The Rodriguez List

Here’s a thing.

We’re making a movie, as many of you know. We got a budget through Kickstarter, which was absolutely AWESOME. However, we’re still shooting a movie on a tiny, tiny fraction of a Hollywood budget (less than 1%) so we need to get any cool stuff we possibly can onscreen without breaking our budget. This is where the idea of a Rodriguez List comes in.
Before Robert Rodriguez shot his first movie, he made a list of all the cool stuff he could get hold of for free and then he stuck it in the movie. That’s why there’s a turtle in it!
If you’ve got cool stuff that you’d like to get featured in a movie in exchange for a credit or a thank you or whatever, drop us a line through our form at http://powertoolcheerleaders.com – maybe you’ve spent years on a piece of artwork and want to show it off? Or you own a business or a location that you’d like to feature in the movie? This film is going to get made and it’s going to be awesome, so if you’ve got something you’d like to get featured in front of the camera why not let us know before it’s too late!
I’ve run the Rodriguez List as an exercise at live gigs and lectures many times. Sometimes you come across truly amazing stuff (like someone with a train carriage in their back garden, for example) and it’s always fascinating. There was a sequence of me running a Rodriguez List as part of my live show Werewolves, Cheerleaders & Chainsaws which I was about to link to, but I’ve just discovered that the show is no longer online. Damn. I should probably sort that out.

Anyway, go and complete the form on the website, and feel free to spread the word.
You are all awesome.

Five kick-ass cheerleaders carrying assorted heavy weaponry

Powertool Cheerleaders vs the Boyband of the Screeching Dead

Five kick-ass cheerleaders carrying assorted heavy weaponry

So, last week we launched a Kickstarter for our new movie and by Saturday night we were the MOST POPULAR FILM KICKSTARTER IN THE WORLD.

Out of 74,563.

Bloody hell.

Five kick-ass cheerleaders carrying assorted heavy weaponry

Powertool Cheerleaders vs the Boyband of the Screeching Dead is a movie I’ve wanted to make for my whole life. It’s big and loud and gory and funny and musical(!) and it’s being made by a wonderful team of people who are doing it for the love of it.

Not gonna lie. Eight years or so ago, I had a major wobble about my film career.

When I started out, I’d intended to make fun midnight movies. My first film, TrashHouse, was an attempt to capture that crazy, eccentric vibe. I thought it might end up being the only film I ever made so I threw everything at it. We had monsters, weapons, retro fashions, stupid one-liners and it was the best thing I could have put together at the time.

2004 was a tough time to be making movies; celluloid was still the ruler, digital was frowned upon or not even thought about. Micro-budget flicks were thin on the ground, and the year TrashHouse came out it was one of only 16 British horror features released that year (according to the figures of the mighty MJ Simpson) because the technology really wasn’t there yet.

And it really WASN’T there. I cut the film on a 20GB hard drive. There was nowhere to research when you didn’t know how to do something, as this was in the days before YouTube and all the OLD instructions about how to do stuff were based on celluloid not DV.

As a result, bits of TrashHouse look… What’s the word? Well, they look shit.

They didn’t look great in 2004, and in 2020 they just look painful. But you know what TrashHouse got right?

It got the spirit right.

It was nuts and ambitious and it was edited on a 20GB hard drive and yet it somehow got into every Blockbuster in the UK. 

In the years that followed, I started to take narratives a bit more seriously. I made films with a bit more craftmanship and possibly a more focused intent. When my fourth feature, The Devil’s Music, got the best critical reviews of my career I started looking more carefully at the ‘respectable’ screenwriting side of things and the possibilities of moving away from blood-up-the-walls midnight movies.

And then along came Strippers vs Werewolves, the worst professional experience of my entire life and something that drained the fun out of midnight movies for me altogether.

