A scientist creates an artificial intelligence robot with the ability to desire and to dream. It’s first dream is to see the outside world but to do so he must prove to his creator that he is capable. However, his calamitous behaviour sees his dream of freedom inch further and further away.
Credits / Collaborators / Cast
Creator – Alex Marchi
Robo (Voice) – Jason Farries
Robo (Performace) – Roy Tsang
Writer/Director – Chas Harrington
Production Manager – Jack Miller
Director of Photography – Natasha Duursma
1st AD – Charles Whiteley
Focus Puller – Ethan Lewis
Focus Puller (Dailies) – Elliott Poyzer
Clapper Loader – Nali Raouf
Gaffer – Murray Cohen
Sparks – John Reavey, Conrad Russel, Charlie Maxwell
Sound Recordist – Patrick Revell
Sound Designer – Fionn Lucas
Script Supervisor – Diara Vasallo Ndiaye
Art Director – Natalia Glow
Makeup/Art Assist. – Becca Clark
Robo Construction (Head) – PokuPoku Studio
Robo Construction (Body) – Natalia Glow
How We Made Calamity Bot
Calamity Bot started as a short story I wrote during uni about a scientist who made a robot that blew up his kitchen after trying to make a cup of tea. For a project in my second year at uni, I developed the story into a longer script by milking the clumsy robot concept even further and I also thought it would be a really nice idea to give Robo an arc, a motive to drive the story forward but still keeping its comedic roots.
When I showed the script to my PM and Art Director (Who were the first people I brought on to the project) they both thought it was an animation at first, it could most certainly have worked in that format for sure but we ultimately wanted the challenge of bringing the story to life for real. Made possible by the wonderful guys at PokuPoku studios and my Art Director Natalia for the creation of our calamitous droid. Robot was also voiced by the immensely talented Jason Farries and physically performed (much to his discomfort) by Roy Tsang, an excellent stunt performer and director in his own right.
The house we used in the film was the student accommodation I was living in at the time, me and Jack (Production Manager) went to our local Wicks to buy rolls of wallpaper, stopping off at a carpet store so that we could completely transform the house into something a lot less “white-walled’ and dull. We also made a trip to a junk shop to buy paintings and robotic-looking parts to scatter all over the floor to give the place a ‘messy scientist’ feel. As well as smearing the place in BBQ sauce, an idea Natalia came up with and as smelly as it was, it actually worked really well. Also, since the main theme of the film is freedom and the goal for Robo is to explore the outside world, I made sure to get wallpaper that not only fit the colour palette but also had things like nature and birds printed on it; the paintings from the junk shop were also of hills and mountains for this exact same reason.
Then we went into production, which goes as it goes, I’m not going to bore you with the details but it came with its own set of pleasures and challenges including card corruption on our last day, rain almost destroying our green screen and the usual pushing to get things done in time. A lot of props has to go to both my incredible crew (Natasha Duursma, the cinematographer, was an absolute champion) but also my main actor Alex Marchi for completely killing it with his performance despite the pressure. Luckily we had done a lot of ground work during pre production which meant that we were able to account for all the problems we faced and would have faced during production, for example, one of the things we had to do is buy a ton of white spray paint so we could add damage to Robo’s body and head for one scene, then completely remove it for the next scene as we were shooting out of order.
The thing about this film that I’ll always remember is the extensive post-production process. At first, I was the only person doing the VFX and editing, tracking the digital face onto the screen and animating it according to what emotion I wanted the robot to feel in line with the story. I spent literally my whole summer animating and tracking Robo’s face, it was painstaking and tortuous but thankfully Jack helped me out towards the end and I think it came out really nicely.
Obviously there was still quite a bit more that went into making this film despite the fact it’s only 14 minutes and I’ll always be very proud of the entire team that helped me make it happen, they are a wonderful group of very creative people who I was blessed to have involved. I am also very grateful of the appreciation our hard work has had over the past couple of years in various festivals around the world. It was a great experience and although technically I made some films before uni and in first year, I’ll always consider Calamity Bot as my first film.