Archive for the ‘Filming’ Category

As I’ve mentioned before, there’s pretty much only one reason that my shot-on-miniDV first feature ended up getting decent commercial distribution (which, in turn, led to me being considered a ‘proper’ filmmaker albeit one on a very, very low rung of the ladder).

I climbed an obstacle.

Cutting footage on a home PC was tough at the beginning of the century. It wasn’t something that the average home PC could do straight out of the box; it required a souped-up kit, capture cards and software that certainly wasn’t standard issue. It cost money, time and patience.

 

 

I cut Trashhouse on a home PC with a 20GB hard drive, (which at the time was a ridiculously huge amount of storage space and cost me a whole load of money). The flick is completely a product of its production context; the average film student watching the movie now would be dumbstruck at how amateurish certain elements of it look. From a technical point of view it’s all over the place; the grade is inconsistent, the compositing is shocking and there are CGI elements that look laughably poor in 2013 (and didn’t exactly look brilliant by 2004). It doesn’t look like the commercially released indies of 2013, which are within spitting distance of Hollywood in terms of visual qualities and technical expertise. But, in 2004, it didn’t really have to. The fact that it existed at all was enough to at least get a few potential distributors to watch it; there were only a tiny number of indie features getting produced in the UK each year.

There are some good things about TrashHouse, which ultimately meant that I got the chance to keep making films. These good things are the stuff aside from the technical stuff. It’s got a pretty decent script and some interesting ideas in it. If people go to it looking for a mainstream horror flick with high production values they’ll be bitterly disappointed, but if they go to it looking for a lo-fi oddity they’ll hopefully still find stuff to enjoy.

It’s a product of the obstacles I had to climb to get it made, and it only found its way onto the shelves of major stores because I had to climb those obstacles.

At the risk of sounding all “Eeh, in my day it were all fields around here”, which is never a good look, (especially when the day you’re talking about was only about a decade ago), I think what the new generation of filmmakers need more than anything else is some obstacles.  Otherwise every brave new voice is competing with EVERYONE who can pick up a camera and produce something that looks perfectly great without really putting in any particular effort. The democratisation of film production comes at a price; if you give everyone a voice, you fast discover that an awful lot of people have got fuck all to say but they keep shouting anyway. The voices that would otherwise have immediately stood out get swept away on the tide of mediocrity. Bark bark bark.

At the time that clerks hit, Kevin Smith was an original voice. The reason that people heard him was because (can you guess?) his movie had to climb huge obstacles to get made. Shooting a movie wasn’t something that guys who worked in convenience stores could easily do, and Smith’s determination just to get the bastard made meant that at least a couple of people watched his flick out of curiosity. The fact that it existed meant that at least a few sets of eyes would be interested in watching it. As it happened, that was enough to set the ball in motion and make sure that the original voice got heard.

 

Pat outside the Quick Stop, where Kevin Smith shot his debut.

Pat outside the Quick Stop, where Kevin Smith shot his debut.

 

Nowadays, there are a hell of a lot of guys who work in convenience stores who are making movies. Some of those movies look close to professional. Very few of them are an original voice waiting to be heard, and my worry is that the ones that are have no way whatsoever of standing out. The average member of the public isn’t just going to keep watching no-budget movies looking for a diamond in the rough; they’ll decide they don’t like ‘them’ as if ‘they’ were a homogenous mass and go straight back to watching Hollywood product. There is nothing inherently interesting about making a 90 minute movie for no money, because it’s literally something that an eight year-old can do.

In the past, there were potential gems that never got made.

Now, they’re getting made and nobody’s actually watching them.

In a way, I think that’s worse.

PS. Despite all this, I still encourage people to go out and shoot movies. Go figure. My hour-long live show Werewolves, Cheerleaders & Chainsaws is full of advice about how and why to do it. It’s a bit NSFW (gore, nudity and naughty words) and is embedded below.

I’ve been trying a bit of a smartphone detox lately, which makes a lot of sense given that we’re deeply involved in the development process for our smartphone horror Evil Apps. I’ve been attempting to stick the iPhone in a box as soon as I’m home, and to only use it when out and about. This is basically a strategy to stop the goddamn thing sucking every single second of unallocated attention out of my life; I realised that all the little pockets of time that I used to spend thinking (from waiting for a kettle to boil through to taking a crap) had become pockets of time during which I just plunged straight back into twitter/facebook/whatever and I never got the chance to just let my mind wander. If you never let your mind wander, the thing just stays wherever you left it and you never get any new ideas. So the phone goes in the box and I give my brain some breathing space.

