Indie and 70s Sci-Fi film fans rejoice! Wednesday In Space is a highly-anticipated upcoming “no-budget” wacky space comedy centring around traffic cop Lucha Flax [Bella Norris] as she investigates he murder of a mysterious stranger in a backwater space diner.
It is the brainchild of writer and director Hudson Hughes, who I managed to sit down with to discuss this upcoming film, how it was made and what we can expect! However, before you read the interview below, if you haven’t heard of the film before, make sure to watch the trailer below to get yourself up to speed on what you’re missing!
JACKY CHALL: Hudson, It’s nice to speak with you. So obviously you are the director and writer of ‘Wednesday In Space’, which from what I’ve seen is a wacky sci-fi comedy set in the backwater of space. Do you mind setting the scene for us?
HUDSON HUGHES: Okay, so how do I put this? I’ve been writing synopses– (laughs) I’ve been writing so many different ones. I think that’s a good way of putting it, it’s set in the arm of this galaxy and almost all of the film takes place in a diner, “Mr. Yim’s Soup House”, which is a terrible diner in the armpit of this solar system and its not really a very nice place! The central character is Lucha Flax who is a traffic cop in space, who feels unfulfilled by the corporation government she is working for, so when a mysterious stranger is murdered in the soup house and the staff tries to cover it up, she finds the body and decides that she is going to play detective.
JC: It sounds like an amazing concept and from what I’ve seen it seems like a homage to old-school ‘70s sci-fi and comedy. What inspired you to make this? Did you draw on anything heavily in particular?
HH: I can’t think of one particular inspiration…
JC: I suppose maybe the genre as a whole?
HH: Yeah sci-fi and comedy really. I’ve always been a big fan of sci-fi films, and as much for the actual stories themselves because it is a really good one for building worlds because obviously we don’t live in space and therefore anytime you make a film in space unless it’s some sort of super realistic astronaut thing you end up having to sort of create your own world with its own interesting things going on and culture and I really enjoy that.
And then almost as much as that, I enjoy the sort of interesting visual effects about how they did the original Star Wars and stuff like that. So I ended up, you know nowhere near on the same level as that, but I did build models of the spaceships and then used those against a green-screen and then composited green-screen plates of the actors on top of those for a couple of scenes.
JC: Yeah, because I was going to say that’s a staple of those old-school sci-fi films, having physical props and special effects. Like a lot of modern films are defined by these high-tech special effects, did you feel like that was an obstacle or it loomed over you in any way when you were making this?
HH: Not really, because we had no budget so I knew these weren’t going to be incredible special effects that I was doing and so I kinda just decided I was going to lean into that and, being a comedy, I just can’t really think of how you would do it any other way. It’s got to be a comedy in some form if you’re going to have really low budget and almost purposefully bad effects.
JC: I suppose when you’re taking that genre into account, a lot of the time when you look back on that sort of stuff it’s almost like hilarious how bad it is and I suppose you want to sort of like portray that…
HH: Yeah exactly. I think I’d been watching some of the old Doctor Who’s–I say old, not that old–where…they’ve got better now but even some of the David Tennent stuff, which maybe was believable when I was a kid, but looking back on it now you go “God, that’s a really naff effect!”. But watching it back that’s some of the charm though, it’s not super clean Hollywood effects.
JC: I suppose that works well for an independent film like this. Now, it’s marketed as leaning into that “no budget” you mentioned, how no budget are we talking?
HH: Well the thing is I looked it up recently and “no budget”, because I was calling it a “low budget film” and then someone was like “well it’s not a low budget film, it’s a no budget film”, because low budget can be– you can still have a film that costs hundreds of thousands of dollars and it can be called a “low budget film”, and “no budget” still goes up to…I don’t know 10k or more or something like that.
HH: Yeah, so there is no way of making a feature film without spending money.
JC: Yeah, yeah of course.
HH: So, I think we spent £1,500 on this. I say “we”, I mean “I” (laughs)
JC: (laughs) Still that’s an incredibly low amount of money for any sort of film, especially a feature-length film.
