TrashHouse: The Uncensored Truth

I was born in 1974. Movies were always my love and passion, ever since seeing Star Wars on the big screen on opening night at the Southend Odeon. It was December 1977, and I was three years old. In that same year, my amazing mum also took me to see the rerelease of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, which I talked about in this blog entry over here. We also went to see Bambi, because, hey, she was a dutiful mum and that’s the drill. It was the sci-fi stuff and the rubber monsters that stuck with me, though.

From that point, I knew I wanted to make movies. I think I was muddled about the process for a few years; early on, I thought I wanted to act but this was because I believed films were made in real time. I knew it was all fake, but I think I thought that Sam J Jones would receive the Flash Gordon script, memorise it and then turn up at the studio. He’d spend 90 minutes running away from explosions, snogging Melody Anderson and wearing a t-shirt with his own name on it, and then he’d just bask in the glory when the flick got released.

As soon as I realised this wasn’t the case, I knew I wanted to be a film director.

Life gets in the way, of course. After university I ended up in a variety of jobs, from cinema usher through to video shop assistant and then through to being a customer services trainer in an internet company. I punched the clock, but I knew these weren’t the things I wanted to do. I never stopped thinking about directing movies.

Somewhere along the way, I started doing stand-up comedy. Because this was the late nineties to early noughties we’re talking about, no clips of this phenomenon exist online. If the Kickstarter project hits its total, I’ll post one. Anyway, the stand-up part of my life collided with the internet company part of my life, and I set up Jinx Media in 2003 as a company dedicated to delivering short stand-up clips to mobile phones.

The window during which this was a viable idea was incredibly short. One day, it seemed like delivering video to phones was just too hard from a technical point of view. The blink of an eye later, phones could get onto the web and a custom delivery system (let alone one that charged) looked utterly pointless. The idea missed its window, and I was left with a company with no purpose.

And we had a few grand in the bank.

Suddenly, it looked like the time had come to make the movie I’d dreamed of for so long.

Why am I telling you all this? Well, I’m telling you by way of context because of the video that awaits you at the end of this blog entry.

The short version: in 2004, (as you probably know if you’re reading this), I made a movie.

We had a small budget, very little practical experience and no connections. I advertised for cast and crew on the internet. I hired a warehouse, we built sets out of wood and I filmed a ludicrously ambitious script on a mini DV camcorder.

The movie was called Trashhouse.

TrashHouse_DVD

It ended up getting a wide DVD release in the UK. I had the joy of walking into the branch of Blockbuster that I had once worked in, and seeing multiple copies on the shelf.

Kim Newman in Empire magazine said it had ‘Clever ideas but dodgy tech credits’.

While we went about our insane quest, we let filmmaker Mike Borland film everything we did. A cut-down version of Mike’s documentary ended up on the DVD.

What follows, for the first time, is the full uncensored version of that behind-the-scenes documentary.

It’s filmmaking 2004 style; no DSLRs, no video blogs because such things just didn’t exist. No YouTube, no Facebook. Editing footage at home was only just becoming possible. I cut the whole goddamn film on a PC with a 20 Gig hard drive.

There’s a lot of love going on here. For better or worse, this was where it started.

Love,
Pat
x

#

Guest Blogger: Avri Klemer on Spookin’ 2

Pat’s movies are fun.

This does not surprise me in the least, because Pat is fun. Pat and I go way back, back to a time when I had short hair. A time when we would stand around the playground discussing the previous night’s Moonlighting or Max Headroom episode. When we would watch cheesy movies (often starring Judge Reinhold) and play 64k computer games to review in our own photocopied magazine that we sold to our classmates.

When, one afternoon in our preteens, we made a movie.

Spookin’ 2 – written / produced / directed by Patch Higgins (as he was known then) – remains my one and only screen credit. It has never appeared on my CV, never been seen by anyone beyond its stars (all three of us) and our immediate family. But, man, was it fun.

If there was a Spookin’ Part 1, I never saw it, but Spookin’ 2 was filmed on a big old handheld camcorder – I don’t even recall if it held full size video cassettes, or fancy-shmancy minis. The plot is a thing long since lost to drinking, dancing and age. Something about one of us being a ghost trying to scare the others out of the house.

