Marc Price is the director of the no budget zombie film, Colin, that took Cannes by storm this year. The film has been gathering a lot publicity and it has just been announced that the film will be released in cinemas later this year. IndieFlicks is very pleased to have got hold of Marc to talk to him about Colin and his life in film.
IndieFlicks: How did you get started in filmmaking?
Marc: I’d always been interested in film making but it wasn’t until I was 13 or 14 and saw Tony Hiles’ documentary on Peter Jackson’s Bad Taste that I realized it was possible to just make a movie… I didn’t have access to 16mm cameras though and I certainly wasn’t skilled enough to make my own steadycam or crane. So its not like I saw what Peter Jackson did and concluded that I could do that myself.
I think I did the usual thing of lamenting a lack of equipment and convinced myself that I was biding my time, waiting for an opportunity to come along from somewhere. A few years later I read an interview in Empire magazine with Shane Meadows who said something along the lines of “anyone can get hold of a camcorder… no one has an excuse not to just try making a film”. I absolutely loved “24/7” and what Meadows said made a lot of sense. So I borrowed a camcorder and started experimenting with shots and special effects.
This was about the same time as DVDs started taking off. There was a wealth of special features and commentary tracks discussing, in personal detail, how directors conceive and execute shots, special effects, sound design, music… everything. I found myself absorbing all this information and when I finally got my own camcorder and some software to edit stuff together I thought it was fantastic.
IndieFlicks: What did you learn most during this time?
Marc: The biggest lesson was learning to adapt to whatever conditions you were up against when shooting. From what I’ve read, and experienced, whether you have millions of pounds or no money at all, there’ll always be a string of problems on any film. The trick is to turn these problems to your advantage and that helps if you’ve got a good group of guys to bounce ideas off.
Making “Colin” was more about taking what we’d learned on previous films and making it work the best way possible to tell the story we wanted to tell.
IndieFlicks: How did the idea for ‘Colin’ come about?
Marc: As much as I love zombie cinema the general formula seemed to regularly build towards “human characters in siege-like scenario”. The only difference would be the location of the siege and how the zombies/humans are killed off. We would certainly have produced an inferior quality film if we were to try to compete with other zombie movies. As much as I wanted to do a zombie-siege sequence I didn’t really want to make another zombie film.
The idea for ‘Colin’ came at a point when I really wanted to add something that I hoped zombie fans could connect with. The plan was to approach the genre with respect and make a movie with some heart and I wasn’t aware of a movie that was told from the perspective of the zombie and thought there would be room to explore a lot of fresh stuff.
IndieFlicks: How long did it take to write the script?
Marc: About 2-3 months. I’m lucky to have a relatively quiet job where only two of us work a night job at an office. That gives me time to write and also has the benefit of locking me to a desk which can be a handy way to deal with procrastination.
IndieFlicks: How long did principal photography take?
Marc: We shot and edited the film simultaneously over about 18 months. The bulk of the shoot was done in about 8-10 months and the rest was spent shooting pick ups.
As the shoot slowed down I spent more time working on the sound and the grading. Thanks to my job I was also able to bring my hard drive and laptop into the office and that’s where I edited most of the film.
IndieFlicks: One of the main talking points in the publicity ‘Colin’ received was that it was shot for less than £100. With the film looking as good as it does, does this mean you called in a lot of favours?
Marc: We wanted to make a film people could enjoy but I have no delusions… It isn’t anything more than a film some guys made with a camcorder. I know it’s just because I’m close to it, but it really looks like an ugly camcorder movie to me.
Most of the favours called in were from the actors. I was a little worried about relying too much on what we couldn’t control so we had to work out a lot of stuff ourselves. But the whole film was edited and mixed on a clunky desktop PC using out of date editing equipment.
The one element we didn’t know how to control was “make-up effects”. We told make-up people to bring their own kit and they could make any zombie they wanted. Make-up guys have so much enthusiasm that they did some amazing ghouls for us.
All we did was say “please” and “thank you” and somehow ended up with an excellent core team of make-up people that I imagine will work with us on every film we do. That’s assuming we ever get the chance to make another film!
IndieFlicks: What was the film shot on?
Marc: It was shot on two Panasonic camcorders, the NV-GS250 and the NV-DS15. The NV-GS250 was a 3-chip camcorder that died about halfway through the shoot so I went back and used the NV-DS15 for the rest of the film.
IndieFlicks: How long did post production take?
Marc: I was lucky to have the laid back office job otherwise I’d still be working on it. The trouble with shooting in a major city without permits is that you have no control of the environment. So we had to do away with virtually the entire soundtrack and build it all back up in post. We recorded all of the audio using onboard camcorder mics and mixed it using the same out-of-date editing software.
I was wandering around on Fireworks Night listening to all of the distant (and not too distant) bangs and thinking “this would be a great atmospheric track for the scenes where Colin’s wandering around suburbia” so I popped the camcorder out of my bedroom window, recorded an hour’s worth of audio, edited out all the firework whizzes and screams and what we were left with was this exciting soundfield of cracks and bangs with so much depth. This essentially became our wind track and we built the rest of the sound effects on top of that.
