Thursday 26 May 2016


Kurt Dirt is a musician, filmmaker and self proclaimed Duke of Puke, a well known artist in the UK indie Underground scene having contributed to movies like Troma's 'Return To Nuke Em High' and a string of other Indie concoctions as well as recently debuting his own latest gore soaked masterpiece in the form of the shot on Hi8 'Life is Cheap'.

I recently caught up with Kurt to discuss low budget filmmaking, old skool formats and what inspires him to make movies.

Every journey starts with an origin story, How did you know you wanted to make films?

I was a pretty sickly kid so I'd be asleep most of the day and awake all night, therefore I got hooked on late night ITV and channel 4 horror / weird movie marathons. I'd come in to school the next day and excite & horrify my classmates by telling them about what i'd seen. Of course sleep deprivation, fever and calpol always made my memory of the plot lines a little more trippy! I loved seeing the fear / disgust on their faces and I get the exact same buzz when I screen my movies today!

With more and more people choosing to just go out and shoot their own movies now, what made you take the DIY approach to making movies?

For me it's about maintaining control and the fun, I do this for my own enjoyment and to entertain fellow weirdo's. I have ideas for a hundred movies and I don't think I could ever pitch one of them to a studio / production company without being sectioned or put on some kind of register. I also like the way DIY movies look, to me they feel more dangerous. My main inspirations for 'Life is Cheap' were Troma,Yorkshire low budget film makers Smile Orange and the early films of Alex Chandon such as Bad Karma

As we all know DIY filmmaking can be tough, what were some of the downside of going out on your own?

Money is an obvious one, we were really lucky to have some generous donations via kickstarter (triple figures is mega bucks to us!) but there were costs for things such as travel expenses for actors etc that stacked up pretty quickly, also getting people all in one place can be a knightmare, it certainly pays to sit down, work out where and when you need everybody and plan it properly. 

On the flip side, what were the upsides?

As previously mentioned there's the freedom, we weren't bound to any set in stone script or screenplay so we could kind of riff on what worked on camera and what didn't work. All of our cast were fantastic but Ben & Louise in particular really shone when it came to improvisation and building on their grotesque characters. As a director I think it's important to stick to your vision for the project but it really does pay to listen to your cast and crew and allow people to think outside the box and come up with their own ideas, shoot everything and see what works and doesn't work when it comes to editing. My main indicators for what was going to stay in the movie was if I was struggling not to laugh behind the camera or if I was squirming to the point of thinking "what am I doing with my life?" 

Another great thing is getting to see the enthusiasm people put in to the project, especially the actors / crew working for little or no money, a good atmosphere on set / a buzz around the project as a whole can be really infectious. 

You recently produced 'Life is Cheap', which you shot on Hi8, what were the challenges of working on an old skool format?

Really not as many as you may think. What I love about working with Hi8 is that everything instantly looks kind of grubby and a little worn, you get all these cool little glitches and dirt without having to spend time and money on plug in's. The only real restrictions we faced were when it came to digitizing the footage. I work on a Mac and for some reason the majority of digitisation devices only come with PC software so we had to hunt around for a compatible programe online. The other is sound. Even if your going for the whole grunge / video nasty asthetic it's always worth still recording everything with a boom / sound recorder. I really regret not doing so on 'life is cheap', fixing audio issues in post was a nightmare and left us with lots of great scenes which were unusable due to actors lines being muffled or distorted.

Apart from 'Just make movies' what advice would you give people starting out making their own films?

Be yourself. Don't feel like you have to make films based on what you think other people want to see. Take time to sit down and work out what kind of aesthetic you want, what you want your audience to feel and do your research. Reading books by people I admire like Lloyd Kaufman, William Castle and John Waters and then making notes was a great help. Network and find other people who share your excitement and get them on board. Helping out on others projects can also be a great learning experience, for me working in various capacities on Lloyd Kauffman's 'Return to Nuke Em High', Liam Regan's 'Banjo' and Heidi Moore's 'Dolly Deadly' taught me much more than any film school could. 

And finally, what is next for Kurt Dirt?

Me and Ben (joeby cleftico in life is cheap) have been making plans for our next project, a gory buddy road movie with Jimmy Savilles ghost and Peter Sutcliffe. Ben has written some songs for it already and they're hilarious, definitely secured our place in hell. Also I'd like to take a break from comedy/ exploitation make a really scary, gruelling Horror movie, something that will make people feel like I did when I was a little kid cringing infront of the TV watching Evil Dead or the Texas Chain Saw Massacre, too afraid to get up and stop the VCR. I've been working a 'day job' at pasaje del terror in Blackpool and as well as being fun it's great research in to what not only makes people jump but scares them on a deeper psychological level.

