Hello movie fans, my name is Christopher Lee Sun and I am a horror writer and director from the Sunshine Coast, QLD Australia. I have been asked to tell you a story about Charlie’s Farm so I thought why not; I have never written a story about making Charlie’s from start to finish so this could be fun.
I was born 24th June 1975 and I was named after “Christopher Lee”; I guess my mum loved the original Dracula. I have been a fan of horror films since I can remember and the first horror film I ever watched was Evil Dead followed by other classics followed like The Warning, Blood Beach, The Exorcist and of course The American Werewolf in London.
I have four wonderful children and own a Special FX company called Slaughter FX.
Before Charlie’s Farm
In 2010 I wrote my first ever script called Come and Get Me. The only other story I had written in my life before Come and Get Me was a story I wrote in grade two called The Killer Worms. I have never read a book, well if you class magazines as books I have read a few of them. Come and Get Me was to be my first feature film as a writer/director; we had a small budget of under 20K with 90% of cast/crew being on deferred payment (Something us indie peeps know all to well).
After Come and Get Me I wrote my 2nd script called Charlie’s Farm. Charlie’s Farm ended up in my filing cabinet because A: I wasn’t ready to shoot Charlie’s Farm yet and B: I heard a story from a friend about a personal pedophile attack and infuriated me so in 2012 I wrote my 3rd script called Daddy’s Little Girl. Daddy’s Little Girl had a budget of 500K Inc. deferred payments. Daddy’s Little Girl has been nominated for 29 awards around the world and won 24 of them. Daddy’s Little Girl now has distribution in Germany, USA and Australia and selling very well in these countries on many platforms from VOD, DVD and Blu-ray etc. Daddy’s Little Girl from script to release was 12 months.
Charlie’s Farm goes into Pre-Production 2013
In 2013 I opened my Charlie’s Farm script and gave it a once over – Okay, that’s a lie I went over it many times, cutting scenes and making the film sharper and more to the point. I had learnt so much from being at the American Film Market (AFM) I put everything I was taught into action.
I rang one of the investors from Daddy’s Little Girl, Laurence (Lozza0, and told him about Charlie’s Farm and asked if he was interested in getting behind my new film. Laurence spoke with his business Partner Debbie and they agreed to invest in Charlie’s Farm. I remember the day Laurence asked me “So how much do you need for Charlie’s”. I looked him dead in the eyes and said, “Lozza; I don’t need money for Charlie’s, I need you to invest 1.5 million dollars into me and when you guys do that I will deliver you a true Australian Slasher film”. Lozza didn’t even bat an eyelid. He agreed and from that moment on Charlie’s was in Pre-Production. One thing I have learnt in my short career is that investors know that films are a dangerous investment, but people are not as dangerous to invest in. Self-belief and passion can take you places you never thought possible, I would never ask a private investor to invest in a film, it scares them.
Getting the talent
Stage one was getting talent that I thought could help me market Charlie’s Farm to international distributors. The most common question from distributors at the AFM was this “what’s the Budget and who is in it?” It’s hard enough being an Aussie filmmaker, but being an Aussie filmmakers with no named talent is even harder, especially when you want to sell a film to accredited distributors.
So I put my thinking cap on. I thought I needed a leading lady and Tara Reid popped into mind. Tara has had an extraordinary career in many different genres of film, so I did what most of us indie guys do and jumped on IMDB and emailed her agent. To my surprise her agent wrote back and from that moment Tara was involved.
The next talent I thought would be harder to get, but his agent was such a pleasure to deal with and that was Bill Moseley form House of a 1000 Corpses and Devils Rejects. Whilst talking to Bill’s agent she mentioned she represented Kane Hodder. I couldn’t believe my luck as one of my favorite Slasher franchises of all time is Friday the 13th. The next thing you know I had both Bill and Kane on Charlie’s Farm.
Nathan Jones (Troy, Condemned, Mad Max Fury Road) was always my choice for the lead role of Charlie Wilson. Nathan and I had been talking about Charlie’s Farm since I first wrote the script – in fact I wrote the role of Charlie with Nathan in mind and lets face it, when you see Charlie’s Farm you will understand why.
Allira Jaques, an Australian actress was cast to play the role of Melanie, Tara’s on screen best friend. Allira had worked with me on both my previous films Daddy’s Little Girl and Come and Get Me. Allira was just perfect for the role and I truly believe her to be Australia’s next scream queen. Sam Coward, Dean Kirkright made up for the remainder of the lead characters.