IndieFlicks: What software did you use to cut the film?
Marc: I used Adobe Premiere 6.0! Not even the newer versions. I read Mike Figgis’s book on Digital Film Making and he makes a point of saying “just because new technology comes along doesn’t mean that older technology isn’t useful”. All I needed was Premiere 6.0… it did everything from cutting the image to grading right the way through to mixing the audio.
IndieFlicks: Most zombie films try to go a very ‘American’ look, yet Colin looks very British. Was this intentional?
Marc: I used to teach film making to underprivileged teenagers in Kilburn Park. The idea was to let them know that they could tell any story they wanted through film. It was about content not budget.
Working in the area I loved the stark, desolate imagery of those tower blocks and, of course, Rowley Way. I thought it was important to embrace what was available to us visually and living in London offered so many exciting locations but this was probably my favourite. I didn’t really think to try to set the story anywhere other than the UK.
IndieFlicks: What would you say you learnt most from shooting ‘Colin’ and would you do anything different if you were to shoot it again?
Marc: I learned that if you treat everyone with respect and include them in your thought process you get a much better performance whether that’s from an actor or someone in the crew.
I don’t think there’s anything I’d do different. Aside from a few pet peeve moments we pretty much managed to make the film we set out to make.
IndieFlicks: The film was a huge success at Cannes. Had you already screened it at other festivals first?
Marc: Yes, we had screened at the Revenant Festival in Seattle, the Abertoir Horror festival in Wales and were the opening film for Sci-Fi London’s first zombie all-nighter.
IndieFlicks: What sort of interest did you get from distributors?
Marc: That’s an interesting one. Distributors aren’t remotely interested in the quality of the product in terms of “is this a good film”. It’s quite disturbing how little time is given to actually watching a film. Since Cannes we’ve had quite a lot of interest and we’re going with a distributor who may not be as big a name as the others but they seem to want to handle the marketing based on the publicity we’ve generated ourselves rather than going off and doing their own thing based on a hit and miss formula.
We really want people to be able to watch our cheap little zombie film and hopefully feel that they can go and make a movie of their own. My mother’s mobile phone has a better resolution than the camera we used to shoot ‘Colin’! There’s even less standing in the way of anyone determined enough to make their own films than when I read that Shane Meadows article in 1999!
IndieFlicks: Did you expect to get such a positive reaction from the screenings at Cannes?
Marc: Not at all. I didn’t think going to Cannes was a wise move. I don’t have enough money to travel to other countries and Cannes appeared to be more about partying and networking rather than watching the films. I think we were lucky that it was a relatively quiet festival this year and our film was able to stand out for having not cost any real money.
IndieFlicks: Has the films success opened up new doors for you?
Marc: It’s too early to say right now. Unless it’s a horror-remake film production is a very slow process so a lot of patience is required. I was very excited about Saatchi & Saatchi asking me to talk about ‘Colin’ at this year’s New Director’s Showcase (which meant going back to Cannes). Talking to that many people was easily one of the most terrifying experiences of my life but Richard Myers and Norma Clarke were superb at putting me at ease and making me feel very welcome.
IndieFlicks: Where do you see Colin going now? A cinema or DVD release, perhaps even a sequel?
Marc: The distribution we are working through at the moment would possibly see a limited theatrical release which I hope would be exciting for other film makers. Like I said, mobile phones have a better resolution than the cameras we used to shoot ‘Colin’. So if we can get a theatrical release I can’t wait to see what other people create using whatever they have available to them.
IndieFlicks: What do you think to the current state of independent film here in the UK?
Marc: I don’t really know. Helen Grace, our sales agent, is so much more involved in that than I am. I just want to make movies that will have a lasting impression on an audience. Helen’s told me some stories and the politics of low budget film making seem way more cutthroat than I ever would have thought. I can’t imagine making a movie without a strong foundation of trust and synergy. I see that as my responsibility to maintain on future projects.
But we certainly see some incredible low budget UK films. I saw Duncan Jones’ Moon over the weekend and it totally knocked my socks off. I’m hoping to catch it again before the week is out!
IndieFlicks: What can we expect to see from you in the future?
Marc: Hopefully we can at least manage to make one more film! The plan is to slowly grow in terms of budget. ‘Colin’ was always meant to be an example of a film we responsibly saw from conception to completion without bankrupting ourselves. All we wanted was to make a movie we hoped people would like and to use that to get funding to make the next movie.
IndieFlicks: What advice do you have for any aspiring filmmakers out there?
Marc: Just grab a camera or mobile phone and start experimenting. Even Windows comes with basic desktop editing software. Don’t worry about budgets and don’t spend silly amounts of money trying to make your movies. Get a few friends together and start playing with shots and get a feel for what you can do and adapt to that… Oh and read Rebel Without a Crew by Robert Rodriguez!
For more information on Colin please visit the official website - click