Robot Overlords: Test Shoot at Pinewood 16th March. 2013

I’ve only recently realised that Robot Overlords is nearly ten years old, and that we started shooting in May 2013. But before that we had a day of test shoots at Pinewood Studios. It was to see how the kids worked together, and so a set was built of a sweet shop for the scene where the gang stock up on fireworks and sweets and decide what to do next. At that point we had two of our eventual cast, Ella Hunt as Alex and Milo Parker as Connor, and two cast members who wouldn’t be in the finished film: Harry Lawtey as Sean and Eros Vlahos as Nathan. Not sure why it didn’t work out with Harry and Eros, who were very good, but such is the nature of the movies and they’ve both gone on to great things.

Jon workshopped the scene with them all day. As screenwriter, I wasn’t really needed (but there was no way I wasn’t going to be there) and so spent most of the day wondering just how much grub I could pinch from craft services before I was evicted from the studio.

Here’s one entry from my diary for that day…

The big surprise was Milo, who — once you stopped him looking at the camera — was just terrific. Funny, watchable and full of energy.

Here are a few pics from that day on Stage H, Pinewood (and more to come throughout the year)…

The Robot Overlords are finally here…

On 13th July 2010* I received an email from Director Jon Wright with the subject heading ‘Two page idea attached’. In it he outlined a movie idea that had come to him in a dream: a world where humanity had been defeated by an invading alien robot empire and everyone is ordered to stay inside their homes. Back then it was called OUR ROBOT OVERLORDS. Some of those ideas have survived through to the finished film, some have fallen by the wayside and others could still be used in potential sequels or TV series, but already the world felt strong enough to start bouncing ideas back and forth and start working on a script.

And so ROBOT OVERLORDS was born, and a mere four years, eight months and fourteen days later it’s in UK cinemas for the public to see. That’s pretty fast for an independent British movie.

Jon and I met back in September 2006** when he became attached to a screenplay I’d written called WAITING FOR EDDIE (later EDDIE’S DEAD). We were introduced by a Producer called Dean Fisher who had optioned WFE and had got the project into the inaugural Film London Microwave scheme. Over the week of workshops and development we all bonded, but I knew I’d get on with Jon because when we first met in a Nero’s outside Liverpool Street Station, we banged heads as we sat down and were both too polite to say anything about it.

We worked on developing a number of scripts over the following years while he made TORMENTED and GRABBERS, but ROBOT OVERLORDS is the first of our joint projects to get off the ground, and I have to admit that there are days where I feel like I’ve jumped the queue. Because what you’re supposed to do is make a mega low-budget horror or two and then you might be lucky enough to make the kind of science fiction adventure that you loved as a kid.

And it’s been one hell of a ride. I’ve seen and done some incredible things during its making:

Felt a strange, other-worldly thrill at the first shout of “Action” on set.

The firs take... ruined by a bunch of us taking photos on our phones. Photo by Paddy Eason
The first take… ruined by a bunch of us taking photos on our phones.
Photo by Paddy Eason

Watched actors of the calibre of Sir Ben Kingsley, Gillian Anderson, Geraldine James and many others take our words and bring them to life.

SBK gives it his all.
SBK gives it his all.

Not to mention watching our gang of heroes Callan, James, Ella and Milo genuinely become friends over the course of the shoot.

Jon chooses who get vaporised next...
Jon chooses who get vaporised next…

Stared in awe at a bluescreen stage and wondered what the ten-year-old me would make of all this…

Blue is the new green.
Blue is the new green.

Strolled around Pinewood Studios like we owned the place.

Author videos are so much cooler on the backlot of a major studio complex! Photo my
Author videos are so much cooler on the backlot of a major studio complex!
Photo my

And, bloody hell, Jon even let me be in it (and my family!)…

Me in the much-coveted role of shouty man in dressing gown...
Me in the much-coveted role of shouty man in dressing gown…

George, Claire and Emily in costume for our day as extras.
George, Claire and Emily in costume for our day as extras.

Being thrilled as Nvizible took our ideas and came up with stuff like this!

Robots  v Spitfire!
Robots v Spitfire!

And then I got to write the novelisation (available now wherever books are sold)!

I attended the premiere at the London Film Festival like a proper Z-list celeb!

All the beautiful people at the LFF premiere... and me!
All the beautiful people at the LFF premiere… and me!

And did my first panel at a ComicCon:

2000AD creator Pat Mills ran our panel!
2000AD creator Pat Mills ran our panel!


I’ve chronicled some of those events on this blog, and there’s a whole ‘shoot diary’ section in the book, and I’ll no doubt bore you with it some more over the years, but for a first film I could not have asked for a more incredible experience and I suspect I may never have it this good again. And now the film is now in the hands of the Great British Public.

Some folk have expressed dismay that it’s not on everywhere, and we do indeed have a limited release, but that reflects the reality of British indie cinema distribution at the moment. And you only have to look at the box office returns of the last ambitious Brit Sci-Fi Film to see why some lesser distributors were nervous about taking us on. But our bold and pioneering independent distributor Signature have a very clear strategy for the film over the coming year, and this is only the beginning. I have faith that you’ll all get to see it one way or another, but if you can see it on the big screen then do please go: plenty of people worked very, very hard to make it look and sound so magnificent.

See you at the movies…


*I keep a diary, so can very specific about dates.

**1st September, since you’re asking.