A direct result of this is I’ve found myself grabbing books off the shelf, just to dip into them for a few minutes, for the first time in years. Over the weekend, the one I happened to grab was The Greatest Sci-Fi Movies Never Made. It’s a cracking read, and well worth dipping back into. I was reacquainting myself with the story of various failed attempts to film I Am Legend, when I stumbled across a phrase that stuck in my mind a little bit.

The film only finally made its way to the screen because it found a champion (in that case, Will Smith).

The first thing this reminded me of was Harvey Keitel getting hold of the script for Reservoir Dogs, and that being the key to raising the $1.5M the production needed. We’ve never worked that way around. We’ve always raised our budget and then sorted out our cast on that basis. As I mentioned in the last post (well, I hinted it, but I was hardly subtle) we’re currently planning on raising at least part of the budget for Evil Apps through Kickstarter and making sure that it’s the most kick-ass Kickstarter campaign we can possibly put together for you guys. The Will Smith line, however, made me wonder whether changing the order in which we do things would change the nature of the campaign.

EVIL APPS

Evil Apps has two fantastic lead roles and a whole bunch of meaty supporting roles too. We’ve approached the budgeting on the basis that we’ll cast newcomers and people with a bit of genre experience, but it crossed my mind over the weekend that doing this in reverse might be a valid approach too. If we can raise £x amount of money for a movie starring talented people with fairly low-profiles, might we not be able to raise £y amount of money to do the movie in a slightly bigger fashion if we had a ‘name’ attached? We’ve got a decent enough track record at this game now. We’ve won some strong awards, we’ve had some great reviews, we’ve proven time and time again that we can bring in genre movies on time and under budget. I’m tempted to even boast once again that Penny Dreadful in SFX magazine called me “The Tarantino of budget gore flicks, for both style and dialogue”, but that would probably be a bit guache so I won’t. If a higher profile performer than we’ve previously worked with decided that they rather fancied taking a lead role in a cracking indie rather than a supporting role in a tepid larger movie, mightn’t that change the landscape of what we’re planning to do?

I’m really just thinking aloud in the form of a blog post at this point. I haven’t formulated a game plan or even decided if this is genuinely something that we’d want to do. After all, with a higher profile performer a lot of other considerations with the production might change too. But it’s got to be worth at least considering, which is something we’d never done before. After all, money isn’t the only motivating factor for a performer contemplating a role, and our script is pretty goddamn cool. Put it side-by-side with the script to most British movies scheduled to go into production any time soon, and I’m quietly confident that ours can hold its head up high as sharper, funnier and generally more interesting.

In other words, if you’re the sort of person to have people, have your people talk to my people. Except I’m not the sort of person to have people, so I guess your people will just have to talk to me instead.

PS. Needless to say, I’m going to use the end of this blog post to plug my live show again. It’s packed full of anecdotes and advice for no-budget filmmakers, rare clips and a few jokes. It’s not really safe for work, since there’s a bit of nudity, gore and strong language along the way. It’s free, so be sure to let us know if you like it or find it interesting. If you want to give me feedback or ask questions directly, I can always be found on Twitter.

Ah, sound recording.

BeachtekBeen writing this blog since 2005 and think I’ve managed to avoid talking about sound recording at pretty much every step. I think it’s safe to say that it’s not my specialist subject. Not the thing I’d be grilled about on Mastermind.

It’d be an understatement to say I’m ‘still learning’, because I’m still making mistakes all over the shop. I try new approaches with each movie but the simple truth is this:

Sound is amazingly, incredibly important. To get great sound requires skill and TIME. You won’t always have these things, which means you’ll end up with problems.

Ok, let’s break down the kit we’ve used along the way. That way you can learn from the mistakes that I’m apparently still making, despite having been in this game for a good few years now.


