On paper 51 Degrees is a film about the End of the World but to me the film is has always been about Damon’s journey as a human being and how he deals with the circumstances of his life. I decided early on that the film was going to be presented as realistically as possible. I wanted the film to have a documentary feel to it and so I needed the camera to be a part of Damon’s life – not merely operating as a narrative device – that’s why I created the Greg character who would film Damon on a daily basis and capture every moment of his life. I set a very clear rule: every shot we see in the film has to come from Greg. The problem was that I couldn’t cut as it would disrupt the flow of the film and break the rules I had set for myself.
It was at this point that I decided to add a second element to tell the story: the CCTV camera. I’ve always thought that there was something very dramatic about the fact that London is under constant surveillance by millions of CCTV cameras. This approach enabled me to keep the realism of the film while also giving me the opportunity to peer beyond Damon’s horizon and incorporate some of London’s most beautiful imagery.
When I first stumbled onto the subject of asteroids back in 2010 I was absolutely shocked. Over the next few weeks, no one could reach me. I was locked inside my office reading through hundreds of research papers and books. I couldn’t stop and I realised I had to make a movie about this and raise people’s awareness on the subject. However, I wasn’t sure what to make of all the information I had accumulated over the previous weeks. It felt like a documentary but I knew that if I wanted to reach a wider audience, it had to be a feature film with a narrative that extended beyond asteroids. So I decided to base the main character on myself essentially – a filmmaker who went through a similar process as I did at the time.
When I started writing this film I knew I had to keep the cast-list to a minimum to prevent it from getting out of hand. The Damon character was cast very early on, before I had even worked the whole idea for the film. I was very aware that I needed top actors for the roles of Michael and Prof. Richards. After watching over 5,000 video reels on Spotlight, I finally found two actors who were perfect for each part and luckily they responded positively to the material.
We shot 51 Degrees over a period of 13 months in three stages. The first time around, in March/April 2011, we shot for 6 weeks in London. Many of the scenes were made up as went along, such as the ‘Crazy Room’ sequences (see preview clips). At that time, neither the Piccadilly Circus nor the Stabbing scenes existed. After that first stage was over, I edited over 200 hours of footage into a 3-hour cut. This process was very helpful because it allowed me to have a much better idea of where the film was headed. I jumped straight into a two-month writing session and that’s where many of the big scenes were first born, including the Piccadilly Circus and Stabbing scenes
In October 2011 we started out on our second shoot. This time around we had a cast and crew of over 200 people and more than 2,000 extras. However, it was very important to me that we keep the feel of the film very similar to the first time around as a bigger crew can often cause too many distractions. But no matter how wild we went with some of our scenes or stunts, the story always took precedence.
I am finally at a point where I can enjoy the process. Up until now everything has been too crazy, with barely any time to breathe. In April, our Editor David Milkins came onboard and has helped me immensely. Now that all the elements are coming together I can wholeheartedly say that I am very proud of what we have created. I really hope you’ll get a chance to see it.