Colin, the low budget horror smash, will be hitting DVD this month just in time for Halloween. The £45 feature which has taken the world by storm will be available from all good retailers with a special edition 2 disc DVD on sale exclusively at HMV from October 26th. We here at IndieFlicks would recommend you spend All Hallows Eve watching this tragic zombie film instead of wasting your money seeing the latest Hollywood horror remake.
Posts tagged: zombie
Chris Jones is the well known British filmmaker who, as well as having an Oscar short listed film, Gone Fishing, is also the co creator of the indie film bible, The Guerilla Film Makers Handbook. IndieFlicks got in touch with Chris to discuss the book, filmmaking and what it felt like to be Oscar shortlisted.
IndieFlicks: Where did your love of film come from?
Chris: Like most film makers I grew up watching movies and falling in love with the medium. We all have our favourites and most influential movies - for me, movies like Alien and John Carpenter’s The Fog were very important to me and I began emulating those films on Super-8 by burying my friends in my mum’s cabbage patch and making zombie horror movies which I then successfully marketed and presented to local schools and turned a profit.
IndieFlicks: How did you get started in film making?
Chris: After making a string of successful Zombie movies with my school friends and showing at local schools, I went to film school; which didn’t really work out for me. However, it was there that I met my friend and business partner Genevieve Jolliffe who I ended up making a series of low budget British independent feature films with. We just got on with it, we did not have anyone telling us that we should not be doing this or that it was not possible. So, we approached it as: nobody had done this before, and figured it out as we went, it seemed quite logical. We hired a camera, got some actors, got a script, some locations, some sound recording equipment and we just went out and we did it. I would love to say that there was some grand master plan or that we had some incredible mentor, but the fact is we didn’t. We dealt with it day by day.
IndieFlicks: Your first feature film was The Runner, was it a pleasurable experience?
Chris: It was a true baptism of fire, everything went wrong, this was mainly because we did not know what we were doing, we were very young and naive; ambitious and under funded. That was a really deadly concoction, nevertheless we made a competent feature film shot on film, full of stunts, action and entertainment. I don’t think that it was a pleasurable experience, but it was an extraordinary experience. I think that when one measures life’s experiences and its value to one’s self, that has much more weight to me.
IndieFlicks: How much did it cost to make?
IndieFlicks: What did you learn most from making this film?
Chris: We learnt a huge amount and all of those lessons were taken forward very quickly into our second feature White Angel. Lots of simple things like keep your story contained to one location or even one shooting location, even if it is multiple story locations, minimise your characters, get the script right before you go to set; I know it all sounds obvious in this day and age where there is an abundance of information in books or on courses, but back then really nobody knew this stuff, unless you had been doing it professionally, but then you wouldn’t be making a low budget film.
IndieFlicks: How did the Guerilla Filmmaker’s Handbook come about?
Chris: We wrote The Guerilla Filmmakers Handbook at her majesty’s pleasure. We received a dawn raid while making White Angel and it was while sitting in cells we thought that we need to write a book about this. That was the genesis of the handbook and it’s all in the book, the arrest warrants and all.
IndieFlicks: Where did the idea of Gone Fishing come from?
Chris: Gone Fishing came from a meeting with a top British producer who said “We really love your script and we would really love to make it, but you can’t direct it because your films are very low budget and you have not made anything for some time”. That catalysed me into action. So often in life one goes along day to day doing things until you have a full blown breakdown, it usually takes another party to put the mirror up to your face and say “hey, have a good look” and in this occasion it was this producer. He didn’t know that he was doing this to me; but he was and I realised that I had become an accidentally succesful author with The Guerilla Filmmaker Handbook series and I really needed to recommit to film. I committed on the spot to making an Oscar worthy short film.
IndieFlicks: According to IMDB the budget is said to be £7,000, did you have to call in a lot of favours to bring the film in at that amount?
Chris: We didn’t pull in too many, what we did was use good old producer blood, sweat and tears. We did lean on some existing relationships. On the whole the great things that came out of Gone Fishing were completely new relationships. Because I had committed to excellence, it was decided that we wanted to shoot on film so we called Kodak, and convinced them that they needed to give us the film stock. Once we got that then Vernon Layton came on board as DoP, then everything started to fall into place. It all begins with making this commitment at the beginning to being unreasonable, and aspiring to the highest possible standards.