You can pick up 'Life is Cheap' now at


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Tuesday 24 May 2016


Shooting at night s probably one of the toughest things you can attempt as a low budget filmmaker, this is because, no matter what you are shooting on, your camera needs a good amount of light to capture a good quality image. Shooting at night reduces your light sources drastically if you are shooting in urban areas and if you are shooting in the woods, the middle of country side or even somewhere that isn't usually accessed after dark it becomes even trickier business to get that light onto your cameras sensor.

One work around is to shoot 'Day for Night', which involves shooting the scene in sunlight (works best shooting on  cloudy/overcast day) and then grading in post to make the image look a little like twilight. I tried this early on when I started making films and really hated the results, I've always found it better to shoot in darkness and bring in whatever light I can. The result is always a far better image.

Having a budget usually solves this problem by hiring huge spotlights and generators to help make up for the lack of good light, but this is expensive and something that is usually saved for large budget productions. If you, like us, are usually make stuff on spit and buttons, then you'll need to come up with more creative solutions to work around your lack of light.

Here are 3 tips to help you get the most out of shooting at night and how to take that into account when you are looking for your location.


The easiest way you can start to combat shooting at night is by picking your location wisely. A few years ago, when we were working on preproduction for Creepsville, I would wonder around at night looking for the best lit streets, alleys, carparks, you name it and once there I would look at how much light is already there from street lamps, security lights. Then I would look at what other extraneous light sources there were like shops signs, obviously the more light the better. This means less light I have to bring along with me, which in turns means less disturbing people and less drawing attention to yourself.

Legacy of Thorn (2014)
On Legacy of Thorn, when it came time to shoot the infamous 'bridge scene', I spent months looking for a bridge that we could shoot on without being disturbed that would also give us enough light to cover the action. The first one we tried, we scoped during the day, took note that it had street lights above it and figured it would give us enough light. On returning in the evening, not only did we find that most of the street lights were broken, but it was also a well known hangout for crackheads who made themselves a problem very quickly.

We eventually found something closer to home that fit perfectly and although it had some street lighting, we still had to make up the difference with our own portable flood lights.

 Get Legacy of Thorn on DVD and Digital HD now.


Chances are, if you are out shooting in the woods, on the street or in an abandoned factory at night, you're not going to have access to power. This always something I try to avoid, simply to make life easier for us and give us more freedom in lighting. However, if its not possible, we bring out the portable, rechargeable LED'S. These are bright flood lights that charge on the mains and give around 3 Hours + of continuous use and weigh next to nothing. They are fairly harsh, but used correctly (with gels or diffusion) are a great way to light dim sets when there is no good natural light. They cost around £45 each when I bought them in 2013, there are now better cheaper options out there too.

Cleaver : Rise of The Killer Clown (2015)
On shooting Cleaver : Rise of The Killer Clown, we were shooting a scene in a car, in the middle of the night, in a residential area. The last thing we wanted to do was pull a generator out there, or we certainly want to run cables across the road. The street lamps gave us some coverage, but nowhere near enough once our actress was in the vehicle. In stead we matched the street light colour on LED's with gels and just used whoever was free as light stands. It matched the natural light, but it gave us the extra light we needed to make the scene more visible.

Cleaver : Rise of The Killer Clown (2015)
These lights are great in place of having to drag a noisy generator down and even then it takes an expensive generator to run even our low wattage work lights, never mind our red heads or spotlights. Using these also means that should we need to, we can use a smaller generator to run other low power things like charging stations and smoke machines.

P.S. Before I could afford my own portable LED'S I made some for about £5/$7 each, find out how HERE.


One the best weapons to combat low light situations is using a fast lens on your camera. This is something that wasn't even really a choice when I started out filmmaking, if your camera's fixed lens sucked in low light (which they all did) then that was that. Now even the most inexpensive DSLR'S can capture great low light images with the right lens attached,  If you're shooting on an interchange lens system camera, you should try and have at least one fast lens that opens to at least f/1.8. This will help you get more light into your camera and make picking up a usable image just that little bit easier. Its best not rely on this, but it can give you that extra boost once you've done the above. There are also cameras like the Sony A7S/A7S2/A6300 that can shoot in incredibly low light with out damaging your image, but I still advise taking location and lighting into account even with miracle cameras like that available.

