Thursday, January 28, 2010

New Website for '43 pounds'

The following post was copied from our new movie website at

Friday 15th January marked two landmark events for Hive Films: the long-awaited premier of the movie ‘Zombie Undead’, and the beginning of filming the movie ‘43 pounds’. The full story of how and why the two came on the same evening will be unravelled through this blog over the coming months.

But first a word about Zombie Undead. Two of the four screenings so far have been sell-outs, with the others well on their way to being full. We’ve been fortunate to have good coverage in the media and enthusiastic responses from audiences.

The premier should surely have given us enough organisational challenges. Why then start filming ‘43 pounds’ on the same day? There were two reasons for that. The first is emotional rather than logical. It is the pleasing sense that the end of one journey is also the beginning of another, both for us and for the many people who have been following our work and the emergence of film making in Leicester.

The second reason is practical. The movie ‘43 pounds’ opens at the premier of a zombie movie. We had the main screen at Phoenix Square. We had a sell-out audience, who we hoped and guessed would be keen to volunteer as extras.

Zombie Undead was screened. The audience applauded and cheered. The production team did a Q& A session on the stage. And then we sprung the surprise. “We’re about to film the first scene of our next movie, right here, right now. If you’d like to be part of it, stay in your seats. If you don’t want to be, we’ll see you later in the bar.”

They could have all walked out at that point. Happily they all stayed.

You can see a short podcast from the premier here, including a glimpse of the director in action.

But why does the first scene of ‘43 pounds’ need to be at the premier of a zombie movie? The answer to that will have to wait for another post.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Writing lines for actors

The process of writing for '43 pounds' is significantly different from the work I usually do. There are two reasons for this:

1) We are going to be relying heavily on the excellent improvisational skills of our cast. This should give us more of a documentary feel - less like scripted lines. So the lines I am actually writing will probably never be spoken. They are there to guide the actors rather than constrain them.

2) I already know some of the cast and have started workshopping with them. This has given me the seeds of several ideas. And when I type the words in, I can already hear the voices of the actors saying them.

Hearing voices may sound more like a mental illness than a writing technique. Perhaps it is more accurate to say that when I read the lines that I have written, I hear them in my head with the tone, accent and delivery of those individuals.

Getting the voices is one of the important milestones for me in writing any work of fiction. With this it has been given to me from the start.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Friday, January 15, 2010

Zombie Undead

A couple of years ago I was showing my film 'Pixacillus' at a bar screening alongside a number of other shorts. In the intermission a very tall man with a goatee beard pushed through the crowd to introduce himself. This was my first meeting with Rhys Davis.

A few months later, I bumped into him again at a zombie makeup workshop at the old Phoenix in Leicester. I learned that he and writer Kris Tearse were working on a full-length zombie movie. Would I like to be a zombie in the movie? he asked. Yes, I said. Of course.

But when the call came, it wasn't to be a zombie. They were looking for someone to play a doctor. A speaking rather than a groaning part.

A word here about timescales. Movies are usually shot in a month or two. You get everyone together, plan your schedule carefully and you work day after day until it is done. Rhys and Kris had devised a different approach.

By writing the movie so the bulk of it takes place inside an evacuation centre, and by securing weekend use of some large buildings at De Montfort University, they made it possible to shoot on odd days through the year - without worrying about the massive continuity problems that would have arisen through trees losing their leaves etc had they been shooting outside.

Thus Zombie Undead was shot on occasional weekend days over a 2 year period. On that basis, cast and crew volunteered their time. I don't know what the eventual budget was, but we must be talking less than Avatar spent on paperclips.

Tonight it premiers at Phoenix Square.

Huge congratulations to Kris and Rhys. It is a massive achievement.

Friday, January 08, 2010

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Are movies Speciating?

Speciation is the process whereby one species of animal or plant becomes two. It can happen, for example, when a physical barrier such as a mountain range or an ocean separates two populations and they start to evolve along different tracks. After a time they become so different from each other that they can no longer inter-breed.

Comparing ultra high budget movies such as Avatar to very low budget movie such as White Angel or Zombie Undead, we still find enough of an overlap to suggest that they have not speciated yet. But is that the direction they are travelling?

The barrier that separates them is money.

A low budget movie will struggle to even get a cinematic release. Avatar just made a billion dollars from the box office in 17 days. Low returns push low budget directors to very low budget and very low budget to 'zero' budget. Immense returns push the mega movie producers to ever bigger spectacle.

How many planets can we blow up this time?

The challenge, it seems to me, is for the makers of very low budget movies to find ways of generating an income stream. Otherwise they will become dependent on public arts funding, will become self-indulgent and will lose the creative edge that they potentially have at present.

That is the power of the low budget movie. The creative edge that comes from being able to take risks - risks you couldn't afford if your movie cost as much as Avatar.