Chris: We shot on 35mm. We did not even entertain shooting on the digital format because this was the classic Hollywood style family film, it is not a Harry Potter film but if you like Harry Potter I am pretty sure that you would like Gone Fishing. We have a hundred years of cinematic heritage that says that movies look like film. Digital still looks terrific and it is totally appropriate for some stories but it was not appropriate for this story.
IndieFlicks: How long did principal photography last?
Chris: We shot for six days and we had a further pick up day a month later where we went back to pick up extra shots that we discovered we needed during the edit process.
IndieFlicks: Which part of the production did you find most enjoyable?
Chris: Personally, I find the editing, the sound mixing and the grading most enjoyable because at that point you have done all your hard work, the ideas have become a reality and you are in the final stages of polishing. Also, it is a stage where, in my experience, you are working with extremely experienced people in an extremely professional environment and they usually have big leather sofas and coffee machines and you get relaxed into this wonderfully creative final mastering stage. When all the sound comes together in a fantastic sound environment, it’s like nothing else.
IndieFlicks: What lessons did you learn?
Chris: Everything we learned has now been committed to an exhaustive fourteen hour online workshop, which is available at www.gonefishingseminar.com. We built this resource partly out of the commitment to the people who were the associate producers on the film. As you know, the film was entirely funded by me asking every person I ever met for £50 and part of that commitment was to document the whole process, then put together this work shop which we did partly through the blog and partly through the workshop that we ran at the British Academy of Film and Television Arts on the day of the premiere. In terms of lessons I am not so sure that I personally learned a lot, however, what I did get was a lot of confirmation and affirmation of things that I already felt to be true. Such as; aspiring for greatness and really trying to get terrific actors, really planning and preparing in great detail and almost making the film via storyboard before we even got to set.
Chris: It was an extraordinary feeling. When the email from the academy comes and says that basically don’t book a holiday for February you might be going to the Oscars, all bets are off. You shift into an entirely different universe at that moment so it was quite an extraordinary feeling. It was also wonderful because it was an affirmation of what we were trying to achieve as we were the only British film in 2009 to be Academy award short listed for the short narrative award. That felt really great, especially in light of the BAFTAs - who chose five other films over Gone Fishing - and I think that it really serves to illustrate the distinction between European cinema and the American Hollywood style cinema. We are very much in the Hollywood camp, so it was a wonderful affirmation that we were speaking their language.
IndieFlicks: What can we expect to see from you in the future?
Chris: I always knew that Gone Fishing would open up many more doors than I could really imagine or see in front of me. I am currently working on a bunch of things, but I learnt a long time ago that it’s all hyperbole until the cheque is in the bank account or you find yourself on the first day of principal photography. All things being equal I should be shooting a feature film within the next six months.
IndieFlicks: Can we expect to see another edition of The Guerilla Filmmaker’s Handbook?
Chris: We are working on The Digital Guerilla Filmmaker’s pocket book right now. It is very small and refined but still a very dense edition that is designed to go in your back pocket as a resource for when you are on set and you come across some problems. We also have online Seminars, the Gone Fishing one is effectively a two day workshop that we have tried to keep as cost effective as possible. The feedback has been extraordinary, we still have 100% five out of five feedback from everybody who has taken the workshop!
IndieFlicks: What advice would you give aspiring filmmakers?
Chris: Seek advice and knowledge from as many cost effective sources as you can, whether they are books, seminars, workshops or taking successful people out for a cheap sandwich. Do as much as you can but don’t become a junkie who is addicted to learning from others, because fundamentally filmmaking can’t be taught, it can only be learned through experience. You can only get some tips and pointers from these resources, and as valuable as they are the best way is to just pick up a camera and go out there and make a film, learn from the experience then do some structured learning, but not too much, then go make another film and learn from those mistakes. I am a great believer of make a film, do a course, read a book, make another film, do a course, read a book, make another film, always forwarding your career. Don’t get entrenched in just researching or reading or doing courses or making films and ignoring all the great information that is out there. Most importantly though, get out there and make a film!
For more information on Chris Jones’ work please visit his website and blog - click
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