When shooting the infamous 'Bridge Scene' on Legacy of Thorn, even with choosing the best location for light and having the portables there, I still ended up shooting almost every shot on my Canon 50mm f/1.8 to get a better image. The downside of this is that the depth of the image was very shallow, but the upside was that I got a better image and because we were shooting in a wide open space it meant that the close focal length didn't impact what I wanted to get too much.

These days if we're shooting outdoors I try to plan my shots around the widest opening lenses that I have. Its not always possible, but its worth thinking about.



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Thursday 19 May 2016


Pat Higgins is somewhat of a legend in the UK's low budget indie scene. Since the release of Trash House in 2005 the Essex based filmmaker has gone on to produce a slew of internationally released horror titles such as Killer Killer, Hellbride, The Devils Music, as well as being one third of the creative force behind the 'Death Tales Anthology' series. As if he wasn't busy enough Pat also takes his time to run filmmaking and screenwriting masterclasses for the next generation of filmmakers.

We recently caught up with Pat to discuss his filmmaking career, his inspirations, the state of the UK indie market and his current and constantly evolving film project 'House on the WitchPit'.

Every journey starts with an origin story, How did you know you wanted to make films?
There were a couple of films that had a huge influence on me as a kid. I saw Star Wars on opening night as a three year-old, which was probably a considerable factor, but the other ones that left me thinking "this is what I want to do" were a rerelease of Disney's 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, (which I sat through fidgeting waiting for the squid fight, but when the squid fight turned up it basically rewired my brain) and Flash Gordon. 
So the seeds of cinema were sewn early. The final piece of the puzzle fell into place with Gremlins turned up in 1984. I was too young to see it thanks to the 15 certificate, so I spent almost a year obsessing over every piece of merchandise and counting down the days until the rental release. That year kind of shifted my outlook to comedy-horror, before The Shining and a grainy tenth-generation pirate copy of The Exorcist shifted my brain and my outlook yet again a few years later.

What made you take the DIY approach to making your own movies?
Once I got out of Uni, I spent a while trying to shift a spec script that I'd written with a friend of mine. As a gradually realised that selling that script was very, VERY unlikely to happen, I began to focus on the idea of shooting something myself just to kick my career off. I set up my limited company in 2003 for a completely different reason; Jinx was originally intended to sell individual stand-up comedy clips to mobile phones (at a point when video on phones was somewhere between bleeding-edge technology and outright science fiction). Remember, this was before things like YouTube even existed. The window for that business opportunity lasted about a second a half. One minute, it was impossible, the next minute it was commonplace. So I was left with a media company with no real purpose, and a burning desire to make a film. So we took some money that we were intending to buy a car with, and make TrashHouse instead.

As we all now filmmaking can be tough, what were some of the downside of going out on your own?
I'm pretty sure I only ended up getting attention because we did what we did at a point when it was stupidly tough to make a movie. According to MJ Simpson, there were about 14 British horrors made in the year we made TrashHouse, whereas last year there were around 250. There were no options in terms of VOD, of course, so we were reliant on old-school distributors and getting our flicks out into bricks and mortar shops like Blockbuster. We managed to overcome so many hurdles to get the early films out there. The hurdle we never overcame was how to get the money to trickle back down to us once it had gone through the hands of multiple distributors. As a result, our first three films lost a considerable chunk (or, indeed, all) of their investment, despite coming out on DVD or limited cinema releases all over the world. Keeping going in the face of those kinds of issues is very, very tough. 
Here's an example. Just last week we re-released our awesome horror romantic comedy Hellbride on VOD (which your wonderful readers can pick up extremely cheaply from - go and do it. It's funny and it's scary and people like it). Now, that movie's been out for the best part of a decade. Out on DVD in the UK, in the US. Various streaming platforms worldwide. Our best estimate is that just over a third of a million people have seen that movie. 
The money from the fine people who purchased the High Definition VOD version last week will be the very first payments that Jinx has ever seen for that film. We shot it in 2006. 

