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.
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.
Bloody hell, 2020.
I wrote a dice-based role-playing game called 2020 when I was a kid. Got all my friends to play it. In the game, everyone was flying around in cool spaceships and trading exotic space goods. The reality is a bit more down-to-earth, but isn’t it always?
Got a great year ahead, and I’m intending to get as much stuff done as possible.
First order of business is a couple of gigs to kick the year off. On Thursday the 16th I’ll be bringing my ‘Write a Movie in 30 Days’ talk to Milton Keynes, then on Saturday 18th I’ve got the horror-based variant ‘Write a Bloody Movie in 30 Days’ over at the mighty Horror-on-Sea festival in Southend.
The first half of the year is also going to be crammed (crammed, I tell you) with pre-production for our sensational horror musical Powertool Cheerleaders vs the Boyband of the Screeching Dead…
We’ve got eleven awesome songs written, a script full of gags, gore and heart. We’ve been assembling a killer cast. Still a LONG way to go if we’re going to get the film in front of the cameras in July (which is the current plan) but I’m feeling quietly confident. It’s going to be awesome.
Elsewhere this year, I’m hoping to finally get my screenwriting book (also called ‘Write a Movie in 30 Days’, like this year’s live show) finished and out on the shelves. It’s been sitting nearly completed for way too long now. I’ve also nearly finished a children’s novel that I started writing in order to keep my kids entertained, but which might now find a life outside of the Higgins household. Because I really like it.
I hope that your 2020 proves to be a huge success, and that you find joy in the things you do.
Don’t forget to hug each other as often as possible. Life’s pretty goddamn short.
If you’re hoping to join the one-day screenwriting workshop/masterclass on June 4th, you’d better get moving. This is a small-scale event, and tickets are limited.
So, if you want to spend a day with like-minded souls in a jam-packed one-day crash course designed to take your writing to the next level then order a ticket RIGHT NOW!
We can’t tell you what’s happening. But something’s happening.
It’s here! The full-length video of this year’s appearance at Horror-on-Sea!
Join Pat Higgins (described by SFX magazine as ‘The Tarantino of budget gore flicks for style and dialogue’ and by Empire magazine as the ‘Essex Auteur’) on another romp through the highs and lows of low-budget horror filmmaking. Assisted by the awesome Paul Cousins, he lifts the lid on the horror industry.
Pat has built a career on making zero-budget but fiercely original horror movies such as ‘The Devil’s Music’ and ‘KillerKiller’. He’s also the original writer/creator of ‘Strippers vs Werewolves’ (although he takes no responsibility for the resulting film) and co-creator of the successful ‘Death Tales’ series of films (the latest of which, ‘Nazi Zombie Death Tales’, was released in the States as ‘Angry Nazi Zombies’). His career has taken him and his movies all over the world, from his home town of Southend in the UK all the way to Hollywood and the Cannes Film Festival.
In this feature-length live show, Pat discusses everything that can go wrong an a low-budget horror shoot. Complete with video contributions from cult horror filmmakers like Keith Wright (‘Harold’s Going Stiff’), Dani Thompson (‘Serial Kaller’, ‘Axe to Grind’), MJ Dixon (‘Slasher House’, ‘Legacy of Thorn’), James Eaves (‘Bane’, ‘The Witches Hammer’), Al Ronald (‘Jesus vs the Messiah’), Jonathan Glendening (’13 Hrs’) and Jason Impey (‘Home Made’, ‘Snuff Film’), who all share their worst experiences from the trenches of horror filmmaking.
Packed with with never-before-seen behind the scenes clips and a healthy sense of humour, the show is a must-see for horror fans, aspiring filmmakers and anyone who has ever just grabbed a camera and tried it for themselves.
NOTE: The show contains strong language, and clips featuring bloody violence
I’ve been trying a bit of a smartphone detox lately, which makes a lot of sense given that we’re deeply involved in the development process for our smartphone horror Evil Apps. I’ve been attempting to stick the iPhone in a box as soon as I’m home, and to only use it when out and about. This is basically a strategy to stop the goddamn thing sucking every single second of unallocated attention out of my life; I realised that all the little pockets of time that I used to spend thinking (from waiting for a kettle to boil through to taking a crap) had become pockets of time during which I just plunged straight back into twitter/facebook/whatever and I never got the chance to just let my mind wander. If you never let your mind wander, the thing just stays wherever you left it and you never get any new ideas. So the phone goes in the box and I give my brain some breathing space.
A direct result of this is I’ve found myself grabbing books off the shelf, just to dip into them for a few minutes, for the first time in years. Over the weekend, the one I happened to grab was The Greatest Sci-Fi Movies Never Made. It’s a cracking read, and well worth dipping back into. I was reacquainting myself with the story of various failed attempts to film I Am Legend, when I stumbled across a phrase that stuck in my mind a little bit.
