For someone about to make his first Hollywood movie, Ash Bolland seems remarkably calm. After all, he says, thousands of films are made every year; a visit to any video rental store is testament to that. It’s simply a matter of craftsmanship.
“It’s just as tricky or complicated as making a really beautiful desk or a really beautiful house or anything like that. It’s a process. You break it all down and you work it out, you do the best you can and hope it works out at the end.”
Born and raised in New Zealand, Bolland began his career as a graphic designer before progressing into the realm of moving images. He eventually jumped the ditch and set up creative studio Umeric in Sydney. While his showreel as a commercial director includes ads for the likes of HBO, MTV and Nike, making a feature film was always on the cards.
“I’ve been wanting to do features for a long time and am also working on my own shorts and scripts,” he says.
And his debut won’t be just any low-budget, amateur affair. Bolland is currently in pre-production for a remake of the 1978 horror, The Swarm—and he’s keen to get stuck in.
“The cool thing about The Swarm is we’ve already got a crazy cult following,” he says.
The Irwin Allen–directed original, based on a novel of the same name, starred Michael Caine as an entomologist who sets out to stop an invasion of killer bees before it reaches Houston. “It’s pretty laughable,” says Bolland. “This one is kind of a fun one to do. I just want to make a crazy, scary kind of film that’s also enjoyable.”
Producer Roy Lee— famous for remaking Asian movies such as The Ring and The Departed—discovered Bolland’s work via his online portfolio early last year. “Next minute a bunch of people were contacting me to sign me up and send me scripts. These are the major talent agencies in the States, so the same people that they talk about on Entourage and all that. It was kind of bizarre.”
Then came meetings, visits with studios and sample mockups. Although the film Lee originally approached him about eventually went to another director, ultimately all the pieces came together for The Swarm, with Paranormal Activity’s Steven Schneider as co-producer.
But Bolland remains pragmatic about the film business: “People keep telling me it’s not done until it’s at the cinema. It’s the same as when you direct commercials—you do treatments and sometimes they go through and sometimes they don’t.”
He reckons the time is ripe for a new wave of young directors, citing District 9’s Neill Blomkamp (“he hit that out of the park”) and Joseph Kosinski, who made Tron: Legacy, as examples. Both, like Bolland, scored their debut features on the strength of their commercial backgrounds.
And where is Hollywood finding this fresh talent? On the web, as Bolland can testify. “The amazing thing about the internet now is people have access to different creatives and artists around the world. It’s definitely a modern thing. I don’t think it would have happened ten or 15 years ago.”
Bolland, who’s self-taught, says the “classic film-school thing” is not as relevant as it used to be. Instead, it’s about people jamming on YouTube and Vimeo, racking up millions of views and, occasionally, getting noticed by Hollywood. “It shows that you’ve got an audience already,” he says. “It’s a brilliant thing to do.”
Nonetheless, sometimes there’s no substitute for actually being where it’s all happening. So will he be abandoning Australia for Tinseltown in the near future?
“I do really like LA, but I think this part of the world is really nice as well. We’ll see what happens.”