Archive for the ‘Industry’ 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.

The Elevator Pitch

Posted: February 8, 2013 in Industry, Writing

My good friend Jim Eaves, (head honcho of Amber Pictures and one of my co-conspirators on the Death Tales movies), once got in a lift with Harvey Weinstein. It’s not something that happens particularly often to low-budget horror filmmakers in the UK. There isn’t a photo of Jim in a lift with Harvey Weinstein, so here’s a photo of him with George Lucas instead. It’s one of my favourite photos in the world.

eaves_lucas

So, if you’re in a lift with one of the most powerful men in Hollywood, that’s when you need an elevator pitch. And balls the size of Kong, naturally. It’s the time when you’ll need a concise, punchy and above all interesting way of getting your project across in as short a time as possible.

Chainsaw_Fairytale

Here’s the original elevator pitch for Chainsaw Fairytale. Nobody outside the Jinx offices has ever seen this; I’m only releasing it into the wild because the project has taken a slight backseat lately due to… Well, due to the announcement we’ll be making on Feb 22nd. This was my attempt to crunch the narrative down into an attention-grabbing one-minute pitch, for if I were ever in that fabled lift.

Chainsaw Fairytale Elevator Pitch

Frankly, it’s not great. It’s a work in progress, written at a point when the screenplay was still foremost in my mind and before I’d had the necessary cooling off period to get a bit of perspective on the thing and work out what was truly interesting about the screenplay. Of course, following the elevator pitch cliche that you only have one chance to make a first impression, I’m being a complete idiot letting you guys have a look at it as it stands. It’s not ready.

But, of course, sod it.
The first thing I’ll do when I rewrite this is try and give readers a more immediate impression of who Amy is and why they should care about her; I like the flippant ‘didn’t get the memo’ bit but it could certainly turn a lot of people off.

(Sidenote: I’m forever dropping out of the dispassionate authorial voice at innappropriate times. I had an actor last year quite rightly query why my action directions in a shooting script referred to a character as a ‘bastard’ when they should really be staying a bit more detached from proceedings)

I remember pitching at one of Raindance‘s Live Ammunition events in the mid 90s. I’m pretty sure the panel had Irvin Kirshner on it, but if it’s my memory playing tricks then please forgive me. I pitched a script called ‘Gatecrashers’ which I’d written with an old friend from University. The two of us perfected our patter, pitching back-and-forth in a rat-a-tat fashion to try and get across exactly why our movie would stand out from all the other Tarantino wannabe scripts being written by guys coming out of university around that time. I thought it went well. After we’d finished, someone on the panel (Kirshner? God knows) finally spoke;

“You guys are a hell of a double act. I was so busy being entertained by you that I forgot to listen to what your movie was about”

That wasn’t the response we were hoping for, and Gatecrashers eventually fizzled and died. Weirdly enough, though, I had a telephone call from a lawyer a couple of years ago. He’d found a copy of the screenplay for Gatecrashers in a vault in his law firm; put there by a partner in the firm who had since died, at the request of my old uni mate who I’d long since lost touch with. He posted it to me, and this long-forgotten piece of my movie history now sits on a shelf in my office. The Tarantino-esque high-concept movie (a gang of beautifully dressed gangsters robbing the parties of the rich and shameless) with the elevator pitch which was just too goddamn entertaining.

If you want to take the elevator pitch down to just a few words, I recommend the Turbo Charged Logline approach as pioneered by the much-missed Blake Snyder in his book Save the Cat!: The Only Book on Screenwriting You’ll Ever Need, which remains the single best book about commercial screenwriting that I’ve ever read.

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…

I’ve been Googling templates for business plans. There are quite a lot of them out there, with varying levels of complexity and helpfulness. Most of them make me a little uneasy, but the fact is that I want to get some kind of focus as to what my company is going to achieve over the next five years and somewhere in all these various bits of paper I hope that I can start to find the answer.

The business/company side of things is something I still find challenging to manage. Jinx Media has existed for ten years (this July!), but the basic mechanics of keeping a company going is something I doubt I’ll ever find simple. I’m a creative guy rather than a business guy, and I’d have never ended up as a company director were it not the only sensible way legal framework with which to pull my projects together.

Completing the end-of-year accounts that first year was a rude awakening. I attended various seminars about doing your own accounts and ended up panicking that I wouldn’t be able to do it. I signed with an accountancy firm who ended up billing me over three times the amount that they’d verbally estimated, despite the fact that the first year’s accounts literally couldn’t have been simpler (mainly because they consisted of a single page of A4 and were ALL outgoing). That experience left me annoyed and feeling a bit helpless. I didn’t feel capable of doing my own accounts, but couldn’t afford to keep paying stupid amounts of money to other people to do them for me. I eventually ended up signing with a local accountant who was friendly, reliable and charged exactly what he said he would, and we stayed with him for many years, but that first experience still haunts me a bit. It sometimes feels like there are traps all over the place when you’re running a company, and some of them can cost you serious amounts of cash.

