appeal so much?


The list is pretty long and includes many of the well-known Horror & Sci-Fi movies of that era. Among my favourite movies are ‘Phantom Of The Morgue (1954)’, ‘House Of Wax (1953)’, ‘The Creature From The Black Lagoon (1954)’, ‘The Deadly Mantis (1957)’, ‘Teenagers from Outer Space (1959)’ & ‘Forbidden Planet (1956)’.


In most cases they focus on thinking outside the box. They take modern every day creatures or prehistoric creatures and then transform them into creepy looking monsters.


What can audiences expect with Attack of the Cat People in terms of tone and style?


Without giving the story away, all I will say is that this movie has creatures, action, adventure and a love interest. This is all done in line with the old style of filmmaking. The purest will appreciate our efforts and I believe that everyone else will enjoy the production.

Tell us a little bit about how you got into film-making. Did you grow up knowing you wanted to make movies or has it been more of a recent discovery?


From a young age I always watched a lot of old films. My father is a movie collector and has over 4,000 in his media library. It is a good resource for ideas.


My earlier film works were various non-scripted short vlogs. In 2016 and 2017 I did Screen and Media studies with Australian Institute of Advanced Studies and, in 2017 I made a short mockumentary short film called, ‘Alien Wasteland’.


And why are you drawn to the horror genre in particular?


Horror films and Sci-Fi films that are borderline Horror films generally have the public on the edge of their seats waiting for the next thrill or shock. There are many good movies that have been made over the years but people easily forget the story line. Now let’s look at ‘Psycho (1960)’. This classic movie was made by Alfred Hitchcock and was his only experiment in the Horror genre. There was a shower scene where the leading lady (Janet Leigh) was stabbed to death! Many people were put off taking showers for quite some time after seeing that movie. That’s what I like about horror films. A good one will leave a lasting impression with the public. Exciting as well as scary. Some of these movies can leave the public spellbound.


Attack of the Cat People is your second Indiegogo project  - the first being web-series Mia Morris' Diary. What did you learn from that first experience of going into the world of crowdfunding?


Money, money, money. If it only grew on trees!


From my experience, funding will always be a problem. Unless you know someone who knows someone else, etc, you will generally need to consider self-funding. Screen Australia and similar state based organisations have guidelines so strict that it is almost impossible to get funding unless you know somebody who is a member of their group. Going on-line is easy but, if you are unknown, the likelihood of getting any serious money is unlikely, at least in the beginning. People want to see what you have done before parting with their hard earned cash. But who do you make the first films?


I will give you an example. Sandy Harbutt, an Australian actor, made a movie titled ‘Stone (1974)’. This was a low budget film. Records indicate that the budget for the movie was $192,000.00. Sandy managed to get ‘Australian Film Development Corporation (now Screen Australia)’ to supply $154,000.00 to assist in the production. Ross Wood Productions in Sydney supplied the balance of the funds. Box office statistics indicate that the movie made $1,572,000.00. Not a bad profit. How is it that Sandy has been unable to source any funding since then? He has already proven himself!


A second example is the movie ‘Saw (2004)’. The initial story was written by Leigh Whannell who is Australian and was living in Australia at the time of writing Saw. The screenplay was written in 2001 but Leigh was unable to get anyone in Australia interested in producing the movie. Leigh took the idea to L.A. where the project was accepted quite readily and funding of $1.2m was supplied by Evolution Entertainment. Box office figures are recorded as $103.09m. Not a bad profit! They have made 8 movies in this franchise! Australia could have made the movies. Another missed opportunity!

How vital is crowdfunding to this project - and to indie film-makers in general?


Every project, no matter if it’s big or small, needs funding of some kind. My first project ‘Mia Morris’s Diary’ was self-funded. It was an extremely low budget production and the actors gave their time freely. They volunteered just to be part of the project as they believed in it.

The ‘Attack of the Cat People’ is also low budget but there is a lot more cost involved in this project. Actors need to be paid, location site rentals and accommodation, props rental, cinematographer fees, audio tech and makeup artists. We are trying to self-fund but any help will be greatly appreciated.


Why should genre fans consider contributing to the project?


As I mentioned earlier, funds are a problem for independent filmmakers. It’s not just about me and my project! It’s about all of the potential filmmakers who just need that chance to get their own project off the ground. Australia’s got talent (I borrowed that).


The actors and crew involved in my project total 24 people. They want to get more experience and it is up to independent filmmakers to help them along. Helping me and my people is helping the Australian Independent Film Industry as a whole. I get a good move and my people get good experience and accreditation.

Finally, when and where will audiences be able to see the film when it is released?


I will be doing a few Film Premiere Events here in Australia. Then after that it will be released on a Movie Distributing Platform.

For more info and to support the project, check out the Indiegogo campaign here. There are tonnes of cool rewards on offer for those who contribute, including digital and autographed posters, thankyous in the credits, digital downloads and more!

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