TrashHouse has actually got cool sound given the ridiculously echoey environment that it was filmed in. This is down to one man, Danny Lenihan (credited as Danny James) who came along, brought a whole bunch of kit and did an amazing job. He recorded to MiniDisc (which was still the best route in 2004) and we post-synched. He now runs the fantastically funky tripod company 3 Legged Thing, so go buy some of his brilliant kit and tell him I sent you.

Cock-ups I made: Rather than just using the XM1s onboard sound and keeping that as a guide track to lay Danny’s lovely MiniDisc sound over, I got all over-excited and decided to plumb an external mic into the XM1 on the off-chance that I caught useable sound with that too. I figured that I was increasing my chances of getting a decent audio take. What actually happened was that the external mic set-up for the XM1 was forgotten about and only sometimes switched on, and nobody was in charge of making sure that the onboard mic was switched back on when the external wasn’t being used. As a result, I had entire days of filming with NO SYNCH SOUND WHATSOEVER, and, this being our first shoot, our use of a clapper board (or even just having someone stand in front of the camera clapping) was inconsistent to say the least. So I had good sound sitting on a bunch of MiniDiscs and a load of silent video footage, with no easy way of matching them up. A fresh, unusual and exciting mistake to make.

Another wrinkle on TrashHouse‘s sound came about when the inevitable Bittorrent DVD rip (which hit the net on the day of the UK release) turned out to have a massive sound glitch on it, meaning that all the people who’d downloaded it then proceeded to piss and moan about the ‘appalling sound’ on various message boards. This meant that as well as torpedoing our deals in several other territories just by it’s very existence, the DVD rip also ended up giving the film a reputation for bad sound which wasn’t the case on the released version. Aah, the joys of internet.


We went a different route for the sound on Hellbride. We took our shiny new Sony HDR-FX1 HDV camcorder and paired it up with a BEACHTEK break-out box, allowing us to plumb an XLR mic straight into the camera and avoid the post-synch that had given me so many headaches on TrashHouse. Combined with the post-production dialogue sweetening talents of Rich Miller, this wasn’t a bad solution as long as we had a dedicated sound guy checking things out (James ‘Magic’ Mitchell, take a bow) and were shooting in environments without too much ambient sound.

Cock-ups I made: As I said, things usually went fine as long as we had a sound guy there. Unfortunately, particularly on days of pick-ups and reshoots, that wasn’t always the case. When the rough cut of the movie underran rather badly we brought back some of the cast to shoot some additional scenes, which tended to be character-driven and featured such material as romantic autumn walks in the woods. So, two people walking through crunchy leaves. Followed by a couple of other people walking through crunchy leaves, recording some largely unuseable sound. Hellbride is a mixed bag as far as sound recording goes, and the bad stuff is all my fault. The technical set-up was fine, but the practicalities weren’t always handled as well as they could be.

I’ve continued to make a variety of varied and interesting mistakes when it comes to recording sound, but I think that’s enough from my personal hit parade of regrets for now. If there is a deafening clamour for more, I’ll break down my later movies in a future post.

Does that sound good?

Jinx Media has been going for ten years.

Ten years of horror, rock n roll, killer cheerleaders and death tales. Ten years of celluloid and zeroes & ones. Ten years of staying afloat and staying alive while the entire industry reforms around us.

To celebrate ten years of Jinx Media, we’ve got some really awesome stuff coming up. The first big date of the year to put in your diaries is Friday February 22nd, when we’ll give you something cool to watch and the opportunity to get involved in one of our movies like never before. It’s going to be an insanely busy and exciting year for us, and we really hope that you’ll join us for the journey.

As we get ready for all the forthcoming festivities, we’ve been trying to bring together all our various ways of keeping you guys informed. Obviously, this here website is one of our main portals of information, but it’s by no means the only one.

Our wonderful, soaraway, sunshine-filled Facebook page actually contains a load of exclusive photos from our movies that you can’t see anywhere else. So.. Here’s our first little giveaway. The ‘Death Tales’ mini-comic that was published in Southend’s Level 4 magazine earlier in the year has just hit the Facebook page! We’re going to be putting even more exclusives on it over the next few months, so please head over there by clicking the awesome artwork below…

NZDT_Comic_Teaser

And please don’t forget to hit ‘like’ whilst you’re at the page so we can keep you up-to-date about this sort of stuff. I hesitate to even ask if you’d be kind enough to plug it to your friends… Ah, sod it. We just gave you an awesome mini-comic. Please plug the Facebook site to your friends!