On the flip side, what were the upsides of doing it by yourself?
Well, let's stick with Hellbride as an example. It's a genuinely sweet romantic comedy that just happens to have some fairly horrific bits of business (mouths getting stitched shut, brides hacking at one another with axes) and the odd genuinely filthy joke. If that movie had been made within the system, there would have been two options. You could have lost the gore and the dick jokes and made the thing a PG-13 date movie, or you could have lost the sweet, genuine romantic comedy and made it a full-tilt horror for the Saw crowd. Odd little movies that do their own thing aren't welcome within the system. The majors are massively risk averse in terms of the 'products' they make, and as cinema prices rocket the audience have become extremely risk-averse too, and I really don't blame them. if it's going to cost you north of £50 to go to the cinema once you've thrown in parking and popcorn, you want to make goddamn sure that the movie you watch is going to fulfil your expectations for your evening out. So the wonderful freedom allowed by doing things as a tiny indie is something you just won't find anywhere else.

You recently shot House on The Witch Pit, a completely different approach to filmmaking, what was the idea behind creating the never 'finished' film.
I wrote the first draft of something that was then just called 'Witchpit' in about 2002, and over the years the script has been through countless reimaginings with only the title remaining the same. Eventually, I came to embrace this. I loved the idea of a movie becoming almost an urban legend in itself. Where people who both thought they'd 'seen' it would come to discover that the versions they'd seen were so fundamentally different that they were effectively different movies. This approach also sidestepped the whole piracy thing that dogged the early stages of my career. I'm extremely excited about some of the versions that will be appearing towards the end of the year. It's not going to carry on forever, though. The experiment, for better or worse, ends on January 23rd 2020, four years after the premiere. I talked about some of these ideas over at for those that are interested.

If there was one piece of advice you could give to filmmakers, apart from 'just make movies' what would it be?
Be genuinely lovely to everyone you work with. Treat them like family members. If they let you down, try to understand why and continue to treat them nicely (although you may, of course, wish to avoid placing yourself in that position again). Feed people. Be honest with people. Never force them into a corner or mislead them.
Not everyone you meet will follow these same ideals. The industry has a few unpleasant sharks in the water, and you may well run into some of them. Don't become one of them, no matter what happens. Make sure that every night, when your head hits the pillow, you can sleep the sleep of the righteous and the just. That's more important than anything else. The things you put out there are the things that will come back to you.
Make sure your conscience is clear. If it's not, do something about it.

And finally, what is next for Pat Higgins?
The Witchpit experiment continues for another three and a half years, obviously. I've also got an absolutely KILLER script called Your Lying Eyes (which is probably the best thing I've ever written) which we'll hopefully be selling to a third party rather than making ourselves. There might very possibly be a sequel on the horizon that we aren't allowed to talk about yet. We keep busy, keep trying new stuff, keep breaking new ground. At the end of the day, there will be loads and loads of time to sleep when they shovel dirt over your head. Nobody's death bed wish was ever that they spent their life making less cool stuff.

You can find Pats work and more at

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 Get Legacy of Thorn on DVD and Digital HD now.

Tuesday 17 May 2016

THE WAPAH!! CHECK LIST : 5 Ways to Check Your Location Has EVERYTHING You Need.

So you've found the perfect place to shoot. It has the right aesthetic for your films tone and its functionality matches your script perfectly, but there are some things that you'll want to bear in mind before you start booking your cast and crew.

Once you've found your location, we talked about some ways to do that HERE, you'll need to make sure that it suits your needs and that its a viable venue to set your movie. Not all locations are created equal and there are 5 things that you need to look at to make sure that where you want to shoot works for you. 

I created something called 'THE WAPAH!! CHECK LIST', which are 5 things that you should look at when you are scouting for places to ideally shoot your next film.

One of the first things I do is check that there is running water on location. Especially if you are going to spend any length of time there. It seems like something that wouldn't be that important, but if you don't have access to running water, trust me, you notice fast. This could just be a bathroom or kitchen and if you are shooting in a standard suburban house or commercial facility then, chances are, that they'll be water for bathrooms/washing/cleaning up/doing hair and makeup/special effects etc. 
Legacy of Thorn (2014)

However when you're out shooting in warehouses, old buildings and abandoned places (as well as out in nature) Water starts to become harder to come by. This is where you need to figure out how much water you need to bring yourself,  for people and for functionality. Drinking water should always be brought anyway (don't EVER let your cast and crew drink from taps in abandoned or old buildings), but you should be aware of how much you need and what you need it for. 

On Slasher House and Legacy of Thorn, we shot in old, non functioning government buildings. They had electricity and some running water (only cold), but there was no water flow to the showers in either case. This was a problem when most people returned from shooting each evening covered in dirt and sticky blood. Obviously before we got there we had to figure out a solution to that. Which brings us to...

