Sunday, 16 October 2011

Principal Photography Completed.

We have now wrapped principal photography on 'Night of the Living Dead: Resurrection', every shot is now in the can. So here are my final thoughts on this zombie adventure over the last month or so.

Low budget filmmaking means a group of talented people working hard to make something they believe in, the main motivation being creative satisfaction and starting a career rather than short term financial rewards. We've had some fanboy cynicism on a certain Message Board about being low budget, but that's a little nonsensical considering those same fanboys complain about soulless big budget remakes of the classics. They seem to forget that the best horror films have always been low budget. Remember that the original 'Night of the Living Dead' was made on a low budget and alot of community spirit. So we've had some message board criticism, but no one has seen a second of footage from the actual film yet. Every negative comment at this stage is just verbal premature ejaculation. After becoming involved in some of the message board discussions I soon realized that none of the fanboys want to have a constructive sensible debate about the merits of Low Budget vs Studio or the current industry climate of remakes. What they really want is to throw some shit at filmmakers for the same reason that a dog licks his balls - because they can. It really says more about where they are in their life than it does about the filmmakers. If you don't like the movie when it comes out that's fine, film is subjective and everyone takes from a moviegoing experience whatever they want to. Some people will love this movie, some people will hate it, like every other movie in history. One man's shit is another man's champagne. The important thing for a filmmaker is not to get to hung up on what someone anonymously writes about you. That can be difficult when you're new to the game, but looking at the bigger picture I don't see any other British independent film being made at the moment that's generating so much opinion. So for me, it's all good. At the end of the day we're making a movie for entertainment purposes not curing cancer, it's time for perspective.

We're very lucky that 98% of the people who worked on this film are consumate professionals. They never complained about the very difficult circumstances of shooting out in the middle of nowhere, and have simply knuckled down and focused on making this the best possible film it can be. One of the greatest assets on a film production is the ability for the individual and the collective to be able to adapt to changing circumstances and we were lucky that most were, but of course it wouldn't be a film production without one or two people complaining. I wonder if one or two thought that we were lying about living communally in cottages in the middle of nowhere and that when they arrived there'd be a Hilton hotel in the back garden or something. You can perhaps expect it to be a culture shock for youngsters. They've grown up with the X Factor which gives a misguided view of the entertainment industry, leading people to believe that you get through an audition and you are instantly propelled into a world of glamour, money and fame. The real world doesn't work like that, people have to pay their dues and work their way up in often difficult conditions. It's more perplexing having to face tantrums from people who should be experienced enough to know better. Particularly when they have done nothing of note in their career to justify looking down their nose at everyone else. But of course, I wouldn't be doing my job as producer if everyone walked away from the project liking me. Part of my job description is to be the target for complaints and frustration, and no doubt one or two left the project thinking I'm an absolute cunt who knows fuck all. But you can never keep everyone happy and you certainly can't afford to cater for egos the size of China when you're shooting a 21 day schedule in 13 days, which is what we have been doing. None of it really matters if you get quality on screen and we've done that so any issues encountered during the shoot pale into insignificance now.

The vast majority of people involved were truly wonderful in the making of this film. They embraced the experience wholeheartedly. As hard work as it is, filmmaking is also alot of fun. People wouldn't continue to do it if it wasn't. Most people would kill for the opportunity to make a movie and we've had so many people on this project who have clearly loved the experience and been delighted to be a part of it. Despite the stress of organising a film, I wouldn't want to be doing anything else. Making a feature film is an experience most people can only dream of experiencing and that's something everyone blessed to get this opportunity should be grateful for.

We've most definitely had the most enthusiastic and hard working crew in the business. It was always astounding to see the sound recordist Paul Brookes come in from an 18 hour shooting day and still listen back to everything he had recorded that day before grabbing a few hours sleep. Our FX artist Rachael Southcott and assistant Laura Clarke were outstanding, defying the time limitations to produce practical effects each day to an incredibly high standard. Rachael is going to be in very high demand after people see her deliciously gory designs! Vicki Rodway has been the best 1st AD I could have hoped for, able to keep us on schedule but with a wonderful manner towards people. Alot of 1st ADs like to shout obnoxiously and they are often the hate figure for the rest of the crew, but Vicki was able to do a tremendous job without ever jepoardizing morale or alienating anyone. Adam Phillips has filled every role possible on this project, he has acted in the film, been assistant producer, assisted in various crew positions, run people around in his car, while also dishing out a Fact of the Day that has kept us all educated while we've been stranded from civilisation! I simply couldn't have done my job without Adam's willingness to pitch in wholeheartedly on every aspect of production. James Morrissey has been a wonderful DoP, his shorthand with the director and almost telepathic understanding of what he wants has produced a great looking movie. I've always been impressed when watching the rushes, even the raw ungraded footage looks superb. Angry Jim's humour has also been a wonderful influence behind the scenes, and on difficult days he would always crack me up and instantly lighten my mood.

