Exclusive Interview: Doomsday Director, Neil Johnson!

In Interviews by Beyond The Geek0 Comments

Doomsday, out on DVD this month, tells of a time-traveller who discovers he was the cause and start of World War 3. The science-fiction/actioner is the brainchild of visionary sci-fi filmmaker Neil Johnson.

Through the action, I can’t help but think there’s a bit of a bit an underlying message in Doomsday. Is there?

Doomsday originally started as a film called Chrononaut. It involved a guy who travels through time and discovers he was the start of World War Three. Even though he tried to change the future, he could not because the future was already locked in. Even as the film stands now, it is about destiny. If you are from the future, you cannot change the past. I hate destiny. I hate the concept that you are locked in to do something, even if you don’t want to. It is my idea of prison. Once you get past the destiny part and can return to your own time, it is like freedom. Not knowing the future is true freedom. I also despise the message of the many religions in this world that have an Armageddon myth. Take the book of Revelation as an example. Even though it was clearly written as a coded message to the Christians about the Roman empire (and to be fulfilled within the lifetime of the writer), modern Christians have foolishly interpreted this as a record of an upcoming apocalypse where Jesus will return to judge everyone. Thankfully this abomination event has never occurred (as it was supposed to around 1986), but many Christians in different governments tried to make this prophecy come to pass. They felt that Armageddon was humanity’s destiny and even placed weapons and aimed nukes at a place called Megiddo (mentioned in Revelation). There are people in the Christian church today who are pushing towards Armageddon occurring, because it means the return of their savior. Thankfully this is a false prophecy, but it nearly became a self-fulfilling prophecy with people trying to force it into happening. Destiny is a bitch.

Did you film it relatively quickly? How long was the shoot?
It was around 16 days and then some extra days shooting aerials and other bits and pieces. It was one of my favorite shoots because it was a small crew and we filmed throughout the North of England. I remember one day we snuck into the ruined church that had recently burned down due to some sort of insurance fire, and it was impossible to get permission because the church ownership was in contention. The police turned up and asked what we were doing. We told them we were shooting a film. The police officer said, “Oh, no problem. We thought you might be teenagers messing around with drugs. Carry on.” That was why it was so wonderful shooting in the North of England. People were worried about the big problems in life. In L.A., where I live, we would have been fined and arrested.

 

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Audiences are spoiled for choice these days, especially with all these streaming services now available, does that make you work even harder at these movies?
What really bugs me is the illegal download situation. The moment this kicked in hard (2006-2008) I had a film release called Humanity’s End. I was completely shocked to discover that 4 weeks before the film was released, I was the number one most downloaded movie on demonoid for 3 days straight. And to make it worse, this was a rough cut of the film. The douche-bags who downloaded the film then went straight to imdb and rated the film poorly, based on a rough cut, saying that the sound was terrible, etc. At this point in the world, distributors started going broke and those left alive paid less than ever before for movies. These days it is extremely hard to make money on films. You have to deliver more and earn less than you did in the early 2000’s. It is a horrible imbalance. Like music, people thing that movies should not be paid for. I wish the world governments would crack down on this. That being said, paid streaming services are slowly improving things.

Being an independent production, I imagine the answer will be a ‘quite a few’- how many hats did you wear on Doomsday?
More hats than I am willing to admit. When you have a big crew on a film like Starship: Apocalypse (Decemeber 2015) and Starship: Rising (now released), it is hard to maintain control. Managing 30-120 people as I often have to do, takes up a lot of your time. With Doomsday, I had a lot more fun because there were a few less people. We were all able to bond and have a good time because of the smaller crew. Yes, it is harder work, but definitely more fun.
Because of the movie budgets dropping, a friend of mine produced a documentary series about how to make a Sci-Fi blockbuster for less money. The whole pack sells for about $500 but it seems that it can save people money and help people avoiding years of film-school followed by financial disappointment.

In addition to feature films, you’ve a background in music videos. Is that something you still do?
Again, because of the music download situation, the budgets have decreased a lot. I like doing music videos, having made over 500, but in recent times, I had worked on music videos where the inexperienced manager micro-managed everything to the point of destroying any originality and watering down the musicians image and message. You would think that with my experience, people would leave me alone to do what I do best, but when people try and control you, it becomes a very unpleasant experience and also makes a boring music video. I have become so tired of music videos because no one has courage anymore to create originality. The dollar is so tight, no one takes a risk. I will still do them if I have complete freedom, but this seems to be the rare exception. Since 2002, I have been trying to do a music video with sexy vampire strippers infecting everyone, and the whole thing ends up as a massive blood orgy. No one wants to do this. I think I may have to try and be a musician again, like I once did in the mid 90’s.

Is there a project you’ve especially enjoyed working on?
Doomsday was certainly a big highlight! But more recently. I have just finished shooting a film called Rogue Warrior: Robot Fighter starring Tracey Birdsall (Who’s Jenna Jameson?), Daz Crawford (God of War), Stephen Manley (Star Trek 3), etc. It was shot in so many interesting locations. The best part was being able to punish Tracey Birdsall and spend weeks with her in exotic places killing robots. It was a perfect cast and a fun shoot.

Do you get final cut on all your movies?
I wish!!!!! Even today, with distributors being so tight, and executive producers so wary of the dollar, I don’t always get my way. I think we all want the movie to be seen by the widest audience, but thinking of the dollar can get in the way of a great movie. Audiences want great characters and story. Distributors want action and trailer moments. You have to find a balance, and this is TERRIBLY hard.

And it’d be remiss to ask, what’s the next project?
Oh boy… Am Currently finishing Rogue Warrior: Robot Fighter for an early December 2016 release. At The Edge of Time is in the can and will come out soon after this. Doomsday has just hit the shelves. Part 2 of the Starship film series, Starship: Apocalypse comes out in December of 2015. And then there is a possible TV series in 2016 and a Dragon film, and another Sci-Fi epic called “Daughter of Time”, and maybe a disaster film in 2016. If only someone would offer me a big studio picture… sigh…

 

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