End-of-the-world film release marks fresh start for student writer and director
“I wanted to tell this epic story about death, religion, the apocalypse and the end of the world. But I wanted to do it in a comedic way, celebratory of life”
A film about the apocalypse has sparked new beginnings for its student creator from St John’s following its release on streaming service Amazon Prime.
Jasper Cresdee-Hyde, who has just finished his first year, made the feature-length Tales from the Apocalypse during his 2018-2019 gap year. The Human, Social, and Political Sciences (HSPS) student juggled filmmaking with waiting tables to earn money during production of the supernatural comedy-drama of love, death and destiny at the end of the world.
The production has been three years in the making and covered the period in which Jasper left a film studies course a few months in to apply to Cambridge.
“This isn’t just a film about the end of this fictional world, it also marks the end of my life before. I quickly realised I didn’t like the university course I was on in London and I wanted to come to Cambridge to study politics. Thank goodness that worked out,” said Jasper.
“I wanted to tell this epic story about death, religion, the apocalypse and the end of the world. It is about endings and bringing things to a close. But I wanted to do it in a comedic way, celebratory of life.”
Tales from the Apocalypse stars all young actors and is set in the same universe as Unstuck, a short film Jasper made in 2016 while a sixth former at Peter Symonds College in Winchester. The cast of characters includes an aspiring writer, a bitter ex-couple, a mystery young woman from the future who seems to be reading the story in a book, a woman back from the dead, a loveable religious fanatic and a man who claims to be Jesus.
Jasper wrote, directed and edited the film on a £1,000 budget, partly crowdfunded on Indiegogo with the rest of the money coming from his earnings as a waiter, which he also needed to help pay towards food and rent at home.
Filming began in Hampshire in summer 2018, before he first went to university, and was immediately beset by problems. “Everything went wrong,” said Jasper. “The kit stopped working, it was too hot – we were in the middle of a heatwave – and we were filming in a flight path, so every now and again we would have to hold everything up for a plane. If it is the end of the world, there wouldn’t be any planes!
“We had to recast one of the actors after their first day and we also reshot a lot of scenes. The filming was pushed back to January 2019 and on the penultimate day I got my Cambridge offer on-set, mid-shoot, which was amazing.
“It was a long and challenging shoot, but we also made loads of unique memories. Me and the cast look back on it all really fondly and, the apocalypse notwithstanding, I’ll treasure it forever.”
While Jasper was editing the film in liaison with friend Madeline Ashman, who composed the musical score, they had a stroke of luck. Madeline got work as a musician on tour with Jasper’s favourite singer-songwriter Tom Rosenthal, who agreed they could use two of his songs, Throw the Fear and Don’t Die Curious, on the film’s soundtrack.
“Fortunately Tom was very kind. That was a bizarre luck scenario as I had loved his music since my adolescence and it really inspired the film,” said Jasper.
Other friends had pitched in to provide the camera work, including the use of a drone to create the cinematic feel of a larger production. When the original film location fell through, Jasper jumped at the chance to film on a farm in the beautiful South Downs. “It was a long sequence of things falling into place. A lot of things went wrong too, but overcoming those things was through hard graft and being determined to get it finished and not give up,” he said.
Tales premiered at a local arts venue in July last year to a rapturous response from family and friends, but unfortunately efforts for it to be shown at film festivals came to nothing. Then came the pandemic and lockdown. Despite the fresh challenges that brought, Jasper managed to get the film ready for public release on Amazon Prime’s self-distribution service.
“Now it is out there in the world. I feel relieved because this is the first time in a long time I haven’t been thinking about or working on the film. And I’m happy because I can now share it with more people,” said Jasper. “It’s unlike anything you will have ever seen before. It’s big, it’s fun, it’s mad, and happy and sad.”
The film is dedicated to his father Robert Cresdee, who died when Jasper was young, and his grandmother Eleanor Maddocks, who died 10 days before the premiere.
“I’ve amalgamated a series of influences which I hope has created something unique. I’ve also brought in parts from my own life,” explained Jasper. “Death is a part of life. Just because someone dies it doesn’t mean you can’t celebrate their life, doesn’t mean there can’t be a value. That ties into religion, which is what the film is about, bringing in your God, the person you are supposed to meet at the end of your life, at the end of the universe. If you are going to arrive at the end of your existence, who is it you want to see? Can you claim agency and ownership over your life or are you indebted to this idea of something you have always been faithful to? This is one of the things that the film wrestles with.”
In many ways the film’s release is a release for Jasper too. “Filmmaking is a difficult and lengthy and onerous task and I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone! It’s been a fantastic experience but now I’ve done it, I don’t think I need to do it again.”
Despite drawing a line under filmmaking, he is still following his passion for storytelling. “A lot of my time is taken up with theatre and Tales has made me a better writer because I’ve learned to tell better stories,” said Jasper, who was due to take a show to the Edinburgh Fringe this year with the Slipshod Theatre group he is part of. That show has been postponed until next year, but in the meantime he has plenty in the pipeline alongside his studies.
Jasper is Events Officer for the Lady Margaret Players at St John’s and is writing a College Christmas panto. As new Writing Officer for the Marlowe Society University drama group, he is creating a writing programme; and with writing partner Jake Rose, an MA student at Magdalene, he is producing an autumn comedy show at the ADC Theatre, Space Mystery. Jasper is also Podcast Editor on The Social Review podcast and during the Covid-19 crisis has been helping to promote the Save the Arts campaign on social media.
He is a recipient of a studentship and co-recipient of the St John’s College Salim and Umeeda Nathoo Bursary and has got involved in a student access project, for which he is due to present a politics masterclass to University applicants from disadvantaged backgrounds. Coming from such a background himself, he is keen to prove it’s not the end of the world.
“I’m very lucky that despite an upbringing in which everything seemed to stand in the way, I worked hard and I came to Cambridge,” he said. “I loved my first year at St John’s, I cannot express enough how wonderful it was. My story has a happy ending and now I can dedicate part of my life to helping other kids who are in a similar position.”