As always, I need to add the disclaimer that the horrific nature of working on Strippers vs Werewolves was in no way the fault of either the director (the brilliant and talented Jonathan Glendening) or the unfortunate man tasked with rewriting my script on an almost daily basis (Phill Barron). The project became misery incarnate, and left not only a sour taste in my mouth but also a growing feeling that I no longer wanted anything to do with the industry I’d once dreamed of being a part of.

I had a major wobble.

I pivoted a bit, shifting my focus to talking about movies on stages at festivals (and at TEDx) rather than actually directing anything. I continued writing, optioning scripts to third parties, and doing rewrites on other people’s projects. My filmmaking from 2015-2020 consisted of shooting an arthouse micro-micro-micro-budget horror movie then destroying it at the premiere and endlessly recutting, reshaping and reimagining it before showing it to a handful of people and starting the process again. I’d lost something, and I had no way of knowing whether I’d ever get it back.

And then came this tweet.

Rather than ditching my fledgling script (which was way more like a ‘funny title’ than an actual draft) I started chatting to Charlie about it. And, over the course of two years, it actually became something that I not only wanted to film but something I was DESPERATE to film.

The ultimate midnight movie.

A horror/musical/comedy with a brilliant and talented cast, a load of great songs and a defiantly independent spirit.

Something with a brain, a heart and an AWFUL lot of blood.

Last month we shot a promo. It was masked, distanced and a ridiculous amount of fun regardless.

Look, since the dizzying heights of the weekend, the Kickstarter traffic has dropped massively. That always happens in the second week of a Kickstarter, apparently, but JESUS it’s depressing. If you’ve got any interest in seeing this sucker onscreen (or even just seeing our promo video!) head over to the Kickstarter right now. If you could back us (even a quid!) that would be amazing. If you can’t afford it, a share or an RT would be brilliant too.

Once you recover from a wobble, all you want to do is get back on the horse and ride.

It would mean the world if you helped us make this project a crazy, blood-up-the-walls, big-hearted reality.

TrashHouse: My First Movie

Every now and again, it’s interesting to look back.

Ever since I saw the cinematic double-whammy of the late 70s rerelease of 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea and the original release of Star Wars when I was three years old, my life’s mission was to get involved in filmmaking by any means possible.

Nothing else grabbed me in the same way. TV was okay (especially Street Hawk), and I liked dabbling with the early home computers (Spectrums, Commodores, ZX81s and even Dragon 32s), but it was always the cinema which fired up my imagination like nothing else on this planet.

I was probably a bit of a nightmare at school: a smart, enthusiastic kid who who mainly only enthusiastic about things that weren’t being taught on the syllabus. Media Studies wasn’t a staple of education back then, so I spent my childhood in a state of constant frustration that my day-to-day existence just didn’t have all that much to do with the thing I loved.

I managed to persuade my parents to let me shoot and develop a couple of rolls of Super 8 film (in which I tried to make it look as if a plastic Tauntaun was running around and tragically melting) and later, as we crept towards the latter half of the 80s, to annually rent a video camera from a high street store (Visionhire) so I could spend a couple of days trying to make movies.

My decision to bail on the high school at 16 led to a very stern lecture from the headmaster (“What is this freedom you’re looking for, Higgins? The freedom to wear excessively long hair?”) which I’m fairly sure was because I was fractionally above the average and thus dragging the grades up rather than down. That headmaster certainly never seemed to have noticed my existence before I threatened to make a tiny impact on the school’s statistics. Nonetheless, I was ultimately much happier at the local sixth form college because it enabled me to take (gasp) Film Studies at A-level. This led to a uni course of combined Media & English, which of course led straight to depressing unemployment and then a series of name-tag jobs in places like Odeon or Blockbuster: basically anywhere that enabled me to stay, in some small way, close to the thing I loved.

Life moved on, as it does, and I got married and settled down. Meanwhile, in the background, the non-starting of my movie career felt like a ticking clock. At some point in 2003, I looked at a block of money sitting in our bank account with which we’d intended to buy a car. I suggested to my wife that, rather than buy that car, maybe we could make a movie. Because she’s the greatest human being in the universe, she said yes.