Based on how much access and the type of access we have to water and facilities, I then look at the local amenities to figure out just how far we'll have to travel to do things like shower/use the bathroom/get refreshments. This should, again, give you a good idea of what you need to bring in terms of equipment, food, water and what you can have access to on the day. What shops are available locally? How far is it to get to them?

The distance between your set and your amenities can make a huge difference. If you're working with a small crew and suddenly someone you NEED has to take a 90 minute round trip to pick up food or take an actor to the bathroom or what have you then you are gonna see a lot of downtime when you're not shooting and this is when thing start to overrun and cause problems. Also, if you've every met an actor who can't shower for a couple of days, then you'll understand how important it is to find somewhere for them to wash regularly. 

On Legacy of Thorn, the school we shot in (and lived in) for 14 days, had electricity and running cold water, but then water only ran in the admin building and not to the showers down in the sports block. We bought solar showers as it was the height of summer, but they were less than successful, luckily we had scoped out the leisure centre before hand, about 20 minutes down the road and told them what we were up to, they agreed to let us use their showers and we scheduled in time in the day for actors (and then crew) to go and get washed if they needed. 

Obviously if you are shooting a movie, you are probably gonna need power. Although not in all instances, which is why its actually 3rd on the list (that and it helps me spell WAPAH by being here). After checking our water supply and amenities I look to see how much power (if any we have). How many power points are there? Are the functional? Are they wired safely? How many extensions will we need to set up how many lights? This way I can plan exactly what I need to pack in terms of power/lights and if we need a generator or not.

If we're shooting outdoors, we use rechargeable led lights and scout with that in mind to try and find places with decent natural light already, If we're shooting in the day, this becomes less of an issue obviously and its entirely possible to shoot with natural light and some reflectors. If you're shooting in doors at night you'll probably need power. This is also useful for things like recharging gear, batteries, running footage off the camera and making cups of tea (The most important use of power on a British set). 

On Slasher House 2, we needed to shoot in a graveyard, but getting power out there was a problem that we found impossible to solve. To try and regain control over lighting, we asked a lovely friend of ours who had helped us out on a previous film, if we could use there expansive garden to build a graveyard and run power from the house. The only problem is that they only had one outlet we could run power from, we thought it would be enough at a push and very quickly we started to find that we would lose power to the 3000 watts worth of lights we were running. This meant having to pause filming every 20 minutes of so in the pitch black on a -1 December evening. Make sure you have enough outlets to run your equipment properly.

What kind of access you have to your location is important and it will ultimately determine if the location is right for your shoot. Can you only get in to the location at certain times? Can you access it around the clock? Is it a 6 hour drive away from base camp? Is it near any civilisation at all? Can you drive to it or do you have walk on foot? There is a huge list of things that will make getting to a location a problem and you sometimes have to weight up if that location is worth using if its too difficult to get to.

You also want to be aware about how long you have at the location, if you need to work around a business then you will probably be shooting after hours, if you need nightfall then you'll have to check that you have access at night. Its worth checking if you can house your cast and crew there to. The easiest shoots i've had are the ones where we lived on set (or in the same complex) as there wasn't travel to worry about or driving back and forth from location every day. Plus it makes its easier for everyone to bond.

On Slasher House 2, we had our main location around the clock, which was fine as we needed to shoot at night because of the locations huge factory windows, we just couldn't cover them. This was fine as we could get in anytime we wanted, The only stipulation was that if we didn't leave by 10 when the gates closed, then we had to stay until 5 in the morning when the gates opened. This led to either having to rush through what we were doing as soon as it got dark, or finishing in the small hours in the cold and then having wait to leave. It took us a while to try and swing the right balance, so its important to try and factor these things early on if you can.

After I've checked all the above, I then do a huge sweeping check that I consider the MOST IMPORTANT one of all. Health and Safety. This really goes to looking at most of the previous things over all, Is the power safe? Is there enough water to clean wounds? (Real ones rather than sfx) Where is the nearest hospital? The nearest first aid kit? and then I look at what has to happen in the scenes and looks at where our actors will be and how to keep them out of as much danger as possible. Looking for things like loose flooring, nails, low hanging roofs, doors, wires anything that I think might be a hazard and just look at what I need to stay away from and what I can clean up or make safe again. 

