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Making a Movie: The Release and How We Got Here

On June 11, 2019 the movie Apocalypse Island was released for public distribution. The film is now available to order on Amazon, and available to by as a DVD at Wal-Mart, and BestBuy.

apocalypse-island-movie-poster

This news for many people at CATMEDIA was joyous. It meant this project that many of us worked on for years and cared tremendously for was finally being set free. It could finally be seen by all of the people we had been jabbering on about it to for all this time.

The movie has been especially close to my heart and I am beyond thrilled to see this success for it. On the credits, you will see my name listed as Director, among three names as Screenwriter, and you will see it is based on a play I wrote called Mnemosyne— which many who followed this will recall was Apocalypse Island’s original title. From start to finish, I was involved in this project for three years. Then got to hear tidbits of news from the company selling the film for another year.

Embarking on the journey

As most good stories start, it all began on a rainy night. I was watching TV, and I saw a promotion for a show— I couldn’t tell you the name of it— but there was something about a cult living on an island. A thought crossed my mind, one that didn’t often strike me: There’s a better way to do this.

apocalypse-island-movie-scriptThe basic premise of an isolated, apocalyptic cult hidden away on an island mixed with a story I had heard on NPR years before. The premise of the story was about rats having memories implanted to help them solve mazes and to test their reactions to things they had never seen or experienced before. This story, of course, begged the question: what happens when you do this to people? Putting these ideas together, the idea that this cult could be controlled and manipulated through the use of memory altering drugs. What can you trust to be true? How would the characters question the things they once held as absolute truths?

I spent a few months typing out a very rough, very unfinished play originally meant to be performed on stage. It was clunky, long, but and amoebic in structure, but it there was a good idea in there, and some interesting characters. Luckily, I wasn’t the only person to think so.

What’s the movie about?

Apocalypse Island is a southern-gothic thriller that delves into the world of a mysterious, sequestered commune. It follows the story of Cam, the son of Pastor, the tyrannical, yet charismatic leader of the island. When Cam’s sister Reilly falls ill, he must find a way to get her to safety or watch her die. Together with his friend Hannah, Cam discovers the sinister nature of the island. A harrowing game of memory and manipulation unravels—revealing that things are not always what they seem.

Bringing a movie to life

Catherine-Downey-Nia-PeeplesWhen Catherine Downey, CATMEDIA’s CEO, my boss, and my mother said she wanted to produce it as a movie, I blew her off. It sounded like hot air to me. After all, this wasn’t anything like anything CATMEDIA had ever done before and the idea of making a movie with my mom took me a while to adjust to. But she kept bringing it up and kept wanting to discuss the story. Almost a year after I had started writing the first draft, I said, “Sure. When else will I get the chance to do this?”

on-set-of-movie-with-cast-apocalypse-islandAs a company, we sprinted through pre-production in eight months. Major parts cast, crew assembled, locations locked, and equipment acquired. It was a feat that required a titanic amount of hard work from an extraordinarily driven team. The first unit of the shoot took two weeks. First edit two months. When Catherine and I went to the American Film Market that November in Santa Monica trying to get a grasp on what to do next, we walked away understanding exactly how far away from finished this thing was.

Making a movie that’s “Marketable”

nia peeple on setThe first thing that became obvious was that we needed to boost the film’s marketability. It’s something most artistic minds don’t like to ponder. However, the fact is we wanted to see success for this film, and we weren’t going to achieve that without a little star-power. Scenes had to be rewritten, and a second unit of production planned. Ultimately, we were so lucky to cast Pretty Little Liars actress Nia Peeples in the movie as a lurking antagonist and shadowy businesswoman.

nia-peeples-apocalypse-island-movieOne of the coolest moments of my career will probably always be standing in downtown New York City and getting a phone call from Nia Peeples, talking about the shoot we were about to do the following week and planning a time to go over her thoughts on the script and her scenes. Another highlight will be debating with her over phone about how to adjust the scenes, and then pulling my hair and realizing, “Crap! She’s right about everything, I’m going to look like such a newbie on set.”

I would like to think I didn’t look like a newb but you’ll have to ask everyone else what they thought.

Several of the scenes we re-shot in the 2nd unit, many members of our team were excited to have a second go at. And the new additions pumped a new energy into the story. And we knocked it out in four days.

The Final Edit

Apocalypse-island-clipThis time around, the edit moved much more quickly. Working with LeftDigital, we put together a cut we were proud of. BareKnuckles Creative, who are probably some of the coolest guys around, did the sound edit, something that I (as a first-time filmmaker) didn’t understand was as important as it was until we had it. CG Effects were done by Jason Wynn to supplement some shots that needed a little extra something. And Scott Glasgow composed and produced our score. These people really are responsible for pulling the final edit together and making this movie what it is.

When we returned to AFM in November of 2017, this time with a plan and meeting set up with several people interesting in representing the movie for sale. We ended up signing with Summerhill Entertainment. It was their recommendation we change the name of the film to Apocalypse Island. The following year during AFM 2018, they signed a deal with Wild Card, and here we are today!

It’s been a hell of a ride, that’s certain. There is a whole team of people I wish I could write individual articles for. It took a village, and I’m glad and honored to share in this success. Now— go get some popcorn, turn out the lights, and have a movie night with Apocalypse Island!

About CATMEDIA

CATMEDIA is an award-winning Inc. 500 company based in Atlanta, Georgia. Founded in 1997, the company specializes in advertising, creative services, media production, program management, training, and human resource management. As a Women-Owned Small Business (WOSB), CATMEDIA provides world-class customer service and innovative solutions to government and commercial clients. Current CATMEDIA clients include Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), Office of Personnel Management (OPM), and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).

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