It took a trip to geek mecca San Diego Comic-Con for Robert Mond to realise what his first feature needed to be. By Caris Bizzaca.
Back in 2012, Mond (a self-professed geek) was waiting to get into the Elysium panel with Jodie Foster and Matt Damon when the lightbulb switched on.
“You sit in these lines that go for hours and it just gives you a lot of time to think,” the writer/director said.
“And I kept thinking that the only kinds of superhero films for these fans are the really big-budget ones with the really big names.”
Mond decided he wanted to create something opposite.
The result? Anti-superhero flick The Subjects, where a group of strangers who put their hands up for a clinical trial are all locked in a room, and unknowingly take a new drug that gives them superpowers.
Only issue is, they don’t all respond so well to their new abilities.
It’s a superhero movie without the training montages and where characters make mistakes with their newfound (and often never-before-seen) powers, Mond says.
And it was written entirely with geeks in mind, with not just superhero references, but nods to Harry Potter and Back to the Future too.
The Subjects is out via Video on Demand, as well as playing at several TUGG cinema screenings, where a certain number of tickets need to be bought for the screening to go ahead.
But something unexpected has happened recently, Mond says.
The Subjects had a few positive reviews and suddenly more than just superhero fans were interested.
“I forgot that everyone watches superhero movies now,” he says.
“I thought I was writing it for some niche audience, but in truth geek culture is everywhere now. I love it when the kind of people that I would have gone to school with that would have teased me for being a geek will now be like, ‘oh I’m such a geek’.”
Mond’s background is initially in TV, although his interest has always been in film.
A self-taught filmmaker, with two short films under his belt, Mond says it was a shock to see how much tougher it is tackling feature films.
“Obviously I learnt why so few people do features because it’s incredibly hard,” he says.
He spent eight months figuring out the finances and putting together the right crew, with the help of producers like Dean Murphy (Strange Bedfellows, Charlie & Boots), before starting production.
Filmed at a sound studio in Melbourne’s St Kilda, the shoot went for all of 12-and-a-half days. The edit was a tad longer, clocking in at around four months as Mond (who also edited) obsessed over every shot for his feature film debut.
Also adding to the time was The Subjects’ unique special effects.
Instead of getting the actors in front of green screens for your typical CGI look, artist Ralph Moses drew the effects over footage of the actor’s performances, which were then animated frame by frame.
“That’s why the film has sort of a unique special effects look,” Mond says.
As for what his own superpower would be if he could choose, Mond mulls over Terminator-type vision.
What about a superpower that would fully fund his new feature? When asked, Mond says it has actually already crossed his mind.
“The producer and I, we play hypotheticals all the time, like ‘would you rathers’,” he said, including recent one about what they would do to get feature film funding.
“Funnily enough the struggle of getting it up and getting it finished is part of the experience and the fun and if I suddenly had a superpower to get my next film up I don’t think it would be as fun,” he says.
“I think the experience of not knowing for so long. Of can we get this done? Can we make this? Can we get the special effects up to scratch? Can we do the film in Melbourne?
“All that, all those sleepless nights, end up being why, right now when it’s being released and we get some good reviews, it’s the best.”