Published in this months issue of Filmwire, we've shone the spotlight on John Bradburn
Based in Alvechurch, filmmaker John Bradburn made his first feature film when he was 24 years old. Since then he’s made music videos for bands like Throes and Deafheaven, worked with Vivid Projects’ Black Hole Club and helmed an interactive film for the National Science Museum. His latest project is another interactive project called Save Luna, a dystopian thriller filmed in the Midlands that’s now available on the new storytelling app Whatifi.
What’s the appeal for you as a filmmaker in making an interactive film, as opposed to a linear feature that audiences don’t control?
I’m very interested in interactive films putting audience members into really difficult moral positions. The idea behind Save Luna is that you have to be morally complicit in these awful larger structures to reach your personal goal. It’s not questions like, ‘You’re in a dungeon, do you hit the orc or not?’ It’s about a fight within the audience – I have to save my child, but that means I have to work with these horrible people. Frequently, the film is designed that the more you stand up to an oppressive force, then the worse the ending will be for you. The more complicit you are, the better your personal ending will be.
Is there a filmmaker message there, John?
(Laughs) I’m not trying to be didactic, but it’s impossible to stand up to that kind of system and survive. Your survival is tied to bigger forces, and you have to accept that you’ll be guilty of something at some point. It’s not just good guys and bad guys. The freedom fighters that emerge might be worse than the government they’re fighting.
How long does it take to write something with so many different storylines and possible endings?
It took about five months to write. Save Luna is basically a three hour film. It’s around 25 to 35 minutes long if you play it through as a viewer, depending on which decisions you make, but it’s about three hours and ten minutes if you put all the footage back to back. There are 16 different endings you can find as a viewer, and I approached it as 16 different character arcs. Two of the endings are linked, so one won’t make sense without the other one. Also, if you choose the least exciting set of options, it leads to the most ludicrous action scene ending ever!
How was the shooting process and where did you film in the Midlands?
We shot it in January in the depths of lockdown, which was really stressful. We all had to be bubbled off. It was shot in five weeks, and the crew were incredible. All local crew. We filmed across the Midlands – Moseley swimming baths, Friction Arts in Birmingham, a great space in Alvechurch that’s basically a caravan storage park and a big disused building and shopping centre in Worcester. All the post-production was done over Zoom with the editor, and then it got sent to colour grading and sound design, so none of the post production team actually met.
What’s your experience in terms of finding locations in the Midlands?
I haven’t had much luck with film authorities, so I just end up talking to people who own the venues and locations you want to use. You’d be surprised how helpful people can be if you ask them directly, and there are so many great locations out there. I make a lot of music videos, and two of the five I made this year were for music labels in Los Angeles who flew people out to the Midlands to work with me. All the people who come over from LA are amazed when I take them to all these great places, like a disused quarry in Shropshire at dawn in the fog, or an old nunnery in Malvern. There should be lots more filmmakers making use of these amazing places.
Save Luna is now available to watch. To download the app for free, head to whatifi.com.