Luka Vukos and Fergus Doyle are two young filmmakers based in Edinburgh. They met while enrolled in a masters course on modernist literature at the University of Edinburgh. Lose Like a Human is the first film project they have worked together on. The upcoming film, which wrapped shooting in November, was filmed on a micro-budget. In the interview they discuss the benefits, and challenges, of creating a film on a limited budget.
Luka, you have made films before. Fergus, this is the first screenplay you’ve worked on. What was that experience like?
Fergus: [Lose Like a Human] was a short story that was already written kind of like a film script or a radio script. Luka was the one who cinematized it. I wrote it for the zine “Word Addict”. That issue’s theme was “deep blue”. I went down the route of the chess playing robot. That time around the [the issue’s stories] went: sad, sad, sad, chess playing robot, sad, sad, sad… Very odd zine, that.
Luka, what was adapting a short story into a script like? Had you done that before?
Luka: Yes I had. It was already written as a dialogue. The trick was to go to [potential shooting locations] and start storyboarding it. That made it easier to come up with stage direction. We also started adding different elements once we saw locations. When we got into picking actors the script worked well on the page but its only once you get into rehearsals when everyone starts to bring their own input that the screenplay really comes to life.
Fergus: It was quite a long editing process of just swapping words around and that type of thing.
Luka: Yeah, but it was really fun during the rehearsals doing some rewrites with Fergus, adding little bits that helped flesh out the structure. Also, we got to see what works on the page, but when you start filming you need to find a point of emotional access.
How was the process of making Lose Like a Human different than your previous projects?
Luka: I have never made a film that was so extensively based on dialogue. I have also never worked with so many people on set. The logistics of ordering food and keeping everyone happy and engaged was a lot, but other than that the whole process was pretty similar [to my previous projects].
You funded Lose Like a Human through a Kickstarter campaign with a target of £800 and received a total of £900. What were the benefits and challenges of working with Kickstarter and such a small budget?
Luka: We had to ask a lot of the people on set for free. Luckily, almost everyone on set were friends of ours. No one was getting paid except for the two main actors.
Fergus: The problem that feeds into what Luka just said is that we had to absolutely nail the whole shoot in the two days we had to shoot. Even though we weren’t paying extras, or for the space, we had to be considerate of everyone’s time.
Luka: Even though we did have a budget, we were very much still working on a DIY basis. For example, we used a wheelchair instead of a proper dolly. If we had brought in a full dolly and an AC it would have cost around £300 or more. We had to think about lenses and all of the other pieces of equipment.
Fergus: The thing about the gear too was that our producer and sound recordist are both still students so they were able to have access to some equipment that we would have otherwise not been able to afford. They’re part of a film school so they were able to scrounge up the gear which is not a tenable strategy looking forward.
Luka: I was talking to our producer and we were discussing how every project is a new learning experience. For Lose Like a Human a lot of the learning came down to logistics. Considering that BorrowFox is now live, we would have absolutely used the service. The peer-to-peer economy helps us out and helps [other filmmakers out]. So I think that’s really important.
You already discussed using a wheel chair as a makeshift dolly, what other equipment did you use?
Luka: We used a lot of standard stuff that filmmakers our age, and with our budget use. Canon 5D Mark 3. Because I like wide lenses, 14, 28, 35 mm.
Fergus: I used a Moleskine notebook and a Papermate biro which you can get five of for £1. *laughs*
Luka: Standard lighting fixtures as well. Flimsy stuff but it did the job. Again, this was DIY.
Fergus: Probably my favorite moment of filming was when Luka sat in the wheelchair with a tripod on his lap while three people followed and pushed him.
Luka: Something like a circular dolly that we could have gotten from BorrowFox would have saved a lot of trouble.
So what is Lose Like a Human about?
Fergus: The idea of humanization of Artificial Intelligence. The idea that AI is surpassing humans that we always thought we would be better at. It is a conversation between an AI and their creator while they play a game of chess.
Luka: The ethics of someone creating an AI. Do you create something that just serves a purpose or do you think about something transcending its purpose?
So who wins the chess match?
Fergus: You’ll have to come out and see!
How do you think BorrowFox could have helped the whole filmmaking process? Would you think about using it in the future?
Fergus: Although I can’t speak for Luka, if there was something like BorrowFox around sourcing gear would have been easier and there would have been a middle ground between the two options which we had which was either high quality stuff for a high price or lower quality stuff for free which took a while to track down.
Luka: I’m already a Hiive user. From what I’m seeing, it’s shaping up to be incredibly helpful with regards to networking on a broader basis, particularly if technicians are hard to come by on an immediate local level. BorrowFox, to me, works in a similar way. I am set on using them for the next project. It beats going down to a local rental shop where you need very considerable notice for renting high-end lenses, such as Zeiss or Samyang, and for quite an expensive price too, and then maybe being stuck for availability. With BorrowFox’s model, kit can be sourced quite easily and effectively.