Next up is Twitter. I use my Twitter account to share all sorts of bits of stuff. It’s often the first place that I mention big developments. So, while you’re busy ‘liking’ our Facebook page, why not follow me on Twitter too? Who’d have guessed it? There’s a nice big button below making it as easy as possible. Press the button. Go on.

Twitter

You’re already at the official site, but don’t forget to subscribe to this too.

And what will we give you for this care and attention, dear reader?

Well, we’ll keep you totally up-to-date through what promises to be the most exciting year since Jinx started. We’ll give you freebies ranging form that mini-comic through to the hour-long video going up on the 22nd (what could it be? I’m sure that a few of you will be able to work it out..) plus keeping you informed right the way through pre production, production and post production of our latest feature. We’ll do everything we possibly can to make this year as exciting for you guys as it’s going to be for us.

Let’s go…

It’s been a while since we’ve run auditions, but I thought it might be worth writing about the subject. What follows is meant for both low-budget indie filmmakers/producers and also those kind prospective cast members who come along to audition.

Sod it, let’s turn this into a game of advice-tennis.

Producers: Hire someone pleasant and professional to hold auditions, or at least as close to pleasant and professional as you can afford. Don’t invite people to audition ‘at your house’ because it not only sounds massively dodgy but also suggests you have no organisational skills whatsoever. A room above a pub will do at a push, and you can probably get that for free if you ask arouund and get it during the day when nobody else is using it. Better than a room above a pub would be one of the business or function rooms in a hotel. If you go this route, though, for Christ’s sake you make sure that you specify ‘Function Room 1’ or whatever on the directions to your prospective cast. Asking them to audition ‘at your hotel room’ sounds even dodgier than ‘at your house’.

Cast: Turn up on time. If you’re not going to turn up on time, send a polite message as soon as you can letting the producers know. If you’re not going to turn up AT ALL, let them know at least a day in advance. Weirdly enough, I can still remember the names of pretty much every actor who has completely failed to turn up for an audition and just left us sitting there, and not in a good way. A special note for one guy who failed to show in Summer 2007: if you’re going to fail to turn up for an audition, and you’re going to fail to notify the people sitting in the room waiting for you, please do NOT then send an excited email a couple of days later trying to plug the project that you decided to work on rather than attend the audition. For fuck’s sake.

Producers: Be absolutely upfront about everything. You might feel awkward telling people what crappy money you’ll be paying them, but you need to do this BEFORE you expect people to drag themselves across town (or further) to attend an audition. If you’re explaining how little you’re going to pay when you’re sitting face to face YOU HAVE LEFT IT TOO LATE. Likewise, if your script requires nudity, or being held underwater or licking live rats or whatever, (and there’s no possibility of dropping these elements if your actor isn’t up for them), then if you’re telling them face to face YOU HAVE LEFT IT TOO LATE. If there’s something that might absolutely rule out an actor’s participation other than them being simply wrong for the role, you have a duty to try everything in your power to find that out before asking them to travel anywhere. That’s your bare minimum.

Cast: If you’ve been given a script extract in advance, read it in advance. I know, I know. There ain’t enough hours in the day for any of us. Personally, I wouldn’t expect you to know an extract by heart, necessarily, (although some might), but I won’t be expecting you to say ‘I haven’t had a chance to look at this, sorry’ either. Oh, and if you’re too hungover to audition properly I’m not sure it particularly matters whether you announce this fact or not. I suspect you won’t get the role regardless.

Producers: Telling people they haven’t got the role after they’ve auditioned sucks. Just because it sucks doesn’t mean you don’t have to do it. A prompt, courteous email is the bare minimum for people you’ve face-to-faced. A phone call can more problematic on both sides but is probably the better option for someone you’ve seen more than once (or led to believe they were a front-runner). Professionalism, courtesy and respect, folks.

Cast: once you’ve had that email or call, that’s the bit where you go away, I’m afraid. Sending endless emails at this point isn’t a good look for anyone. Try not to over-analyse why you didn’t get the part, either; odds are it was something someone else did incredibly right rather than anything you did wrong.