Horror Sucks with bad SPFX
We have all seen horror films and felt robbed or let down when there is really bad special FX. It is so hard for indie guys to have great SPFX in their films and this is where most of them fall over. My advice on this for any horror maker is DON’T skimp when it comes to FX. This part is so crucial to your film’s success. I am also blessed that I have my own Special FX company and do SPFX for a living as well but I knew I needed the best for Charlie’s Farm so we contracted Steve Boyle (Bait 3D, Day Breakers, 30 Days of Night, Daddy’s Little Girl, King Kong). Steve designed with my approval Charlie Wilson, it was very important we stayed away from the rubbery look and no masks.
Steve was well underway molding and sculpting with his team, while Slaughter FX artist Kayla Arena headed up the massive mine shaft build. This mineshaft looked like a 250K set all built for just under 50K with many corpses, props and twists and turns as one of Charlie’s Hideouts.
Come and Get Me was shot on a Sony Z7, Daddy’s Little Girl, was shot on a Cannon 5D, I wanted to step up Charlie’s Farm and we hired to Sony F65 camera’s with all the bells and whistles and young DOP Scott Kimber at the helm to help me get my vision on screen.
Shooting Charlie’s Farm
The very first day on set was really hard – not because of nerves but because it was Kane Hodder up first and stupid me had promised to pick up Tara Reid from the airport personally. So day one went like this: I asked my 2nd unit director Dominic Crisci to direct the first morning’s shoot whilst I darted off to the airport. As a typical director I went over EVERYTHING with Kane and Dom, “do this do that”, it was so hard to leave, but when I saw the rushes Dominic had done an amazing job.
Day two was Tara, Allira, Dean and Sam. On this day the shooting was going great but also on this day the Charlie’s curse began. Our 2nd AD on our 2nd day slipped and broke her ankle. We had many cast and crew fall ill from a virus including Tara, we had our wardrobe girl pass out in a paddock and no one knew until they stumbled over her body and of course it pissed down rain whenever we had to shoot big outdoor scenes. So yes Charlie’s Farm was a little bit cursed, but this didn’t stop us from filming and our wardrobe girl was fine.
One thing I was afraid of was night shoots; I guess my first film scared me about lighting at night so a lot of Charlie’s action is during the daytime. Now anyone who knows special FX knows this can be quite dangerous from an FX point of view as your props and prosthetics can look like rubber on screen. Steve would have a hard time keeping Charlie looking good in day light scenes because of sweat and other elements making his prosthetics lift, but still he continued to look amazing.
We had a stunt crew but NO stunt people, in fact Kane Hodder headed up the CF stunt department with his friend and fellow American stunt man Rick McCallum. We had all talent including Tara Reid doing their own stunts, nothing unusual for an indie film, but were unusual for the Americans as they are used to having stunt doubles. Allira Jaques probably had the most epic stunt as she had to fly through the air at least 8-9 feet high and land on this tiny little mattress. With the help of Kane, Rick, Nathan Jones and Nathan’s girlfriend and stuntwomen Fawn Phoenix, Allira nailed her stunt.
Over all, shooting Charlie’s Farm, was amazing, I learnt so much on this set working with a crew of well over 50 people and all the amazing talent involved. I cannot wait to shoot another film and I hope to have this crew come back and help me make another film, all bloody amazing. It was weird though; they called me sir all the time, talk about professional guys and girls.
Directing the talent
Directing all the talent was so much fun, from named talent to the up and coming Aussies.
Nathan Jones was definitely AMAZING and let me tell you guys he is one big fella and scary as all hell but off screen he is the nicest man you will ever meet. Nathan would come to my home every Saturday night for pizza night, always offer his advice on scenes and end with “you’re the director, so your call”. He never bitched on set once. He would be in makeup for 4 hours then on set for 8 hours then taking make up off for another 1.5 hours, sleep come back and do it all again. Nathan Jones is truly my hero as an actor, professional and amazing and if you can ever work with him, DO IT!
Nathan does have one small problem, if he injures himself he doesn’t tell anyone. He loves his work so much he battles through anything, one night Steve Boyle was taking Nathan’s makeup off and noticed his arm, in Steve’s exact words “it looked like Nathan was giving birth to an Alien from his forearm” and typical Nathan said “Don’t tell Chris, I’m ok”. Then another time Nathan tore his hamstring in a chase scene and AGAIN kept shooting in pain. So if you hire Nathan be sure to watch him closely as he hides pain very well.
Tara Reid was a pleasure to direct, sometimes we would lock heads over dialogue because it would be too Australian, but she was right most of the time so we would fix to suit her. Keep that in mind filmmakers, if you write and then cast American’s the dialogue may have to be changed. Tara and I had a lot of fun on set and she always took direction, very professional in that manner. Tara has gone on to say I am one of the best directors she has ever worked with, I think she may just be being nice, but do appreciate it very much.