And that was how TrashHouse came into being. I don’t think about the flick all that often nowadays, and it’s been a long, long time since I’ve sat down and watched it. Nonetheless, if we’d never made that movie my life would have turned out very differently.

lucy_david

I often bang on about how, in some ways, it’s easier to do hard things than easy things. The greatest thing TrashHouse had going for it was that, in the early months of 2004 when I was shooting and editing it, cutting digital footage on a home PC was still really difficult. Even once you’d had a PC built specifically for that purpose, with the brain-meltingly huge 20GB hard drive (which the guy building the machine tried to dissuade me from, saying it was more space than I’d ever need ‘in a lifetime’), attempts at home editing for anything larger than a very short project presented a massive number of technical difficulties. Time after time I’d lose days of work to crashes, and backing up was just not a viable option without spending thousands more pounds on even more equipment.

But that’s where the ‘hard thing/easy thing’ kicks in, because once we’d actually shot TrashHouse it ended up getting broad distribution on DVD across the UK in exactly the same way that it would have done had it cost a hundred times as much as it did. The simple reason behind this? If something’s genuinely hard, less people do it. We had very, very little competition in the ‘microbudget British horror’ niche, and distributors were hungry for product to get onto the shelves.

trashhousepage

Nowadays you could shoot something that looked ten times better than TrashHouse using the phone in your pocket. But anyone could do that, so could you actually get any bastard to watch it afterwards?

I could fill a book with the mistakes we made on that shoot. My God. We built sets from scratch and then didn’t actually dress them properly (or, in some cases, really even use them). We made up ‘action’ sequences on the fly without properly planning or blocking. We asked our poor, overworked make-up artist to painstakingly create zombies with subtle make-up shading (who would barely be seen) when we’d have been better off just covering them in blood and clumps of latex.

Oh, and we put meat in the gore mix. Never put meat in the gore mix. The smell of that industrial unit will stay with me until I die.

Screen Shot 2018-10-04 at 11.11.57

The team who worked on TrashHouse were an awesome bunch, mind you, and I have absolutely no regrets about the casting decisions. For all my enthusiasm, the script wasn’t as tight as it could have been and I’ve hopefully learned a lot since. I think this was partly just down to that sense that “this might be the only film I ever make” which first-time writer/directors are saddled with. I wanted to include everything on my wishlist, and would genuinely have stuck in a giant octopus if I’d thought for a moment that I’d have gotten away with it.

Loads of things made it feel ‘real’ to me as a genuine step into the industry. Getting signed by an established distributor with a couple of decades experience (although they closed their doors not long afterwards). The process of going through the BBFC, where the trailer got an 18 and the feature got a 15 (which I’ve never quite been able to work out). Getting shown at our first festival and doing my first director’s Q&A.

LucyHouse

Above all, though, seeing it on the shelf of Blockbuster. The same Blockbuster I used to work in. That was a good day.

Because movies never really go away nowadays, you can still see the film on Amazon Prime if you’re in the UK or the US. If you choose to check it out, look kindly upon it as a product of its time. The crazy little movie which finally got my toe in the door of the industry I loved so much. It has dated horrifically, and you could shoot something that looks better on the phone in your pocket.

Maybe you should.

 

 

 

The One Thing Film Students Need

For the past decade, I’ve spent my working life in two areas: education and film.

I’ve got a lot of love for both. With that love, however, comes the knowledge that both areas have some issues. Not just the big ones that make headlines, but smaller issues which undermine all the good stuff.

In the education sector, there’s a real issue with talented students getting the work experience and the breaks that they deserve. The focus on practical experience (for courses in the FE sector in particular) mandates that most students on Film & TV production courses undertake meaningful work experience as part of their qualification. The government has recently doubled-down on this aspect of 16-19 education, with the Chancellor referring to ‘high quality industry work placements’ as being a requirement for technical routes rolled out from 2019/20. Initial indications are that the duration of these placements will be significantly longer than those required already, on a basis of “no work placement, no certificate”.

