Signal Horizon

See Beyond

An Interview With Repeat Director, Richard Miller

Where do we go when we die? It’s a concept that has been explored by philosophers, scientists, and theologians alike, and it is a theme that has interested filmmakers the world over. From such family-friendly fare as ‘Soul’ and ‘Coco’ to films of a more horrific bent, such as ‘Flatliners’ and ‘The Sixth Sense,’ the subject has been explored in some very interesting ways.

In November 2021 another film dealing with the weighty theme of life after death will be released. Repeat, a film written by Richard Miller, which he co-directed with Grant Archer, is an emotional drama that deals with the difficult subject of grief as well as the afterlife. Fearing his daughter is dead after going missing, lead character Ryan tries to communicate with her using a machine that seemingly has the capacity to reach those who have drifted over to the other side. To say any more would spoil the story as this is one film that has surprises in store for both Ryan and the viewing audience.

Repeat will be released on streaming platforms in November 2021 and there is a planned cinema release in the US. The film’s director kindly answered a few questions for us so keep reading to learn more about the film and the people behind it.

SH: Repeat is an ambitious sci-fi drama that was filmed during the pandemic. How difficult was the film to shoot, considering the restrictions that must have surrounded the production?

We originally planned to shoot the film in July of 2020 but Covid completely stopped production and limited pre-production preparation. It did however lead to us bringing on two vastly experienced producers in Giles Alderson and Lucinda Rhodes Thakrar. Without the delay of Covid, the scale of the movie would have been much smaller and so we ended up in a much better place by October when we shot the film.

It was difficult in terms of knowing what we could and couldn’t do and the guidelines were only just published but we did our best to keep the number of people down on set to a minimum and luckily the majority of the film was in a very controlled location.

SH: The film deals with some very weighty themes, most notably those surrounding life after death and the grief we experience when the people we love are no longer with us. They resonated with me, but what about you? Did your personal experiences impact on the film and the story it tells?

I think loss and the feeling of not being able to let go of something are subjects that really interest me. The weight of feeling that there is no going back on what has happened can be all-consuming and I wanted to explore that. Science Fiction is a great vehicle for telling big stories but sometimes the feeling can get lost in the awe, and specifically, I wanted the audience to be there for the journey as the mystery unravels.

SH: Despite the low budget, Repeat has some very big ideas. Concepts related to the afterlife are touched upon here, and done in a way that is far more creative than many big-budget productions. Without giving away any spoilers, can you briefly give us an outline of the story and what audiences can expect?

The story is really about a couple whose child disappears without a trace and the search to find the truth. What if your daughter was missing and you had the ability to speak to the other side? Is that how you would want to find out if she was still alive?

SH: Your film reminded me of Shane Carruth’s ‘Primer.’ By this I mean, they were both made on a micro-budget, and they also dealt with themes centred around the greater workings of the universe via the use of machine technology. Were you inspired by that film? Or were you inspired by the works of any other director?

‘Primer’ is one of the best science fiction films made and it never speaks down to the audience, which I think is really important. There is definitely some of that in the film. I also love the way that Christopher Nolan can make a film feel much more textured using nonlinear timelines and wrong-footing the audience. The tech in the film we did want to feel homemade and I think it worked out very well. At one time we had engaged with guys who make some of the robots for Robot Wars to help but time ran short and I think the designs we went for in the end actually may have been better being so low fi.

SH: Your film largely stars actors that will be unknown to many. However, one face fans of the Netflix show ‘Feel Good’ will be familiar with is that of Charlotte Ritchie. How did she get involved?

It was no more difficult than our producers sending the script to her agent. The turnaround of Charlotte saying yes was pretty much as soon as I had a Zoom with her. To say this was incredible was an understatement. She had just finished shooting ‘Ghosts’ and ‘Taskmaster’ (British edition of the show) and was weeks away from shooting Feel Good season 2 for Netflix. She loved the script and the story we wanted to tell and she wanted to be a part of it. I think it’s a massive credit to Charlotte for trusting an unknown director and wanting to be a part of a film because she felt the story was so strong.

SH: The film is very emotional and this is largely down to the melancholic nature of the script you created and the excellent music score by Thomas George. While filming won’t have taken place while Thomas was tinkling away on the piano (I assume), I imagine the sorrowful story notes may have affected the actors and crew. Was this the case or was it a light atmosphere on set?

Excellent question – we were in the middle of a pandemic with so many people worried about what was going to happen next and I can honestly say that the shoot itself was a joy. As a director and as actors, the ability to turn off emotion after the shoot for me is vital because you have to have the energy to carry on. The whole cast and crew were a joy to be with and the level of fun we had whilst shooting was incredible – it was like a holiday after seeing nothing but the same four walls for eight months.

SH: At the heart of Repeat is a machine that seemingly allows people to speak to their lost loved ones. The special effects, while not comparable to anything created at LucasFilm, are still quite reasonable, considering the budget you had to play with. Did you come up with the design of the machine? And while the film didn’t rely on massive pyrotechnic displays or scenes of CGI, was it difficult to create certain effects scenes on your budget?

We had no budget for anyone but myself to do the fx and so the main plan was to keep it simple and believable. Don’t put anything into the film that looks like it’s not in the room with actors. I’m sure one day we will give away how we made the machine but it was as low fi as you can possibly get. We skimmed many skips and junkyards for props for the film. Now my garage is full of “prop/rubbish”.

SH: This is only your second feature film after a career largely made up of making short films. What’s next for you? More shorts or do you have any ideas for another feature?

I love short films but the audience for them is so small. If I came up with a story that I thought could be told in 6 minutes that I had a huge passion for then why not? But features are really where we want to be working now. I’m a slow writer so we will see when that is but hopefully soon!

SH: For anybody interested in seeing Repeat (and I hope lots of people are), how can they get to see it?

In both the UK and the US, REPEAT will be available on the majority of streaming platforms and possibly in the US a short cinema release as well.

SH: And finally, considering the theme of the film is largely that of life after death, what are your thoughts on the subject. Where do we go when we die?

I’m open-minded. I think there is a bigger question of what are we?
If I were to pass away my voice, body and feelings of surroundings would be gone so what is left? It’s such a deep subject that it is incredibly interesting to explore. Who knows! Maybe just under a pile of soil. Hopefully, I will get to write a few more films before I find out.

Repeat will be released on streaming platforms in November 2021. Many thanks, Richard!