1 in 3 people have some form of sleeping disorder.
95% of people who experience sleeplessness longer than 18 days rarely survive.
The ones who live past this point do not need doctors...
...they need priests.
Karla, a young medical student, is attempting to cure her brother, Blake, from a terminal sleep illness called Fatal Familial Insomnia, where you are unable to sleep until you die. On her quest to save him, a more sinister and terrifying reason for his condition is revealed.
In his feature debut, director Daniel J. Phillips creates a vision of relentless tension, adrenaline-inducing scares and fear that sticks with you long after leaving the cinema. With unforgettable sequences, great characters and fresh horror moments, Awoken exhibits a disturbing supernatural nightmare that will keep you guessing until its chilling conclusion.
When creating Awoken, I wanted to craft an original, commercial piece of entertainment that could not only scare its viewers, but contain a story that could be elevated above the standard films of the horror genre. The film is a combination of a slow-burn traditional horror, taking inspiration from horror films like The Exorcist and The Shining, as well as found footage films like Paranormal Activity and The Blair Witch Project.
I wanted the film to avoid being subservient to the common tropes horror seems to succumb to again and again, and create complex, interesting characters who grow and change, who make smart choices, who risk it all for those they love. The characters are real and alive, and combined with the primal themes of faith, and the universal effects of sleeplessness, Awoken was a story I had to tell.
Awoken is the story of a young woman’s struggle to cure her brother’s terminal sleep illness, Fatal Familial Insomnia, which results in certain death from lack of sleep. As she proceeds to treat him, she learns that his illness has given way to demonic possession, and she must turn to faith over science to save him. We’ve all seen scary films that make us afraid to go to sleep – this will be the first one that will make us afraid to stay awake.
To craft Awoken, I took inspiration from Ridley Scott’s approach to the original Alien. He decided that the film would not be a schlocky monster movie, but an A-Grade movie. Many at the time thought this was crazy, but the approach created one of the best horror films of all time. This philosophy informed all the creative decisions on Awoken, from the casting, to the set design, to the final musical score for the film. It has been a difficult task to achieve the standard of storytelling I was aspiring to given our small-scale production, but the results have been extremely rewarding.
I was incredibly fortunate to be surrounded by seasoned veterans as well as creatives also making their feature film debut. This combination of the new school and the old has allowed me to achieve the ambitious standards of a film punching well above it’s weight. The old saying that “you write a film three times” with the script, shooting and the edit is very true, with many exciting discoveries coming to light throughout the process that have made Awoken a much more thrilling ride that I ever could have dreamed.
I want Awoken to be separate from so many other horror films that fall short due to clichéd characters and stories. I only get to tell this story once, so I wanted it to be bighearted, for a big audience, proficient technically and emotionally, and connect with something primal in all of us that we see every day - the need to sleep - or bad things will happen ...
- Daniel J. Phillips
Daniel J. Phillips
Awoken is the first feature film for the prolific short filmmaker and producer/director of videos. Adelaide-born Daniel grew up in “ … the worst house on the street” where he was left to his own devices a lot. “I was given a TV and a VCR, an old, hand-me-down, crappy TV, one that you pulled the knob out to turn it on and I devoured everything I could watch. It was the days when you could tape off TV, press pause in the ad breaks – I created my own library. My mum didn’t care about what I watched, so if I wanted to watch an R-rated movie, she’d go get it for me. It was stuff the kids my age weren’t watching.”
Then as a teen, he was “the nerd in the line” for movie releases. “It was a bit of everything, the action movies of ‘80s and ‘90s, Die Hard, Predator, those kind of things.” After “scraping some money together to get a video camera”, he “made some crappy films” in high school, including “a horror film – a big Scream rip off.” He then studied film at Flinders University, but the course left him thirsty for more knowledge.
That generosity and balance perhaps speaks of Daniel’s fundamental motivation. “I’ve worked with people who seem to care about getting the name on the back of their chair rather than doing the work,” he says. “I literally just want to do the work. I just want to be making movies. That’s all I’ve wanted to do and what I want to do forever.”