Its most important of all to keep you cast and crew safe. If they are going to be crawling around of the floor then I'll make sure its swept and that any sharp objects are removed and just generally try and make it as comfortable as possible without ruining the aesthetic. If there are any stunts, I look at how we are going to do them safely and securely and wether we'll need mats or not. A lot of it is really just common sense, like "don't touch that live wire", "Don't hold that 1000 watt light with your hands" or "don't kick this pile of asbestos boards thinking they are plaster" (That one was me on my first shoot). 

Also and this is a BIG ONE : Make sure you have Insurance, even if you are just making a little no budget movie, make sure that have insurance that covers you in case of any accidents to your actors and the public, you'll save yourself a load of problems should the worst happen. In all honesty there have been very few accidents on our sets, Thats probably down to a mixture of luck and planning, things do just happen, especially when people are in the heat of the moment during a performance and all you can do is do your best to try and account for what could go wrong. Just be careful and ask your actors and crew to do the same, but try and stay safe.



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 Get Legacy of Thorn on DVD and Digital HD now.

Thursday 12 May 2016


Liam Regan is a UK born filmmaker who has recently made waves in the indie community with his low budget debut feature Banjo based on his short film Confessions of Peltzer. Since premiering last year the film has played all over globe and solidified Mr Regan's status as a up and coming filmmaker to watch. 

Inspired by filmmaking legends such as Lloyd Kaufman (Who makes an appearance in Banjo) and Frank Henenlotter, Liam Regan wears his love of genre movies on his sleeve with a style and approach that is reminiscent of the golden age of splatter cinema.

Micro Budget Massacre recently caught up with Liam about his experience making Banjo and what comes next.

Every journey starts with an origin story, How did you know you wanted to make films?
Ever since I can remember, I've always been enamoured with horror movies, some of my favourite childhood memories was when my Mum took me to my local video rental store and I would instantly be overcome with goosebumps and have a outer body experience (became dizzy) whilst browsing through the video boxes with gnarly artwork. A few of the memorable films I rented were the likes of 'Cat's Eye', 'Critters 2: The Main Course' and 'Ghoulies Go to College'. 

I quickly became a fan of creature feature flicks and with the addition of Sky Television in our household (in the early 90's) my love for the genre grew further as channels such as Sky Movies Plus and 'Bravo' showcased such milestone films in my life like 'Child's Play 2', 'Puppet Master 3: Toulon's Revenge' and 'Basket Case 2'. 
However it wasn't until the Summer of 1996, when one of my weekly trips to Blockbuster Video resulted in a purchase (My Mum purchasing that is, I was only 11 years old at the time) an ex-rental video tape of 'The Toxic Avenger Part 2', a movie that showcase a dark mixture of horror and comedy, fused with exploitation and ultra violence, I had never seen anything quite like it before, and then when opening my Sky TV guide magazine back in September of 1996, I noticed that the channel Bravo was having a Troma season in October, and this eventually introduced and exposed me to their back-catalog of films. 

Titles such as 'Surf Nazis Must Die' and 'Rabid Grannies' made me excited for every Saturday evening to roll around, with my eyes firmly glued to the TV at 10pm in excitement. So thank you to Troma Entertainment, they corrupted my fragile little mind, to want to be a filmmaker with self masochistic tendencies. 

With more and more people choosing to just go out and shoot their own movies now, what made you take the DIY approach to making your first film?
I realised that nobody was going to give me money to make the kind of movie, that deep down in my heart, I wanted to make. Plus, I'm a nobody (still am) - Prior to Banjo, I had no track record, other than a shitty 13 minute short film titled 'Confessions of Peltzer' and numerous IMDb credits as a production assistant on independent genre movies I've worked on over the years, and why should they give me money? This is a business at the end of the day, and investors at least want to see a return, and I'm wanting to make a movie about a guy who snaps his penis (based on a true story) and summons his imaginary friend, which in turn, manipulates him to shoot up his office. 

Banjo isn't a possession movie, or a zombie movie by the numbers, so it's a gamble - and it was a gamble for yours truly also. Plus, I didn't want to compromise my vision, I wanted this to be purely my movie, with my name on it, I have always viewed filmmaking as immortality in a way, leaving art behind for generations upon generations to discover (now I have panic attacks about all physical media being destroyed and digital rights being lost in the apocalyptic wasteland, long after I die. Paranoia is a bitch!),

As we all now DIY filmmaking can be tough, what were some of the downside of going out on your own?
It's a very long, lonely and self masochistic process. You write the movie on your own, then you have like a hundred people help you during the actual film shoot, and then you're on your own yet again. It can be depressing, self deprecating, yet it's the best kind of film school I have ever experienced. You make a million mistakes, and ruin and tarnish relationships and friendships, but through the blood, sweat, semen and tears, you create your film-baby. 