Everyone: Be nice. Be kind and friendly and professional. Remember that people’s feelings are at stake as well as the movie. Being professional but pleasant is possibly almost as important as being right for the role. I can remember thinking “this person seems very talented, but seems like they might be a nightmare” quite often, and that factor has probably swung my decision more times than I care to admit. A set only works when everyone is pulling in the same direction; if you’re openly rude to hotel staff at an audition, the odds are that you won’t be much more considerate to those around you on a set.

Usual disclaimer: I’m not saying any of this stuff putting myself forward as some kind of guru or role model. Shit, I know I’ve failed to follow my own advice on a few occasions (as anyone who has auditioned at my house will attest) but I put these ideas forward in the hope that we can keep the experience of auditioning as painless as possible for everyone concerned.

See you in Function Room 1, guys.

WCLCS_logo

We’re into the final week before Werewolves Cheerleaders and Chainsaws at the Horror-on-Sea festival. As I write these words there are still a handful of tickets left, which can be snatched up by just clicking the logo above. It’s a 90 min live event about low budget horror filmmaking, including all sorts of clips, anecdotes and advice. Should be a hell of a lot of fun and I’m really looking forward to it; hope to see you there!

I’ve read a couple of pieces about nudity in horror films recently.

As an independent horror filmmaker who needs to get my stuff distributed in order to stay in the game, the question of nudity tends to crop up in every film we make. I’ve seen it argued that horror tends to shy away from nudity nowadays; that in the 70s it was seen as an essential part of the mix for a successful flick (particularly an indie) but that nowadays, what with the internet and everything, people can look elsewhere for a dose of skin and really don’t expect (or necessarily want) to see nudity in horror films.

I also read a piece which framed the discussion in somewhat different way, suggesting that there’s a section of the horror fanbase operating a massive double standard and that although they expect a degree of female nudity in horror they are actively repulsed by any male nudity. I must admit that particular article lit something of a fire in the back of my mind, and I found myself rewriting a scene in a spec script to include full male nudity that I could just put into the background of a shot and leave a dick swinging there for ages.

Seriously, if you’re a male who is not grown up enough to deal with male nudity as just one of the elements likely to crop up in a film aimed at adults, (yet are perfectly happy with female nudity), you’re not grown up enough to be watching horror films in the first place. Leave the DVD on the shelf, and go check out a footballing blunders compilation or something. You’ll enjoy it more. Seriously, just bugger off and let the grown ups have a conversation without having to put up with your pantomime cringing and inability to relate to your own body.

There clearly isn’t enough male nudity in my back-catalogue. There is, however, a certain amount of female nudity, so I worry that I’m feeding into this vibe. The roots of this trace back to 2004 when I was knocking on doors (literally and figuratively) and trying to sell my first movie, TrashHouse. I’d included an awful lot of stuff that I’d figured would make the flick a viable commodity, from chainsaws to decent one-liners, but that initial cut didn’t have any kind of nudity.

I tried to sell the flick for about a year after we locked it. No dice. I was increasingly worried that we were going to lose our entire investment and never even see the thing get released. In a vague state of panic some time in 2005, I commissioned an agency in Essex to shoot cutaways of a glamour model. I dropped about 3 seconds of partial nudity into the next cut of the movie and, by complete coincidence, shifted the UK and US DVD rights to the very next distribution company to view the film.

TrashHouse

I’m sure it was coincidence.

Don’t you reckon?

Either way, those three seconds of partial nudity were enough for our very first ever review to mention ‘boobs’ in their list of things to enjoy about the flick, and that review quote ended up on the DVD cover for both the original release of the movie and the re-release.

This meant that my producer and I sat down and had a serious chat about how we’d deal with nudity in the next two movies (Hellbride and KillerKiller) which we’d already scheduled to shoot back-to-back in the summer of 2006. We decided to stick some nudity into the opening scenes of both movies just to tick the box for potential distributors, then not particularly worry about it for the rest of the running time. As it happened, this suited KillerKiller‘s intro rather beautifully and the opening scene remains one of my favourite things that we’ve ever done. Even a fairly bad review we got somewhere on the internet said of the opening ‘Now that, my friends, is how you start a fucking movie’.

