Creating indie sci-fi is a labor of love—even more so when the budget is near zero. That’s the case with RED VELVET REVOLUTION, which creates a dystopian future in which people’s lives are directed like reality shows without their knowledge. The characters in RED VELVET REVOLUTION don’t realize their lives are being scripted. And not everyone behind the scenes approves of a world that is so controlled. The pilot was filmed on zero budget, and the web series episodes were made for £1000.
Sci-Fi and Social Critique
Filmmaker and videographer Vivien Rosewood, creator of RED VELVET REVOLUTION, says she fell in love with science fiction’s power to express social criticism through unconventional language and the use of strong metaphors and analogies.
“A long time ago, while reading the book Blindness by Jose Saramago, I understood for the first time how powerful a social critique could be coming from a sci-fi work,” says Rosewood. “Powerful emotions are necessary in the search for change. And I remember I was shocked; I was both nauseated and amazed by the strong language in Blindness. I felt like I was awakening from the falsehood and the mediocrity of everyday life. I decided I wanted to write stories capable of awakening other people in a similar way.”
Falling in Love with Film Early On
Rosewood’s interest in directing started young. “I’ve always wanted to be a film director, ever since I was a child spending mostly all my time watching movies and then arguing with the other children because I wanted to ‘stage’ them during our plays,” she says. She wrote her first script at 15, made short videos with friends, and went on to study cinema at La Sapienza University of Rome. “That opportunity opened up a whole new world to me. It gave a definitive push to my creative universe in terms of research of themes and reflection,” she says.
Rosewood’s time at La Sapienza also inspired the story in RED VELVET REVOLUTION. “I had the feeling that even if we do believe to be in control of our lives, we are not—because our society traces predetermined roads and we end up following them, no matter what. It was really frustrating to think that often, making a decision or wanting to achieve something is the beginning or the ending of a journey in which our will, our real will, matters very little, and it’s just the consequence of a chain of external stimuli that have nothing to do with our true self. From this was born the idea of the ‘lifemakers’ [those who direct people’s lives in the web series].”
Balancing Filmmaking with Budget Concerns
Rosewood created a script, then adapted it to work on an extremely low budget—a mere £1000 for the web series episodes, and a zero budget for its pilot. No easy task. “When you are directing and producing with little money, everything becomes a huge compromise and a race against time,” she says. “The worst part in a zero-budget project is when you feel you cannot demand too much from the people you are working with because you are not paying them. It’s mostly something personal, a guilt you have to deal with and that you must defeat, no matter what.
“It was also very difficult to film with 8 people in a 15 square meters studio flat. But I was lucky enough to have a very supportive cast and crew. I was capable of managing the whole filming thanks to their commitment.”
Focusing on the Acting and the Score
To make the most of her micro-budget, Rosewood opted to make everything as real as possible. “I wanted to see [the characters] in control of their emotions and see on their faces the indifference toward events around them because this is what’s happening in our society nowadays. Even love had to become just an expedient to escape from the hell of a predetermined life. So, I guided cast and crew in this direction, to ‘de-emotionalize’ characters and places. Maybe sometimes I asked my actors to be as less expressive as possible, but I don’t regret this choice. I think it was essential in order to stage the human constraints I was interested in.”
Another element that added nuance to the sci-fi dystopia was the music. “I asked the music composer, Valentin Doychinov, to create an additional narrative,” says Rosewood. “I asked Valentin to use the music to tell the truth about the characters from the very beginning, when it’s still hidden to the audience. He took in great consideration the most hidden soul movements; the level of depth he reached is stunning.”
Will a season 2 be in the works? “I would love to,” says Rosewood. “With a higher budget, I could use the original script I started to write in 2010. A second season would work as prequel, showing the story of another Unit involved in the revolution.”
Vivien Rosewood is the pseudonym and personal brand name of Viviana Di Capua, Bristol-based freelance videographer. Rosewood is also co-founder of London Filmmakers, an independent film and music collective that over the years has worked hard to become one of the most respected names in audiovisual production. Connect with her on the Facebook and Instagram pages for RED VELVET REVOLUTION.