But what I do remember, quite vividly, is the free and easy way we shot what we laughingly called the special effects. There was to be no post production, no editing, just whatever Pat captured behind the camera. In my adult head I hear him yelling “Perfect!” after every take, but I’m sure that didn’t actually happen. When he wanted to film me “phasing” through a wall, this is how it went.

Pat had me run full speed at the wall.. He hit PAUSE on the camera, then waved me out of shot. Then he hit RECORD again. We’d move into the next room where he would shoot the blank wall, press PAUSE again, wave me back into shot and I’d run away from the wall when he yelled “Action”.

The final product looked exactly as good as you imagine it would, but the thing anyone could see was how much fun we were having.

Pat has (somewhat) bigger budgets these days and (waaaaay) better equipment at his disposal. He’s also learned more than a little about his craft. With each passing movie he makes, the plots become tighter, the effects more impressive, with everything in service to the great god “storytelling”.

Not to mention that the quality of performers at his disposal are light years beyond whatever I could conjure up for the camera, even when I could remember the one liners.

What is undeniably the same however, what is visible on the screen that has not changed, is how much fun his actors are having.

I want to see more actors having fun with Pat’s words, his ideas, his sensibilities. Take a look at the recently launched Kickstarter for his new movie, Evil Apps. Throw a couple of pounds, dollars, euros at it if you agree it looks like fun. If it’s not your thing, please share it with those you think might appreciate it.

I don’t want to see another big budget, 3D, IMAX blockbuster in the movie theaters.

I want to see something fun.

—–

Avri Klemer is a published boardgame designer, an unpublished novelist, a singer and a nice guy.
His new blog is an exploration of “1000 Recordings To Hear Before You Die.”
He and Pat have been bouncing pop culture off of each other since 1985.

—–

PS. Pat here again. We’ve never had a guest blogger before, and I’d like to thank Avri for writing for us. I’m so grateful that I’m not even going to mention that he was actually in Spookin’ 1 as well, even if he can’t remember it. I tried to find a copy to pull screengrabs, but haven’t had any luck yet. I’ll keep looking.

 

Werewolves, Cheerleaders and Chainsaws

It’s here! It’s free! It’s NSFW (strong language, gore & nudity)! Full-length video about low budget horror filmmaking! Full of useful information for budding filmmakers about every step of the process, plus rare clips from Jinx movies (including behind-the-scenes stuff). Filmed live at Horror-on-Sea in January 2013.

Making The Devil’s Music – Part Two

This next thing follows this previous thing. Read the previous thing first.

I’m not a guy who tends to approach the big subjects in life. I’m a guy who makes horror films. I have no background in investigative journalism, beyond that my uncle used to do restaurant reviews for the local paper. I didn’t set out with any sort of agenda or gameplan. I didn’t even necessarily set out to make a documentary, let alone go on to write a book about it. This wasn’t the way that I expected 2008 and 2009 to pan out. In fact, in the summer of 2008 I was meant to be directing a fun little b-movie called [TITLE REDACTED] and instead I found myself coping with the fallout of having spent the previous year digging around the story of Erika Spawn. I’ve fended off everyone from fanboys to religious fanatics, all of whom have been convinced that I’ve been doing something very very wrong, even if they’ve had wildly differing ideas as to exactly what.

Erika Spawn - Goat Shoot

 

When the final phase of Erika’s story broke, in late summer 2007, I was dealing with making the delivery list for KillerKiller. When an independent film gets picked up by a distributor, that distributor sends you a delivery list, detailing all the weird and wonderful things that you’ll have to supply them with along with the master of the movie that they’ve just bought from you. KillerKiller’s delivery list to York Entertainment over in the US was fairly straightforward, and thankfully devoid of items such as the dreaded ‘Aeroplane Version’, where the producer has to deliver a cut of the movie that has no nudity, sex, violence or bad language yet somehow has the same running time, presumably via extended cutaways of bunnies hopping through fields. The job of making the delivery list had been made rather easier because Pip had joined the company full time a few weeks previously. Oh, and I should probably point out at this stage that Pip = Pippa Higgins, who not only produces all my flicks nowadays but is also my wife. She rocks my world on a daily basis, and also stops me doing incredibly stupid things without really thinking them through. She’s amazingly funny, astonishingly well organised and the most fundamentally interesting and brilliant person I’ve ever met. But when I say things like ‘I should phone Eddie Meachum’ when I’ve only got two days left before the deadline on a delivery list, she tends to call me on it.