HH: And that’s because I didn’t pay anyone! (laughs)
HH: Basically almost all that money went into costumes, props, the set… because it was almost all shot in my garage, just on this one set, we were like “well we’ve got to put the money into this set”, and yeah things like paint, tubing, everything, it all adds up. And then obviously a significant amount of that also went to just feeding people all week.
JC: I guess if you’re not paying all the actors a lot of them got paid in food.
HH: Yeah people really liked that, I mean we had sandwiches for lunch I could have done better with that…
HH: …there was never a point where people weren’t doing things. It was like you’re either in front of the camera, behind the camera, off building some prop, or you’re upstairs making dinner!
JC: That’s amazing! It looks like it was a very fun film to make, how was the mood on set?
HH: It was really good, and I think that’s in spite of me! (laughs) Because I think I really relaxed into it on the third day because, I say we were shooting for a week, we were shooting for six days, and then we had a seventh day a couple of months later after we had already started editing where I wanted to add in some more weird TV Ads that are throughout the film. So we just had another day, very relaxed, where we just spent shooting that against a green-screen, almost all improvised.
The central shoot–the six days–I had just come out of a month of building the set essentially, with the help of Ben [Benedict Evans] the other producer, and several other people. So everyone arrived, everyone helped finish the set and we then started shooting and I was just powering through it and I think it was the third day where we got to the really enjoyable bit, like the meaty bit of the film, and the fact that everyone’s morale was high and people were like “Yeah lets do this!”, there was never any complaints, genuinely. Even though on the Thursday we ended up having one bit that took a lot longer to shoot than I had expected so we massively ran over and kept falling behind on the Thursday. I was up until 5AM which was ridiculous, and Bella [Bella Norris] who plays the main character [Lucha Flax] was up until 3 sat just on a sheet of green-screen in the dark garden just shooting some space scene, and then the other producer Ben had graduation the next day!
JC: Oh my goodness!
HH: I dropped him off home about 5AM I think.
JC: It’s nice I guess that everyone was so committed to the film, that they’d not only help out with everything on set but that they’d be there for so long, especially not being paid as well!
HH: Completely, and I kinda had to stop apologising in a way because I realised it’s very easy, that’s sort of me just taking it on myself like “that’s my fault we’ve run out of… I’m sorry… I’m sorry” it had to be done and at the end of the day it’s not just my film its everyone’s film so I kinda realised that it’s almost like an ego thing, saying “I’m sorry”, because it’s me saying “I’m sorry, this is my project” so I was like I should stop doing that especially as everyone’s like “stop apologising, its fine let’s just shoot this!” even though it was 3AM. So yeah, a really great cast and crew.
JC: They’re all independent actors and for many of whom this is also their debut feature film. Did anyone’s performance surprise you? Maybe better or worse?
HH: Yeah, they’re all shit! (laughs)
HH: No…Hmm, did any of them surprise me? Well, I knew they could all act, because I’ve worked with a lot of them before…
JC: Okay, maybe this way then. So obviously you’ve written the characters, do you think anyone plays up to the characters better than you thought they would?
HH: Genuinely, I’m impressed with everyone. Kate Briggs-Price I have to say, she had that role [Polyester Jones] thrust on her at the last minute so I was super impressed with her. I have people who have watched the film who don’t know any of the cast and crew who commented on how good she was, which was just amazing because she was there to be an assistant director and do sound and then because someone had to back out, for quite good reason, but it was quite close to the line. It was really not that long before shooting, only a few days and I was like “Hey, can you play this quite central character?”.
Other than that I’ve had a lot of people comment on how great Anand Sankar was who played Yilliam Van Dodge, who is kind of this washed up actor who is now just advertising this coffee company and is sort of having a bit of an existential crisis throughout the film and he keeps popping up. Me and Anand have done a lot of comedy together. That’s how we met, at the comedy society at uni, and he is a phenomenal actor and I learnt that from doing improv with him. We always really liked doing almost like depressing comedy, comedy where it’s like not really much of a joke other than how sad it is.
JC: Oh right okay! (laughs)
HH: So when I had that character in my head, there was no one that could play this other than Anand Sankar, and then Bella of course. Bella who never forgot a line and had a perfect accent; I was looking through the tapes and I couldn’t find a point where she drops her accent and she plays the central character as well.
