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The making of Extinction Event

part 1 part 2 part 3

This film won an International Medallion
the Best British Entry prize and
the Best Humour prize.

Having made two previous films (Flight of Fancy and P.E.T.) featuring the naive but very inventive character of farmer Walter Ruddles, we decided that he deserved at least one more outing. I wanted it to be a very 'busy' movie, with more jokes than the audience could spot at one sitting, rather in the style of my favourite film - Airplane. We managed to squeeze about one hundred verbal & visual gags into eighteen minutes.

Still from 'Extinction Event' by Alan Atkinson.

The film was storyboarded in some detail, but many changes were made during its 2 - 3 year production period. The aim was to alternate dialogue with 'sight-gags' and have the pace rise and fall several times during the movie.

A Sony TRV 900 was used for filming (two for the dialogue scenes, to ensure easy editing without continuity problems) and Premiere 6.5 for editing. The film depended very much on blue-screen, and similar special effects, and Premiere served well for achieving these. It's surprising just how large a blue screen is often needed and we built one using a collapsible frame, 4.2m wide and 2.4m high, with blue Lycra stretched over it.

Still from 'Extinction Event' by Alan Atkinson. Still from 'Extinction Event' by Alan Atkinson.

In some cases, 'blue-screen' was simply used to place actors in locations where we could not have filmed any action (eg a policeman, wearing body armour, outside No 10 Downing Street.) In others, blue-screen was used to produce more dramatic effects, such as more than a hundred thousand people in Trafalgar Square. Several scenes involved many superimposed layers of blue-screen - almost a thousand for some - which seriously stretched the capabilities of the system. The colour recording in amateur video signals does not have sufficient resolution for the repeated processing required by so many layers, and there was noticeable loss of sharpness. Fortunately, no one has complained yet.

Still from 'Extinction Event' by Alan Atkinson. Still from 'Extinction Event' by Alan Atkinson.

Most of the actors were members of Nuneaton Moviemakers but some were friends or from drama groups. We had one very special performer, the astronomer Sir Patrick Moore, and, of course, everyone wants to know how we managed this. I simply wrote to him and, within less than a day, he was on the phone offering his services. Filming our celebrity could not have been easier and, in just a few minutes, he delivered a perfect performance.

Still from 'Extinction Event' by Alan Atkinson. Still from 'Extinction Event' by Alan Atkinson.

Still from 'Extinction Event' by Alan Atkinson.

The first version was 'complete' almost a year ago but the film has been altered many times since then, in response to feedback from audiences. This is one of the major benefits of computer editing. I've decided, though, that it is definitely finished now.

- Alan Atkinson


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Page updated on 16 January 2011
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