Craig McMahon began his career with Village Roadshow Production Management’s financial team, working on major international productions.
Branching out on his own, for more than a decade Craig has been producing film and theatrical entertainment, through his company, McMahon International Entertainment, headquartered in Melbourne. Craig has been involved in numerous successful feature films and television projects, including Executive Producing Screen Australia's #1 financial performer, Red Hill.
Late 2017, Craig established Elevate Production Finance to provide film production finance including cash flowing Federal and State government rebates and incentives, distribution guarantees, sales agent advances, pre-sales and gap finance.
Other achievements include producing the 2008 Australia & New Zealand National Tour, Andrea Bocelli in Concert, which brought together the Italian maestro, Tina Arena and the Czechoslovakian National Symphony Orchestra. The concerts received critical acclaim nationally and set a box office record in Australia.
In 2009, Craig established the Serendipity Fund, which continues to provide funding for quality, sustainable education to children living in Papua New Guinea whose lives have been affected by AIDS.
Adelaide-born Michael Tessari has been a freelance cinematographer since graduating university with honours in cinematography in 2012. Recognised early for his unique approach, as a student he won the Cliff Ellis Award given by the Australian Cinematographers Society to the most promising new cinematographer.
He has worked on some of the biggest productions to hit South Australia such as Wolf Creek, The Babadook and Deadline Gallipoli. Driven to bring the feel and quality of a large-scale production to his corporate work, he’s been highly sought for projects involving RAA, Jacobs Creek, Coopers and many others.
In addition to a further four Gold Awards from the Australian Cinematographers Society Michael also won the 2017 Milton Ingerson award, given by the Australian Cinematographers Society SA and WA branch for the best overall entry of that year. The award was for the short film, Release , which he described as “ … a sort of ‘proof of concept’ for Awoken. The cinematography in this film was based around an analogous colour palette designed to elicit a feeling of unease in the audience. The short allowed me to test many techniques I would go on to use in Awoken and really gave me a hunger and drive to keep improving.”
Director of Photography
Robert Webb is a Production Designer based in Australia. He has a wealth of experience and relationships within the film industry, having made his start working in art department on films such as Phil Noyce’s Rabbit Proof Fence, One Night the Moon and Aussie Rules, before working as Art Department Head on the award-winning film, Modern Love.
He then designed Greg McLean’s breakout hit Wolf Creek which screened at Sundance and was sold to Dimension Films. It garnered him an AFI award nomination for Best Design 2007.
Further work on films and TV series includes Ten Empty, Beautiful, and The Caterpillar Wish for which he won the Inside Film Award for Best Design 2006. Robert worked again with Greg McLean, designing the $30-million croc thriller, Rogue and later, Wolf Creek 2 and the Wolf Creek TV series for Stan.
Thee acclaimed doco/drama Forbidden Lies directed by Anna Broinowski and shot by Toby Oliver was a highlight in a career that also includes Tomorrow When the War Began, which took the highest Australian Box office of 2010 and saw Robert a finalist at the AFI award for Best Production Design.
Daniel J. Phillips
Daniel J. Philips
After editing his first feature - Swerve, starring Jason Clarke, Sean joined Greg McLean on the highly anticipated sequel to his seminal work - "Wolf Creek 2". This led to collaborating on four more projects together with Greg directing and Sean editing: Blumhouse's "The Darkness", two seasons of "Wolf Creek The Series" for Stan, culminating in “Jungle", starring Daniel Radcliffe - a true- story survival-thriller set in the Bolivian jungle.
Sean co-edited “Cargo", starring Martin Freeman, Scott Hicks' latest film "Highly Strung" and "2:22" starring Teresa Palmer. He also spent time as a Visual Effects Editor on Hollywood blockbusters: "The Great Gatsby", “Gravity", “Prometheus", "The Hunger Games" and "Harry Potter". He has just completed editing a new horror film “Awoken" and a science fiction feature called "I Am Mother" starring Rose Byrne and Hilary Swank.
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