The Impact is a crowd-created film produced and directed by Chris Jones, based on the experimental concept project Impact50. Co-author of the prolific Guerilla Film Makers Handbook and head of the London Screenwriters’ Festival, Jones spearheaded this film, which saw 67 screenwriters and 36 directors collaborate to create a disaster movie linked by a looming meteor strike.

chris jones directs olivia williams impact

What inspired the Impact50 movement and what kind of impact do you think this film will have for those involved?

Impact50 is part of a bigger project called Create50 which came out of the London Screenwriters’ Festival many years ago. The idea was simple. How can we get as many creative people, specifically screenwriters, a credit on a completed film in one hit? The first feature film that we made using this concept was called 50 Kisses and was completed and released in cinemas in 2014.

The following year we came up with the idea for Impact50 and launched it
alongside other create 50 projects like Twisted50 (which is a collection of short horror stories in a book). The project has been extraordinarily successful at many, many levels not least getting thousands of screenwriters writing, collaborating, reading and feeding-back, and then engaging
with the filmmaking community.

The project has taken much longer to complete than anticipated for a host of reasons, not least Covid-19. Like so many creative people there are those who actively engage in defining and creating their destiny while others rely on ‘fate and circumstance’ to shape their destiny. My hope and belief is that everyone involved will take advantage of this opportunity and use their credit as a stepping stone on their own creative journey.

I understand you received 2,800 scripts. How did the basic mechanics work in terms of prospective filmmakers making the cut and what were some of the challenges in coordinating such a massive undertaking?

It really was a challenge to take 2,800 scripts down to the final 50. Getting halfway was quite easy, down to around 1,400 scripts. Then it got more difficult. Over a very long weekend a small army of experienced script readers whittled the entries down until we had a shortlist of about 100. Then we all argued and debated about which should make the final selection.

Eventually we settled on 56 scripts. Those scripts were then released on the Internet and any filmmaker around the globe was able to option the script and produce it. It was a non-exclusive option which meant that other filmmaking teams could also make a version of the same script, so it became about making the best version.

When did you realise the full scope of the project and was there a point where it may not reach full circle?

We knew going into Impact50 what we were in for as we had successfully produced and released 50 Kisses. That said, what I was unprepared for was the extraordinary engagement that we got from the screenwriters during the writing process.

As with everything in life, this had its benefits and drawbacks. The upside was that the process worked perfectly and people both gave and received feedback on scripts – they were actively learning to become better writers and collaborators. People were writing and evolving in front of our eyes and it was super exciting.

What was also a surprise was how some writers struggled to understand creative choices. It’s pretty simple to measure the world’s fastest person. You can literally just time them and compare that time to previous records. But how do you measure or rate a creative endeavour? Yes there is some craft you can score. But for instance, what is better, blue or green? Well… it was our responsibility to create a rich tapestry of possible screenplays for production, stories that may contrast well, but also interweave.

Not everybody was happy with the choices that we made. Because of the open and transparent way that we operated, this meant that there was a high level of chatter on social media and via email, and that often swamped us. We even lost team members due to trolling. This was unfortunate.

If you had to do it all over again, what would you do differently?

On reflection, I think that as the team leader, myself and then also the extended team, was too available to the writers in the process. Next time I think we would be more vigilant around access to the team and not engage with people who felt our decisions or process should come into question.

Another interesting thought is that 50 Kisses was based on a theme whereas Impact50 is based on an event. Our logic going into Impact50 was that a single event with interweaving stories would work better for mainstream audiences, and I think we were right.

That said, I do think there is room for thematic project where we explore an idea without any kind of event to tie things into a single timeline.

The film is getting its world premiere shortly, where do you think The Impact will be headed thereafter?

We plan to enter the film into as many high profile festivals as we can afford as well as tour the country screening the film, more like a band would tour and less like a film is traditionally released.

Tell us more about the film’s world record-breaking achievements and how has the reception been so far?

The film has already broken two world records and may well take a third. Firstly, we have broken our own world record with the most screenwriters on a feature film (set with 50 Kisses). Secondly, we have broken the world record for the most directors on a feature film. We are currently researching to see whether we have the longest credits on a feature film and if that’s the case then we may well have a third world record!

