I got a chance to interview Dan Smith, the creator of a Kickstarter campaign about his new short film project, FlySpy. Dan has filmed with drones and helicopters and is a 3d effects expert so I found this project especially interesting. It is a dark short film about a guy who builds a drone disguised as a fly to spy on his ex-girlfriend. I am looking forward to watching this short film and it will not get made unless it gets backed on Kickstarter! If you enjoyed this interview, consider backing the project.
I recorded this skype interview and then had it transcribed so it reads like an actual conversation, please excuse any errors!
Dan Smith Interview - FlySpy
Justin: So, cool! Okay. The design of the fly looks mechanical, but it seems to be inspired by an actual fly. Why did you choose biological design instead of a quadcopter?
Dan: Okay. So, have you seen the Kickstarter video?
Dan: So, the story is basically about Greg and he flies it into his ex-girlfriend's house. And so, the whole point of him having a drone is that he can secretly fly into her house. So, obviously, the main reason for him making it as a fly, if you are looking at it logically from the character's point of view, is that it's in disguise, you know, and it's invisible pretty much. Unless you looked at it very closely, you would think it was a fly. But, the other reason for me, is just because it looks really cool, you know?
Dan: A fly drone looks really cool and it's good for a film and it's fascinating, to see a fly robot. It's just an interesting image really.
Dan: But, yeah, the main thing for the character is that it's, you know, it's an invisible thing and there are, I am sure you have come across as a person who is in that whole world, you know, these various art schools that I have seen on the internet that suggest that the military are already making these fly drones for spying and things like that.
Dan: I am sure you have come across those articles of it.
Justin: I have definitely seen them and actually, this is further down, but let's see. So, does the fly have a brain that's been hacked into or is the device purely mechanical?
Dan: No, it's not like... because there are cockroaches like that. Have you seen those?
Justin: Yeah, that's where the question came from.
Dan: Yeah, no, it's not one of those. No, this is a... this is supposed to be a purely mechanical thing that the Greg has built in the film.
Justin: So, one of the things that I love in movies just because I am kind of a nerd who has seen stuff get developed. Like, in the movie, are you going to focus on the actual building design of the drone like how Greg pulls it off?
Dan: My original script had him building it and it was going to be him sitting at desk with a little, you know, one of those little microscopic things that holds things with a magnifying glass and everything, but it's not really about the building of the thing. It's more about the consequences of its existence.
Dan: If you have seen what I mean. You know, the whole point of this film is that it's the consequences of technology on human behavior, if you see what I mean. So, how does our advancing technology impact the way that we behave with each other, you know? And if you look at things like Facebook and things like that how is that effected, how we interact with each other and, you know, you can't go and look at pictures of your ex-girlfriend on Facebook if you want to and stuff like that. And this is a kind of physical manifestation of that. So, for us, in the writing stage, it was less important to see how the thing was being built rather what did he do with it and what were the consequences of it existing.
Justin: Okay. Makes sense. And then what would you say to drone enthusiasts and RC people who like this stuff, who might see this is and they might be worried about making people more paranoid about their hobby?
Dan: I would say get a fly swatter.
Justin: Hahaha - Awesome! Okay. Let's see. Do you have a drone or any RC experience?
Dan: I used to have a radio-controlled car. I have had a few radio-controlled cars years ago. I used to have a Grasshopper. Do you remember The Grasshoppers?
Justin: Oh man! Yeah, they re-released that actually.
Dan: Oh, did they? And then I had a Thunder Shock after that and my friend had a Midnight Pumpkin and what else?
Justin: Oh classics!
Dan: I had a radio-controlled plane. I broke that really quickly.
Justin: Yeah, most people do that.
Dan: But, since that, no, I have messed around with drones. I don't own my own, but I filmed with drones a few times.
