One Day to Go..

We promised you cool stuff for our tenth anniversary, and tomorrow is when we start making good on that promise.

The full-length video of our latest live show, Werewolves, Cheerleaders and Chainsaws, will be hitting this site as a freebie tomorrow.

Yup, the whole show will be here for your viewing pleasure. An hour of anecdotes and advice from the trenches of low-budget filmmaking.

Just one day to go.

See you tomorrow.

 

The Elevator Pitch

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.

I don’t like the sound of that…

Ah, sound recording.

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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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

Does that sound good?

Death Tales mini-comic: The tenth anniversary begins here!

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…