Posts Tagged ‘actors’

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.

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.

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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.