Interview: Hudson Hughes

hudson hughes interview indexHudson Hughes is the director of the low budget but extremely fun Wednesdays In Space, a film he shot in just one week in his garage, which now thanks to a successful Kickstarter campaign will be shown on cinema screens sometime soon, pandemic allowing. Here he talks about the making of the film and the challenges of shooting it in such a short time, what a possible sequel might be like, how a tv series by him would be equal parts funny and terrifying, and how the pandemic won’t change his style of comedy.

Comedy To Watch: How would you sell the film to someone who was previously unaware of it?

Hudson: If you like the energy of Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Spaceballs or Airplane then I think Wednesday in Space will make you laugh (or at least nod approvingly). After a shadowy stranger is found murdered in the toilet of Mr Yim’s Soup House, a diner floating in space, traffic warden Lucha Flax decides to play detective. It’s one third murder mystery, another third 70’s sci-fi B-movie and a final third sketch show, shaken vigorously and served at room temperature with a garnish of hyperviolence.

CTW: And what inspired you to create it in the first place? Have you always been a sci-fi fan?

Hudson: I’ve always loved sci-fi on screen, particularly space operas. I grew up on Doctor Who and later began watching Red Dwarf, Cowboy Bebop, Firefly and of course Star Wars. Having written and directed several comedy plays and musicals, I initially had plans to create a comedy space opera for the stage. That’s probably where a lot of the ideas for Wednesday in Space came from, especially the idea of setting it in one location when the characters could literally go anywhere in the galaxy. I spend an unhealthy portion of my school years zoned-out and dreaming up strange, fantastical worlds so I think it’s natural that I tend to write films that aren’t set on Earth, at least not our one.

CTW: What were the challenges of shooting a film in the course of just one week?

Hudson: Unsurprisingly, the main challenge of shooting a film in a week is that you have no ruddy time, not even for a cup of tea. The second biggest challenge is convincing twenty people that it’s POSSIBLE to shoot a feature film in under a week. That actually proved surprisingly easy; I had worked with most members of the cast and crew before so they knew my style of directing: equal parts rigorous efficiency and blinding chaos. We didn’t have time for a Kubrickian number of takes so the jokes stayed fresh for the cast and takes were more often ruined by laughter than actors forgetting lines. The other great challenge was building an entire restaurant (including a kitchen, toilet and working sushi belt) in my garage with very little money, time and carpentry skills. Luckily, good friends, family and a generous scenery construction company meant we JUST got the set ready for Day One of shooting. Most directors don’t turn up to a read-through covered in splinters and paint, but I’m hoping it will catch on.

CTW: Do you have any thoughts about a possible sequel? And if you could make one with a much larger budget, what would it be like?

Hudson: Ooh, a sequel would be a lot of fun. There’s a lot more of the Wednesday in Space universe to delve into and a lot of my favourite jokes ended up getting cut from the script or the final edit because they didn’t fit the story. This film was ludicrously ambitious in its making so if I was given a much larger budget to make a sequel (or even just a remake) I think I’d have to match that feeling or it would fall flat. I can tell you, instead of a single sushi belt I’d have a whole damn rotating restaurant, with concentric rings spinning in different directions. Something hazardous. A grip might lose an arm but any publicity is good publicity. Overall, there’d probably just be more of everything: visual effects, characters, jokes and especially blood.

CTW: Your kickstarter campaign succeeded impressively quickly – what would you say are the secrets to a successful kickstarter?

Hudson: We’re still figuring it out really but the biggest secret to a successful Kickstarter is to make it successful before it even launches. Build an email list, engage followers on social media, talk to previous crowdfunders. Basically, you want to know you can hit 50% of your goal on Day One. It’s easy to say big things like that, but our campaign was several months of planning and then 24 hours of finger-crossing on Day One. We’re now pushing for our stretch goal to produce a full soundtrack for the film (released to all our backers as an album) which is another learning process. Overall, honesty is the key. Make a cool video, have good graphics, but only promise things you know you can deliver.

CTW: Outside of cinema, do you have any desire to work in tv? And if so, what might a Hudson Hughes tv show be like?

Hudson: I would love to work on a TV show. I think the “Hudson Hughes Show” would be equal parts funny and terrifying. I write a lot of dark comedy because as much as I like making people laugh, I enjoy making people gasp or scream just as much. Actually, scratch that, I enjoy making people gasp MORE than I like making them laugh. The great thing about comedy is you can lull someone into a false sense of security that “the horrible thing that is about to happen could never possibly happen”. Funny movies can start to leave an audience ‘laughed-out’ after the 90-minute mark (luckily Wednesday in Space is EXACTLY 90 minutes) so a 20-30 minute TV show would be a lovely length to write for.

CTW: Do you feel that the pandemic has affected your take on comedy? And do you have any interest in creating anything inspired by it?

Hudson: To be honest, no. I only ever really come at satire or ‘current affairs’ comedy from absurdist angles so I think anything directly related to such a huge event would be a bit on-the-nose for me (I’m still a massive fan of satirical shows, I just can’t write it). There’s a lot of brilliant comedians in Britain. Especially with them all stuck at home, I think the best jokes about the pandemic were probably written within the first 24 hours of lockdown and so even if I did think up a funny angle to take, I doubt it would be original. That said, isolation has driven me to near-insanity so I’m certain it has affected my writing in interesting ways. Stay tuned, my next screenplay may be written on a wall in someone else’s blood.

CTW: If money were no object, and you could collaborate with any living comedian, what would you like to create?

Hudson: Despite all my other comedy heroes, the first person to come to my mind is comedy actor Matt Berry. He lights up absolutely everything he’s in. If money were no object, I’d burn my folder of screenplays and probably make some crazy kung fu comedy, maybe with some science fiction thrown in for good measure. If money were REALLY no object, I’d hire a whole team of visual effects artists and make Matt Berry every character in the film. I was semi-joking when began that last sentence but now I’m dead serious. I want to see this film.

CTW: What one piece of underrated comedy do you wish more people knew about?

Hudson: My favourite film is the visual comedy Playtime, directed by Jacque Tati. It’s not in-your-face funny, and was slated by other French filmmakers when released, but it proves that comedy films can be beautiful. With almost no dialogue, it’s a satire that never tells you what to think or even where to look on-screen (some scenes are like a ‘Where’s Wally?’ image), it just lets you observe the little interweaving moments of cosmic comedic genius that happen in everyday life.

CTW: And finally, if you could interview yourself, what question would you most like to ask? And what would the answer be?

Hudson: I guess I’d ask myself: what next? Well, thank you for asking Hudson. I’m still figuring that out. I have another feature film that I’m planning to shoot a proof-of-concept for this year it will be interesting to see how the dice fall in the British film industry as we scour the horizon for a likely ‘new normal’. I’m going to keep working on smaller projects in the meantime but I hope that the UK continues to champion indie films and fledgling comedians, otherwise… I’m screwed!

Alex Finch.
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Related Links:
A trailer for the film is here.
The Kickstarter Campaign for the film is here.
The Film’s Official Site.

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