By Martin Bourassa & King Padmore / February 8, 2021

An Interview with Paul Raschid

We talk to the director of THE COMPLEX and FIVE DATES to discuss the considerable feat of releasing two acclaimed interactive films during a global pandemic.

Writer/Director Paul Raschid grew up with a deep appreciation for movies under the guidance of his film producer father Neville. With acting being his first passion, Paul officially began his career in 2008 as a television and film actor. While attending King's College London, he began developing his skills for screenwriting and directing, which led to his first screenplay being produced in 2015. The following year, Paul made his directorial debut with the supernatural-psychological horror film Winterstoke House (2016).

After this early success, Paul retired from acting to focus exclusively on writing and directing. It's this shift to behind-the-camera work that led him to create two of 2020's best interactive films: The sci-fi thriller The Complex and the remotely-filmed romantic comedy Five Dates. We spoke with Paul to get the behind-the-scenes story of these extraordinary interactive films.

FMV WORLD: Good morning Paul and thank you very much for taking the time to sit with us today.

PAUL RASCHID: My absolute pleasure. The UK just went into a second lockdown so this will probably be the highlight of my day!

After directing two feature films, you moved into interactive films and the video game industry. What caused you to make that leap?

It wasn't entirely intentional. I had been looking to collaborate with producer John Giwa-Amu for a few years. After seeing my previous film, White Chamber (2018), he and producer Jade Alexander approached me to pitch for their sci-fi thriller interactive project, The Complex. I've been a casual gamer all my life and I'm especially interested in exploring different narrative structures, so the challenge of the interactive format of storytelling was one I was very keen to take on.

The sets and locations for The Complex are gorgeous. Where was it filmed?

It was mostly filmed at Kent Discovery Park near Sandwich. It's a sprawling brutalist building full of labs and offices which was perfect for the production. We found an open area in which our awesome Production Designer, Guy Thompson, built the laboratory set in which a lot of the action takes place. It was a great experience shooting there. We were staying in Deal, right by the English Channel and saw France every morning when we woke up! Most of the other sets were on location in London.

The Walthamstow Pumphouse Museum was used for all the tube scenes at the beginning and a high-rise office block in Hammersmith was used for Nathalie Kensington's offices.

What can you tell us about the casting process?

It was quite multi-layered. I work with a brilliant Casting Director called Heather Basten who assembled various lists of talent that fit the bill of what we were looking for. I was made aware of Michelle Mylett's show Letterkenny from some family I have in Canada and was impressed by how natural and charismatic she was on-screen. Also, John had worked with her previously, so that combination of her creative and professional strengths, really made me want to cast her. Al Weaver and Kate Dickie are British actors of such high pedigree and talent that I jumped at the opportunity to work with both of them as I am a fan of the diversity of genres in which they have both worked. Kim Adis blew us all away with her audition and she carried it through into her wonderfully affecting performance. It is no surprise her career is going from strength to strength now. Rachel Petladwala is another super talented actress I had worked with previously and knew she'd bring a unique verve to the cast.

The Complex has many scenes that looked challenging to film. Which scene was the most difficult to shoot?

I think it has to be the vent scene where Amy crawls through the tight space and encounters a laser. We only had the budget to construct a single stretch of vent but needed to give the impression it was actually a larger network. Additionally, the laser stuff was very fiddly and precise. All the while, we had to work with two cameras inside a seriously tight space. Michelle, the art department and the camera team really smashed it with that one.

What was the most memorable moment on set?

Probably the filming of the toilet explosion scene. I had never worked with pyrotechnics before and it was a one-shot thing. The sense of tension and anticipation really brought the best out of everyone to get it right, so the energy on set was very unified and luckily the result panned out well!

You turned The Complex into a full-fledged feature film. Was there always a plan to release the game as a linear film?

As far as I know, a linear feature film was always in the mind of the producers.

How did you choose which scenes and which ending would be in the movie?

When choosing the path that the narrative would follow, I basically decided in the edit room when I saw how the scenes were slotting into one another. I just wanted to pick the path I thought had the most twists and turns, while also consisting of the story beats one would expect in a traditional linear film.

We will put a spoiler warning in the article, but could you tell us what your favorite ending is?

[Laughs] My favourite ending is definitely [SPOILER WARNING] the one in the linear version of the film, where Amy storms Kensington's office with Clare. Followed by the 'sting in the tail' ending that Clare infected Amy which is revealed as she drives away in the aftermath. I actually think that was one of the least achieved endings by players/viewers in the interactive version!

