On the Set of Solis – Yorkshire’s First Sci-Fi Blockbuster Film
By Roger Crow
It’s a freezing morning in the final hours of November as I arrive at GSP Studios in Bubwith. After the success of their acclaimed features The Knife That Killed Me, and Awaiting, the studio is boldly going into the realm of galactic adventure.
Producer Charlette Kilby is wrapped up after the coldest night of the year. She’s overseeing filming on Solis, a visually stunning, emotionally gripping sci-fi movie starring Steven Ogg.
For gamers he’s best known as Trevor Phillips, the unhinged anti-hero who helped make Grand Theft Auto V one of the highest grossing games of all time. Since then the motion capture superstar has gone on to shine in The Walking Dead and Westworld. But Solis is the feature that will make him a movie star.
Ogg was lured from hot LA to the chilly East Riding of Yorkshire by the fact that Solis is not your typical sci-fi offering. He connected with the emotional complexity of his character, Troy Holloway, a man whose plight should grab viewers in the opening minutes and not let go until the gripping finale.
“I needed someone who needed this”
When I first see the Canadian actor on screen, he’s hovering inside an icy chamber. Next door on the set I see him through a veil of smoke… floating. There are no wires above him. It’s a trick that would make any stage sorcerer proud.
For Charlette, getting magic like this on film is the culmination of years of planning, pitching, cold calling and getting enough money to make the dream a reality.
Essex duo Charlette and Carl Strathie met at school when they were 11. That friendship eventually blossomed into something more personal.
“I love films. I’m such a geek and watching films and going to the cinema was always a passion of mine. But I never thought you could make a career of it,” she explains. “So Carl said ‘I’m making this little film, do you want to come and help me?'” Charlette agreed, and they set to work.
The writer/director wanted ‘tentpoles’ to prop their first feature up. So they got Moon’s production designer Tony Noble on board as one, and Ogg as the other. Carl was so impressed with his performance on GTA V, he wrote the sci-fi project for him. He also had a back-up script in case Solis wasn’t Ogg’s cup of tea.
“I needed someone who ’needed’ this,” explains Carl. Though not a fan of sci-fi, the actor loved the tale of a broken man on a collision course with the sun, and signed up.
“I’m not a very technical person”
Some space sagas get bogged down with gadgets and jargon. Though Solis might have a lot of technical props, Strathie never lets technology get in the way of his story. “I’m not a very technical person,” he says. “I don’t get on well with phones and computers. I write scripts by hand and then I write them up on the computer if I have to.”
It’s that human touch which may attract viewers normally left cold by sci-fi, whether in Boston, Massachusetts or Boston, Lincolnshire.
I’m like a kid on Christmas morning when I see Tony Noble and his colleagues hard at work, creating Carl and Charlette’s world. Of course, the best designer can’t paper over the cracks if there’s no story. The beating heart of Solis is that emotional bond between the audience and the troubled protagonist. Although the hardware is impressive, it’s just a backdrop to the human drama unfolding.
“The idea of this is that it’s a man trapped inside an escape pod, but he’s also trapped inside his own grief,” explains Charlette. Thankfully help is at hand.
“Roberts, who is in the rescue ship coming to save him, is like the cop hanging out the window saying ‘Don’t jump! You’ve got so much to live for, and do you know what? Your life is actually better than mine. I’ve gone through worse than what you’ve gone through’, and she is really the heroine in the fact that she pulls him back from the brink.”
“A movie that punches above its weight”
Steven is in Yorkshire until just before Christmas, and the six day weeks have left him a little frustrated. “The tough part is because of our schedule that I can’t enjoy it more,” he explains.
He has managed to wind down on his days off. Footage of him play shooting a finger gun through York’s city walls have sent his Instagram views soaring. However, he does plan to return to Blighty for a well earned vacation. The fish and chips from Howden may be one of the reasons for his pending return. In one photo he shared online, Ogg looked like he was about to devour the plate as well. Given the fact he looks as lean as a marathon runner, I’m guessing a few extra calories won’t hurt a bit.
Film-making can be a precarious business, even on multi-million dollar sci-fi epics, but I love little movies that punch above their weight. Given Ogg’s impressive performance on day one and the skills of Carl and Charlette’s crew, I get the feeling Solis is one movie that won’t get lost in space.
Thanks to GSP Studios and the cast and crew of Solis for their help with this article. The movie is due for release in 2017.
Top image: Steven Ogg in ‘Solis’ – by Bart Sienkiewicz