This would be a great idea, of course, if there were enough good placements available to fulfil the requirement.

The risk here, of course, is that the definition of a ‘high quality work placement’ gets watered down to meet the tick-box requirement, and students who are looking to forge careers as directors of photography on major feature films end up working unpaid in high street photography shops or whatever in order to tick the box. Everybody loses in that equation (well, except the high street shop, I guess), and whether it’s a meaningful experience from which the student genuinely benefits is certainly open to discussion.

There’s also a largely unspoken gender issue at play here. In the majority of graduating classes I can think of over recent years, I’d say that over 50% (and in some cases more like 70% or so) of the very top performing students are female. I’ve been in education long enough to have had the pleasure of seeing some of my former students go on to forge very successful careers in the media, but the vast majority of students who seem to ‘get the break’ after graduating are, for whatever reason, male.

So, the driving need here would seem to be for work experience placements to be a genuine beneficial professional experience (resulting in a recognisable professional screen credit) in order for students to get a foot in the door of the industry, and for those placements to be allocated based on skill and capability rather than any other factor.

Elsewhere, over in the UK film industry itself, there’s another issue in a similar area.

Since the advent of digital filmmaking in general, films as a finished product have been devalued in the marketplace. The middle-tier of independent filmmaking has largely collapsed, leaving only no-budget movies put together on favours and pizza (for which very few of those involved ever end up seeing a paycheque) and massive budget blockbusters of £100 million or more which are incredibly risk-averse and usually based on existing intellectual properties so as to guarantee an audience of a certain size. There are exceptions, of course, but the bread-and-butter mid-level projects upon which experienced professionals relied to pay the rent, largely, no longer exist.

One of our central ideas in setting up Sun Rocket has been to tackle both of these issues. Sun Rocket Films works by having heads of department (experienced specialists paid at standard industry rates) overseeing departments featuring significant numbers of high-performing students, who work on the project to fulfil the mandatory work experience element of their Film & TV production courses. Rather than working unpaid in a retail shop which has precious little connection to their career goals, students get a genuine experience of their chosen specialism (be that cinematography, design, sound, post-production or whatever). The experienced professionals at the head of each department get to do the job they love whilst whilst getting paid a realistic rate for their hard work and expertise (which seems to happen increasingly rarely, sadly).

Hopefully, a few years later down the line, we’d be looking to see those former work experience students coming back as heads of department themselves. It’s a sustainable model for creating strong genre movies with high production values in a changing marketplace.

We’re trying to make things better. We’re genuinely looking for a set-up in which everybody wins.

As someone who loves both education and the film industry, I can’t wait to get started.

FOOTNOTE: Sun Rocket Films are holding a presentation in Southend-on-Sea on September 27th for those interested in film production, business professionals or those looking for tax-efficient investments. Places can be reserved via:

https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/film-as-investment-tickets-37731400635

For more information about Sun Rocket Films, please visit sunrocketfilms.com and follow us on Twitter @sunrocketfilms

The Tale of Hellbride II

Our movie Hellbride has been seen by more people than any other Jinx movie, (with the possible exception of TrashHouse, which was torrented insanely upon DVD release in 2006, but figures for that are really hard to accurately find). It was released on DVD on both sides of the Atlantic, with the UK release getting piled high and sold cheap in HMVs across the UK for at least one Halloween special promotion. It was, at one stage, uploaded to YouTube as part of a side deal by a company we’d licenced it to, and racked up in excess of 180,000 views before their licence ran out and we politely asked them to take it down (which they did). On Amazon streaming, it’s been consistently performing ever since it went up last summer. Even the version on Vimeo has outsold our other movies.

Lots and lots of people have seen Hellbride.

