Discover the new indie film comedy about the world of comic book publishing that came about as the result of a bet
Eighteen months ago, there was no Pulp . It wasn’t even a twinkling in co-director and main motivator Adam Hamdy’s eye. One San Diego moment of epiphany and a drunken bet changed all that. And by last month, the completed film was already being screened to test audiences and a exuberant cast and crew.
That’s some going, in anybody’s books.
So what is Pulp ? Think Spaced meets Withnail And I with a little bit of Carry On and Richard Curtis films mixed in. Set in the world of comic book publishing, it’s the classic tale of the struggling artist trying to break into the big time while having to deal with money-laundering gangsters. “It’s was only supposed to be a bit of fun,” says Hamdy when we meet for a chat London’s Soho Theatre. “But we did some test screenings – using some of those score cards that the studios use which we, um, pilfered – and while it was never meant to be a social commentary, people identify with [lead character, comic book writer] Tony’s struggle. The fact there’s this guy here who’s pursuing his dream as at all costs seems to resonate with a broader base than we expected. People identify with his struggle. I think maybe if we’d been filming in the champagne-guzzling atmosphere of five years ago, it wouldn’t have had so much resonance.”
Hamdy is an independent comic book writer himself, so he knows the world he’s putting on screen well. His debut comic , The Hunter , launched in December 2007 to critical acclaim built an international readership of over 130,000 through its innovative print and online distribution strategy. “I can put in a plug for SFX here,” he says. “It was the first magazine we advertised in.”
Um, and did the ad work? “Yeah, it did!” he says. Phew.
Pulp came about because, while working on developing other nearly-not-quite film projects, he suddenly realised that he should fall back on that old adage – write what you know.
“I’ve been writing for screen since 2005 and have various projects that have reached quite late stages in the gestation process… Pulp for me was a reaction against the four or five year development process. With Pulp the idea was almost like ripping off a sticking plaster. We’d just do it”
The final inspiration to get Pulp in front of the cameras came during the 2010 San Diego Comic-Con: “ I was sat next to my artist in the main convention hall at Comic-Con, looking across at the guy who’d lost $1.1 million publishing his own comic. He was a lawyer who was involved in a sexual harassment case, he actually dressed up as Tigger in court to prove you couldn’t sexually harass someone dressed as Tigger. A fascinating character. And then he lost S1.1 million. So I said to David Golding, ‘We’re going to make a film about this,’ and he just kind of went, ‘Yeah whatever.’”
But fired up, Hamdy shot off an email that day to get the ball rolling. “We were actually in the process of putting together a finance pack for another film, and we thought, ‘Well, rather than spending months on the finance trail telling people how we might be able to make a film, let’s just go out and make one.’ I sent the email on 27 July. I think we met on 4 August. We had a few beers, and the best was, could we make this film as opposed to going on this financing trail to make this other film. It was probably not the most sensible thing to do. We had 10 weeks to come up with a script and raise the finance. And we had to just believe that nothing would fail. We could not redevelop the script or recast. We didn’t have that kind of contingency. Originally it was going to be really low budget, guerrilla filmmaking without proper lights. But just by showing people the script and getting it out there, we got such a positive response, people wanted to get involved. It just grew and grew and grew.
“I don’t know if I should say this. I think there are things we would do differently if we had more time, but the film as a whole, I think, really works, and it’s got a freshness and vibrancy to it that it perhaps wouldn’t have if we had had more time. Necessity is the mother of invention, and we has to think creatively to solve problems.”
Hamdy has a co-directing credit on the film, but turned to an old mate with a bit more experience to help him out. “Shaun Magher’s got 25 years of directing animation, and graduated from the National Film and Television School. I don’t have any of that. So it made sense for him to kind of take the lead. But when we actually got on set we found we were doing a lot of crossover, and effectively acting as co-directors. And he couldn’t come back to do the pick-ups and reshoots, so I took that over.”
Like Paul , Pulp got to shoot at a real comic book convention. Unlike Paul , Pulp couldn’t afford to send its cast and crew to San Diego, and had to settle for the Birmingham International Comic Show instead. It was eye opener for the film’s star Jay Sutherland, who plays Tony, and admits that his greek credentials are slight. “I think it was then that I realised that these characters I’d read about in the script that I thought were over the top were probably actually understated. Some crazy characters. But they were so passionate. And I admired that.”
The shooting process, though fraught at times, had its advantages for the cast. “It was so quick, from the auditioning process to filming,” says Sutherland. “Which personally I thought was great, because I’ve been involved in a lot of stuff where I’ve been waiting around, waiting around thinking, ‘Is it gonna happen?’ I thought I wouldn’t hear anything for a year, and the next week I get a phone call saying, ‘Let’s go!’”
His co-star, Gavin Molloy, who plays artist Rick, chips in, “Weren’t we up for the same film two years ago that I’ve never heard anything about since?”
“We were,” agrees Sutherland.
Hamdy is incredibly proud of his cast. “Whatever else might not be top notch about the film, I think the acting is really good. I hope these guys go on to do some really great things and Pulp helps as a springboard. We couldn’t even afford a casting director. I actually sat through about 5,000 show reels online. Lee Ravitz, who plays the villain, Clem – I found his showreel online and it largely consisted of a German advert with him being put in a cupboard. There was just something about it.”
He adds, “Bizarrely, in a case of life not imitating art, is that the two biggest comic fans in the cast are Lee and Neil Jennings, who plays the loudmouthed cop. Neil said about the Star Wars scene – where he has to spit bile about Star Wars – ‘I don’t think I can do it. It goes against everything I feel!’ Lee has an encyclopaedic knowledge of all things geek.”
“He’s the kind of guy who reads the appendices to Lord Of The Rings ,” laughs Sutherland.
Pulp has also created some crafty cost-effective marketing, sending a crew to various conventions throughout 2011 to film fans for a bit of online promotion (below). Click here to see more .
Although final details of the film’s release have yet to be confirmed, expect a limited run in cinemas some time in 2012 with a DVD to follow.