Fans of the YouTuber Stuart Ashen (otherwise known as Ashens – visit his channel here) will remember his cinematic debut back in 2013 with his free-to-watch and available to view on YouTube film Ashens And The Quest For The GameChild. The film managed to take the concept of Stuart reviewing cheap plastic knock-off products on his brown sofa and expand it to a full cinematic experience with quirky characters, a developed plot and multiple locations. It also featured cameos from beloved actors Robert Llewellyn and Warwick Davies.
The film had positive reception, and amassed just shy of one million views on YouTube. Three years later the team behind the film decided to re-screen the it due to popular demand at the Prince Charles Cinema in London, along with a sold-out Q&A with Stuart Ashen and director Riyad Barmania. It was also at this screening where Stuart Ashen confirmed that there would be a squeal to GameChild, with a 2016 release date.
MCMBuzz caught up with Stuart Ashen and Riyad Barmania to discuss the screening and the upcoming squeal.
What made you decide to screen the movie again?
Stuart: “I frequently got requests for another cinema screening, and it’s something we love to do; there’s nothing like seeing an audience’s reaction to your work on the big screen.”
Riyad: “Other than the constant requests from fans, the film was made to be viewed on the biggest screen possible. We made this with a cinematic ethos all the way from the aspect ratio we shot on, to the way we graded it and the professional sound mix so it’s great to give fans the opportunity to see it the way it was meant to be seen and heard. ”
Re-watching the film now is there anything that you wish you’d done differently at the time?
Riyad: “Of course! I think every film you work on you want to make better or improve. I’m constantly asking myself what I would do differently. But both Stuart and I agree that once a film is done and out in the world, you have to let it go, accept it what it is including the good and bad and move on.”
Stuart: “Absolutely. It’s so easy as an actor to look at something and think, ‘Ah, I wish I’d done that a bit differently,’ but a lot of that tends to be down to over-analysis and self-doubt rather than anything wronf with the production itself! We’re both incredibly happy with how the film turned out.”
Does producing a film for YouTube have any special challenges?
Riyad: “Not really. Our approach to making this film was always to make a good film, not a good ‘YouTube film’. Of course some of the story and character acknowledges the platform and the audience but it in no way limited us.”
The movie was released two years for free on YouTube. How popular did you expect the film to become?
Stuart: “We had no real idea how successful it would be, as releasing an entire 90 minute feature film directly onto YouTube was entirely new territory. At the time we said we would have considered it a success if 150,000 people watched it and it had 70% likes to dislikes. Now over two years later it stands at over 915,000 views and over 98.5% likes – it’s way beyond anything we dreamed of. ”
What drew you into making a sequel?
Stuart: “I’m very pleased to say popular demand!mThe success of the first film means we’ve been able to secure funding, and we know there’s an audience keen to see it. Plus we really, really love writing and producing films.”
Do you currently have any ideas for the follow-up film?
Stuart: “Oh yes! The entire structure of the movie is in place and we’re half way through the script. We plan to shoot in a few months. It will still be in the ‘Ashens’ world that we created in the first film, but we’re going to shift the genre a bit. I can’t tell you which genre… yet!”
What will you do differently in the new film than the first one?
Riyad: “A lot of things! The first film really was made on a very small budget in a short amount of time. This time we will have a bit more money and more time to prep, which is key to making a film. We’re bringing back a lot of the crew from the first one, so we’re all going to get together very soon and go through what we thought worked and what didn’t and try to make the sequel as good as we possibly can. ”
Other than yourselves, do you have any confirmed actors, appearances or people to work on it?
Stuart: “I’m afraid that’s top secret and I absolutely cannot even hint that Robert Llewllyn is confirmed to be reprising his role as the Professor. Not even a little bit. Sorry.”
Will the new film also be released via YouTube?
Stuart: “We’re still exploring the options right now but we’ll probably have a different distribution strategy this time to get it out to a bigger audience and to make sure the people who are investing in the film at least get their money back!”
Interview by Sam Halford