Horror-on-Sea Interview with writer-director Scott McQuaid
Space Ninjas (2019)
Director: Scott McQuaid
Writer: Scott McQuaid
Stars: Yi Jane, Dirk Benedict, Brian Narelle, Godfrey Ho, Jon T. Benn
Five high school misfits are called for detention on a Saturday night by their teacher but as the night closes in an elite group of Space Ninjas begin their invasion on the secluded school. After the Space Ninjas kill the teacher, the students are left to fend for themselves, as they try to escape the school grounds and survive the night.
Date & Venue: 20th January 2019 at 17:30pm
Park Inn by Radisson Palace Southend-on-, Church Rd, Southend-on-Sea SS1 2AL, UK
Space Ninjas is a new action- horror film from writer-director Scott McQuaid, which has been selected to play at the Horror-on-Sea Film Festival. I got a chance to ask Scott McQuaid a few questions about what we can expect from the film.
Q. Space Ninjas has been selected to play at the Horror-on-Sea Film Festival what can we expect from the film?
Fun…it all its mediums, the audience should be amused, be scared at times, feel the adrenaline with the action and should over all be entertained. They should come out of the theatre saying, that was fun. I’d like to see that again.
Q. Where did the original idea for Space Ninjas come from?
As an indie film maker, I know I’m not going to be able to produce a Goodfellas (1990) or The Shining (1980) type movie on a shoe string budget. So, I decided to embrace the The Shining genre and work with its structure while trying to inject some A list scripting and performances. The plot is simple and ridiculous but fun, nothing to be taken seriously. Come up with a title that relates to that, so your audience is forgiving from the beginning. So, once I came up with the title Space Ninjas, it just all started to take shape. Like most scripts, the first draft of Space Ninjas was very different. The film’s scope was much bigger, and the characters and situations were also different. But then I scaled down the narrative and location which opened up new opportunities with character developments and action scenes and the overall flow worked much better.
Q. What were your influences for the style and look of the film?
To a film fan, I would describe Space Ninjas as the Breakfast Club (1985) meet Aliens (1986). It’s got the classic 80’s plot of teenagers running around being stalked by some sort of boogeyman. The shooting style is actually more of a Hong Kong style of film because that’s kinda where I learned my trade on a film set. I used to volunteer to work on these Hong Kong films just, so I could watch how they worked. So usually I was just a guy that moved stuff around on set and sometimes an extra. But working on sets with directors like Tsui Hark and Herman Yau I saw the way they used the camera to tell the story and just how fast and resourceful they were with their setups.
So, I have them influences in my directing, certainly for film. Obviously, there’s a strong presence of John Carpenter in some shots. John’s films always resonated with me and I suppose the symbolism and suggestion could loosely be inspired by directors like Hitchcock and Kubrick. But over all I wanted the film to be both modern but have an underlining 70’s, 80’s nostalgia.
Q. Are there any elements of the finished film which are different to the original script?
Not really, there were some decisions made on set where an actor may not say that line or say something else but for the most part what you see on the screen is pretty much what I wrote.
Q. What was one of your favourite moment during filming?
The swimming pool scene was both challenging and fun to shoot. I’m the one actually holding the giant sword swimming under water with the blade sticking out of the surface. And the theatre scene with Tammy and the Space Ninja fighting was also a memorable night of shooting. Lots of blood being thrown around and just the DP and I working out how we were gonna get some of them shots. You know, being creative when you don’t have the equipment, so that becomes a fun task in itself.
Q. You managed to assemble a collective cast which includes cult martial art director Godfrey Ho (Ninja Terminator (1985)), actor Jon T. Benn (Way of the Dragon (1972)), Brian Narelle (Dark Star (1974)) and Dirk Benedict (Battlestar Galactica (1978-1979). How did they become involved in the film?
So first I just list down who I feel would be great for the role. Once you become realistic and cross off those names like Robert De Niro…ha, ha, ha (chuckles)…your left with a much shorter list. I grew up in the 80’s so a lot of the movies and television from that time period have a great influence on me. Actors like Dirk Benedict from The A-Team (1983 to 1987) and Brian Narelle from Dark Star (1974) are a part of my childhood. I just like cold calling, I reached out to them and they liked the script and were really kind and helpful and just really good people to work with.
Dirk really help to develop his character and came up with some great one liners. He turned up to set with a goatee beard and said, “Is this good, if not a I can shave it”. But it was right on point, it gave charisma and mystic to his character, he really understood both what I had wrote and the vision he wanted. Brian did the same as the eccentric scientist, he had written down formula’s to write up on the whiteboard which was a part of his set. He was really prepared.
For Jon Benn, we had actually become like a pen friends over the years, with e-mails. We first met when we were both living in Hong Kong and I wrote an article about him for a martial arts magazine. And then he moved to Shanghai and I went to Malaysia, but we kept in touch, so I just roped him in.
Now for Godfrey Ho, he is a Hong Kong director who is known for these very bad cult ninja flicks from the 70’s, again I use to watch these growing up. So as this movie is in the B- movie genre, I thought it would be a nice homage to him and his work for Godfrey to appear in the movie as the film’s title sounds, like it could have been one of his corny ninja flicks.
Q. Although you are originally from Southend where Space Ninjas makes its World Premiere, the film was made in Malaysia where you currently reside. How did you first get into filmmaking in Malaysia?
Well, Malaysia’s arts community is small, they’re not a major player in the film world, so they don’t make any money for the industry. As a result, very, few films are produced because of the lack of funding. The performing arts on stage is slightly better but still nothing compared to the West end or Broadway. So, what I’m saying is, it’s a small pond. Over the last ten years I have established myself as a creditable director, primarily for stage work, like plays and musicals, I have shot a few commercials there and some indie-short films for film festivals but nothing major for the screen. After a couple of years of trying to get funding for Space Ninjas I knew that I was gonna have to go it alone. So, I adapted the script to a budget I felt I could afford and between my brother and I we funded the entire production. Which is something you can only do once in a life time, so you make you sure do it right.
Q. The film is production by the Plastic Monkey films which you founded with your brother Lawson McQuaid in 2017. How did the production company come about?
The name Plastic Monkey came actually from my college days studying performing arts. We were doing some excise where we had to come up with a company name and we came up with Plastic Monkey Productions. Ever since then whenever I produced any work on stage or screen, I’d use Plastic Monkey. I eventually designed a logo and then the last part was actually making it an official trademark company. This is where my brother Lawson came in. He’s always been the business minded one and he set this up and this opened doors for us when we were approaching professional actors.
Q. Do you have any other projects which you are working on?
Hell yeah. In fact, I never stop! I have projects in the works as far as 2020 both for stage and screen. This year is following through on the release of Space Ninjas in the UK, U.S. and Asia but I also have an original musical I wrote called Dames & Dimes that debuts in Kuala Lumpur in March. Then later in the year I have another original play in June that also shows in Kuala Lumpur and I am currently writing another screenplay.
Q. What advice would you give to someone who is looking to write and direct their own movie?
I’d say firstly remember it’s all you. Nobody is gonna be as passionate and dedicated to the project as you, so expect to do everything! Be adaptable and improvise because nothing is gonna go to plan, especially that proposed shooting schedule you drafted. Work with what you got, so be practical with your project there’s no use in writing in a car chase if you haven’t got the budget.
You can find out more about Space Ninjas and Scott McQuaid’s future projects on the website: www.plasticmonkeyfilms.com
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You can find out more about the feature films playing at Horror-on-Sea Film Festival and details of tickets on the website.