The Challenges of Filming a Micro-Budget Post-Apocalyptic Web Series: Mad World

by | 16 Apr 2017

The Challenges of Filming a Micro-Budget Post-Apocalyptic Web Series: Mad World

by | 16 Apr 2017

Callum Richardson writes a script, grabs a camera and with some friends films his first ever web series.

It is safe to say that the post-apocalyptic genre has been enjoying a resurgence over the last decade or so, and seems to be showing no signs of slowing down. As an audience we can’t get enough of watching society breaking down and mankind being reduced to its most base instincts. Where even protagonists have to do brutal and morally dubious things to stay alive.

Series Details

The story of three survivors of a post-apocalyptic world destroyed and ravished by a new and mysterious pathogen that radically changes the behaviour of the host. Ryan, Beth and her brother Nathan must do whatever it takes to survive when a mysterious gang begins hunting them down for unknown reasons.

Web Series

1 Season · 2014.

Genre

Action · Adventure · Drama · Sci-Fi.

Cast

Callum Richardson · Caslav Nekic · Charlie Wernham · Danielle Richardson · Enya Mills · Jasper Whitehead · Jed Toogood · Josh Allen · Kirsty Day · Lesley Grant · Marc Rudkins.

Director

Callum Richardson.

Writer

Callum Richardson (story).

Editing

Callum Richardson.

Crew

Abbie Street · Alex Hutchinson · Ben Hawkes · Castlav Nekic · Chris Wheeler · Corrina Brodie · Dan Ebery · Enya Mills · James Phillips · Jed Toogood · Joe James · Lesley Richardson · Marc Rudkins · Marie Swain · Michael Rowell · Rosie Griffiths · Santino Palermo · Saurav Shahi · Zach Shore · Zweli Ngulube.

Even more popular is the zombie sub-genre which has popped up everywhere and throws into the mix an otherworldly threat.

I Am Legend (2007) showed us a New York solely populated by Will Smith battling monsters that only come out at night. 28 days later (2002) and its sequel had Britain quarantined after an outbreak of a rage virus. The immensely popular TV series, The Walking Dead (2010-present) shows us a broken world where people have to do heinous things to each other to survive. As well as deal with the constant threat of the zombie hoards. I could go but we’d be here until the real apocalypse came.

“Richardson and Josh Allen, who plays Ryan, would be out in the forests for hours crawling through muddy ditches whilst filming those early scenes.”

DAVID AXCELL

Callum Richardson, a young, up and coming film maker has now brought his own contribution to the genre with his web series, Mad World. Filmed mostly in his home town of Billericay in Essex. It tells the story of a world destroyed and ravished by a mutated rabies and influenza virus. The story follows the exploits of three survivors, Ryan (Josh Allen), Beth (Kirsty Day) and her brother Nathan (Richardson himself) who must do what it takes to survive when a gang kidnaps Ryan and Beth. Mad World is a great micro-budget series, and you can see a lot of work has gone into making it work.

Richardson has a great love for the genre and a passion for filmmaking. After realising that he wanted to work in the film industry and toying with some ideas, he decided to use his gap year to begin producing his post-apocalyptic world.

With any web series funding is going to be an issue.

According to Richardson some of the most expensive aspects of the project have been getting the camera equipment and realistic looking weapons. The first two episodes weren’t that expensive. But as the series progressed and the stories gained more complexity the need for a bigger budget became paramount.

Fortunately, Richardson had help; “With the most recent episode, ‘Summer’, people invested money and helped me fund it, which was incredibly helpful. I’d like to say a good £3,000-£4,000 has gone into Mad World. For his final episode, which will be his most ambitious yet, he will be setting up a Kickstarter campaign to try and raise money.

In bringing the world to life Danny Boyle’s 28 Days Later and video games like The Last of Us (2013) proved inspirational for that first episode. I can certainly see a homage coming through for the former, particularly using the non-traditional idea of the zombie as a reanimated corpse but more as a virus that affects behaviour.

Watching those opening scenes of Ryan exploring an isolated residential area reminded me of the abandoned city of London scene in 28 Days Later. In the later episodes he turned to shows like The Walking Dead for inspiration as that deals more with post-apocalyptic storytelling where there are threats from other survivors. And coming to terms with a world with no clear rules or boundaries.

In turning Mad World into a reality there has been numerous challenges which Richardson and his team have had to overcome. Part of the beauty of the internet is that any aspiring film maker can have a go at creating something and distributing it. But it certainly takes a determined mind to achieve this and a willingness to accept setbacks.

Armed with just one camera, a microphone and a tripod for those earlier episodes.

Richardson and Josh Allen, who plays Ryan, would be out in the forests for hours crawling through muddy ditches whilst filming those early scenes. It sounded tough with a two man team but they powered through and were able to create an engaging first episode.

Complications arose later in the series as the narrative got more intricate. By episode four Richardson had to find more equipment and a bigger crew. Luckily he had completed his first year at university studying “Media (Film) Production” so had a better understanding of what he wanted and how to do it. He also had more people who wanted to get involved and help out.

One of the biggest issues was that things were now taking a lot longer and more planning was needed. It wasn’t just a two man job anymore, there was a whole film crew and multiple different actors to manage. The biggest challenge though, according to Richardson, was the editing. “It is unbelievably time consuming and tough, it certainly makes you feel like giving up at times but you just have to keep going”.

Much of the series was filmed in Essex’s countryside which really helps with that post-apocalyptic look.

Keeping away from populated areas helps sell the idea of a crumbling society. “Most people think of Essex as very built up but we actually have a lot of countryside and many beautiful locations. I’ve also shot in a lot of the country parks which have mile after mile of lush green forests, perfect for filming in.” Being a very low budget project, he also relied on his own house, and friends’ houses as locations. It’s another positive aspect of doing these very low key, independent films, the way everyone pulls together to help make things happen and putting 100 percent into the work.

Huge effort had gone into finding these locations, particularly for Episode 4 where Richardson and Executive Producer Dan Ebery spent a week exploring in different forests and towns. For Richardson’s final episode his crew are going even further afield with most of the
episode planning to be shot around Stoke-on-Trent and the Peak district. Finding the right location can make the world of difference in making a great film or series.

Mad World shows us what you can do with the right attitude and a strong resolve. Watching Richardson progress and perfect his craft throughout this series definitely make him a film maker to watch out for. I wish him all the best in achieving his dream of one day having a proper studio budget and turning Mad World into a trilogy of films. Imagine what he could do with more resources at his disposal.

David Axcell

David Axcell

Film Critic

David has quite a broad taste in film which includes big budget blockbusters and small indie films; including International and Arthouse cinema. As long as it’s good in that particular genre, he’ll watch anything.

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