The main premise of The Complex mirrors much of what is going on today with the Covid-19 pandemic and the work to create a vaccine. What were your first thoughts when the pandemic hit during your pre-release?

All I could do is shake my head in disbelief at the thematic parallels – there were definitely a lot of comments from people I know and posted online about it! Some people even thought we were cashing in on the pandemic but obviously the film was conceived and made long before Covid-19 even existed! The timing of the release was purely coincidental.


You followed up The Complex with the interactive romantic comedy Five Dates. Would you tell our fans what this game is about?

Five Dates is about a single, London-based twenty-something named Vinny, who joins a dating app for the first time during the summer lockdown of 2020. From a choice of five interested women, the player/viewer can choose who Vinny video dates and guide how he interacts with their very different personalities. Depending on how Vinny builds his relationships with his dates, they may want to continue seeing him or ditch him.

How did you get involved with this unique project?

Naturally the pandemic ruined all the plans I had to make anything this year in the traditional sense. However, just as other filmmakers adopted remote filmmaking around the world, John Giwa-Amu and I wanted to do the same and make a remote interactive project - for our own sanity more than anything else! John asked me if I had any ideas and Five Dates was a concept that had been floating around my mind for a while and the rest is history!

The idea of dating via video app is appropriate for these times. Was Five Dates conceived specifically for remote filming or did the script exist in some form prior to the pandemic?

No script existed but the concept of a rom-com dating-based interactive film/FMV game had been in my mind for some time. I noticed at the start of lockdown there was a lot of online discussion about how people would date in lockdown and digital dating rose to prominence, with mainstream dating apps adopting video calling functionality. So, it was a natural tweak to make the concept take place exclusively over video calls.

The Complex and Five Dates are vastly different games; one is a sci-fi thriller and the other is a rom-com. Do you enjoy working on these different genres?

I absolutely love it. I've always been passionate about different genres. The start of my career took me into the sci-fi/thriller/horror genre which I intend to remain active in, as well as branching out. I also think that as I grow older and have different life experiences, there will be different stories that I want to tell which will vary tonally and genre-wise.

You direct a pretty huge and amazing cast. Was it difficult to work remotely with so many actors?

We really were blessed with a seriously talented and hard-working cast on Five Dates. Taheen Modak, who plays Vinny, was in every day but we only had 1.5 days with each other actor that he performed opposite. They had to learn tons and tons of lines in the interactive format, as well as being their own hair and makeup, wardrobe and lighting departments. So, on top of delivering amazing performances they also delivered on the technical aspects that teams of crew would have ordinarily done. That was the biggest difficulty for everyone but they really smashed it.

Conversely, I think there was something quite enjoyable about creating this from the comfort of our own homes. It allowed us to maximise shooting time as there wasn't any time lost between breaks. Plus, everyone was also able to eat and drink whenever they wanted to. You can't beat some home comforts!

Vinny, the main character, has five potential matches. Is there an ending for every possible match? How many endings are there?

Yes, there are endings for each possible match and earlier endings in certain scenarios! I'm not sure the exact figure but I'd say there are about 10 or more endings.

Truth time, Paul. What was your worst date like?

[Laughs] I've been fairly lucky in my dating life and have met some really cool women. It's always a bit disappointing when you can instantly tell there is no romantic spark but overall, no real horror stories thankfully.

Are you thinking about turning Five Dates into a linear movie? Is that something you'd like to do with all your future interactive movies?

Because of the cinematographic limitations of remotely shooting Five Dates, it may be the case that it is best enjoyed in the interactive format. However, never say never. The actors' performances are so strong and layered, so all their characters' stories could sustain a traditional, linear narrative. If not on this occasion, producing a linear version is certainly something I want to do with all my interactive films when they are shot traditionally.

What's next for you, Paul?

I do have a couple of interactive projects in the pipeline that were disrupted by the pandemic this year, so hopefully they resume next year and I'll have more content for you sooner rather than later!

Well thank you very much for this interview, Paul. So sorry to leave in such a hurry, but it's time to go play Five Dates!

It's been really fun! Thanks for the great questions and I hope you enjoy 5D!

For more information on The Complex and Five Dates, visit the OFFICIAL WEBSITE.

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