In the ten years since we got our articles of association the industry has changed almost beyond belief. The giants who seemed enormous and permanent in 2003 are now largely either laid low or gone altogether. Everything has changed, from the way films are shot through to the way they are delivered to consumers. In terms of our particular niche (horror features shot on micro-budgets in the UK) we’ve gone from being a small fish in a deserted small pond to being a small fish in a small pond that’s so full of other small fish you can barely see any water. The arrival of home computers that can edit video straight out of the box, buddied up with countless devices that can shoot high-quality video, has meant that the filmmaking process has been thoroughly democratised. The disappearance of any ‘gatekeepers’ standing between filmmakers and their potential audience has meant that anyone can get their stuff out there.

In other words, it’s a very, very different jungle out there to the way it was ten years ago. Not necessarily easier or harder, but very different.

The smartest thing we ever did was to get TrashHouse shot before it was easy to edit on home PCs. I can’t help feeling that if we’d have shot that same movie five years later, it would have been forever lost in the deluge of home-grown horror and would probably never have seen the light of day. Luckily, back in 2004 a cheap home-grown horror movie was still something of a novelty; novelty enough that people would watch it, anyway. Nowadays there are a couple of hundred such flicks slated for completion in the UK this year alone, and nobody thinks there’s anything particularly special about shooting a feature all by yourself. I would hate to be in this environment trying to get people to pay attention to my first film. It may be a million times easier to make something nowadays, but getting people to pay attention to it (let alone give you money for it) gets tougher with each passing week.

So, where does this leave the business plan? Well, we announced our feature for 2013 at the Horror-on-Sea festival last week. Our official online launch for the project is still a couple of weeks off, so if you weren’t in that room last Saturday I’m afraid my lips are still sealed, but the fact that I’m still talking about feature shoots will be enough to tell you that we’re not suddenly putting our 7Ds down and entering the flower arranging business any time soon. What happens before and after that shoot, however, is the stuff of business plans and late-night brainstorming sessions. We aren’t in a position to simply think, “hey, we’ve already done this a half-dozen times, let’s just do the same thing again” because that’s the kind of thinking that would land us on that pesky extinct pile pretty damn quickly.

We’ve made mistakes over the last decade, of course we have, but I’ve always prided myself on making all-new mistakes every time rather than making the same ones over and over again. So we need a plan. A plan to ensure that I’m still sitting here typing something about Jinx Media when we’re approaching our 20th anniversary, too.

I’m really proud of the work that’s being done on the new movie, and we’ll be giving you guys the chance to get involved in that production like never before. But that’s a tale for another update.

Me, I’m just looking at these business plans.

Regardless the size of fish, the size of pond or the amount of competition out there.

A five-year plan.

A ten-year plan.

No matter what, we’re going to keep swimming.

PS. Since writing this blog, we’ve released a filmed version of our 2013 live show Werewolves, Cheerleaders & Chainsaws, which details many of the experiences of running a small production company. The video can be seen below. Please note that it features strong language, bloody violence and partial nudity.

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.

People often assume that because you’ve got movies on the shelves of mainstream shops, these films will be supplying you (or your company) with a regular supply of money. When they start digging for details of deals that you may have signed in the past, this belief seems to get more deeply ingrained.

Let’s take a hypothetical example.

“Right, so let me get this straight. You signed a worldwide distribution deal on this movie, right? And it has come out in at least ten territories in the world, right? And you’ve got a deal for how much of the profit? 50%? Jesus, that must be bringing you in at least some money” And then you truthfully admit that in the case of that particular movie, your company has seen nothing. Not just no profit, but nothing. Not a single cheque has been written to you in the two years since the movie came out. And then they ask; “But people are buying it, right?”

And you have to tell them that, yes, you get sent a sales report every three months detailing these international unit sales and advances for different territories, and how many hundreds of thousands of dollars your feature has generated for the distributors, all neatly accounted for down to the last cent. But there’s another column of expenses detailing exactly why none of that is going to be heading your way. And every three months, just as the incoming sales figure grows so does the expenses column, so it seems that you actually get further away from being due your cut the more money the film generates.