‘You mean Erika Spawn’s manager? Why do you want to call him?’

‘To see how he’s doing.’

‘You’ve never given a shit how he was doing before. Why do you suddenly care now?’

‘He was a nice guy. Now he’s all over the papers and they’re tearing him to bits.’

‘You should delete the number. You don’t even know him.’

‘I liked him.’

‘Are we going to have to have another number deleting session?’

I winced. I didn’t like number-deleting sessions.

I have a habit of accruing numbers in my phone at a fairly rapid rate, often of people that I’m only very tenuously associated with. Years before I got into the movie-making business, I was involved with stand-up comedy. Involved in the sense that I ran a monthly comedy night over a pub, and I performed it fairly badly as a hobby. As a result, an awful lot of comedian’s numbers found their way into my phone and, over the years, some of them became famous. Funnily enough, when they became famous I didn’t want to delete their numbers ‘in case I needed them one day’. As a result, my phone was cluttered with numbers for people like Russell Brand and Alex Zane, most of which had probably stopped working years ago and I never actually intended to phone anyway, but somehow having them in my phone made me feel slightly higher up the ladder than I actually was. Once in a while, Pip would grab my phone and ruthlessly cull numbers. Allegedly this was to save space on the phone, but I think there was a very useful side effect of keeping me vaguely tethered to reality.

‘Even if we have a number-deleting session, his one stays. Because I want to phone him. Maybe I’ll wait till all this blows over, though.’

‘What’s this got to do with the delivery list?’

And then, without even really thinking about it, I blurted out;

‘We need a new project.’

‘We’ve already talked about this. There’s not enough cash in the company account to shoot another feature.’

This was true. The previous summer we’d shot KillerKiller back-to-back with another straight to DVD flick called Hellbride. Both were now complete, but at this stage we hadn’t seen a penny back from either of them. The cupboards were very much bare as far as funding a narrative feature went.

‘Maybe not a narrative, no’ I said, still not really thinking about what I was saying and really just looking for an excuse to ring the guy who was all over the papers and whose number I had in my phone. ‘But what about a documentary? Maybe just an interview or something?’

I hadn’t thought it through even slightly, but I was warming to my theme even as I spoke. Pip looked like she was biting her tongue, but appeared to be hearing me out.

‘Look, the Erika Spawn story is the hottest news story in the country right now. We’ve got an office full of HD filming equipment and a phone full of numbers of people connected to the story. If we can’t find a way to turn this into something financially rewarding we don’t deserve to be called filmmakers’

Pip thought long and hard before responding.

‘What do you mean a phone full of numbers?’

‘We’ve got Eddie’s’

‘We’ve got Eddie’s from two years ago. And that’s it? That’s not exactly a phone full of numbers. That’s one number. That almost definitely won’t work.’

‘Course it’ll work. I’ve had the same mobile number for 12 years.’

‘That’s because you’re not all over the papers. He’ll have changed it.’

‘Bet he hasn’t.’

‘Look, I don’t even want to talk about this. Have you burnt that DVD of photos yet, or do I have to..’

‘It’s ringing.’

Pip shot me a look and exhaled very slowly and carefully. I sat and watched the little readout on my phone, with the animated full stops after ‘Calling Eddie Meachum…’ dancing their path across the screen. It rang, and rang, and went to voicemail.

‘He’s screening. Hang it up,’ Pip said.

The voicemail message sounded incongruously upbeat, considering that the man in question was being called ‘The Shadowy Figure behind Evil Erika’ by the tabloids.