However, this really wasn’t the case with Hellbride. Despite various attempts to make it work, the ‘opening scene nudity’ thing really didn’t fit the vibe of the film, which, as was increasingly apparent, was really a romantic comedy with horror elements rather than being a full-on fright flick. We ended up ditching that opening and going for something that felt true and right. The only nudity anywhere in the film is so massively out of focus I suspect that to all intents and purposes it doesn’t really count. We still sold the movie in the end, but it wasn’t as easy a sell as KillerKiller and we didn’t get nearly as many distribution offers.

Again, I imagine, coincidence.

I approach all of these elements with a fairly fierce desire to do right by everyone and not add to the problems of the world. I would never want any actor to ever feel pressured into shooting something they might regret being ‘out there’ at another point of their career. On the other hand, as long as the performers are fully onboard and it suits the movie, I figure it’s just another potential ingredient in the mix.

I bet I get pressure to cut that swinging dick in order to sell that spec script, though. Hypocrisy is alive and well and going straight to DVD in a horror section near you.

PS. Since writing this blog, we’ve made available a filmed version of our 2013 live show Werewolves, Cheerleaders & Chainsaws. It features a few anecdotes about nudity in movies. It’s NSFW and features bloody violence, strong language and, indeed, nudity. The video is below.

Indie filmmakers will argue about kit and formats until the end of the world (which, at the time of writing, is scheduled to be in about an hour according to nutjobs and the easily distracted), yet I’ve somehow managed to keep this blog going for six years or so without ever writing about it once.

This started as a vaguely conscious decision, based upon the fact that in 2003 when I was planning TrashHouse I was trying to cover up the fact that it was a digital shoot. Sounds crazy, but it’s easy to forget how much the filmmaking world has changed in nine years. Those were the days before YouTube, before home editing and before the acceptance of digital as a dominant or even viable format. I wanted people to assume that I was shooting TrashHouse on 16mm and tried to keep shots of the cameras out of behind-the-scenes publicity right up until the point I’d safely signed a distribution deal.

This is the camera TrashHouse was shot on:

Canon XM1

The Canon XM1, known as the GL1 in North America. Purchased around 2001 largely because it was a 3-chip camera and touted as ‘better than broadcast quality’ at the time, the clincher was the fact that it had DV in/out which almost no cameras in my price bracket did. I teamed it up with a DV500 capture card, which made it possible to (gasp!) get video footage onto my PC, and bought a monster PC with a ridiculously huge TWENTY GIG (ooh, shiny!) harddrive on which to edit my feature film. I tried various tricks in terms of deinterlacing the footage in a desperate attempt to make it look more like 16mm, and suspect that I fooled absolutely nobody. The stupid thing was, of course, that was I was doing was actually pretty cutting edge for an indie at the time and I really should have been pushing it as an angle rather than covering it up. Hindsight is 100%, etc. etc.

By the time the back-to-back feature shoot of 2006 rolled around, the world had moved on. HDV was the format just breaking through, and I grabbed it and embraced it.

I opted for a Sony FX1.

Sony FX1

The camera’s bigger brother, the Z1, was just slightly out of my price range, but by teaming up the FX1 with a Beachtek XLR breakout box I was able to get pretty much the same camera for a grand or so less dosh. It was at this point that I also made the jump from PC to Mac; having been haunted by endless, endless, ENDLESS system crashes whilst editing TrashHouse on a PC running Pinnacle Edition, I found cutting Hellbride and KillerKiller, on Final Cut Pro 5 and a Power Mac G5 absolute bliss.

That kit served me well. I shot KillerKiller, Hellbride, The Devil’s Music and my chapter of Bordello Death Tales on the same camera, plus countless music videos and promos. I didn’t change up until I used my cheque from the Strippers vs Werewolves screenplay to invest in some DSLR kit after seeing some of the stunning results other indie filmmakers had been getting.

So, my weapon of choice is now the Canon 7D:

Canon 7D

I used this new camera for the first time on my Nazi Zombie Death Tales chapter, and am likely to stick with it for the foreseeable future. It gives me so much more control over the image than the FX1 ever did, and as a result the stuff on screen ends up looking more like the stuff in my head. Which is a good thing.
I think kit can end up becoming a sidetrack for filmmakers planning those first few shoots. I’ve spoken to an awful lot of people who use lack of the ‘right’ camera as a reason to never film anything, but the truth is that, in my experience, it matters astonishingly little. It ain’t what you’ve got, it’s what you do with it. The mighty Marc Price shot his astonishing debut Colin on standard miniDV (in 4:3) at a point when HDV 16:9 was considered by many to be some kind of ‘minimum’ technical spec, but the fact is that if your movie is strong enough, (in terms of grabbing the audience and taking them on a journey), then nobody really gives a shit about the tech specs.

