Alex Taylor ventures into the feature film genre with his debut, Spaceship, which launches in cinemas this Friday. The British director draws on his short film experience to create a hallucinogenic journey into the hopeful and imaginative minds of a group of young adolescents. Packed with a psychedelic assembly of alien abduction, unicorns, role play and Nordic Metal, the film is a visually extravagant and thought-provoking exploration of teenage life in the UK. Centred around the disappearance of cyber goth Lucidia, Spaceship leads audiences into an unknown, yet deeply familiar world of ultra-violet colour, glitter and punk-glamour. Shining in their roles as misfit characters, actresses Alexa Davies, Lara Peake and Tallulah Haddon will accompany Taylor at a special Q&A screening of the film at Picturehouse Central on 19 May. We speak to Taylor ahead of the premiere about the creation of Spaceship and its dynamic protagonists.
ASFF: Spaceship is your debut feature and will open in cinemas this May. How does it feel to have completed your first feature project?
AT: It feels like the end of an era. Exciting, daunting, and bitter-sweet. We had so much fun making the movie and the film came alive as its own person in the process, and come our opening week, from 19 May, it’s going out into the world! It’s the same with the actors: I’m really proud of what they’re doing now. Lara Peake just premiered as lead in Channel 4’s Born to Kill and Tallulah Haddon, after doing The Living and the Dead and then Taboo, is about to lead a new Netflix series called Kiss Me First. So they’re all flying the nest and I’m in need of new children.. which is lucky because my partner and I have a six month old baby to look after now.
ASFF: Can you discuss the transition from short to feature films? Was it easy to make the change and has your short form practice informed your new work?
AT: It’s tough, no two ways about it. But find your own distinct voice and be wary of compromise. Do it just enough to get your film made, but not too much that it’s not your film. Shorts are amazing testing grounds: when I made Kids Might Fly in 2009 it opened a lot of doors after we won awards for it. And I always take the sense of freedom that a short provides you with into the world of features. Try not to let the money, the bigger crew or the pressure stifle your creative freedom.
ASFF: Spaceship follows the story of misfit cyber goth Lucidia, who is abducted by aliens. What inspired you to make the film and what message are you communicating to the audience?
AT: I was inspired by a cosplayer called Chloe Warburton who I interviewed for an experimental short film also called Spaceship. Chloe is an amazing person who’s being who she wants to be without caring what other people think. If there’s any message, it would be to take that energy you had or have as a teenager and carry it with you for the rest of your life – because it’s brave, right and will serve you well.
ASFF: The piece features a medley of alien abduction, unicorns, teenage role-play and a dad whose fond of heavy metal. Where did the film’s powerful visual style come from?
AT: I get really bored of period dramas and social realist films with their plodding images and predictable sequences. I wanted Spaceship to be like a Big Bang explosion of raw teenage material and visions that are thrown together with unpredictable and uncontrollable results. I don’t know exactly where the images come from though. One example is the Tank Dance that Lucian does. I knew he’d studied ballet and we were filming in the military grounds, and I saw the tank and thought.. man I’d love to see some ballet on that tank by a guy in a 1980s ski jacket.
ASFF: Spaceship‘s soundtrack is also quite iconic. Have you found collaboration an important part of the creative process?
AT: Music’s so important when you’re growing up. We met Annabel Allum on the streets of Guildford and when I heard her songs I knew we had to get her in the film – now she’s trending on Spotify and playing at festivals. Music is central to all of our lives, one way or another.
ASFF: What’s next for you? Will you continue making feature films or return to short works?
AT: My second feature film is in development with the BFI and have been writing it for six months now, so it’s getting close to being ready. But the UK Premiere of Spaceship on Friday 19 May at Picturehouse Central is the next big event in my life! We’re also going to be at the Ritzy Picturehouse, ICA, Rio, Genesis and then touring to other cities like Manchester, Birmingham and Glasgow etc. So we’re gearing up for an exciting journey!
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1. Still from Spaceship, 2017. Courtesy of Alex Taylor.