On the flip side, what were the upsides?
Creative freedom and expression, I had producers, actors, you name it drop out during pre-production, due to the extremities and content of the initial drafts of the screenplay. However I felt like I managed to strike the right balance, and I was able to hire the people I wanted to work with and move forward with the project, and held the vision I always had for 'Banjo'. I remember the first draft of the screenplay having at least 12 rape scenes, I remember being heavily influenced by hardcore exploitation horror movies during that period. I cut that down to 1 rape scene, which people never mention in reviews or interviews. 'Banjo' is essentially a rape-revenge movie, but has never been branded by that genre, which has puzzled me. 

So after that hard work, your filmmaking journey is far from over, what happens when the film is done?
The film is finished and everyone thinks you're rich and a millionaire, when in reality, you're broke as you have ever been in your life, and are clutching at favours, and you'll meet a dozen people wanting to take advantage of your current desperate situation. People you would class as friends will inevitably end up on your shit list by the time the year is through. You'll make another million mistakes on trying to find a sales agent/distributor for your project, and then you'll waste a shit load of money on film festivals that don't even consider your movie, even though you have paid them an extortionate fee to at least watch the movie. I think the best way I could put it is: "Life is not a movie. Good guys lose, everybody lies, and love... does not conquer all."  

Every film is an experience and more importantly a lesson, what did you learn that you'll take with you to your next movie?

Don't write too much dialogue, create more action sequences and make a much more fucked up movie. Lloyd Kaufman (President of Troma Entertainment) is my favourite shit disturber, he dealt with "taboos" and subject matters that the Hollywood system were too afraid to conquer back in the 70's and 80's, and I'm wanting to carry on that tradition. The key is to make a movie that nobody forgets, sure they can love it, or hate it, but they'll never forget it, that's the dream. I absolutely love making films, it's what I was put on the earth for, and I don't care if I need to max out more credits cards, or take out more loans or work as many legally available hours I can at my day-job, nothing will stop me from creating, it's the best therapy out there. I want to entertain people, I consider that as one of the major importance in life, other than finding the cure to cancer. 

And finally, what is next?
I'm currently writing a rape revenge/black comedy titled 'Parents Evening' which if you put the following movies: 'Heathers', 'Jawbreaker', 'Detention', 'Class of 1984' and 'I Spit On Your Grave' in a blender, you would have the 'Parents Evening' protein shake ... full of bodily fluids. I hope to shoot that in 2018, and if anyone wants to give me money for 'Banjo 2: Make Room for Daddy' I would be more than happy to bring those characters back, but it all depends on the success of the home video/on demand release of 'Banjo' which is due out on Amazon and iTunes by late 2016. 
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Tuesday 10 May 2016

FINDING LOCATIONS : 3 Easy Ways to Find Your Next Film Set

As we've talked about before, finding the right location can make or break your movie. Shooting your film in the right place adds so much production in terms of style, look and value that to over look it is setting yourself off on the wrong foot.

In big budget movies, it not uncommon for sets to be built on a sound stage wherever possible, this is usually due to the amount of control the creative team needs over the set, i.e being able to remove walls, lighting, shooting around the clock. If you're shooting on a budget its unlikely (although not impossible) that you can build your 'Church Interior' or 'Canadian wilderness' from scratch as a set on a sound stage. This usually means that you have to find something the preexists in the world.

This is both a blessing and a curse. Finding a pre-existing location means that you have less control over things like weather, power, access, angles, food establishments and the list varies drastically from place to place, meaning a lot of prep and compromise most of the time. The upside however, is that you get something real, something that you can't build, something raw and lived in and that is really what adds the value to your films.


Following are 3 ways of sourcing locations when you are working on a limited budget, These 'suggestions' are by no means the best , or the only, ways of finding the right location for your film, but hopefully they'll help you think creatively about what you need and help you look at where you shoot in more productive way.


Douglas Prison : Isle of Man
Finding locations can be tough going. Especially if you need anything outside of student flat or family home, things start getting difficult pretty quickly. This is when you need to employ some of your unique circumstances to finding what you need. By 'Unique Circumstances' I mean this, Everyone has access to something unique that no body else has access to, in terms of locations.