Dan: And we filmed something on the Normandy beach a little while ago with a drone and they are amazing. We had a helicopter and a drone on the streets so we could do... we are filming a huge piece of art on a beach at Normandy and we were filming with the drone because the guy's, the French artist was drawing a huge number 100 with giant horse hooves and it's about 100 metres across. So, we filmed it with a drone and then we went up in helicopter to get a massive wide top shot as well. Yeah, I filmed with them a couple of times. Yeah, I'd like to do more, actually. I love it. It's great. In fact, right now, I am editing something which has got... which we have used for filming with the drone as well.
Justin: Nice! Well...
Dan: Some horses.
Justin: What do you like using better? Helicopters or drones? Or is there a place for both?
Dan: Oh, there is place for both, definitely. I mean, helicopters are good for getting higher up, obviously.
Dan: And, you know, you can... The benefit with filming with a helicopter and a, I forgot what you call them, but you get this stabilizer with stabilizing head.
Justin: A gimbal?
Dan: A gimbal, but it's more... say, Cineflex they are called.
Dan: And you put them in front of your helicopter and it totally stabilizes the shot and that means you can get a bigger camera up there and a longer lens. So, say, for example, if you are filming animals that you didn't wanna spook, then you can go really, really high up in the sky and then get a really long focal length lens and film from a lot further away. So, that's a benefit of that. But, with drones, you know, the fact that you don't need to get permission at the moment.
Dan: And they are just so much more versatile and cheaper and you can go from a close-up on a person's face and then go right high up in the sky, all in the same shot whereas if you do that with a helicopter, it will be an absolute nightmare. So, it's amazing, for me, as a film maker that drones have come about because they are, you know, they transform everything.
Justin: Cool! And then in your press packet, you said you were looking to film VR footage in 270 degree field of view. Can you give some more details on that? And how are you gonna pull that off? And like, what's the technology you are going to use to do it?
Dan: Yeah. Well, I would rather not go into detail about that actually because I am doing it with a company that they are kind of half way through developing it already. So, I don't really wanna talk too much about the nitty-gritty of it, but yeah, we are hoping to film a little bit of virtual reality video...
Justin: Is it Jaunt's...
Dan: ... of the fly's vision.
Justin: Is it Jaunt VR out of San Francisco, by any chance?
Dan: Is it what, sorry?
Justin: Is it Jaunt out of San Francisco?
Dan: No, no.
Dan: No, no. So, there's a company called... No, I don't wanna say actually because it will... I will probably not, if that's okay.
Justin: Okay. No problem. Yeah. Of course. Well, and okay, so since you are going to be doing that, do you plan on actually releasing any VR content like for the Oculus Rift or the Samsung VR device?
Dan: Uh, actually, yeah. It'd be great if we could. Yeah, we would like to, yeah, we would like to film something and yeah, release a bit of content of the fly's vision, you know? So, there is the fly's idea sort of thing.
Justin: That would be really cool. Alright, I got one last question for you. What is the liquid in the wasp's abdomen?
Dan: Oh, that's a... How much do I wanna give away of this? I mean, it's a poisonous thing. So, it's just poison in there.
Justin: Okay. I figured it was... Is there some special poison? Is it...
Dan: No, no, it just is a specific... No, it's just a, you know, deadly poison.
Justin: Okay. It's not some insanity inducing... okay.
Dan: No, no, no. It's just a poison, yeah.
Justin: Alright! Well, cool! That's all my questions. If you have anything else there to add?
Dan: No, I just like to add if you could somehow just get it into your article that this film's not gonna get made if we don't have contributors because we are funding it on Kickstarter.com and I am sure Kelly sent you a link to our campaign and everything. But, if you could somehow...
Justin: I will highlight that, sure.
Dan: ... include that in there and say there's a signed artwork Jake Lunt, the guy who did the flying wasp, the signed artwork has one of the rewards which is proving to be pretty popular and we are hoping that we are gonna be able to sell quite a few more of those in order to fund the whole thing.
Dan: But, yeah, if you could just say there's some really cool rewards up there and steer people towards the site so they contribute.