Unsurprisingly, the longest pre-production we have ever had was for the first film. It dated back to the original idea for the whole series which I had in August/September 2008, and took some 9 months to get filmed. At that point the whole plan was just a recurring cast of 5 heroines, who were a sort of super-group with very different looks and powers; I would introduce them one-by-one and follow their adventures, which would largely be massive punch-ups. I guess I haven’t hugely deviated from that plan, but it was far more simplistic then. We’d have a big one, a little one, a fast one, a sexy one, etc. – and not much else going on.
At this very time, though, there was a backdrop of almost total economic collapse. 24 hour news were doing their main shows from trading floors in the stock exchange rather than their own studios, relishing the impending doom as if it would not affect them in any way. Once we’d pulled back from the brink (although some might argue we are still there) they seemed to need something new, like a flu virus. Every day was the same and so I came up with the title ‘Next Global Crisis’ as a reaction to that – we could never have a period of tranquility; we had to move onto the next thing that was going to kill us all.
My interest led me to devise the 3 factions: The Collective (a bit unused to this point, although the Roman Brothers are members), Red Mist (basically a new subsidiary of the Collective) and Elite Force (an old subsidiary of the Collective, which they now wished to remove and replace with Red Mist). Elite Force was a PR machine. It was fixated on headlines but had recently gone off-message; members of the Collective feared it would break away and its public popularity would make it a threat. That was the starting point. I needed to start with a single character, as that is all I could afford. I had written one called ‘Force Girl’, who had power punches and was kind of feisty, but I didn’t feel she was classically heroic enough (in many ways, I would find Force Girl far more appropriate now than I did then). So Force Girl maintained her basic power, but became ‘Powerstar’ with a cape and a more classic uniform. I ordered the costume from a Dutch company with good credentials; it was very expensive, but I have always felt that costumes were vital to the genre, so I paid it. That was around February 2009 and was the first actual money I had spent – I was now committed to the project.
I wanted to shoot in April of that year; the script was written by mid-March and I ran casting calls on a couple of websites, to decent response. I knew we needed to be shooting in HD or we might as well pack up and go home. There was no point shooting in a worse resolution for a few months and then switching, as I knew I would kick myself for making that decision down the track. I cast a girl for the job – she had a good look and had done similar things, if only in photographic stills. The location was booked at a price I would kill for nowadays, and we were all set. The day before the shoot was due to take place, the actress flaked out. When I think back to it now, I would have removed her beforehand as the signs were not good in terms of the amount of times we had met (none). This is all pretty unthinkable to me now, but I kind of felt like I was testing the water; running full castings by myself, with the lack of money I had to spare, was not an option. These days we spend a couple of full days auditioning before deciding who we want, and we rehearse (I would like to rehearse more than we do, but there are still constraints). It was a costly mistake and the project drifted through the next month until I found Natasha, who I did actually meet before we shot, and who took on the role with great gusto despite everything looking remarkably tin-pot.
I used my mediocre Poser skills to make storyboards of the fight, wrote a reasonably short shooting order, and visited the location again with the cameraman to decide on light placement and what wide angles we would use. The nature of the location was such that we were very limited regarding the directions we could shoot in. Anyway that’s basically the run up to the first shoot, which I will discuss next time.