The Expedition Movie Panel at MCM Birmingham Comic Con

Expedition Movie Panel (2)

Starting off a whole range of interesting talks at this weekend’s MCM Birmingham Comic Con, the creators and actors of a brand new monster film, The Expedition, were welcomed to the stage.

The Expedition follows the story of a group of researchers who journey into the Amazon rainforest to learn about rare and endangered species. In the process, the team make some startling discoveries. The following description is from the film’s website:

“Deep in the Amazon jungle a Research Team lead by a respected Professor embark on an Expedition to protect vulnerable and endangered species.

After a series of strange events their superstitious guides abandon them and the team choose to remain deep in the jungle, dedicated to their project… but as night falls in the camp they begin to realize that all is not as it seems, and that they are in the hunting ground of a predator…. a creature they never could have expected.

Now they are the ones on the endangered list.”

Our guests at MCM Birmingham Comic Con were writer, producer and actor Ben Loyd-Holmes, writer and director Adam Spinks, and actors Neil Newbon, Dolores Reynals, Sarah Mac and Daniel Caren. After an exciting preview of the film’s trailer, the discussion got going with a question about what it had been like to make such an ambitious looking film on a tight budget. Adam Spinks was first to reply, saying that although it hadn’t been easy, it’s great for filmmakers to challenge themselves in this way. “We wanted to say it is actually possible to do this and it’s actually possible to do it well,” said Adam. 

Ben Loyd-Holmes expanded on this, describing the importance of recognising your limits and being aware of what you’re capable of doing. He explained that as well as using CGI, real creatures had been made for the film, including a huge mechanical dinosaur operated by a man on the inside. “We knew that in order to create a dinosaur movie it’s a case of, ‘Okay, is this doable?’” said Ben. It took a lot of time, research and testing before they could be sure that this amazing creature would actually work. “We realised the suit is possible, the creature is possible, the mechanics are possible,” said Ben. “The rest of it is just additional planning. The big thing was the dinosaur and once we got that, really the rest was easy.”

Asked next about how they managed to make the film convincingly scary, the panelists spoke about how they’d tried to be as realistic as possible, not just in their performances, but also in terms of their own expedition and how they went about actually making the film. Neil Newbon described how immersed they had all been in the story because of the way they were living. Trekking out into the wilderness together, the cast and crew “spent most of their time together” and “bonded a lot”, as well as encountering a lot of real difficulties and physical challenges. In Neil’s own words, there were “a lot of cuts and scrapes”. During their difficult journeys, they had to live like real explorers, keeping their things with them in their rucksacks and drinking from canteens instead of having a catering hut.

Another key factor, according to Ben Loyd-Holmes, was that the cast didn’t actually get to see the dinosaur in advance of filming. The first time they encountered it was at night. He explained that “essentially the cast arrive, they get changed and they walk into the darkness and there is a T. Rex standing there. It becomes quite intimidating.”

Daniel Caren recalled how scary it actually seemed up close, even though they knew it wasn’t real. “It really does look big when you’re really close to it,” he said. “It’s huge. We call it Big Al. The sheer size of it, when you’re really close to it, it’s quite intimidating.” 

Adam Spinks said that working in such a naturalistic way had made it seem almost like making a documentary, with everything feeling fresh and exciting. “I actually love, love, love the way we did this, because it was so natural,” he said. “It isn’t really acting so much as just trying to capture a moment of reality. I think it was a massive challenge to do this on this budget, but I also think it probably made the movie better.” 

On a lighter note, the following question was about off-camera pranks. Though it sounds as though there wasn’t much deliberate trickery, the team definitely had a lot of fun and got themselves into plenty of hairy situations without pranking each other. Sarah Mac recounted a story about a rather “ominous lump” she’d developed after injuring herself on a rock, while Ben Loyd-Holmes claimed that she’d managed to take “the most knocks out of everybody” throughout the venture. Sarah revealed that, “on Twitter we posted up some injuries, guessing which ones were real and which were make-up.”

Speaking about their favourite moments during the filming process, everyone seemed to agree that, rather than anything they’d shot, the best times had been in between shooting, when they had a chance to take in the incredible beauty of the scenery around them, as well as to develop their relationships with each other. “We were walking, sometimes in silence, helping each other to abseil down a mountain or walk around a waterfall,” said Sarah. “That was real, we weren’t filming at the time.”

Ben particularly found it an eye-opening experience, saying that much of the time, he’d be too busy being anxious about the film to appreciate what was around him. Every so often, however, someone would say something that would make him stop and think and realise where they were and what a privilege it was to be there. Adam, too, described a tough moment towards the end of filming when they’d been walking and struggling down a ravine for about an hour and 40 minutes. The effort was well worth it. “When we got there it was the most beautiful place I’d ever seen,” said Adam. “We did a scene with Sarah, Daniel and Simon [Burbage]. I think it summed up the whole project for me. When we finished the scene, I turned around to look at the crew and they were all crying. It was just an incredible moment.”

Finally, asked by an audience member how they had managed to fund the film, Ben revealed that crowdfunding had been a huge help. “Adam and I thought about this, so we started on the crowdfunding platform,” he said. “We [raised] about £12,000 – £13,000 and during that process a lot of investors heard about the project, because there was a bit of buzz about these crazy people making a monster movie who won’t tell anyone what the monster is.” Crowdfunding “helped get the ball rolling”, and because of the interest it generated, investors came out to support the film too. 

The Expedition is likely to be released in the first or second quarter of 2014.

To find out more about the film, visit


Additional content by Shalimar Sahota

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