Exclusive : Keir Burrows talks acclaimed sci-fi film Anti-Matter

Writer-director Keir Burrow’s critically acclaimed sci-fi masterpiece “Anti Matter” hits theaters and VOD this September from Uncork’d Entertainment.

Experience “art-house psychological horror at its finest” (MovieCrypt.com) in a “stylish and intriguing” (Shadows on the Wall) take on “Alice in Wonderland”.

Ana, an Oxford PhD student finds herself unable to build new memories following an experiment to generate and travel through a wormhole. The story follows her increasingly desperate efforts to understand what happened, and to find out who – or what – is behind the rising horror in her life.

Featuring a cast “anchored by a strong performance from Yaiza Figueroa” (Eye for Film), “Anti Matter” is a “taut thriller that should appeal to both hard sci-fi fans and those who don’t know their wormholes from their warp drives” (One Room With a View).

Why Alice in Wonderland? Why did it lend itself so well to a “psychological horror” film?

 

Hi, thanks for having me on. To be very honest with you, the Alice in Wonderland connection only came very late in the day. I started off thinking I was going to make a really cerebral Primer-like sci-fi. It was only when we were in production and it became clear we were making something a little ‘weirder’, that the Wonderland motifs started to worm in. It’s not in any way ‘based on’ Caroll’s work, but there are some fun similarities, parallels we could play with. Alice in Wonderland is a great base for adult paranoid horror of the weird variety, that idea that you fall down a rabbit hole and can’t get out and everything is just a little… strange. A world where the rules are different. I like that.

 

 

Is horror/sci-fi the first and only genre you’ve worked in?

Not at all. So Anti Matter is my first feature, and it’s sci-fi with horror elements. Before that I’ve made a number of short films, various genres, that we did quite well with at festivals around the world. Air, my first, was horror/sci-fi. Donkey the most successful short I made was just a simple little black and white drama, no ‘genre’ stylings at all. Grace was a drama with some end-of-world elements but not really sci-fi. And The Showreel is a comedy-drama. So all very different! They’re all up on YouTube if anyone’s interested. The Showreel is my favourite, Donkey is probably the best, though I’m very proud of them all.

Will you stick with horror or is there an itch to try something different soon?

 

So I’m hoping the next thing we do is a full-bore monster horror, called A Spriggan. I’m REALLY excited about it, it’s kind of The Conjuring/Shining by way of Del Toro, proper misty woods and creaking floorboards and Lovecraftian terror around every corner. A beautiful, terrifying movie. Hoping to get that made on a proper budget. I have a drama I’m ready to shoot about a sheriff in small town Oklahoma, it’s a lovely story, not horror at all. About existential loneliness. So no, my hope is, like with the shorts, to play a broad field. Ha, let’s see though, one thing at a time.

 

How did you get into filmmaking?

Good question! Late in the game. I always wanted to be an author, and was about 25 and was failing at that in the way you do when you’re young and dramatic and if you’re not Stephen King you’re a flop. And I thought, right, what the hell can I do with my life, I love writing but I’m not getting published, and I’m not really that good at sequestering myself away for months on end either. What can I do? Also with film there are so many routes in to the industry – difficult routes but there are many. With novels there’s literally just one, publish or die. And so I did a bit of film school, and began making short films, and kept at that – I got a good day job teaching acting at a major London university, so I got to practice my craft for a living, which was great. And here I am.

Was this your most professional and accomplished production?

 

Yes, most definitely. I mean saying that, it’s a small budget shoot, so we did it the way Chris Nolan did Following – we broke the shoot up into half a dozen or more chunks, and spread them on and off over the course of almost a year. So it was more like making 6 short films, which made it do-able. But on the bigger segments – all the lab stuff, all the interiors in the flats and restaurants and so on, yeah we had a full crew, catering even. It was great! Catering. Lol. It doesn’t take much to impress me.

 

How is Uncork’d Entertainment to work with?

Awful!! Ha, no I’m kidding, they’re fantastic. Really supportive. An absolute dream to work with for first-time filmmakers, they’re upfront, communicative, answer every dumb question we have, very friendly. We did our due diligence before partnering up with them and they’ve got a fantastic reputation amongst producers as honest, easy, and professional. I met Keith at Berlinale earlier this year actually, which was great to have a face to face with them. They seem to be taking good care of our baby so, yeah. Good people!

 

Did you have a bidding battle for the movie after all those great reviews hit in the UK?

We didn’t actually, more’s the pity – we’d already signed with Uncork’d in the US and Kaleidoscope in the UK before any reviews came out, hell even before it went to festivals. Hahaha ah we just wanted it out of our hands. We had several companies to chose from, which was nice, we went with those with a track record with projects like ours, and who had a good name and a reputation.

By the looks of the pics, it looks like you were filming in some fun locations?

Bloody hell I hate locations. Literally the bane of low budget filmmaking, when you’re trying to be ambitious. One of the cardinal rules for low budget filmmkaking is – as few locations as possible (also no kids or animals, and we have those too). I think we hit something like 40 locations in the course of our film – including grand old manor houses, subterranean basement laboratories, the misty streets of Oxford, England at 4am. Then though A LOT was in our own flats, rejigged and walls painted to look interesting. Or where we worked. As much as we could make work at places we could get for free, we did.

Did you have a fave location?

Haha no they were all mayhem. Ah, the lab location was an old abandoned cardboard factory that we decorated, that was the most fun, I suppose, because it was a 2 week block of filming and it really felt like a proper film set. Big crew, cast, props, effects. Catering! That was the first properly catered production I had. Nothing like bacon for breakfast. You can see it left an impression, right?

 

There’s even a bit of a Flatliners-look and feel to the film. Or is that just me?

Absolutely. There’s a lot of that – Primer, Flatliners, The Fly, where people invent some sort of wonder-machine that has unforeseen consequences.

Do you have any locations in mind for a sequel, should there be one?

I mean look, never say never, but I don’t think it’s a film that necessarily asks for a sequel? It’s kind of all about – in my mind anyway – the philosophical questions, the what makes a person real, might we have a soul, nature of humanity stuff. The plot itself is secondary. I mean there’s potential, but if I did a sequel I’d prefer to do it way down the line, hopefully with a bigger budget, and do it far removed from the first story. A tangential sequel. So maybe set in the future when all the effects of teleportation they discuss have come to pass. When I get to do my Interstellar or whatever, perhaps the wormhole devices will be named after their creator in Anti Matter. But find a completely new story to tell, with its own depth, using that world? So tl;dr answer about sequel locations is: SPACE!

 

What about ideas for a sequel?

As above!

 

Besides promoting this movie, what’s next?

So I have a slate of exciting projects I’m working on, various stages of development. Several finished scripts that are getting some traction, had one optioned, several other things I’m writing. As I mentioned already, I have this big, spooky horror, Conjuring/The Shining by way of Del Toro, that I hope to do next but I’m happy to spend however long it takes and get a proper budget for it. I have some other smaller films too, if that takes too long. We’ll see. I’m not in a mad hurry, we have two small kids with a third on the way, so life is pretty full on right now.