Incidentally, I was lucky enough to catch an advance screening of Marc’s new movie Magpie a couple of weeks ago at an advance screening at the BFI. It’s an astonishingly brave, dark, beautifully performed and incredibly human movie which I can’t recommend highly enough. If Marc hadn’t just picked up a camera and gone for it back when he shot Colin, we’d have never got to see it.

So forget the tech specs and go and shoot something.

On set of Hellbride

 

PS. Since writing this blog entry I’ve stuck to the Canon 7d as my weapon of choice. I also discuss choices of camera and kit and how much (if?) it matters in my live show Werewolves, Cheerleaders & Chainsaws which you can watch for free on the video below. It’s NSFW and features strong language, bloody violence and nudity. Thankfully, the nudity isn’t me.

 


 

A bit more about Evil Apps. It’s bubbling around in my brain and throwing its weight around, pushing other important projects to one side and shouting ‘Me Me ME’ so I might as well talk about it.

Specifically, I want to talk about casting and dealing with actors.

I tend to deal with movies that are, to some extent, ensemble pieces. KillerKiller revolved around a group of murderers, The Devil’s Music revolved around a group of musicians and a separate group of people being interviewed about them and even TrashHouse and Hellbride both had substantial casts backing up the leads and getting a decent amount of screen time. The dialogue in my chapter of Nazi Zombie Death Tales was (fairly) equally spread across different family members.

The odd-one-out, really, is my chapter in Bordello Death Tales. Other than a short sequence at the beginning crossing over with the other chapters in the film, it’s very much a two-hander. Cy Henty and Danielle Laws do all the heavy lifting in the story, and the whole damn things stands or falls on their performances. I was pretty confident that this would work out okay (and I think it very much did) based on the fact that I’d worked with both of them before and I knew what they were bringing to the table in terms of professionalism and ability.

bordello2

I knew I could rely on Danielle and Cy. I knew how things were going to pan out, and that gave me the confidence to leave the whole damn story in their capable hands.

If I hadn’t had that confidence, I’m not sure I’d have written a two-hander. Working with actors is always a fascinating experience for me, even if we make mistakes along the way. I realise that I’m not the most actor-focused director in the business, although I’m trying harder and getting better as I go along, and so I’m aware of the fact that I’m relying on these guys really bringing the goods to the table. By the time I’m actually deep in a shoot, I’m often juggling too many balls to be giving in-depth notes on performance. I hope that myself and the folks on the other side of the camera can reach a kind of synchronicity before we start shooting (which is why I’m getting more and more into rehearsals as my career chugs onwards) because often, on the day, I’m only really clocking the nuances of performances on a particular take if there’s something happening that I really don’t like. The rest of the time I’m looking at what’s through the viewfinder (or on the playback when I have the luxury of a separate DP) as a whole, and I’m rarely taking enough of a step back to think whether the performance is the very best that the actor in question is capable of.

This approach gets you through production on schedule, but often comes back to bite you on the arse in post. There have been a few occasions where I’ve looked at a finished sequence and realised that an actor did a certain bit of business in rehearsal (a look, an inflection, a way of delivering a line) that they dropped ‘on the day’ and I didn’t notice because I was too worried about losing daylight or whether a blood explosion was going off at the right time. And that stuff hurts a bit, because you realise that the movie has just lost a nice moment that could have been saved with a *sentence* at the right time to the performer.

So, what’s all this got to do with Evil Apps?

Well, Evil Apps is very much a two-hander. I never planned it to be, because I never really planned  And this isn’t a 24 minute anthology section, this is a feature. I can’t use any of my regular ‘go to’ cast, because the ages don’t fit the characters, which means that if I were to put this feature into production I’d be resting the whole flick on two performances from actors that I’d never worked with before. That’s an idea that I find kind of scary.

The things I find scary, I also find fun.

Hellbride Flashback

Behind the scenes on the 2006 shoot for ‘Hellbride’