A Movie review by Robert Long II ©2016
Starring James Billian, Eileen del Valle, Tony Gallahan, Pete Xydas, Noel Schively, Travon Budd, Carlos del Valle
K9 operated by Travon Budd
Edited by Erik Kristopher Myers
A James Billian Production
SYNOPSIS: There is something wrong at Dundarian Castle. The TARDIS is drawn to the lair of Xylos, a powerful adding machine; a computer dwelling in a null cosmos within the vortex. The grounds of Dundarian are haunted by the terrifying servants of Xylos — demented scarecrows preying upon the people under ruler Elias Woodburn’s care. Have The Doctor and April come too late to stop Xylos, or will they too become puppets in the hands of this telepathic conquering machine… ?!
This movie recently had it’s World Premiere in Silver Spring, MD and I was able to attend. I must say that I was impressed with what Mr. Billian and the rest of his cast and crew were able to do. There were two screening that night, and both were very well attended. On display were costumes, props and set pieces, including a functional K-9! I believe the entire cast and crew were present as well. It would have been nice to see a local television news team or newspaper reporter there, as I feel this is very important to support and get out to the public. However, I am glad to stand in for those organizations and get the word out.
For someone that had never taken on a motion picture project before, this was at the least and incredibly daunting task. It is a great tribute to those that helped James make his goal, his dream come true. I’ve been told it was at least 3 years in the making. A lot of hard work, and a lot of knocking on doors, making deals and calling in favors. Filmmaker Erik Kristopher Myers offered his services to edit the project to completion.
Is it a perfect production? No, there are mistakes and bloopers within the production. The boom mic can be seen from time to time, and hair length changes, etc. But what really stands out is the passion behind this venture. This fan film runs 13:35 minutes. It can be viewed HERE.
And now I would like to present to you readers a short interview I conducted with the film’s creator James Billian:
Robert: When did you get the idea to do this Dr. Who fan film?
James: Way back like in the 8th grade. In 2011 I outsourced it as an audio play called Terror of the Yeti to a Welsh radio station near Cardiff.
Robert: What kind video camera did you use? What are the pluses and features on this camera?
James: We used a Nikon D3100, Nikon DX; cropped practically full frame – no LUTS look in camera. Also, Simon Pilgrim’s Nikon hacker firmware to allow more video mins of recording.
Robert: What kind of lighting and audio equipment did you use?
James: Natural sunlight; Carlos and Tony both did use 500 or 300 watt work lamps at millstone.
Robert: What kind of preplanning did you do for the film? Did you storyboard? Did you hold script meetings to get feedback on what would and wouldn’t work?
James: We had meetings but it was kind of hands on – just diving in.
Robert: Can you give me an idea as to what the budget was, what the money went towards?
James: Expenses on project were small other than snack food. Mostly donations of spare time by the team.
Robert: Did you come up with the story and the script? Was it a collaborative effort?
James: In the beginning , I was actually trying to write a story for Big Finish, but they would not except it. They told me to do it myself.
Robert: Did you video tape the auditions?
James: Sadly no. Elieen had friends, and I also had some.
Robert: Do you feel it is important to get together with the cast and crew before shooting officially commences to go over the film, the plot, the duties of the individuals?
James: In the beginning yes.
Robert: How was costuming handled on a project?
James: Thrift shops, though the scarecrow masks were cardboard sprayed black spandex and with burlap glued on.
Robert: There are some beautiful props in your movie, and the TARDIS set looked great. Can you tell me a little bit about who built these items, and how long it took?
James: It took a year, May to following June. Oh, Peter a freelance carpenter and donated a years worth of time. The console panels were cut from Luan Wood with Dremel Multimax.
Robert: You worked mostly on natural locations. What are the pros and cons of that, rather than working on a set?
James: Well the console room was a set, just little smaller the the 63 TARDIS console room location. at Lime Grove BBC TV Center.
Robert: What kind of food prep, or catering do you set up for the cast and crew on film days? What kind of food is available and prepared?
James: I think it was Margie and Elieen.
Robert: Do you have someone in charge of continuity, logging and such?
James: Margie Cuff and Erik were mostly in charge of that.
Robert: Do you shoot just weekends for a feature, or have you had a scenario where everyone takes a week off to shoot the full week non-stop?
James: Weekends, weekdays when ever we had spare time.
Robert: Sound effects and soundtracks for your movie. How do you handle these? Did you hire a composer?
James: I used a freeware VST called Horus there are a lot of free and donation-ware VSTs that are more creative and some rival payware plugins. just search for instance http://www.vst4free.com/ has tons of personal freeware VSTs donation-ware you could search for hours looking at freeware plugins effects that people want make to help people or just have fun writing them.
Robert: What promotional pieces have you used to get your features noticed? Do you use trailers, posters, fliers, etc?
James: Well Rob I sketched the poster in spare time colored it in both Photoshop, Gimp and My Paint. It was pencil scanned it in to computer color worked up in layered washes.
FILMMAKER’S BIO: James Billian (an aspiring filmmaker on the autism spectrum) not only wrote the script for “Puppets of Xylos” but also created the costumes, decided make-up and hair styles, and (with help) made all the props (including an RC- K9), built the working set, scouted locations and supervised all the photography. On his own he created the graphics behind the credits and even produced the music and sound used in his film.