Our actors have all been amazing of course. Lee Bane was the only actor who was actually on location every single minute of our 10 day shoot in the arse end of nowhere. At the crack of dawn before call time every day he would take his bicycle and spend a couple of hours trekking the surrounding areas in Llandysul, then still put in a massive acting shift for the rest of the day with boundless energy and enthusiasm. And when we talk about actors going far and above what you could ever hope for, we had so many who pushed the limits physically and emotionally. Sule Rimi spent 12 hours doing some of the most physically and emotionally difficult scenes possible on our first shooting day, yet he was still able to have a laugh and be an incredibly positive influence on set. Same goes for Richard Burman on our shoot at the Village Shop in Scurlage, Swansea on October 9th. His scenes involved continual physical exertion, yet he took himself to wherever the director asked take after take without any reservations. Rose Granger re-arranged other commitments at the last minute to come in on a day she wasn't originally scheduled for, Kathy Saxondale was able to go to some incredibly dark places and produce tremendous emotion continually, Richard Goss stayed on to do extra shots for us on numerous occasions etc etc. If I had the time I could honestly go through the whole cast list and mention something that each actor has done that illustrates their enormous commitment to bringing this story from script to screen. Also of course our many zombie actors who were so patient as they endured gruelling FX Make Up to bring the undead back to life!

My final word on production should be about director James Plumb, the man whose talent and invention has propelled the production to a higher level. Sooner or later I will be running out of superlatives for him. As a producer you want to work with a director who not only has a specific vision but is willing to work within budget and time limitations. James is the perfect director in that sense, if ever there are financial or time restrictions that limit his initial idea he has the innovative mind and ability to think on his feet,adapt and still produce the goods. I've been continually impressed by his choice of shots, nothing is shot in a boring conventional way, he loves cinema and knows exactly how to tell a story visually. James is also a very natural, charismatic communicator who is confident and at ease with every challenge presented to him. As someone who has directed a feature before producing for a director on his debut feature, I was prepared to offer advice or help if needed. But the truth is James is a better director than I will ever be and believing in his vision and working to get him what he needed to bring it to fruition has been such a positive experience that it's made me feel being a producer is a better fit for me than being a director. In fact, I'd be happy to spend the rest of my career producing films for James Plumb. I truly believe he will grow into one of the UK's best directors so to be there to see that rise first hand would be extremely satisfying on both a professional and personal level.

Now onto a whole new challenge- Post Production!!    

Andrew Jones

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

The bulk of principal photography wrapped!

We have now wrapped the bulk of principal photography at our main location. We shot the main action of our story at Dorinda Cottage near Llandysul in Carmarthenshire, West Wales. 

The owners David and Julie Dunnell were absolutely fantastic to us throughout our stay, truly marvelous people who went out of their way to provide us with whatever we needed.

I really can't praise the hard working crew and cast enough, they were tremendous during the shoot and because of them we managed to complete this section of the shoot on schedule and on budget.

We now have two more days of principal photography, Sunday October 9th and Sunday October 16th at public locations in Swansea, South Wales.

Production Stills coming soon...

Thursday, 29 September 2011

On the 6th day...

A couple of bits and pieces of the paper trail from production...

The first day Call Sheet...

A page from the Continuity Log proving that blood has literally been spilled to get this film made...

Finally a tip of the hat to two more of our unsung heroes. The Sound Recordist Paul Brookes - A talented knowledgeable professional but also a wonderful guy to have on set who takes everything in his stride and is never fazed by big challenges. Adam Phillips - A jack of all trades for this production, Adam has done everything from driving to helping with lighting, assistant producing, as well as appearing on camera as a featured zombie.

