A visit to the top-secret Artemis Black Site.
It’s a fine August morning as I’m driving around Kidderminster attempting to locate the entrance to a gargantuan network of underground tunnels, larger below ground than the town above it. Drakelow tunnels has a storied history, secretly being used to produce aircraft parts during the second world war, and then updated to serve as a fall-back nuclear bunker should the cold war have taken a darker turn.
This year, another chapter in the history of Drakelow Tunnels was added, with the site serving as the location of the Artemis Black Site; a top-secret location used for detaining and deporting the Old Gods, an ancient race of malevolent beings only kept in check by agents of the top-secret Artemis Agency.
Welcome to the mind of break-out indie film director Tom Paton, who wrote and directed the movie.
Arriving at the set, I was greeted by a cast and crew who’d spent countless hours in the cold and dark tunnels beneath Kidderminster, but who welcomed me in warmly to their world. The respect Tom commands on-set is immediately apparent, and the sense of fun and professionalism from everyone involved is clear to see. Spirits are high and the buzz around the days shooting schedule is high, they’re preparing to shoot the climactic finale today.
After a brief welcome and warm cup of coffee, we head into the atmospheric tunnels of the eponymous Black Site. The location drips atmosphere, and after a brief walk through the dark and winding tunnels we step onto the location for the days shoot, and my mind is blown. I’m staring down a dark tunnel, accented by glowing neon symbols of unknown origin, the focal point being a metal platform surrounded by more of the glowing symbols. The visual strikes you immediately; it’s subtle, but incredibly effective, and completely transports you to Tom’s world.
It’s not long before the actors are in position and filming begins. Tom is a consummate professional and clearly has a real eye for cinema. After a few takes, the scene is in the bag and the crew transition to the next scene, a gritty sword fight between the hero and the villain. Playing these roles are Samantha Schnitzler and Phoebe Robinson-Galvin, ass-kicking women with a martial arts and stunt work background. Joining Samantha’s Ren Reid is Tom Paton regular Mike Beckingham, the duo face overwhelming odds as they battle the Cult of Erebus, hell-bent on releasing captive Old God, Erebus.
It’s an incredible day seeing the scenes of the movie come together from behind the camera, and I left feeling like I’d witnessed something quite special.
I’m blown away by the production values, and stepping back behind Tom to watch the action unfold through his monitor, I can only say the film looks gorgeous. This is not your average indie film, and you can see the bar set by the director when he said he’s aiming for, “Marvel on an indie budget”.
Black Site is a film I’m very excited about, and we’re really looking forward to welcoming Tom to MCM Birmingham to talk in person about the movie. If H.P. Lovecraft meets The Raid sounds like your kind of thing, then it’s a panel you’re not going to want to miss!
Look out for an interview with Tom in our Birmingham show guide, and stay tuned for further information on Black Site attending MCM Birmingham Comic Con. Last of all, huge thanks to Tom Paton and the team for extending an invitation to MCM Comic Con to visit their set, it was a blast!