‘Hardcore’ Creator Explains How He Made a POV Action Film
Ilya Naishuller wrote and directed the feature film “Hardcore,” which stars Sharlto Copley of “District 9” and currently has a sneak preview to offer interested audiences. The movie’s unique, mainly due to its unprecedented shooting technique — it’s shot to make viewers feel like they’re playing a first-person shooter game.
“Hardcore” follows in the fashion of Naishuller’s band, Biting Elbows’, popular music video, “Bad Motherfucker,” which to date has generated around 40 million views.
The feature film, shot almost entirely with GoPro cameras, presented different challenges for Naishuller, which he elaborated on for VideoInk.
Right now, “Hardcore” is in the midst of a crowdfunding campaign that’s aiming to generate a minimum of $250,000 by December 6 to make the movie possible. Of course, the “Hardcore” creators are offering perks for certain donations, which you can learn about on their Indiegogo page (where you can also watch the movie’s sneak preview).
“Hardcore” was shot in Moscow, Russia and follows the POV of Henry, a cyborg who’s bent on saving his wife/creator from a “renegade military group” while encountering a variety of other…obstacles (to put it lightly) along the way.
Here’s what Naishuller had to say about the film’s creation.
How did you come up with the original idea for Biting Elbows’ “Bad Motherfucker,” the music video that inspired “Hardcore”?
“Bad Motherfucker” was actually a sequel to another music video shot in the same style called “The Stampede.” We shot “The Stampede” back in 2011, after I bought a GoPro to document my embarrassing snowboarding skills. When I came back from my mountain trip, I gave the camera to my friend, Sergei Valyaev, who shot himself doing some parkour elements. I looked at his footage and said, “We have to make a music video — small budget but very action-packed.” With the relative success of “The Stampede,” we wanted to go bigger, so that’s the long story on how we got to shooting it. To finally answer your question (apologies for the tangent) — I’ve got three things that I love in the entertainment world: films, music, and video games. “Bad Motherfucker” let me combine them. I love all sorts of genres and games from “Half-Life” to “Starcraft,” “Faster Than Light,” and “Left 4 Dead.”
What were your first thoughts when Timur Bekmambetov approached you about making a feature-length version of “Bad Motherfucker”?
At first, I thought it to be a terrible idea. After all, it’s one thing to enjoy five minutes of POV action on YouTube. It’s completely another to watch a 90-minute feature in the cinema. Timur just said I should think about it. His most important words of inspiration were, “I’d like to see a POV film up on the big screen, and there’s no one out there who could do a job as well as you could.” I spent about a fortnight coming up with concepts and guidelines on how this could work well. After that, it was a lot of testing and experimenting with the story and the flow of the film.
What are your thoughts on creating for the big screen? Is your past experience mostly in creating video online?
I’ve done music videos, commercials and a little bit of TV before “Hardcore.” They were all short burst jobs that never lasted more than a few weeks at most. In comparison, shooting for the big screen is a grand voyage that is heightened by what’s at stake and the exciting possibilities of getting it right and making something that the whole world might enjoy while sitting in a dark room with strangers.
What were some of the challenges of writing/directing a film to make it work from the first-person shooter perspective?
The biggest challenge is that there are no points of reference. Nothing like this has ever been done, and that’s both a blessing and a curse. I wrote the script from the first-person perspective to stay in Henry’s (our protagonist’s) mind. The core concept was to capture the feeling of being the hero, and the key to that was keeping the immersion and having the audience feel completely as one with Henry the entire runtime. Nearly every member of the crew had to re-learn their craft. The stuntmen couldn’t rely on their usual bag of tricks and camera movements that they’ve gotten so used to. The actors had to perform with the cameraman as their partner. The set design had to be 360 degrees at all times, and that complicated the lighting techniques quite heavily. Another challenge was not being able to cut away to a close up to deliver an important line, which means you have to properly motivate the hero at all times to be at the exact spot where you need him. Every day was a flurry of trial and error and finally success.
How did you choose to gain funding through Indiegogo, and are there any other ways in which you plan on bringing your fans into the moviemaking experience?
From day one, we knew that we would do a crowdfunding campaign. We actually shot an action packed POV pitch video, but I argued against doing a campaign until at least some of the film had been shot. I was terrified of asking and getting crowdfunded money and then coming back with a mediocre movie. A few months into the shoot, as scenes and story elements started to fall into place, my fears evaporated. Once we completed the final cut, I felt good about going out to the public. As for fans who’d like to take part, we’ve got ways to incorporate them into the actual film. Some of the campaign perks feature these options.