We're on budget and after today we're on schedule. Producing is mostly fire fighting and you go from deflation to elation and back again numerous times every day. It's a head full of worry alot of the time no matter how prepared you are. It's important to always expect the unexpected. But I wouldn't change it for the world. As challenging as producing a low budget feature with lots of practical effects is, I'm loving this. We have a great team of hard working people who I am able to trust implicitly with the creative side of the project, and it's a joy to have assembled all of this new talent who are truly excelling in this environment.  I can see careers being born before my eyes and I wouldn't want to be anywhere else. This is what true filmmaking is really all about.


Tuesday, 27 September 2011

4 Days in...

It occurs to me as I try to write these posts that all I am ever going to do is praise people. To the reader that may limit the interest, I suppose dishing dirt is a more interesting read. But I simply can't help but praise every member of our cast and crew. The schedule has been jam packed, mostly 12 hour days,and the commitment to the cause has been outstanding. Everyone has been so willing to throw themselves into the low budget horror film experience, and the footage we're getting is exceeding our expectations. I should highlight Vicki Rodway's work in particular. When a film is released the actors, directors, writers, FX Artists etc get mentioned but no one really talks about the 1st Assistant Director. But Vicki is the best 1st AD we could have possibly wished for. The energy and enthusiasm of Vicki, James Plumb the director and the DoP James Morrissey is the collective heart beat of this project.

Day 3 was pretty grueling due to us shooting so much practical FX. I understand to some extent why people opt for CGI because it saves time, but I feel the extra time and hard work that has gone into the practical FX
will ultimately be worth it because it looks so much more realistic on film. The Make Up team led by Rachael Southcott and Laura Clarke have truly excelled themselves. Watching the dailies it occurred to me that this is going to be quite a gory film! Filming someone having their intestines ripped out by zombies and then breaking for food was a nice twisted delight to end the day on!

Now into Day 4...

Sunday, 25 September 2011

Principal Photography: Day 1

The first day of shooting is always a tough one. A new team finding their feet and in our case a new team actually trying to find the location! We have a wonderful main location for the film but it's so isolated that even the locals don't seem to know where it is! The Sat Navs don't recognize the place, and not one of us can get a signal on our phones! Shooting the movie feels like being the characters in the movie, because we really are in the middle of nowhere. Thankfully they have Wi Fi here so we are not totally cut off!

Once everyone found the place and settled in our first day turned into a great success, albeit a very long one at 12 hours.

Our first day involved scenes with Sule Rimi who plays 'Ben'. He had a very physically challenging day and he was absolutely fantastic. Sule was so game to take on big challenges and so willing to go anywhere James Plumb wanted to take him. Not only is his performance spot on but he is a wonderful character to have around set.

Having seen the Make Up tests I knew that FX Artist Rachael Southcott's zombie designs were impressive but seeing them in all their glory on location was a highlight of the first day. You know you've got gruesome looking zombies when a crew of hardened horror movie fans recoil when they see the actors in full Make Up. Our first two zombies of the shoot were Sabrina Dickens and Adam Phillips and I'm so grateful for their patience and enthusiasm throughout the day. The scene they were involved in will be a great "jump" moment in the film.

It was great to see the important relationships between our key cast members gel so instantly. We only had the chance for very minimal rehearsal before shooting so it's a great relief to see them bond on screen and get their characters nailed so quickly.

Our director James Plumb's vision is so clear and it's great to see him in full flow. The strong working relationship he has with our wonderful DoP James Morrissey is producing fantastic footage. It was great to see the dailies and know that every penny of our budget is getting up there on the screen.

All in all, a very satisfying start to our Zombie adventure!

Andrew Jones

Monday, 19 September 2011

The Origin of a Project - The Producer's Perspective

The creative origin of 'Night of the Living Dead: Resurrection' was the first 10 pages of a zombie script I later abandoned. As a lifelong horror fan I've long admired the Romero zombie films and other great genre offerings like 'Return of the Living Dead', so I've always wanted to write a zombie flick. I came up with an idea that had legs but after the first 10 pages I just didn't have the passion to finish it. But the first 10 pages definitely had something worth exploring further.
I've spent the last couple of years associate producing on other people's projects, gaining experience of pursuing finance and also taking on writing commissions. I've missed the buzz of being on location shooting a movie. Having been trying to raise money for bigger budget productions with an international flavour I felt I was moving away from my production company's original intention, which was to produce films in Wales with new and fresh talent. So I made it my priority to get something low budget off the ground, set in Wales utilizing the local talent. It was important to keep the budget to a level where investors were not going to insist upon "name" actors to sell the film, something that is a requirement over a certain budget level. Given the internationally renowned brand name of 'Night of the Living Dead', and it's public domain status, a zombie film using this title would allow me to raise a modest budget quickly and be able to use new talent because the title sells itself. 

