- 600 ambulances called out to Amazon fulfilment centres in the UK in the last 3 years.
- Workers urinate into bottles for fear of taking breaks.
- Workers penalized for taking holiday leave
- In 2010 there were 18 attempted suicides at Foxconn industrial park, the site where Apple products are manufactured.
- Last year, 8 New York taxi drivers committed suicide
- Corporate forces continue to oppress workers efforts to unionise.
AUTOMAT questions our relationship with consumerism and technology. In many parts of the world, large corporations are extracting more and more labour from their workers whilst paying them less and less. At the same time, it has become easier and easier to order online – with some platforms famously, it only takes a single click. Free delivery can’t exist any more than a free lunch, and if the customer isn’t paying for it, then someone else is. In AUTOMAT, we want to expose the true cost behind this convenience; we want to make visible, the price of so-called “invisible” labour.
Automat tells the story of Susie, who works in a fulfilment centre. When a new intake of workers arrive and Susie meets Alina, an economic migrant. Through their unlikely friendship they find a way to overcome not only their immediate boss, Kenny, and the warehouse, but an entire social system determined to keep them down.
Here's the trailer!
Sky Arts 50
What does it mean to be British in the wake of Brexit? In March 2017 Article 50 was invoked. Sky Arts invited 50 artists to respond to the question of who we British are as a people - as a nation. Automat is a film which presents an accessible story of modern day slavery drawn against the advent of failed capitalism and Brexit and we are very proud that it has been programmed for the Art 50 strand.
The labour force of a fulfilment centre in England is a microcosm of British modern society. These often marginalized and disenfranchised labourers are a hotchpotch of British working people and economic migrants. While the UK no longer makes much of anything, it does distribute a great deal of merchandise. A fulfilment centre represents a great vantage point from which to observe a divided country at the coalface of transformation.
Humanising East Asian Faces
We believe the stories we tell, make the world we live in. Our story is led by Susie, a character specifically written to create a leading role for British East Asians that is unencumbered by the usual tropes and discriminatory stereotypes. Susie is an ordinary person who has lost her way, and someone the everyday person can relate too. Normalising British East Asian faces may seem simple but is rarely, if ever done in British television and film.
Inclusion behind the camera is paramount too. Building inclusive teams is an extension of how we create and fundamental to our methodology. We are proud to have crewed a production that was 55% women and 26% people of colour.
What are the funds for?
Automat has been a commissioned by Sky as part of the SkyArts50 project. We’re delighted to be part of this prestigious strand but the funds from Sky only cover a fraction of the production costs behind making a high quality drama. Everyone part of the Automat team offered their time and expertise for very little or in some cases for nothing - and it’s with their support we’ve got a film in the can. Our Kickstarter will ensure our film gets finished, gets seen and expose a timely story about the underclass.
Director - Lab Ky Mo trained in Fine Art at Central St. Martin’s College of Art in London before winning the prestigious Carl Foreman Screenwriting Fellowship in conjunction with BAFTA. Lab has been making films with Film London, BFI, BBC Writersroom and B3 MEDIA. His short film My Dad the Communist starring the utterly brilliant Benedict Wong was singled out by the UK Film Council as one of the standout short films of its year.
Producer - Chi Thai is a Vietnamese refugee and filmmaker. She has been a Cannes Lions finalist three times and her work has competed at Academy qualifying festivals. She is part of the Guiding Lights alumnus & listed in Creative England’s Top 50 companies. She is passionate about making people powered films - Automat will be her fifth crowdfunded project. Her current roster includes Zero Hour, a feature documentary with Alex Gibney, Me... Jane an animated film with four-time Oscar nominated studio, Cartoon Saloon.
Recent work include Light Years, The Purple Plain (BFI), The Outer Circle (Pears Foundation), Civilised (Riff Raff / The Directors Bureau), Little Miss Sumo (BFI & Tribeca), Unseen (Directors UK) and IF (Google and YouTube) a film about infertility produced in 180VR. You can Watch The Purple Plain here.
Chi is also a founding member of BEATS (British East Asians on Theatre and working across the Screen industry), an organisation which seeks to humanise British East Asians and advocate for equality for British East Asians on stage and screen.
Mark Nutkins (Director of Photography) has supported many rising film directors and shot countless short films over the years, many of which went on to compete at Academy and BAFTA winning festivals. Automat marks his fourth collaboration with producer Chi Thai. He works across features, commercials and television. His most recent work is prime time television drama, Vera, starring Brenda Blethyn.
Christopher CF Chow (Editor) is an award-winning film editor born in Hong Kong. Over the past 12 years, he has edited features, documentaries and shorts. The latest film Faces is his second feature with director Joseph A. Adesunloye, the follow-up to the critically acclaimed film White Colour Black which was long listed for two BIFA awards. In 2017, Christopher won Best Editing for the feature horror “Charismata” at FilmQuest. He is a member of The Guild of British Film and Television Editors and part of the BFI x BAFTA Crew.
Sophie Wu is a superb British actress known for her work in Kickass, Kickass 2 and The Fades. We are so pleased to see she is writing more and more these days as well as acting. We loved her work on The Break’s Franny Wong and we were thrilled when she said yes to us! She plays Susie, our lead character who finds herself questioning what she does for a living when she meets Alina.
Andrew Paul is the legendary British actor best known for playing PC Quinnan on The Bill. He recently starred in prime time dramas Endeavor and Les Miserables. But our favourite piece is Andrew’s brilliant turn in Standby, the BAFTA nominated short film by wunderkind maverick director, Charlotte Regan. If you haven’t seen the short we recommend that you do now! Andrew is the big bad of Automat and plays Kenny, the supervisor (of doom).
Tanya Cubric graduated École Philippe Gaulier. She’s been in The Tunnel (Sky Atlantic), Million Dollar American Princesses (ITV). A new talent and one to watch. She plays our agent provocateur, Alina.
Working with the Future
There were many pieces of complex jigsaw that had to be put together to make this production viable. One of the most fundamental and key parts was our collaboration with the University of East London (UeL). In return for UEL hosting the majority of our locations, we were able to provide valuable work experience for some of their filmmaking students, as well as support acting roles for their performing arts students. We’ll be back at UeL once the film is completed to deliver a series of script to screen classes.
With special thanks to Insia Durrani who helped us produce our Kickstarter Video!
Risks and challenges
When anyone decides to make a film, there is huge amount of trials and challenges they will need to overcome - this is not just getting the film financed or a film finished, but getting a film seen. Because Automat is part of the Sky Arts 50 strand, our film will be broadcast. But that’s not where it ends - we’ll have a targeted film festival release too. Because we are raising completion funds, our backers pledge knowing the greatest risks which are posed during the shoot are already overcome.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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