The film only finally made its way to the screen because it found a champion (in that case, Will Smith).
The first thing this reminded me of was Harvey Keitel getting hold of the script for Reservoir Dogs, and that being the key to raising the $1.5M the production needed. We’ve never worked that way around. We’ve always raised our budget and then sorted out our cast on that basis. As I mentioned in the last post (well, I hinted it, but I was hardly subtle) we’re currently planning on raising at least part of the budget for Evil Apps through Kickstarter and making sure that it’s the most kick-ass Kickstarter campaign we can possibly put together for you guys. The Will Smith line, however, made me wonder whether changing the order in which we do things would change the nature of the campaign.
Evil Apps has two fantastic lead roles and a whole bunch of meaty supporting roles too. We’ve approached the budgeting on the basis that we’ll cast newcomers and people with a bit of genre experience, but it crossed my mind over the weekend that doing this in reverse might be a valid approach too. If we can raise £x amount of money for a movie starring talented people with fairly low-profiles, might we not be able to raise £y amount of money to do the movie in a slightly bigger fashion if we had a ‘name’ attached? We’ve got a decent enough track record at this game now. We’ve won some strong awards, we’ve had some great reviews, we’ve proven time and time again that we can bring in genre movies on time and under budget. I’m tempted to even boast once again that Penny Dreadful in SFX magazine called me “The Tarantino of budget gore flicks, for both style and dialogue”, but that would probably be a bit guache so I won’t. If a higher profile performer than we’ve previously worked with decided that they rather fancied taking a lead role in a cracking indie rather than a supporting role in a tepid larger movie, mightn’t that change the landscape of what we’re planning to do?
I’m really just thinking aloud in the form of a blog post at this point. I haven’t formulated a game plan or even decided if this is genuinely something that we’d want to do. After all, with a higher profile performer a lot of other considerations with the production might change too. But it’s got to be worth at least considering, which is something we’d never done before. After all, money isn’t the only motivating factor for a performer contemplating a role, and our script is pretty goddamn cool. Put it side-by-side with the script to most British movies scheduled to go into production any time soon, and I’m quietly confident that ours can hold its head up high as sharper, funnier and generally more interesting.
In other words, if you’re the sort of person to have people, have your people talk to my people. Except I’m not the sort of person to have people, so I guess your people will just have to talk to me instead.
PS. Needless to say, I’m going to use the end of this blog post to plug my live show again. It’s packed full of anecdotes and advice for no-budget filmmakers, rare clips and a few jokes. It’s not really safe for work, since there’s a bit of nudity, gore and strong language along the way. It’s free, so be sure to let us know if you like it or find it interesting. If you want to give me feedback or ask questions directly, I can always be found on Twitter.
It’s been a while since we’ve run auditions, but I thought it might be worth writing about the subject. What follows is meant for both low-budget indie filmmakers/producers and also those kind prospective cast members who come along to audition.
Sod it, let’s turn this into a game of advice-tennis.
Producers: Hire someone pleasant and professional to hold auditions, or at least as close to pleasant and professional as you can afford. Don’t invite people to audition ‘at your house’ because it not only sounds massively dodgy but also suggests you have no organisational skills whatsoever. A room above a pub will do at a push, and you can probably get that for free if you ask arouund and get it during the day when nobody else is using it. Better than a room above a pub would be one of the business or function rooms in a hotel. If you go this route, though, for Christ’s sake you make sure that you specify ‘Function Room 1’ or whatever on the directions to your prospective cast. Asking them to audition ‘at your hotel room’ sounds even dodgier than ‘at your house’.
Cast: Turn up on time. If you’re not going to turn up on time, send a polite message as soon as you can letting the producers know. If you’re not going to turn up AT ALL, let them know at least a day in advance. Weirdly enough, I can still remember the names of pretty much every actor who has completely failed to turn up for an audition and just left us sitting there, and not in a good way. A special note for one guy who failed to show in Summer 2007: if you’re going to fail to turn up for an audition, and you’re going to fail to notify the people sitting in the room waiting for you, please do NOT then send an excited email a couple of days later trying to plug the project that you decided to work on rather than attend the audition. For fuck’s sake.