Kane Hodder, Mr. Jason Voorhees himself! I got to not only direct Kane but also direct him in a fight scene with Nathan. It was so much fun to shoot and to edit and both boys really look like they are killing each other in the scene. I will say that Kane has played so many killer roles but he really is also talented as a normal actor and on screen he is really cool.
Kane however did have one small issue (he will kill me) but it’s quite funny. As we all know Kane played Jason in “Friday the 13th.” Well in Charlie’s Farm his character name is “Tony”. In a scene Tony had to enter a room and call out to Jason. Well it seems that Mr. Hodder is too used to everyone else calling him “JASON” because he would constantly call out “Tony are you in here” he couldn’t bring himself to call someone else Jason, it was very amusing.
Bill Moseley, OTIS!!! Bill is really the only actor that made me a little nervous to direct. I didn’t think he would but he bloody did, he is so damn good it’s not even a joke. Bill is so prepared and when he is on set you know it’s about to get real. Bill had to do a scene with Aussie actress Madeleine Kennedy and young Australian actor Cameron Caulfield. This scene was so hard for me as a parent because Maddy had to have her breasts exposed and there was some really bad dialogue that had to take place with young cam in the room. They started shooting and as Bill delivered I just cringed, as I didn’t want young Cam to hear this bad language, so I cut and changed the game plan, I mean it’s not like he hadn’t seen a boob before right? Sure he has probably heard bad language before as well but I needed a new plan so I changed words like “RAPE” to “TAPE” and replaced swear words with Ipad etc. It was so funny but worked so we could get Cam shot and out of the room then we went back to normal dialogue. I guess that dad side of me just came out on this day.
Allira Jaques Australian Scream Queen, what can I say about this actress I haven’t already said. If you’re a producer, casting agent or director looking for an actress that can deliver you NEED this woman. She is always prepared, knows her lines and every bloody one else’s lines as well. Allira is NOT afraid to get her hands dirty on set, she is not afraid to do her own stunts and never complains once. Allira amazed Tara, Nathan and Kane with her natural abilities so I really didn’t have to direct her at all and when I did it was fast and easy direction.
Something you should know before hiring Allira Jaques but guys, Allira once thought that because she had a NSW driver’s license she couldn’t drive in any other state in Australia. Did I mention how good she can act but!
Sam Coward the feature film virgin, Sam comes from theatre, he has never acted in a film before of any kind. I actually cast Sam without seeing any of his work. Sam came to both my premieres for Come and Get Me and Daddy’s Little Girl and I knew he acted on stage. So one day I was looking for a actor to play “Mick, AKA Donkey”. I was struggling really bad as I had originally cast someone else, but had to let that person go and I remembered this fella Sam who did theatre. To be honest I am not a fan of theatre actors because they are always over the top, actually so is Sam in real life. But he had this persona about him and I thought he could definitely be Donkey. Sam was so damn scared, actually I think he ‘sharted’ on more then one occasion from fear, but when I got him on set and calmed him down, he delivered. Sam plays a very funny character in CF and I couldn’t be prouder knowing I popped his cherry.
If you’re ever with Sam please don’t ask him to do his Arnold Schwarzenegger voices, because he won’t bloody stop.
Other Australian talent I had the pleasure to direct was Dean Kirkright, Trudi Ross, David Beamish, Genna Hayes and Darrell Plumridge to name a few and all really fun to work with.
Charlie’s Farm Post Production
Charlie’s farm is now in Post Production at the Brisbane editing company “The Post Lounge”. My friend, and the only man to edit my films, Michael Gilbert did editing. We have now locked edit and over the next 3 months we are doing the sound design, color grade and a few small VFX shot’s like muzzle flashes etc. Mark Smythe now based in LA is writing the original score for Charlie’s Farm, what this guy can do with music is insane but finding deep dark scary sounds can be a mission, so Mark has his work cut out for him.
We are currently in contract negotiations with an International Distributor/Sales Agent; once paper work is finalised we will be announcing who they are. I have already been offered to open festivals with Charlie’s Farm and attend others, not bad for a film that hasn’t been released and people have only seen the teaser.
People often ask me if I believe Charlie will be as big if not bigger then Jason, Myers or Leatherface. As a filmmaker we all believe we have the next best film, but in all honesty these movies have had a 30-year head start on Charlie’s Farm. If I say “YES, Charlie will be”, I’m a dreamer, if I say “NO he won’t be”, I don’t believe in my own work. So how about I just let the audience decide, as I am pretty sure the world is ready for a new slasher and Slasher Franchise and I feel Charlie is that man and Charlie’s Farm is that franchise.
We all have to start somewhere right? I am lucky to have total support of family and friends and people like Debbie and Laurence who invested in me and it’s because of people like this us independent filmmakers get to create our movies.
Writer and Director Charlie’s Farm.