This whole story starts way back in 2013 when I wrote a short sketch script about a superhero. It was called “ZERO” and was a big metaphor for me trying to make films whilst working to pay off uni debt coming off the graduation buzz of university - big fish, little pond and all that.
It was fun and I made a cool little mask for the character of “Wonderman”, but I just wasn’t satisfied with how I shot it. I’d never shot anything that should make people laugh before - intentionally anyway. So, it just gathered dust and was always something I’d talk to Peter, the main actor, about maybe revisiting someday.
Fast-forward to 2016, I was in Wales for a weekend, felt the urge to make something, so organised a mini university reunion for the weekend after with Peter, Kyle, Callam, and Adam to make something. In the time before shooting, I came up with an updated metaphor for now being a freelancer and how that whole thing works. I had a rough outline - beginning, middle and end, and some stuff to riff on as content. The Wonderman that I came up with was a gentle, positive, polite guy just looking for his chance to be helpful in this world full of superheroes.
What Peter brought to set was an absolutely self-involved, self-obsessed, useless moron of a “superhero”.
And it was a thing of genius.
Wonderman, aka Derrick Travers, is the most arrogant being I’ve ever been around, and it was hard to stop laughing at him - at him, not with him.
The mask was a bit of a disaster; the OG one from the original shoot has gone AWOL - to this day, I’m still waiting for it to reappear at the most inopportune moment. That moment hasn’t happened yet. Then I had a back-up plan involved cutting up my old waiter apron - poetic, I felt - but somehow that got dog shit on it. We have no idea how, it’s probably with the OG mask somewhere. Kyle volunteered to head to a friend’s house to see if he could find something suitable.
As Kyle and Callam walked off, I felt like this was turning into a massive waste of everyone’s bank holiday Monday. If we didn’t film anything, it’d be hard not to feel like like it all fell on my shoulders, but the bright side was that at least I’d gotten to see my old friends again.
Fortunately that didn’t happen, and the boys returned valiantly with a few options. I can’t remember what the other options were, but the slick glasses we did choose worked perfectly. Those Star Wars 3D glasses were the dream.
I’m not really going to go in-depth about the laughs we had, anecdotes, or stuff we dropped from the final cut, because the shoot shot by and all I really have of the day is a hurried image I took on my phone at the time.
At the time of finishing off this blog, I think it’s pretty much two years to the day that we shot ‘ZERO’. A lot has happened in that time, amongst work I spent the good part of that summer sending edit drafts over to Peter and figuring out what was the objectively funniest parts of what we shot, removing our emotional connection to it all and crafting a basic story from it. At one point, I made a soundbooth out of pillows in a hotel room in the Lake District to record Arrested Development-esque voiceover for it. It didn’t work, and took away from the existing punchlines. When I went to Australia, I played it for a handful of people over there, it made them laugh, so I knew it at least worked outside of the country and my immediate friendship group.
At the same time, we were submitting it to festivals, what I noticed about that whole thing is that they’re incredibly happy for you to pay to submit the film, but getting any response from them is pretty much off the cards. Maybe we went about the whole process wrong, I don’t know, but it was a bit disheartening not even to get rejection letters from people after you’d spent weekends and nights filling in paperwork to not just get a “thanks, but no thanks”.
Disheartening, but not defeating.
It’s taken a lot longer than expected, but ZERO is finally out there. Taking lessons from what I like about other people’s social media, mainly Donald Glover’s Atlanta on Instagram, and applying it to bolster the attention of any potential audience, I feel like we did the best we could. I’ve heard some incredibly kind things from friends all over the place - the UK, Sweden, Australia - and even if it was negative, they’d spent time to watch, formulate an opinion, and let me know said opinion.
It’s all good.
It’s all a learning process.
Shout-out to Kyle, Callam, and José for giving up their Bank Holiday Monday to hang out and bullshit even when it looked like it was gonna be a wasted day, you were chill and happy - just like university all over again.
Shout-out to Peter for going above and beyond from the get-go, Wonderman has become this manifestation of anything and everything we want it to be. The amount of bullshit we’ve talked about it, the ideas we’ve talked about and everything after that day has been hilarious - you’re the real MVP.
ZERO is the perfect encapsulation of why I went to uni, the people I met there, and a lot of what I’ve learned since.
Exactly like this clip of Tarantino;