JC: Even in high budget films you get top A-list actors who’re always dropping their accents, it’s terrible, so it must be nice to find raw talent like that.
HH: Yeah completely.
JC: I’ve seen your advertisement sketches too, does the film follow a standard structure or is it made up of lots of sketches a bit like how ‘Monty Python’s: The Meaning of Life’ is?
HH: It’s an interesting one because a couple of people have described it as quite “sketch-like” it definitely follows a linear plot, but I think it’s the way I like to make comedy films, that the comedy is the central focus. You get a lot of comedy-dramas where comedy assists the plot rather than just being the central point of the plot, whereas I definitely feel with Wednesday in Space the comedy is the focus, the plot is actually secondary to the comedy and so it jumps around that’s the thing. I describe Lucha Flax, Bella’s character, as the ‘central character’ rather than the protagonist because, and I’m really happy other people picked up on this as well, but she’s the central character possibly only because she’s the only likeable one! You’ve got the staff of the restaurant who are trying to cover up this murder that’s happened, you’ve got these government spooks who are just completely horrible people, you’ve got these French rebels who are trying to set up a listening station but they just have like an IT crisis for the whole film and then you’ve got some washed-up musicians, this washed up actor, and then all these TV adverts.
So everything links together near the end, but there is a sketch like feel. And with the TV adverts; that’s something I’ve been doing separately, I’ve been making sketches just to upload on YouTube and stuff like that which are kind of TV adverts, because its quite an easy structure to make a sketch for, but it was also quite a nice way of breaking up the film because you could dive into the narrative and you pull out for a minute and you get this kind of nice breather. Almost like a sorbet or something, a pallet cleanser during meals.
JC: (laughs) So I’ve seen from the trailer it looks quite high energy, I suppose, would you say that’s how the film feels?
HH: I hope so. (laughs)
HH: Yeah. I think obviously with a trailer you’re trying to emphasise the bits you like about the film and obviously there’s slow moments there has to be slow moments, it it was all high energy you’d, I dunno, die.
HH: So there’s definitely some slow moments in the film as well, theres a few monologues, theres like five monologues in the film
JC: Oh wow!
HH: Those were a lot of fun to shoot as well because those got me to test my literary chops as well. But yeah as well I would say the actual comedy is very fast paced. It’s not a subtle comedy. It’s sort of like “BANG! Joke, joke joke, joke, joke” like that.
JC: It looks like there are quite a lot of visual gags as well. It’s different writing visual gags in than traditional comedy writing, did you find any particular challenge in that?
HH: I’ve always been such a fan of visual comedy like Buster Keaton and Charlie Chaplain and then Mr. Bean and then my personal favourite is Jacques Tati who did Monsieur Hulot’s Holiday and Playtime and I think Playtime is just my all together favourite film ever made and to be honest probably, subconsciously, at the heart of this, it was inspired by that because there is a scene with a restaurant in that film and that film is incredible. But you never really hear many of the characters even talk in that film, it’s just the incredible way they all move round; it’s just so funny but also beautiful in a way. So for me it was like trying to make visual gags and physical gags that related to the location they’re in. Using every aspect of that can be hard, like sometimes we would do a gag and I was kinda like, the amount of set-up it required, I was like “ugh, is this worth it? I could just cut this out”.
HH: But, I think nine times out of ten it is, once you’ve done it, because its nice to have a mix of jokes because if it was all just jokes and dialogue I think it can get a bit stale. I like to have a mix of different types of jokes like have a few subtle ones and have a few sort of in your face ones, and then go for some physical ones as well. Because everyone’s got a different sense of humour, so try and appeal to everyone in some way.
JC: So, if you had to choose what your favourite scene or character was, what would you say?
HH: (Sighs) That’s really hard! Obviously because I was there when all these shots were filmed, my experience of watching the scenes is probably influenced by that. My personal favourite would probably be the interaction between Bella and Julien Mathus, who was there to do sound again, but he also played the captain of these French rebels. He is just hilarious, again he is also a filmmaker, but he is a very talented actor and I would love to see him do more acting because he is just genuinely brilliant.