Producers: Be absolutely upfront about everything. You might feel awkward telling people what crappy money you’ll be paying them, but you need to do this BEFORE you expect people to drag themselves across town (or further) to attend an audition. If you’re explaining how little you’re going to pay when you’re sitting face to face YOU HAVE LEFT IT TOO LATE. Likewise, if your script requires nudity, or being held underwater or licking live rats or whatever, (and there’s no possibility of dropping these elements if your actor isn’t up for them), then if you’re telling them face to face YOU HAVE LEFT IT TOO LATE. If there’s something that might absolutely rule out an actor’s participation other than them being simply wrong for the role, you have a duty to try everything in your power to find that out before asking them to travel anywhere. That’s your bare minimum.
Cast: If you’ve been given a script extract in advance, read it in advance. I know, I know. There ain’t enough hours in the day for any of us. Personally, I wouldn’t expect you to know an extract by heart, necessarily, (although some might), but I won’t be expecting you to say ‘I haven’t had a chance to look at this, sorry’ either. Oh, and if you’re too hungover to audition properly I’m not sure it particularly matters whether you announce this fact or not. I suspect you won’t get the role regardless.
Producers: Telling people they haven’t got the role after they’ve auditioned sucks. Just because it sucks doesn’t mean you don’t have to do it. A prompt, courteous email is the bare minimum for people you’ve face-to-faced. A phone call can more problematic on both sides but is probably the better option for someone you’ve seen more than once (or led to believe they were a front-runner). Professionalism, courtesy and respect, folks.
Cast: once you’ve had that email or call, that’s the bit where you go away, I’m afraid. Sending endless emails at this point isn’t a good look for anyone. Try not to over-analyse why you didn’t get the part, either; odds are it was something someone else did incredibly right rather than anything you did wrong.
Everyone: Be nice. Be kind and friendly and professional. Remember that people’s feelings are at stake as well as the movie. Being professional but pleasant is possibly almost as important as being right for the role. I can remember thinking “this person seems very talented, but seems like they might be a nightmare” quite often, and that factor has probably swung my decision more times than I care to admit. A set only works when everyone is pulling in the same direction; if you’re openly rude to hotel staff at an audition, the odds are that you won’t be much more considerate to those around you on a set.
Usual disclaimer: I’m not saying any of this stuff putting myself forward as some kind of guru or role model. Shit, I know I’ve failed to follow my own advice on a few occasions (as anyone who has auditioned at my house will attest) but I put these ideas forward in the hope that we can keep the experience of auditioning as painless as possible for everyone concerned.
See you in Function Room 1, guys.
Well, that was damn cool.
The Horror-on-Sea festival dominated my weekend. As the first year of the only horror festival to run in my home town, I’ve been rooting for this weekend to be a huge success ever since I was told about it around last June. I was delighted that the organisers selected Nazi Zombie Death Tales
to play in one of the high-profile evening slots and then even happier when we agreed that my new lecture/talk/live show thing Werewolves, Cheerleaders & Chainsaws: Filming Horror for No Bloody Money (as pictured above) would launch at the festival.
The arrival of the long-threatened snow occurred, with depressing inevitability, at exactly the worst time possible as far as the festival was concerned. Adverse travel conditions are always going to put people off venturing outside their front doors, and as I saw the snow start falling and just not stop as the weekend kicked off I began to worry that sub-zero temperatures might cause the fledgling festival some serious problems.
Luckily, I was underestimating the enthusiasm and determination of the wonderful crowd of filmmakers, film fans and cinema enthusiasts that this festival was destined to attract. It may have been bloody freezing outside, but in terms of atmosphere and mood I think this was the warmest festival I’ve ever attended in my life. There were brilliant filmmakers like Alex Chandon and MJ Dixon around for pretty much the whole festival. There were attendees throwing themselves into the spirit dressed as everything from Resident Evil zombies to Juliet from Lollipop Chainsaw
Then, there was the line-up itself. Brilliantly put together by Paul Cotgrove from The White Bus, it featured loads of brand new indie horrors from all over the world and some smart nods to the pioneers (such as Darren Buxton’s excellent event about Michael J Murphy‘s career; don’t let that sparse IMDB resume fool you… The gent has shot countless movies, and this talk featured hard-to-find clips from loads of them).
I had a fantastic time and really hope that the festival returns next year.
As for Werewolves, Chainsaws & Cheerleaders itself, the event was great fun. We filmed it, and it’s currently being edited. Hopefully we’ll have it up online before too long, so those of you who either got foiled by the snow or just weren’t able to make it to Southend this time around will have the chance to check it out.
Here’s to Horror-on-Sea, my new favourite festival.
We’re into the final week before Werewolves Cheerleaders and Chainsaws at the Horror-on-Sea festival. As I write these words there are still a handful of tickets left, which can be snatched up by just clicking the logo above. It’s a 90 min live event about low budget horror filmmaking, including all sorts of clips, anecdotes and advice. Should be a hell of a lot of fun and I’m really looking forward to it; hope to see you there!