And then they say “But, hang on, that’s got to be illegal, right?” And you say no. And then they frustrated and start insisting that it must be illegal, surely, because you can’t just make profit disappear with accounting, and how can you just sit there are take it and why don’t you do something? It only crossed my mind this week to point out that, effectively, that international distributor is in the same position as Starbucks (who paid £8.6m in corporation tax in 14 years of trading in the UK, and nothing in the last three years up to 2012, despite UK sales of nearly £400m in 2011) with the small indie producer playing the role of the UK taxman. As long as the expenses on paper tot up faster than the income, they never have to pay that indie producer a single penny of the money generated by their film.

This goes on, frankly, all over the fucking place. Just because it’s morally rotten that doesn’t make it illegal. It’s a tough world out there for those distributors too, and shit rolls downhill. If there’s a legal way to hang on to every penny then quite a few of them will do exactly that. A few, however, don’t. A few write up contracts that they actually honour in spirit as well as in small print; a few have decided that, ultimately, totally screwing over the people who make the product that they sell isn’t always the most cost-effective way to do business, as you’re effectively kicking the geese to death before you even find out whether they can lay golden eggs or not. Which is why when those decent honourable distribs start getting crapped on by the companies larger than them, it breaks my heart all over again.

A colleague of mine who has worked in distribution for decades posted on Facebook this morning bemoaning the nightmare situation that indie distribs sometimes face when the big chains go into administration, namely; “…administrators approaching distributors/labels and offering them pence in the pound for stock sold and also for stock they don’t actually own. Look out for lots of small indie labels going to the wall because of this” Now, hopefully this won’t be the case with any of the current high-profile chains that might be crossing your mind but it’s clearly something that has happened in the past. Once again, shit rolls downhill, and when a giant crashes to the ground it might just use a few smaller folks to cushion the fall a bit.

All this stuff is, obviously, utterly depressing. Another symptom of a dying business model? Perhaps. Either way, it’s something that makes me hate and fear the small print of contracts even more. It’s not just distribution contracts, of course; screenwriters everywhere should beware of the type of contract that promises enormous rewards over countless pages, (percentage points, payments, etc.) and then has a tiny caveat of ‘subject to retaining sole screenwriting credit’ somewhere around page 8. Unless this caveat gets argued tooth and nail, it simply allows the producers to bring someone else onto the project to make some contributions to rewrites and thus void all of the rights that the screenwriter has fought for, leaving them in some cases with absolutely nothing.

Once again, back to the old mantra. Make sure you treat everyone with decency and respect, and hang on to all the ones who do the same to you. It’s a lifelong process of whittling out the assholes and making sure that, when the shit rolls downhill, as it inevitably does, there isn’t someone trying to make you get splattered worse than everyone else.

Pat at Werewolves, Cheerleaders & Chainsaws

Well, that was damn cool.

The Horror-on-Sea festival dominated my weekend. As the first year of the only horror festival to run in my home town, I’ve been rooting for this weekend to be a huge success ever since I was told about it around last June. I was delighted that the organisers selected Nazi Zombie Death Tales
 to play in one of the high-profile evening slots and then even happier when we agreed that my new lecture/talk/live show thing Werewolves, Cheerleaders & Chainsaws: Filming Horror for No Bloody Money (as pictured above) would launch at the festival.

The arrival of the long-threatened snow occurred, with depressing inevitability, at exactly the worst time possible as far as the festival was concerned. Adverse travel conditions are always going to put people off venturing outside their front doors, and as I saw the snow start falling and just not stop as the weekend kicked off I began to worry that sub-zero temperatures might cause the fledgling festival some serious problems.

Luckily, I was underestimating the enthusiasm and determination of the wonderful crowd of filmmakers, film fans and cinema enthusiasts that this festival was destined to attract. It may have been bloody freezing outside, but in terms of atmosphere and mood I think this was the warmest festival I’ve ever attended in my life. There were brilliant filmmakers like Alex Chandon and MJ Dixon around for pretty much the whole festival. There were attendees throwing themselves into the spirit dressed as everything from Resident Evil zombies to Juliet from Lollipop Chainsaw

Then, there was the line-up itself. Brilliantly put together by Paul Cotgrove from The White Bus, it featured loads of brand new indie horrors from all over the world and some smart nods to the pioneers (such as Darren Buxton’s excellent event about Michael J Murphy‘s career; don’t let that sparse IMDB resume fool you… The gent has shot countless movies, and this talk featured hard-to-find clips from loads of them).

I had a fantastic time and really hope that the festival returns next year.

As for Werewolves, Chainsaws & Cheerleaders itself, the event was great fun. We filmed it, and it’s currently being edited. Hopefully we’ll have it up online before too long, so those of you who either got foiled by the snow or just weren’t able to make it to Southend this time around will have the chance to check it out.

Here’s to Horror-on-Sea, my new favourite festival.