The cast of Hellbride - Horror Comedy

That doesn’t, of course, mean we’ve made money from it. Hellbride is unlikely to ever make it into the black as far as cash goes: as far as budget is concerned, it cost ten times as much as The Devil’s Music did. As far as income is concerned, we never saw a single penny of our investment back (for all the usual depressing reasons) right up until the point we got the rights back last summer and stuck it up onto Amazon ourselves. Since then, our decade-old movie has brought in a reliable trickle of cash (but certainly nowhere near the amount we spent making it in the first place)

Regardless, I’m still aware of the fact that a sequel might be a different proposition as far as being a worthwhile investment goes. The way the industry works has moved on a great deal from when we signed Hellbride with a distributor around the beginning of 2008. Indies have got an awful lot more control over their movies and their are an awful lot more revenue streams that are accessible without going through a third party middleman. If, say, half of the people who’ve watched Hellbride in one format or another over the last few years would return to watch a sequel via legitimate channels we could access directly ourselves (Amazon streaming, Vimeo, etc.), then a sequel could make its money back pretty easily without leaving us to remortgage our homes.

Bride Nicole Meadows, bloodied but unbowed

I started pondering options for a sequel back when the film first hit the shelves (and before, of course, we realised that we weren’t actually going to see any revenue whatsoever from it for the best part of a decade). Back then, I scribbled together a treatment for a movie called Hellbride 1985 , which was a retro prequel focusing on the cursed ring’s previous appearance in everyone’s favourite decade. Of course, the 80s are pretty damn hot right now, partly as a result of magnificent shows like Stranger Things. But since the idea resurfaced in my brain last summer, (at the point that Hellbride finally broke the ‘zero’ in the Jinx Media incoming funds column), I started thinking about the sequel rather differently. This was partly due to the one-off audio epilogue called The Ring of Josephine Stewart  that we’d recorded with Cy Henty a couple of years previously. I started thinking about a straight sequel rather than a retro prequel.

HELLBRIDE POSTER FINAL s

And then I wrote a treatment about two kids called Danny and Bronwyn, who were getting married. Nice kids. You’ll like them.

Well, one of them.

I started thinking about how we could learn from the mistakes we made with Hellbride and make something leaner, bloodier and funnier. I started to warm to the idea quite a lot. I pondered whether it might be feasible to run a Kickstarter for the eventual (inevitable) wedding massacre where, as a perk, people could turn up as a guest on the final day of filming. Get killed onscreen and stick around for a wrap party that evening with all the cast and crew. Run that final day almost like an actual wedding, with guest footage from cameraphones and whatnot getting edited into the final movie.

And I came up with a killer of a final scene, which I ended up writing out in full before I’d written another word of the script.

Thing is, we’re at a point where we have a lot of projects floating around right now. We’ve got bigger budget scripts that I work on for third parties, and a couple of smaller scale ones that we’re perilously close to getting decent funding for. I’ve no idea whether Hellbride II (or Curse of the Hellbride as I sometimes cheerfully call it) will make it in front of the cameras.

But I can’t quite stop thinking about it.

Go and watch Hellbride a few more times, and maybe that’ll twist my arm.

 

Filming in a Haunted Asylum

I’m not a believer in the supernatural.

I’m a rational kind of guy. I love writing about ghosts, demons and the possibilities of experiences beyond what we comprehend, but the blunt truth is that I don’t believe in any of it. I’m not a guy to get rattled by dark corridors or abandoned buildings.

With that in mind, I want to tell you a few things about our 2006 shoot for the movie KillerKiller.

We shot in the then long-disused building then known as Warley Hospital. Nowadays, the site is a posh housing development known as The Galleries.

Before it was Warley Hospital, it was known as Brentwood Mental Hospital. Before that, back in 1853 when the building first opened its doors, it was known as Essex County Lunatic Asylum.