And there is an interaction between them where Lucha Flax [Bella Norris], this traffic cop, is trying to get him to surrender while they’re in a standoff, and just the interaction is so funny and so fast, and the fact that its all in French and both Bella and Julien just knew–I mean a bit easier for Julien, he speaks French–but the interaction between them is just so funny and the fact that they just knew their lines, I think that we did that in… I think it might have only been one take?
JC: Oh wow, incredible!
HH: Yeah we might have done two takes with a shot of Bella but yeah we got it on the first take! Spot on, very funny. But other than that I think it might be a favourite. I know my family and a lot of people definitely liked Yillam van Dodge, Anand’s character, he has a monologue which is very sad! I think you realise just how awful his life is really, but very funny at the same time, almost funny because it’s so sad, so I think for me that was where I think the writing was best.
JC: Wednesday In Space isn’t even released yet, but you’ve been selected for multiple film festivals and won three international film awards. That must feel incredible, are you confident about its release?
HH: Yeah, we were just in another festival, Tokyo Lift-Off, which unfortunately couldn’t happen physically, but its interesting how they’re doing it online where we’ve just got through the first round or something so its been narrowed down from like sixty films to six or something like that.
HH: Yeah so I’m pretty confident I think, you know, there’s other film festivals that I would have liked to have gotten in to, you know things that aren’t running now especially, that’s the bigger issue here.
JC: I suppose timing isn’t great.
HH: Yeah… It’s not which I think is why I’ve held off entering any more festivals, but I feel confident that there’s an audience for Wednesday In Space in a sense. We did a screening in Southampton for cast and crew, friends and family, we had quite a few people come there, and it was really good to see that and see people actually really enjoy the film and know that outside of the festivals. Because this is a problem that at festivals you might get some very artistic films which are wonderful but might not have an appeal to a general audience.
JC: One hundred percent.
HH: Whereas I feel with Wednesday In Space I know there’s a market for it, I’ve seen people enjoy this film and so yeah I’m pretty confident for the release.
JC: As well I suppose, I’ve seen you’re planning for UK cinema release too, obviously because this is your debut feature film, how have you found the challenges of getting it ready for theatre release?
HH: Yes, yeah we’re still going through that! We are doing a Kickstarter next month for distribution funding which, I can say this now because I’m about to announce it, that that’s running throughout August; so August 1st we are launching a Kickstarter to raise £6,500 for distribution and marketing. And there is the joke there that that’s a lot more than the film cost!
HH: But that’s the difficult thing about filmmaking that there’s some costs which are just unavoidable and so for us it’s a real learning process about “How do you do that?” “How do you get your film in the cinema?” because none of us have ever successfully made a feature film before, anyone of the people who worked on the film, so for us I find it really exciting as I’m always trying to sort of push myself in a new way. I think when people talk about that with filmmaking or anything like “I wanna push myself” I think they’re talking in an artistic sense. Sure there is the artistic bit which people like to talk about, but most of it isn’t artistic! (laughs) Most of it is just planning, and I really want to get to grips with that because I’m passionate about the artistic bit so I’m willing to do the dull stuff of trying to get an age rating, trying to get this, trying to get that, and we’ve got a poster now!
JC: It’ll be amazing to see it once it’s out I’m really looking forward to the release!
HH: Yeah me too! We’re sort of looking towards a, well, pandemic depending…
JC: Oh yes of course…
HH:…late November premier and then hopefully staying in a couple of London cinemas after that and then taking it nationwide! We’ve got a few cities in mind. We want to play locally because me and the other producer live near Henley-on-Thames which has a nice cinema there, and then up in Newcastle, Nottingham, probably Reading, and then hopefully down in Southampton again, given that the people who worked on the film went to uni there.
JC: Amazing! Well that’s all I’ve got for you, so thanks very much for talking to me and I can’t wait to see Wednesday In Space when it’s released hopefully!
HH: Thank you!
Wednesday In Space is yet to be released but if you want to find out more or want to support the film, check out their website and their social media pages on Facebook, @wednesdayinspace on Instagram, and @SpaceWednesday on Twitter for updates. If you would like to help fund their Kickstarter keep your eyes peeled as it goes live in August! All images used courtesy of the Wednesday In Space team.