Monday, 3 May 2010

When friends do cool stuff

Russell Lee’s creativity is a scary and beautiful thing. At any one time he appears to be in approximately 17,654 bands, including the second coming of Hüsker Dü-loving punk poppers Midway Still who are touring RIGHT NOW, is a boss photographer whose work graces various books that neither you nor I will ever be able to afford and he provided the haunting music for my film The Initiation. When I'm a full time filmmaker, he will be my Morricone. Believe.

Ben Robinson - the British Charles Band is currently working/globe trotting with the DOHA Tribeca film festival, helping students make one minute movies amongst other things. He’s a godammn filmmaking machine yessir, so get check his shit out. He’s also blogging on the site and recently provided a ferocious critique of the new Michael Winterbottom film The Killer Inside Me.

Ben and I are collaborating again very soon. Our last venture pre-Horrorshow was this beauty, which rocked the Texas SXSW film festival back in '07.

Phil Newton is one half of this great podcast your one stop shop for all things fantasy/horror/SF based.

Ry McDermott and his band of filmmaking lunatics are off to Cannes with their short film Mark Macready and the Archangel Murders. Seek it out. It's a manc Hellboy with McDermott flexing leading man chops with a performance that is Gerard Butler by way of Shameless

Shameless self promotion: The Initiation, Horrorshow and The Followed

Back in 2008 I wrote, directed and produced a short film:

The Initiation (excerpt)(2008)

An affectionate tribute to a particular strain of 1970s English horror typified by films like Blood on Satan’s Claw and the most obvious influence The Wicker Man, it formed part of a wider project, an anthology collection of macabre tales called Horrorshow.

I didn’t really stop to make sense of it at the time but thinking about it all nearly two years on the experience of working on these films was utterly, utterly incredible – a surreal, brilliant, joyous, giddy and insane time. Five like minded souls came together in the space of a few manic months and made five wildly different but crucially interconnected works.

North London gonzo kingpin Ben Robinson’s hi-energy polizi/gialli mash-up Neon Killer

Sophie Cowles’ lacerating, brutal revenge vignette Smile

Ben Steiner’s cerebral de-vamp The Flea

Giles Edward’s tricksy Italian horror valentine The Incursion

The fact that we were able to secure an intro and linking segments from the marvellous English cult horror legend Norman J Warren was the icing on a sickly, gore filled cake.

When I wrapped shooting my entry the high was better than any drug. To anyone considering making a film, short or feature, I would urge them to do it. I can’t recommend it highly enough.

When the film premiered at the amazing FrightFest in Leicester Square it was mindblowing. I was almost sick with nerves, and even the supposed calming nature of alcohol couldn’t prevent me from giving a pretty incoherent, nervy onstage intro, alongside my cinematic partners in crime. Thankfully, there apperars to be no public record of my gibberings, but there is this pic of us with the lovely Norman J.

But even if we didn’t blow the festival away like we had hoped (the films’ ramshackle, flawed charms were no match for some of the ruthlessly professional and slick works on show) I wouldn’t have changed anything. Even the downsides of putting your work 'out there', and there were a few (oh the brutal honesty of the basement dwelling blogoverse!), can’t taint the overall experience.

What making the film taught me, amongst many things, was just how vital collaboration is to making art happen. At times during filming I felt less like a director, more like a demented ringmaster bringing some amazing talents together for the manic shoot in Cornwall.

One of the best things about making the film was meeting and collaborating with some truly talented people. Cinematographer Morgan Lowndes, who effectively co-directed the flick, game actors Becky Barry, Tom Hare, Rory Wilton and Zoe Grisedale ('Twingo' superstar!) who lent much needed credibility to what was essentially a fairly arch and silly script and the Cowles family who made it all happen, in so many ways.

Not forgetting the beautiful, haunting music for the film by the upsettingly multi-talented Russell Lee. And I always felt like I didn’t capitalise enough of the genius FX work that Steve Hollins (Cornwall’s answer to Tom Savini) brought to the party.

Anyway, two years on I’m now preparing to do it all again, with a new project: The Followed. Hopefully with as many of the same brilliant people and with some new collaborators too. Watch this blog!

There are so many reasons I want to do this again. Filmmaking is essentially a drug, and I've been clean for far too long. Also, in the back of my mind is the nagging feeling that if I don't hurry up and make some more films, somewhere in the none-too-distant future I'm going to end up like Les McQueen in this scene from League of Gentleman, with a stack of Initiation DVDs instead of Creme Brulee CDs, telling younger, more talented people that I 'made a film...once'.

To future adventures in filmmaking!