This is basically looking at what you have access to personally. Can you make a film out that creepy looking shack your dad built at the bottom on the garden? Does your Aunt work at a High School after hours? Does your mate have the keys to the warehouse on a weekend? All these are great starting points to finding a great location to shoot in that isn't 'Mark's Studio Apartment' and also a brilliant way of getting the creative juices flowing. There a few things than coming up with a  scene or even an entire film based around an amazing location. 

I always 'try' to write locations based on something I know we have or can get access too, even if that means taking a pause from writing for a moment and throwing it out there to people I know with a "Does anyone have access to..." and usually I receive a "No, But I have access to...", sometimes this will dictate where the film is set and sometimes the direction a film will go.  You have to be creative and compromise when it comes to low budget filmmaking. 

Slasher House (2012) Douglas Prison : Isle of Man 

For Example, I originally wrote Slasher House to take place in an old run down mansion, when we were offered an abandoned prison, it was too good to pass up and we adapted and it worked out for the better, both visually and thematically. It also meant we had to adapt one scene to be set in a 'Gallows' which was a pretty awesome, if not terrifying, experience and also added another dimension to the film.


After you've spent your first couple of movies exhausting and exhausted your family and friends locations, you should have begun to develop a 'network' of people to work with, to show your work to and who also make movies. This is your community and these are the people you can turn to for help. 

Other filmmakers are a great conduit for resources, this is because, just like you, they spend their time making movies and, believe or not, have come up against most the same problems you have when it comes to getting locations and come out the other side. Its a great way to to find creative solutions to problems, by talking to people who have already solved those problems and getting their advice.

The biggest advantage of this, is that it gives you a new perspective and helps you think outside the box. One of the biggest mistakes I see people making in terms of locations is that they need something so they look for "INSERT LOCATION HERE" and that alone, when one of the key ways to solve the problem is finding something that can do the same job, but provides earlier access. Other filmmakers will have been through this and will be able to help advise you and what can substitute your needed set. 

Legacy of Thorn (2014) : High School Oldham : Main Building
Legacy of Thorn (2014) : High School Oldham : DT BLOCK
What I mean is, for example, on Legacy of Thorn we needed a hospital, but getting one that looked operational was tougher than we could have imagined. Instead we found a section of our old college that looked very similar to a hospital corridor (along with first aid room) and dressed it up to stand in for it. Throwing in some posters, a couple of extras in long white coats and nurses uniforms and we had a what we wanted but without the red tape of shooting a real hospital. 

Sometimes its worth talking to other filmmakers about how they made it appear that they shot in a location.


Possibly the simplest approach to finding the right location is to find the location you are after and just ask. It seems like there might be more to it, but its really as easy as that. Sometimes if we need a specific location we just find the place we want and then ask. Sometimes we're successful and sometimes not, but no one has ever done anything worse than say 'No'. Usually people just want you to cover electric or a small charge to use it, sometimes they might even just let you have it for free as long as it doesn't conflict with business hours etc.

The real issue with this approach is that it can become a numbers game and thats a lot of ground work, but if you're willing to put that work in, you'll almost certainly find the location that you're after. Just find the type of location you're looking for and make a list of suitable candidates, from here your kind of politely cold calling and explaining your project and what you want to do. Some people won't care, some will be interested, but won't be able to help you and you'll come across those who will do whatever they can to accommodate what you're doing. Its pretty much that simple.

Slasher House 2 (2016) Warehouse 
Slasher House 2 (2016) : Warehouse
For Slasher House 2, we needed a government facility (or something that could pass for one). We actually live in the town that has the government facility that solved the Enigma Code (now a tourist attraction), but they were a flat out 'NO' out of the gate. We decided that we would have to found something that could work instead of and figured a 'Lazer Quest' could work. We emailed every Lazer Quest in a 100 miles radius and out of 25 we got a response from 2, we met with one. It didn't work out due to the times we needed, but we had the location should we want it. 

We eventually went in a different direction that worked out better for us, but I'll talk about that in a future blog. 


I should point out, that its important to be honest and up front here, telling them you're shooting a family drama when really you're shooting a gore soaked torture porn is counter productive when you turn up on the day and start spraying the place down with food colouring and syrup and if they think they've been fooled, chances of them signing a release form are slim and even if they do and then find out they've been lied to they'll just flat out refuse the next filmmaker that come knocking and its your job to make sure that we pave the way for everybody in the community.

Just like any aspect of filmmaking, employing creative thinking is your friend and if you think about what you need in front of the camera creatively you might even surprise yourself in what you come up with what you think of outside the box or sometimes its as simple as just asking. 


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