Before ‘The Northman’, there was ‘The Neolith’ – how this independent filmmaker did it

On the moors of a desolate land where the silence of the wind reigns, a mysterious man challenges a pack of bloodthirsty savages whose thirst for domination is flourishing.

This post was written by Daniel Boocock.

I guess you saw The man from the north? What did you think?

I liked myself. I’m glad it was done, especially with its alternate approach and style. I hope it makes decent money and continues to be well received. I wouldn’t mind having that kind of budget myself in the future. I could do something really special with this dough!

my short film The Neolith was made in 2020. Although somewhat different in some themes, there are similarities even with huge budget differences. You can watch it here.

The Neolith

The Neolith has some parallels with The man from the north, even for a short, but with a different atmosphere. Both are ambitious and epic. Big and bold. Single camera, outdoor shooting. But rather than being typically Viking, some consider The Neolith as set entirely in a different historical period or even in the future. Others think it’s a moment out of time.

The word “neolith” actually implies a new era. Take what you want. Ultimately, however, it’s up to the viewer to decide where it takes place. From a cinematic point of view, my intention was to make a show with substance. Certainly not the usual kind of short film. In fact, preparing and shooting the project was a whirlwind in itself. imagine if The man from the north and Rise of Valhalla had a thuggish child… It’s kind of along the lines of what The Neolith is.

Credit: Daniel Boocock

The production

Even with as much preparation as possible, The Neolith was always going to be a project that, metaphorically speaking, was like walking a tightrope.

There was no help from any filming organization. No film industry or company is logging on to get me going. I just took matters into my own hands regardless of disappointments or rejections and decided to carry on. Sacrifices were made, finances were limited, and the crew was minimal.

My approach was cavalier from the start, and others agreed. It was very exciting, even though at the same time I knew it was all about me. The actors had to prepare physically and vocally and fully embrace the real environment. Some changes had to happen on the fly if a boat couldn’t sail or a place was inaccessible or the weather wasn’t right. Many times we walked or sometimes climbed.

Sweat poured off us as we dragged all the gear on our backs even though it was very cold. Everyone fell in the bogs. I even fell into a loch while dragging a canoe. I just changed my shirt and socks and carried on. Access and article agreements have been concluded with the inhabitants. It was all high stakes in the best way.

The Isle of Skye (where we filmed) is beautiful, otherworldly, wild and unpredictable. The weather is its own beast that can get you excited in an instant. It was the perfect place to reflect some of the conflicts and dynamics within The Neolith narrative. The pitches were located on top of the mountains. In the lochs themselves or even in wild pools. I used many marshy moors, green glens and ancient volcanic black beaches. Large, hot fires were lit in the dead of night and real weapons were used.

I loved every second. There was no fear at all. Creatively, it was a big adrenaline rush. I couldn’t help thinking what it must be like for people to do these things for real. I would like to do it again on a larger scale. I would create a cinematic monster!

Credit: Daniel Boocock

The story

As a movie, The Neolith is actually an allegorical tale. On the surface, it’s kind of a straightforward story with a lot of terror, menace and atmosphere, rampaging savages doing as they please, though the conflict escalates between them when they encounter something. something that poses a direct challenge. I didn’t want to make a typical blood-and-guts type short. Don’t get me wrong, I kinda like that as an implication, but if you look The Neolith a little deeper, especially early on, you’ll notice there’s a lot of symbology and room for interpretation. Even from the first images.

The sparks, the sounds, the looks on the faces of the characters, the earth, the clouds, the colors, the music, the dark and the light everywhere. All of this involves something like an undercurrent that the audience can interpret in their own way. This approach on my part was one hundred percent intentional. The Neolith is a very cinematic piece with a bit of mystery. It has scale and sets, although at times it can be intimate. As a viewer, you can take it one way or watch it another.

Credit: Daniel Boocock

There were many highlights, having several close friends and family in Skye by my side was great to share the experience and see it all come to life. After filming, many esteemed critics loved the film. I’ve had some memorable showings with them, but it’s a shame COVID hit when it did. Especially for aspiring filmmakers.

Stylistically The Neolith is totally different from other shorts. I wanted to change some aspects of how shorts are usually identified and I’m happy with the result. My logic is, If that’s what I can do with a little, imagine what I can do with more.

The Neolith sets the tone for the future and shows the potential of what can be done. I hope this will motivate other filmmakers and moviegoers as they have motivated me. There is still a lot to do to move forward, especially to reach the highest levels. Although what I know for certain is that given the right platform, with the right resources and the right staff… cinematically speaking, I will be able to swing with the best of them.

Credit: Daniel Boocock

Advice for filmmakers

You should push things to the limit and a bit further if you think your story calls for it. The Neolith needed this approach, and it was worth it.

Break the rules. Or bend them to your liking. There is no challenge too great, even if the resources available to you are modest. If the skills and the will are there, then it can be done. A little can do a lot to look like a lot.

Not trying is the real danger. Avoid potential collaborators who give you bad vibes, go with those you bond with.

In the end, it all depends on how much you want it. None of the greats got anywhere playing it safe. If it’s in you to do it, then you will do it, no matter what. It may take time, but as long as a genuine commitment is there on your part and you take a few steps, sooner or later you will find your way.


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