Zachary Leeman chats with Ben Trebilcook about his new film Doomsday…
Ben Trebilcook is a man who doesn’t give up. An independent screenwriter and producer, he’s perhaps most widely known for writing a rather famous Die Hard fan script. The script has won him both praises and eye rolls. However, the man has kept chugging along plugging the screenplay and his other projects he’s pushed into various stages of production.
Say what you will about the controversial writer, but he’s an independent minded artist that doesn’t give up. A new sci-fi film he produced, Doomsday, is currently available on VOD. We sat down to talk with Trebilcook about his strange history with Hollywood and his place in the current world of independent film.
Zachary Leeman: Tell me about your new movie Doomsday and how you got involved.
Ben Trebilcook: My good friend, Clint Morris, who runs October Coast PR and also Moviehole, based in Melbourne, called me up and asked if I’d be interested coming aboard a project that a client of his was developing. Directing talent Neil Johnson was in good contact with Clint and was over from LA, returning briefly to the UK. Neil is originally from the UK and had planned to do a project with his best friend, who had tragically passed away. Neil was already developing another project in the States with a mutual friend of ours, actor Darren Jacobs. They were working on a Sci-Fi called Starship Rising. ‘Doomsday‘ was originally titled ‘Chrononaught‘. I liked that title. I think sales agents re-titled it ‘Death Machine‘ and then ‘Doomsday‘. Darren brought in some talents and Neil asked if I would cast the rest and co-produce. It was a tight ship and only a three week shoot, with Neil doing some pick-ups in a chopper. The project was extremely personal to Neil and immersing himself into it was exactly what was required for him to get through the hard times of his friend’s death. He workshopped a lot of scenes and Neil even wrote me a fun role. For me, it’s a dash of Doctor Who here, a sprinkling of Terminator there. Blake 7 esque, too maybe. Now that’s a movie Neil should be given to do.
Neil Johnson is tremendously creative. He’s come from a pop-promo and commercial background and can tell a visual story very quickly . He adores Sci-Fi. Adores lenses and just loves people. ‘Doomsday‘ is a time travel film. It doesn’t break any moulds, but it’s Indie filmmaking. It looks good and we made a film at the end of the day, which has won a few Sci-Fi awards already.
ZL: It’s been released as a VOD movie. What are your feelings on VOD films? Do they open up the market in a good way or oversaturate things too much?
BT: This is a huge discussion and readers could be left with an interview as long as a VOD menu! DVD is dead. It’s an evolving medium for sure. I teach in South London and even the kids in class can’t recall the last time they watched a DVD. Some rarely go to the cinema. They’re watching online. Netflix, Vimeo, Indieflix, Hulu, Amazon or iTunes or Youtube. The BFI have a great iPlayer, too, for the classic lovers out there. There have been some great successes with VOD and filmmakers need to know how to distribute their films online. Vimeo, actually, are a great bunch. They’ve a handbook on this type of thing, I believe. Is the market being saturated? Yes. There is the occasional diamond amongst the rough, however.
ZL: What upcoming projects do you have?
BT: There’s a few on the go. I have my first novel out soon. ‘My Name Is Not Jacob Ramsay‘. It merges the worlds of education and espionage together. It’s very current, especially in light of the migrant crisis and will widen one’s view of the journey a refugee can go through. An old project of mine, once placed on the back-burner, has recently been picked up by Chinese investors. It’s a female-driven spy feature called ‘Daisy Scarlett‘. Working with the investors has been an educational journey, too, both politically and culturally. What has to be in the script / what cannot be in the script. Still, it’s all about the renminbi! I’ve also been brought in to write an action script in Vietnam for a star out there. I wrote an odd Sci-Fi script for Neil in mind, actually. It’s a found footage story told via various camera types, spanning from the forties to present-day. If he had the investment, he’d like to take it on.
ZL: A lot of people have talked about your semi-famous Die Hard fan script. What is going on with that today?
BT: Yes, there were a lot of reports. A few trolls, too! The ‘Old Habits Die Hard‘ spec was based on an original script of mine called ‘Big in Japan‘. There were reports I said this or that. I never once said I had written ‘Die Hard 6‘ or that I was hired to do so. It was always a spec and I was encouraged to rework a concept I had into a potential ‘Die Hard‘. I wrote it as a final instalment, bringing in familiar characters and a different spin, yet remaining faithful to the series, let alone its following. Some people let me down afterwards. Some are doing all they can to get it into the hands of those who matter. It’s not my doing. A handful of entertainment journalists, who are also Die Hard fans have read it and enjoyed it, saying it’s better than what they expected. So where is it? It’s moving in some shape or other. I know where it isn’t and that’s online. Perhaps one day I’ll upload it. A SOD. Script On Demand.
Thanks for the interest in ‘Doomsday‘ and here’s to indie filmmaking.
Many thanks to Ben Trebilcook for taking the time for this interview.
Zachary Leeman – Follow me on Twitter