So far the people who have reviewed the film have really enjoyed its unique nature. It’s by no means your average film as it has many interweaving stories. It’s also the story of arguably the biggest event the planet could face, total annihilation, but told through small, intimate and sometimes irreverent, comedic or minimalist stories.

We live in an age where storytelling is dominated by bigger and better, more is better, louder is better. The Impact goes in the opposite direction and most audiences have responded very positively to this more introspective approach. What I didn’t expect with so many people is that they have reported the film left them thinking more philosophically about their own place in the world and history, the meaning of existence and how we are doing a poor job of caring for our planet.

The Impact starts with an address from the President, can you tell us more about the creation of this introduction, casting Olivia Williams and why you think most world-ending announcements tend to come from the Oval Office?

Having the president of America announcing the impending doom for the planet just seemed like the most logical way to make a hook that people entering into the process would understand immediately.

I had previously interviewed Olivia for the second edition of the Guerrilla Film Makers Handbook and I reached out to her and invited her to play the president. She very kindly accepted with only one stipulation. That our cast and crew were fully and authentically diverse, which I’m happy to report had already happened.

The film was interrupted by the Covid-19 pandemic… what were the most notable differences in the before and after?

From a creative and editorial perspective I don’t think there is any difference before and after Covid. The difference shows up in the viewer watching the film post-Covid, with an understanding of what a global and apocalyptic event could look like. It does resonate eerily, and predictions in the film written and shot before 2019 are unnervingly paralleled.

How did you tackle the narrative structure and did you come up with a formula or rule book for maintaining consistency or was it a more organic storytelling process?

Without a doubt, editing The Impact was the most difficult phase of the project. This was partly technical but mostly creative. We had three attempts at post production on the film with three different editors and it was only at the end of 2021 (when frankly I had given up on trying to make it brilliant and just wanted it finished) that suddenly everything clicked and we found our way through.

The new approach was to group a small number of films together and create interweaving mini acts of between 10 and 20 minutes. This meant that at no time was any single story so disconnected from its other parts that people quite literally lost the plot. It also meant that we could group films that shared similar themes or plots or style.

For instance there are a number of lighthearted or comedy films that felt weird sitting next to the high drama of others. But after two blocks of intense storytelling, a single block of lighthearted comedy was welcomed by audiences and intercutting two or three funny films felt right. I think it’s fair to say that in the editorial process we discovered The Impact, rather than authored it and designed it.

The Impact was a monumental editing room endeavour when you consider 100 short films were eventually condensed into the space of 2 hours and 16 minutes… can you walk us through the threshing process and some of the hardest decisions?

Aside from navigating the technical minefield of handling films that were shot in different formats, at different frame rates and with different levels of expertise, the biggest challenge was choosing between films that were very similar in tone and content.

There is one screenplay for instance, that is actually featured twice in the film as both versions are dramatically different. While there are different scripts that have films, some were so similar it forced us to choose one over the other. The challenge was always to make a complete movie, rather than a collection of short stories and difficult choices were made.

Once we had our process for how to approach the edit by breaking it into many acts or sections, it became much easier as grouping thematically for story was quite organic.

Which are your favourite short films from the selection and have any creatives already gone on to work on other exciting projects?

I have a number of favourite films in The Impact but right now I don’t think I should share which they are. As for people moving on to other exciting projects, yes, that has happened. But like so many people in the creative industries, it is incremental rather than a spectacular moment of
“BOOM! I have arrived!” It’s a marathon, not a sprint.

Did you have to take any of your own advice from your book? What proved to be the most valuable advice over the course of creating The Impact?

The world does not owe anyone an audience. I’m quite sure that many people will be surprised at how emotionally resonant and thought-provoking The Impact is, as a collection of interweaving intimate stories about the end of the world.

I’m glad the credits are quite long because it does take time to process and ponder the film that we have just collectively experienced. So yeah, tell a story worthy of people’s valuable time.

Impact50 has been in the pipeline for 8 years… it must come as some relief to be wrapping things up on this production. Which memories do you think will stay with you the longest?

I’m hoping that the future memory that hasn’t happened yet will be the best. The premiere. I’d like to think that would be the moment that I remember most from Impact50 as it is a rite of passage and a publicly shared exaltation and celebration of what we have achieved collectively. It will be emotional.

Chris Jones on Impact50 and ‘The Impact’
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