Attitudes towards mental illness in 1853 weren’t, of course, quite as enlightened as we’d like to think they are nowadays. “Treatments” included lobotomies and electro-convulsive therapy. Not only that, but ideas of who actually constituted a ‘mentally ill’ person were flexible enough to include an awful lot of people that society would rather just keep out of sight; everyone from unwed mothers to soldiers suffering from PTSD.

So places like Warley ended up having some fairly horrible things happen in them. Over a century and a half, even the recorded incidents make for grim reading. God knows how many worse things went on that nobody will ever know about. If ever there’s going to be a building to store up bad vibes, it’s going to be a place like that.

This wasn’t really something I thought about when I locked down the location, I’m ashamed to say. I was far more concerned about budget; the fee for shooting in the building was pretty huge for a film shooting on such a tiny budget. I was worried about how we were going to afford the location for long enough to get a huge amount of footage in the can. In the end, we did this with a mixture of good planning and dumb luck; we shot with available light rather than lighting set-ups, and the building was so cinematic anyway that the footage ended up looking pretty great now matter how quickly it was shot. We shifted complex ‘kill’ sequences to non-Warley locations where we could take our time a little more and somehow got everything we wanted in the can over a mere three days of filming at the former hospital.

By the end of those three days, however, all those things that I’d never even considered were beginning to get under my skin.

By the end of those three days, quite frankly, I was more than happy to wave Warley goodbye.

Our wonderful photographer Debbie Attwell discovered dozens of torn-off butterfly wings inserted between the bricks in the chapel. We would regularly find scrawled messages or carefully folded pieces of paper with troubling pictures on them tucked away behind radiators or whatever. The phrase ‘I Am Not Alone’ gouged into one of the walls (which can be seen in the first montage of the hospital in the finished film) wasn’t added by an enterprising member of our production crew: it was already there.

And then there was the incident with the footsteps.

KK4small

Like I said, not a superstitious guy, so I’ll stick to the facts.

We were about to call action on a scene, when we heard footsteps in the next corridor over. These were loud enough that all of the crew heard them, and loud enough for our sound recordist to shake his head as a ‘no go’. They got louder until they stopped abruptly on the other side of the door from the room in which we were filming. Irritated, I probably called out something like “You might as well come through now” and we waited.

My lovely DoP Al Ronald went to investigate when nobody came through. As I’m sure you can guess, there was nobody there.

It sounds so Scooby Doo and hokey. It sounds ridiculous. But that’s what happened.

KillerKiller – A Look Back Behind the Scenes from jinxmedia on Vimeo.

I also became increasingly convinced that I could hear whispering voices in the corridors of the building. This was probably an auditory trick caused by the wind whistling through the cracks, but, goddammit, once I thought I heard panting about a foot away from my ear. Enough to make me spin around like I’d been stung.

I’m not even sure what these are examples of. Weird acoustics in an old building? An over-active imagination triggered by the fact that we were shooting a gory horror movie in a location that had seen an awful lot of unhappiness?

Soon after the film came out, a few enthusiastic souls started suggesting that they could see ‘orbs’ in the final film (specifically in the scene starting 31:43 on the special edition, for those interested), which made me chuckle a little because I’m pretty goddamn sure that those floating orbs are dust kicked up by the chair that gets thrown against the wall in that scene. On the other hand, since I’m the dude swearing blind that I heard footsteps with no source that vanished into nowhere, who the hell am I to judge what others perceive?

After three days I was unreasonably happy to be leaving the most cinematic location I’ve ever filmed in. I still don’t believe in ghosts. I still believe in science over superstition, logic over legend.

But if I never hear a panting sound a foot away from my ear again for as long as I live, that’ll be just fine.

– Pat Higgins

 

KillerKiller: The Special Edition is available NOW to rent and purchase on VOD. Click through the trailer below.

KillerKiller – The Special Edition (2014) from jinxmedia on Vimeo.

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
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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.

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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.

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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.