So moving forward with this idea I knew I wanted to work with a new young director and give them the same opportunity I had years previously directing a financed feature. I had previously met James Plumb a couple of years earlier and we'd discussed collaborating on other projects. Those collaborations never came to fruition but when it came to this project I didn't even consider any other directors. James has a tremendous ability to get the best out of very limited resources and his innovation and enthusiasm always inspires those he works with. His short films have been progressively more ambitious and he was clearly ready to make his feature film debut.

After James and I met to discuss the script, his terrific ideas inspired me to write a basic first draft in just 5 days. I included the first 10 pages from my previous idea. The first draft had the core structure we discussed, with a reversal of some of the zombie movie conventions and realistic characters at the heart of the story . For me, horror films have often suffered from a lack of engaging characters so I was happy we were addressing that. After writing the first draft I turned the script over to James with the instruction to put his own unique stamp on it. 

I feel the only way you can get the best out of a director is to allow them to run with their personal vision. As long as a director remains within the budgetary constraints, I don't feel a producer should stick their ore into the creative side of things too much. I'm available for creative discussion and feedback but if I hire a director then that means I should have enough faith in them to let them do their job. My job is organizing, liaising and setting up the logistics of the project. I try to get the director what he needs. I think a producer who vomits their ego all over a director and tries to undermine them creatively is sending their project straight into the shitter. Too many cooks ALWAYS spoil the broth. You just have to make sure you are 100% certain you have the right director to begin with. James Plumb is the perfect director to work with because he sees budget constraints as an opportunity for innovation rather than a restriction and he never brings any ego to the collaborative process. In the two subsequent drafts James added socially relevant elements, plus some gory set pieces and scares that the horror fan in me was thrilled with. The script has ultimately evolved into a story that marries elements of the original 1968 Romero classic with more contemporary, and distinctly British, concepts.

Once the script had James' stamp on it I approached Independent Moving Pictures with our business plan. After considering the script, business plan and compiling sales estimates, the finance deal came together within a couple of weeks. The title 'Night of the Living Dead' really does sell itself and being able to produce a film with such sales potential on a modest budget made this the smoothest finance deal I've ever experienced. Our Executive Producer has been truly wonderful in the whole process of setting up the project and I'll forever be grateful for the faith he has shown in us.

When it came to casting, our main cast came together over a few months. We viewed countless showreels and previous Film/TV work of local actors and James and I met with those who impressed us the most. It was so important to find actors who were not only talented and suitable for each role, but who had the right attitude and were willing to work with our modest budget. Low budget film making means a group of people working hard, with their main motive being creative satisfaction and long term career aims rather than short term financial rewards. We've been very fortunate to find a core cast who believe in James' vision and recognize that this project could be something very special. The recent read through confirmed we have a very talented ensemble cast with a great understanding of the material.  

We went through the more traditional audition process with the supporting cast, holding auditions at the Dylan Thomas Theatre in Swansea. We invited new, young actors from across South Wales. The most wonderful part of that process was finding undiscovered talent. There's nothing better than when a youngster with no previous acting experience walks into an audition room and is incredibly natural and compelling. A number of young actors did that at the Swansea audition and it's a great thrill to be able to give them their first feature film experience. For me, it was also wonderful to see James work with the actors. He is a dynamic, natural director and it makes my job so much easier having total confidence in someone to steer the creative ship. After that audition I felt like this is what I got into this business to do.

In terms of crew James and I have been able to draw on people we have previously worked with on other projects, and we have some extraordinary talent behind the camera who will all play a massive role in getting this story from page to screen.

Going into shooting, I take great inspiration from the original 'Night of the Living Dead'. A group of young filmmakers with limited resources but bags of ambition and talent producing a film that went onto launch many careers. I also look at Wes Craven's 1977 cult classic 'The Hills Have Eyes' and see some comparisons to our project- taking a talented hard working group of people into an isolated location, on a low budget, but with the ambition to produce something unique and effective.

If we put as much heart and passion into 'Night of the Living Dead: Resurrection' as they did on those projects then we can't go far wrong. And why not allow ourselves to dream of just a tiny bit of their success? With talent and hard work, ANYTHING and EVERYTHING is possible.

Shooting begins in 4 days.