Posts Tagged ‘filmmaking’

Well, the year’s nearly done.

It’s been stupidly eventful, stupidly exciting and, at some points, just flat out stupid.

I started the year by hosting a new live show before premiering my new movie (Jinx Media’s first full feature since 2007) and then destroying the master copy (and back-up) live on stage. Which was a busy way to kick things off.

Ever since that eventful January, people have been asking about House on the Witchpit and where it’s going from here. People have also asked over and over again whether I really destroyed the master copy, to which the answer is yes. The film that screened at Horror on Sea no longer exists in that form. The footage still exists, of course, and will resurface in a radically different format in 2017. Tickets will be going onsale soon.

Witchpit hasn’t been the only major development at Jinx in 2016, of course. We launched our new VOD site and managed to get our whole back catalogue of features up on VOD. The death of physical media as a viable means of distribution has continued at terrifying speed, but happily coincided with us getting the rights back to a lot of our older movies (for which we’d signed 10 or 7 year distribution contracts).

Some of these were straightforward, some of them were (cough) a little bit less so. Either way, all four of our original features are now available online in one form or another. Here’s the way it breaks down:

trashhouse_2016

TRASHHOUSE is now available via Amazon Prime in the original cut. This was our first movie, and it’s nice to get it back out into the world. It’s possibly fair to say that time hasn’t been kind to the visuals, but in terms of delivering a slightly mad midnight movie on a tiny budget, I reckon it holds up pretty well. TrashHouse was originally released on DVD in the UK (once in 2006 and once in 2007), but the US release was somewhat torpedoed after the movie got pirated on a scale that was somewhat ridiculous for such a modest flick. I always thought that TrashHouse might end up being the only film I’d ever get to direct, so I crammed an awful lot of things that I thought were cool into it. Except mole people. I’ve never found a way to fit them in. But they’re cool, aren’t they?

HELLBRIDE is also available on Amazon Prime. At least, it usually is. Amazon pulled it last weekend (along with THE DEVIL’S MUSIC) because of HELLBRIDE POSTER FINAL ssome undefined issue with the artwork. It’ll hopefully be back up by now, but it can also be purchased via Vimeo if you’d prefer (or if the Amazon listing disappears again). Hellbride remains a romantic comedy at heart, but one that just happens to have a fair amount of splatter and supernatural mayhem along the way. It was originally released on DVD in the UK and the US, and we were pleased to have the rights revert to us. Hellbride was actually the second movie that we shot, although it was the third to be released (KillerKiller beat it to release by the best part of a year). It was also the most fun I’ve ever had on a movie set. Still.

Battlefield Death Tales and more...

KILLERKILLER is NOT yet available on Amazon Prime, due a pesky certification issue which we hope we’ll be able to sort out before too long. Nonetheless, it’s available in the lovely, shiny 2014 Director’s Cut via our lovely friends at Vimeo, together with a bonus ‘look back’ video. This movie was our third to go in front of the camera, back during the long crazy summer of 2006. We shot chunks of it in a haunted asylum , which was fun, and it got released all over the world on DVD (EXCEPT in the UK) before coming back home to us. I’ve got a whole shelf full of DVD releases of KillerKiller. My favourite is the Russian dub, where the same dude does all the voices (including the women).

The Devil's Music

Like Hellbride, THE DEVIL’S MUSIC should be available from Amazon Prime (free to subscribers) but has experienced the same issues as Hellbride regarding the listing disappearing due to unknown issues with the artwork. Fingers crossed, you should be able to watch it right here, but if not then boogie on over to the Vimeo version  which includes hours of bonus features, including the somewhat notorious ‘Director’s Breakdown’ commentary. Nine years on from filming it, I’m still pretty damn proud of The Devil’s Music. It’s a horror rock documentary, and there aren’t many of them around. This version, like KillerKiller, is a 2014 Director’s Cut. It’s been tightened up a little and has a few never-before-seen moments when compared to the original release. God, we had a nightmare getting TDM out to the public after the rights returned to us from the initial US DVD release. Everything from VATmoss to BBFC certification initially seemed to stand in our way, and various costs torpedoed the planned DVD release by the wonderful Cine du Monde (who are currently dark, but will hopefully return stronger than ever!)

So, that’s the back catalogue. Saved from the confines of shiny disks, and ready to watch whenever you choose. Why not go check one of them out? We worked hard on them.

In terms of live projects, the year has had its share of frustrations. Killer Apps (aka Evil Apps) ping-ponged between on again and off again, but remains very much a possibility for next year. A third Death Tales got a little bit closer to being a thing. Two things happened that were stupidly exciting but I can’t talk about yet. It was all enough to keep us very busy indeed.

In the bigger world, outside of the confines of independent horror, a lot of things happened this year that absolutely sucked. Even before we lost Leonard Cohen, 2016 had more than its fair share of awful stuff. Looking for diamonds in amongst the crap hasn’t always been easy.

We need to keep looking, though.

I hope 2017 has an enormous amount of wonderful surprises for all of us.

My name is Pat Higgins, and my conscience is clear.

 

 

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.


The Horror-on-Sea festival is shaping up to be a really terrific event for lovers of the genre. Alongside my live show/talk/thing there are screenings of fantastic, brand-new horror flicks from all over the world (including our own Nazi Zombie Death Tales) and other special events.

I’ll be chatting about what people might expect on Southend Radio tomorrow morning on Sunday Live (around 11-ish). We’re going to be making an announcement about our big 2013 project at the festival, so I’ll probably be dropping a few details on the radio show tomorrow.

Hope you all had a fantastic Christmas, and here’s to an amazing 2013.

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.