Filmmaking is now a Democracy. Maybe we need more obstacles.

As I’ve mentioned before, there’s pretty much only one reason that my shot-on-miniDV first feature ended up getting decent commercial distribution (which, in turn, led to me being considered a ‘proper’ filmmaker albeit one on a very, very low rung of the ladder).

I climbed an obstacle.

Cutting footage on a home PC was tough at the beginning of the century. It wasn’t something that the average home PC could do straight out of the box; it required a souped-up kit, capture cards and software that certainly wasn’t standard issue. It cost money, time and patience.

 

 

I cut Trashhouse on a home PC with a 20GB hard drive, (which at the time was a ridiculously huge amount of storage space and cost me a whole load of money). The flick is completely a product of its production context; the average film student watching the movie now would be dumbstruck at how amateurish certain elements of it look. From a technical point of view it’s all over the place; the grade is inconsistent, the compositing is shocking and there are CGI elements that look laughably poor in 2013 (and didn’t exactly look brilliant by 2004). It doesn’t look like the commercially released indies of 2013, which are within spitting distance of Hollywood in terms of visual qualities and technical expertise. But, in 2004, it didn’t really have to. The fact that it existed at all was enough to at least get a few potential distributors to watch it; there were only a tiny number of indie features getting produced in the UK each year.

There are some good things about TrashHouse, which ultimately meant that I got the chance to keep making films. These good things are the stuff aside from the technical stuff. It’s got a pretty decent script and some interesting ideas in it. If people go to it looking for a mainstream horror flick with high production values they’ll be bitterly disappointed, but if they go to it looking for a lo-fi oddity they’ll hopefully still find stuff to enjoy.

It’s a product of the obstacles I had to climb to get it made, and it only found its way onto the shelves of major stores because I had to climb those obstacles.

At the risk of sounding all “Eeh, in my day it were all fields around here”, which is never a good look, (especially when the day you’re talking about was only about a decade ago), I think what the new generation of filmmakers need more than anything else is some obstacles.  Otherwise every brave new voice is competing with EVERYONE who can pick up a camera and produce something that looks perfectly great without really putting in any particular effort. The democratisation of film production comes at a price; if you give everyone a voice, you fast discover that an awful lot of people have got fuck all to say but they keep shouting anyway. The voices that would otherwise have immediately stood out get swept away on the tide of mediocrity. Bark bark bark.

At the time that clerks hit, Kevin Smith was an original voice. The reason that people heard him was because (can you guess?) his movie had to climb huge obstacles to get made. Shooting a movie wasn’t something that guys who worked in convenience stores could easily do, and Smith’s determination just to get the bastard made meant that at least a couple of people watched his flick out of curiosity. The fact that it existed meant that at least a few sets of eyes would be interested in watching it. As it happened, that was enough to set the ball in motion and make sure that the original voice got heard.

 

Pat outside the Quick Stop, where Kevin Smith shot his debut.
Pat outside the Quick Stop, where Kevin Smith shot his debut.

 

Nowadays, there are a hell of a lot of guys who work in convenience stores who are making movies. Some of those movies look close to professional. Very few of them are an original voice waiting to be heard, and my worry is that the ones that are have no way whatsoever of standing out. The average member of the public isn’t just going to keep watching no-budget movies looking for a diamond in the rough; they’ll decide they don’t like ‘them’ as if ‘they’ were a homogenous mass and go straight back to watching Hollywood product. There is nothing inherently interesting about making a 90 minute movie for no money, because it’s literally something that an eight year-old can do.

In the past, there were potential gems that never got made.

Now, they’re getting made and nobody’s actually watching them.

In a way, I think that’s worse.

PS. Despite all this, I still encourage people to go out and shoot movies. Go figure. My hour-long live show Werewolves, Cheerleaders & Chainsaws is full of advice about how and why to do it. It’s a bit NSFW (gore, nudity and naughty words) and is embedded below.