20 year old director Drew Casson has been making YouTube videos since he was twelve. After painting his mother’s shed green for a green screen and borrowing his Dad’s handy cam, Drew set about making Hollywood special effects epics from his house in a small English town.
One of his early films, a Harry Potter tribute, attracted the attention of the powers-that-be who were convinced that this was member of their crew moonlighting. Luckily Drew had the letter from his headmaster giving his permission to use the school hall and they called the dogs off.
Drew was recently offered a place at film school but chose instead to continue making his films – working with a tightly knit group of friends and acting as creator, director, actor, editor and special effects supervisor.
Wildseed Studios has teamed up with Drew to produce his next project – a 90 minute, special effects heavy horror sci-fi about a small English Town being taken over by aliens. This micro-budget production was shot over 9 days in July in the south west of England with an unknown, largely amateur cast but with Drew’s usual layer of horror, stunning special effects and action. Entitled Hungerford, it’s also a coming of age story, shot vlog style, where a group of kids need to decide if they are going to waste away in a dead-end town or break out and be who they really can be – neo-realist genre cinema anyone?
When did you first realise that you wanted to make films?
It first really hit me when i was a 13/14. The idea of creating films for the rest of my life sounded unbelievable. I knew it was going to take a lot of hard work and dedication but ultimately allow me to do the thing that I love.
What was your first YouTube Video?
My first ever serious YouTube video was a video entitled ‘The Flyer’. It was my first ever video created within Adobe After Effects. It consisted of me looking at the camera very dramatically, smiling and flying away. I was very proud to say the least.
Which has been your most successful video?
I think my most successful video would have to be ‘VT:Venificus Terminus’. It is a backstreet style ‘Harry Potter’ wand battle. The reception that video has gained over the past few years is astounding. We made it with no intention of it to do well, just a bit of fun over the summer. It gained global awareness appearing in ‘Harry Potter’ magazines and web shows stating ‘it is the best ‘Harry Potter’ Fan film on the web to date’.
Which is your favourite videos of yours?
Wow, that’s a hard one! I love all of my videos, each for their own reason, but if i had to choose one i feel I nailed the tone of the ‘War Of The Worlds’ tripod sequence video of mine. I feel i captured the cinematic nature of that sequence very well and i always love to re-watch that video and see an alien destroy the residents in my neighborhood.
The VFX in Divinity are awesome, where did you learn to do that?
The VFX in my Web Series ‘DIVINITY’ is a result of many, many years of practice in motion graphics and visual effects. VFX was my bridge into film making and it is the aspect i have the most experience in. I have been doing VFX now for about 5-6 years. Beginning with very small test leading into fully fledged sequences years later.
Which do you prefer, acting or directing?
I feel directing comes more naturally to me. To have the vision in my head and ultimately set out on a voyage of creativity to turn that vision into reality. I enjoy every aspect of directing, from working closely with actors to allow them to deepen their understanding of their character they are inhabiting, to the initial design process, scoring, etc. However i have a deep passion for acting. The craft itself is incredibly challenging and rewarding. I feel acting allows me to ultimately let go and discover more about myself.
What are your top 10 favourite films of all time?
I couldn’t order my top ten, but these titles re what would be there. The Lord Of The Rings, Cold Mountain, Jaws, The Crow, 30 Days Of Night, Saving Private Ryan, Gladiator, The Mist, The Matrix and The Great Escape.
Which film did you see that really inspired you to get into filmmaking?
I don’t know if there was one film in particular that got me into filmmaking. More a culmination of films each seen at the right time. Films such as ‘The Lord Of The Rings’, ‘The Matrix’ and ‘The Mist’ all allowed me to see something new when it came to filmmaking. But more importantly all of them inspired me to go out and create.
Which director do you most admire?
There are many directors that i admire for their visual style and choices, however if there was one director that i feel connects with myself the most it would have to be Robert Rodriguez. That man is truly a god. Rodriguez s the director for me who allowed me to understand that you don’t need vast amounts of money to go out there and make something. It is all about the drive and desire to pick up the camera and go make a movie.
What was the last film that you saw that blew you away?
I think the last film that hit me hard would have to be ‘The Hobbit’. I am both Tolkien and Peter Jackson fanatic and i have been anticipating ‘The Hobbit’ for a very, very long time. It took me straight back to my childhood, growing up with ‘The Lord Of The Rings’ and why i want to make films. That idea of creating an entirely new world always spoke to me and fed my imagination immensely.
How was school for you?
School for me was good, however it had its drawbacks. The most amazing part to my school life was how each and every one of my teachers recognised my passion for film and only ever encouraged it. It got to the point where i was missing school days due to cutting my7 latest film and the teachers were absolutely fine with it, because they knew i was doing what i loved.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
I believe in 10 years i will be an established Filmmaker with several feature length movies under my belt and a desire to continue to create and tell a story. I aim to inspire all those who wish to create and show them that anything is possible if you just put your mind to it.
If you could have made one film that you have seen, which one would it have been?
Thats easy. It would have to be Alex Proyas’ ‘The Crow’ starring Brandon Lee. It’s the film that i grew up with and it is truly a masterpiece. Every time that i watch that movie it never ceases to amaze me. In my opinion, they got everything right. The casting, the action, the soundtrack, the tone…That film is a force to be reckoned with.
Do you get scared by films?
Absolutely. I grew up with Horror films and my mother is an extreme horror buff, so i have seen it all. I get scared by the psychological horrors as opposed to slasher movies. I often go looking for a scare.
Which film scared you most?
I cannot explain the effect the first ‘Paranormal Activity had on me. I lost several days sleep.
If you could cast any actor in your next film, who would it be?
There are several actors that i absolutely love to work with but if i had to pick one it would either be Tom Hardy or Nicole Kidman. Both incredibly talented human beings who’s dedication and focus to their craft is awe-inspiring and contagious. It would be a privilege to work with either one.
What piece of equipment would make the biggest difference to your ability to make films?
I think at the moment the biggest thing I can ask for is access to more people as apposed to new equipment. Working with new people is one of the many reasons I love to make films and in recent months working with industry professionals in different fields has been incredibly rewarding. I love working with talented people to all contribute and achieve the same goal.