‘Hiya, this is Eddie. I’m out and about at the moment, but I’ll get back to you. Cheers.’

I cleared my throat, unsure as to what I was going to say. Pip made a ‘put the phone down right now’ gesture, and without getting the okay from my brain, my mouth apparently started speaking.

‘Hi, uh, Eddie? I don’t know if you remember me. My name’s Pat Higgins, I directed Erika’s video for Needles. I imagine that everything’s pretty insane at the moment, but I wanted to say that if you want to have a chat it’d be good to speak to you. Y’know, maybe if you wanted to give your side of the story or whatever. Give me a call, anyway. Cheers.’

There was a silence in the room as I hung up. My conscience had kicked in.

‘Did that sound a bit ambulance-chasey?’ I asked Pip.

‘Of course not’ she said, irritated. ‘You just phoned up a guy who’s all over the tabloids and offered to let him tell “his side of the story”. Just like every media outlet in the world is probably doing right now. Difference is, they can all offer him vast amounts of money. What can you offer him? A bit part in [TITLE REDACTED]? It makes us look unprofessional.’

I looked around our office. Just to shatter the illusions of anyone out there who thinks that making straight-to-DVD splatter movies is glamorous and well-paying, I’ll describe the office to you. It’s the room next to our bedroom in our semi-detached suburban house. It has one wall painted vivid green so that we can shoot green screen pick-up shots of zombies or whatever without having to hire studio space. It contains two computers; a massively out-of-date PC, on which I cut TrashHouse back in 2005, and a massively overpowered Mac which I use for everything nowadays. There’s a framed poster of Gremlins on the back wall and there are usually coffee cups everywhere. Prior to February 2005 the entire room was full of overflowing ashtrays which I could never be bothered to empty, nowadays it’s just covered in empty wrappers from sweets or gum. Pip tries her hardest to keep it clean, but I can be a one man mess-machine when I put my mind to it.

God forbid we should ever look unprofessional.

‘Doesn’t matter. We gave it a shot.’

‘Did you really mean that about shooting a documentary?’ she asked.

I grinned sheepishly.

‘Not really my area. I was just looking for excuses not to blat the number.’

And then the phone starting ringing, the vibrate function making it dance and clatter on the plastic IKEA stool where I’d absent-mindedly dumped it. I looked at the readout.

Eddie Meachum.

‘He’s phoning back,’ I said to Pip, eyes probably showing a slight edge of panic. ‘Do you want to answer it?’
Her look told me no. Really rather definitely no.

I answered it.

‘Hi Eddie.’

‘Hey Pat. Sorry I missed your call. I was having a shit. Got a fucking headache like you wouldn’t believe. Haven’t heard the voicemail, just thought I’d phone straight back. You’re the guy from Warners, yeah?’

‘Ah, no. I’m Pat Higgins. We shot a music video for Needles with you a couple of years back.’

‘It came up Pat on the phone. I’m sure that’s the name of the guy from Warners.’

‘Different Pat?’

‘Yeah, must be. So, how can I help you Pat?’

‘I’ve been reading the papers.’

‘Yeah, hasn’t everyone,’ he said, ending the sentence as a statement rather than a question. Suddenly, he brightened. ‘You’re the tall guy, right? Dice earring? We shot that video chopping up that blonde chick on the hospital trolley?’

Thank fuck. He remembered.

‘That’s me.’

‘Sorry about my manners. Been a hell of a week.’

‘I guess so,’ I said. I decided to go for broke. ‘Look, if you want to talk about it..’

I heard him take a deep breath on the other end of the line. I imagined that he was massaging his eyes with his fingers, willing his headache to fade. He spoke carefully but firmly.

‘Ah, look Pat. I’m just gonna sit tight and wait for Erika to turn up. Don’t really want to talk to anyone. This’ll all blow over. Thanks for phoning and everything, though.’

And he hung up.

I relayed the conversation to Pip. She chewed a pen thoughtfully, and ventured;

‘He’d have been happy to talk to Warners, though, wouldn’t he?’

I had to concede that it sounded rather like he would.