He is the man behind Night Surf Dollar Baby Film.
SKSM: Could you start with telling me a bit about yourself? Who are you and what do you do?
Tony Pomfret: I am Tony Pomfret and as it turns out I tend towards doing a little bit of everything. I’ve just bought a lovely mountain bike and I am always trying to expand my movie and vinyl collection.
SKSM: When did you make Night surf? Can you tell me a little about the production? How much did it cost? How long did it take to film it?
Tony Pomfret: We shot Night Surf in 2013 but actually it was about a decade in the making. David Ridley, Night Surf’s producer, first made me aware of Dollar Babies in 2001 after I had shown him a first draft of the script I had written based on the short story. We applied for the rights but were rejected at that time as, we were told, Night Surf was being optioned for a movie which was to be a pilot for a series. I still have that rejection letter framed on the wall of my living room, it’s a good conversation piece. Cut to ten years later and David tells me that the rights have become available again with the idea of resubmitting the screenplay. I figured why not? It might be nice to have a second framed rejection letter – make up a set. This time we were granted the exclusive rights for one calendar year to develop the project as we saw fit. As one of the stipulations of the contract was that the film was not allowed to be exploited for financial gain getting funds proved difficult so we self financed to the tune of about £8000. We pulled together a great cast and crew, not least being our DP Sashi Kissoon who, as well as having a great eye, managed to get a RED camera for us to shoot on 5K. The filming itself was four night shoots on a deserted beach in Druridge Bay, Northumberland.
SKSM: How come you picked Night surf to develop into a movie? What is it in the story that you like so much?
Tony Pomfret: I had always liked Night Surf, actually more than I liked The Stand. I was struck with the visual of an apocalypse that had already occurred with survivors that didn’t know what was happening or who was left and I felt a sense of realism in that if a small group was surviving after the world had gone that, rather than the fantasies we may have of living in the lap of luxury that had been left behind, it would all get very dull very quickly. Ultimately we would just be like teenagers hanging out in bus shelters on a Saturday night.
SKSM: Has the film won any awards or had any nominations?
Tony Pomfret: It has shown in two festivals so far but, to be honest, David and I had spent so long wanting to get it made and imagining what it would be like, we were both really happy to have it finally completed and the BluRay in our hands to watch whenever we wanted.
SKSM: How did you find out that King sold the movie rights to some of his stories for just $1? Was it just a wikd guess or did you know it before you sent him the check?
Tony Pomfret: As I mentioned earlier, David had all that covered. He had done all my research for me.
SKSM: Was there any funny or special moment when you made the movie that you would like to tell me about?
Tony Pomfret: After making the, in hindsight, frankly ridiculous choice of filming night shoots on location we found a beautifully desolate mile long stretch of beach in Druridge Bay, Northumberland. The only accomodation we could find was in a family holiday park about a mile away so we rented four caravans for cast and crew which meant that all the holidaying families were watching us leave with all our equipment as they were going to bed and coming back at sunrise as they were all waking up to carry on with their vacations. Not only did we find that the last hour of each night’s shooting saw us being chased up the beach by the tide but the entire shoot had extreme weather warnings issued by the Met Office. David and I knew that to miss a single night’s shooting meant that the whole project was sunk so I was considering at one point whether we would be able to save the project by rewriting the whole thing in a day and just shooting in one of the caravans; five people sitting around a table talking about setting a guy on fire on a beach the night before. Luckily each night was clear until the very last shot at about 5am on the last day when we were trying to get the only pick up we wanted and the heavens opened up.
SKSM: How does it feel that all the King fans out there can’t see your movie? Do you think that will change in the future? Maybe a internet/dvd release would be possible?
Tony Pomfret: That’s up to Mr. King and his representatives. There are Dollar Baby screenings that take place in festivals, Tony Northrup has been very good in curating screenings at the Crypticon in Minneapolis, so there is opportunity. I understand why the decision has been made to limit their exposure, after all, there are a lot made by young amateur or semi-professional filmmakers so there are varying degrees of success in terms of quality. Having said that, I think that a central online repository of these films with a very clear introduction as to the purpose of the Dollar Baby concept would be a good idea. At the moment all we have are lists of titles and dates appearing in various places online.
SKSM: What “good or bad” reviews have you received on your film?
Tony Pomfret: Reviews have been good, mainly in terms of tone and mood, although there is a Spanish user review that seemed to take exception to the low key tone that we were going for and was wanting a lot more action. My Spanish is not very good and none of the online translation services helped much either but the reviewer does admit that they haven’t read the original story and then said something about zombies. I’m not sure whether they thought it should have zombies in it or if they assumed it would have zombies in it and they didn’t like that idea. I would suggest they do themselves a favour and read the original.
SKSM: Do you plan to screen the movie at a particular festival?
Tony Pomfret: I feel its run is complete, although if there are any Dollar Baby festivals that would like to screen it I am perfectly happy to send a copy along to them.
SKSM: Are you a Stephen King fan? If so, which are your favorite works and adaptations.
Tony Pomfret: I am very much a Stephen King fan – I have all his works on my bookshelves. I have such fond memories of discovering his early works as a child, so I would always tend towards those as my favourites, although I loved 11.22.63. My favourite adaptation has to be Tobe Hooper’s take on Salem’s Lot. I remember the absolute excitement in the schoolyard the day after the first installment when the miniseries was first broadcast in the UK in 1981.
SKSM: Did you have any personal contact with King during the making of the movie? Has he seen it (and if so, what did he think about it)?
Tony Pomfret: I didn’t have any contact with Mr. King. The contract was agreed with his representatives and part of the agreement was that he would have no involvement in the project, which I think is fair and I can understand his perspective in that. After all, the whole Dollar Baby initiative is ultimately an altruistic enterprise to benefit filmmakers at the very start of their careers and given the sheer number of Dollar Baby projects that have been done that would amount to a hell of a lot of eager-beavers desperate to bend his ear and make friends because at the heart of anybody taking on a Dollar Baby is a Stephen King fan that would dream to have the kind of relationship that someone like Darabont has had.
SKSM: Do you have any plans for making more movies based on Stephen King’s stories? If you could pick -at least- one story to shoot, which one would it be and why?
Tony Pomfret: I don’t have any plans for more adaptation as of yet but if I was to choose another it would be The Long Walk (I’m assuming that picking Bachman isn’t cheating) as it struck a chord in me the first time I read it as I felt it’s tone to be superficially low-key and unassuming but simultaneously terrifying in its sense of normalcy, much like Night Surf was for me. I also like the idea of filming Crouch End in Crouch End – I’m in London, why not give it a go?
SKSM: What are you working nowadays?
Tony Pomfret: At the moment I am focusing on writing and have two features that I am working on. One is a sci-fi drama (think Ken Loach in space), while the other is playing with Lovecraftian ideas and is designed to be an anthology spanning a hundred years of a cult bringing about the end of the world.
SKSM: What is one thing people would be surprised to know about you?
Tony Pomfret: If you’ve got specific music DVD documentaries you can hear me talking to you through your television.
SKSM: Thanks for taking the time to answer my questions. Is there anything you want to say to your fans?
Tony Pomfret: I wouldn’t assume to have any fans, but you are very welcome. Thank you for getting in contact with me.
SKSM: Would you like to add something?
Tony Pomfret: In the words of Chris Hardwick: Don’t text and drive.