In February 2019 I received an invitation to a film screening and director Q and A session at Islington’s Everyman Screen on the Green cinema. There’s nothing particularly unusual in that for horror film blogger you might think, however the premiere of Mystic Demon Killer was far from an ordinary film screening and as directors go David Fussell’s story was unusual to say the least.
Many of us know independent filmmakers and understand the trials and tribulations they go through in order to bring their work to the big screen, but what makes David’s story so unusual is that for the past four years while Mystic Demon Killer has been in post-production, David, who also wrote and produced the movie, has been living rough on the streets of London. Bedding down for the night outside the iconic Heal’s designer furniture store in Tottenham Court Road David has been fortunate enough to be able to use the facilities of some of London’s network of homelessness charities to complete and bring Mystic Demon Killer to the Video on Demand market. Now thanks to the interest of Vice Media, David’s inspiring story has been captured in a documentary that will be available from 10 April.
Following Mystic Demon Killer’s premiere I was lucky enough to get the opportunity to talk to David to find out more about both the film and the man behind it. First of all I wanted to find out how David had ended up living rough on London’s streets: ‘The smallholding that my parents left me in Carmarthen, got flooded out in July 2000’ David explained ‘and this led to damage that was not covered by my house insurance. It took over four years to fix and put everything right and once it was done I decided to sell the house. I used the money left over to shoot Mystic Demon Killer – which I started shooting in November 2004’.
I had lived in Carmarthen until late 2013 – and managed to screen a test for the film at a pub in the city. Unfortunately, many of the locals were not supportive of my ambitions and tried to destroy the credibility of both myself and the film – which made distributing the film and selling it to local festivals really difficult. It was then I realised the best way to pursue my dream of finishing Mystic Demon Killer was to move to London.
‘So I decided to get a one-way train ticket to London with nothing but my hard drive with the movie on it in a backpack and the clothes on my back. Once I arrived in London, I was fortunate to find a day centre that got me a small studio flat in Hackney and I quickly found a part-time job. However once I was employed, even with housing benefit, my pay did not cover the rent. What with the council tax to pay on top of that, it wasn’t long before I lost the studio flat.
For many people becoming homeless would probably have meant having to give up on their dreams, but David was no quitter, ‘I continued at the part-time job and it was thanks to the job that I got enough money to buy the equipment to check my hard drive and by late 2017, I had completed the final edit of Mystic Demon Killer on an old 2011 edition of a 13-inch MacBook Pro.’
It was then that life threw another spoke into David’s ambition, ‘The free program I was hoping to use for colour grading was upgraded so it would no longer work on my computer, I feared that this could have been the point where my story ends. How would I find the money to buy a powerful new Mac?’
However help was at hand, ‘I started asking trusted friends for advice and was directed to Jenna at C4WS ’ David told me. The C4WS Homeless Charity was set up initially to offer food and shelter for Camden’s homeless people during the winter months in participating churches. Since then it has grown to provide up to 300 people with welfare support plans tailored to the individual. These services include assistance with mental and physical health problems, addiction issues, English language classes and a jobs club,
‘After telling Jenna what I would need’ David continued; ‘we made a deal that if ever one of their iMacs was free, I could come in to their office and use it all day. It was thanks to C4WS’ generosity that the Mystic Demon Killer project was completed and launched’.
David got the initial idea for Mystic Demon Killer, which is now available to rent or buy through Vimeo, after reading a story in the local newspaper speculating about big cats roaming the Welsh countryside. He wondered whether the big cats story could have been a cover for something more sinister. ‘Mystic Demon Killer is based on the premise that sometime during the cold War a Black Ops unit acting without official sanction genetically engineered a super soldier’ David continued; ‘These humanoids have since escaped and are now running their own crime network and people are going missing, When a party of ramblers disappear in Carmarthenshire the Government is forced to send in a crack Army tracking unit to find them.
When they don’t come back MI6 agent Julie Morton is sent in after them and discovers the connections that add up to a disturbing conspiracy. Neil Marshall’s Dog Soldiers and The Brotherhood of the Wolf directed by Christophe Gans were the films that inspired me and had the most influence on what I was doing with Mystic Demon Killer. The two key directors that have made me believe I could make films were Kevin Smith and Robert Rodriguez.’
So how did a homeless film director living rough on the streets of London end up attending his own film premiere at the prestigious Everyman Screen on the Green cinema in Islington? ‘Kieran, one of the producers at Vice Media discovered my story in the Camden New Journal local newspaper after they did their first feature on me. I met Kieran and Grant – another producer – and we discussed planning their documentary about how I launched the film. They did mention the potential of a premiere screening for Mystic Demon Killer but I put this out of my mind, knowing how hard getting a screen could be.
Later, when they were filming the place where I sleep outside Heal’s, they said to me “Oh David, we have a screening for you at the Screen on the Green Islington”. This moment was included in Vice Media’s trailer for their documentary and I had the biggest smile ever. I had never shown Mystic Demon Killer to such a big audience and most of them had never see the film before, so I was keeping note of how the audience reacted. They laughed at the everyday humour I wrote into the screenplay and this told me that they found the story and the actors compelling. Many people said that they could not believe that it was my first feature film!’
So with a London premiere under his belt what is next for David Fussell as a filmmaker? ‘I am currently working hard promoting my film. I am hoping that the media interest around my film and story – like Q&As like this – will mean Mystic Demon Killer will become a big success and I am taking full advantage of every opportunity I get to promote it. I am constantly thinking about and developing new projects, both shorts and feature films. I only have outlines sketched out at present, but could have a first draft written in four months of so. If Mystic Demon Killer collects a big fan base, then perhaps Mystic Demon Killer 2 could be my next project?’
That’s certainly something to look forward to. David’s story demonstrates that given the right amount of ambition and the drive to succeed, and maybe just a little bit of luck you can make your dreams come true. Good luck to him.
Find out more about the work that the C4WS charity does at http://c4wshomelessproject.org/