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By James W, Thursday 20th November 2008
Pat Higgins directed and produced the film TrashHouse on a shoestring, shooting digitally in warehouses in Southend. It premièred at the TromaFling festival in Edinburgh 2005, where it was awarded Best Screenplay and runner-up for Best UK Feature. It was released on DVD by Screen Entertainment in February 2006 (and later re-released by budget label Shriek in summer 2007) and received positive reviews in many magazines, including Empire. He has gone on to produce a string of successful low budget fright flicks. Here, in the first part of a four part series he gives honest and invaluable advice for those who are contemplating on creating their own horror movies
STAGE ONE: Writing
Each and every day, write a thousand words. Even if those words are ‘I can’t think of anything’ 200 times, take the time to sit and write that. Go fully stream-of-consciousness. Do not expect what you’re writing to be a finished thing; just let it be what it is.
Your only, ONLY obligation is to make sure that the file grows by 1000 words every day without using cut and paste. You have to actually type the words out, but let your quality control level be zero. If you need to get your thousand words done in the half-hour before you leave for the pub, so be it. They’ll be awful. Big deal. Just write them. It’s actually less hassle to write off the top of your head than copy down the text from something else, but whatever. Your delete key does not exist, as this is not the time for editing.
After three months, stop. You’ve now written something the size of a chunky novel, and most of it is utter crap. And some of it is okay. And, hopefully, some of it is brilliant.
Never ever let anyone see the thing you’ve produced. Because you’re going to be raiding that horribly misshapen beast for material every single time you need an idea for the rest of your amazing career. And after three months of producing such a wonky monster, the idea of crafting a sleek, streamlined storyline from all the best ideas that you can cherry pick from it will seem like a gift from the gods. If you’ve stuck to my ‘no delete’ rule, you’ll have been itching to do it since week two. Check as many books as possible on structure and pacing and hammer together something sleek and beautiful from the random spew of ideas in your document. Write it, rewrite it and get the thing brilliant. There will not be time later. Bear in mind that the screenplay is the only aspect of the whole thing where you can outdo Hollywood. Their films will look slicker than yours, sound better than yours, but if you’ve got a killer script on your side you’re at least in a fit state to do battle. If you think your script is ‘okay’ or ‘pretty good’, then it’s not good enough. Make it better or forget the whole damn thing
STAGE TWO: Preproduction
OK, so you’re armed with your killer screenplay, which has been assembled from your wonky manuscript with a close eye on utilising whatever resources you have available to you. The next step is getting organised. There are an awful lot of things that you really need to do at this stage to save you money, time and heartache further down the line; not least amongst them are setting up a limited company and getting insurance to protect you should things go wrong. Check out Chris Jones’ excellent Guerrilla Filmmaker’s Blueprint for all you could need to know about this sort of stuff.
Around this point, you’re probably thinking about casting your friends. Think about it for another minute and a half. Enjoy that minute and a half, because you’re never going to think about casting your friends ever again in your life. Just don’t do it. Oh, and don’t think about casting yourself, either. You may think you’re up to the challenge. You are wrong.
Drop a couple of emails to local universities to try and gather potential crew. Scout the net for potential cast. Hold auditions on neutral ground (maybe a function room above a pub) with at least one other person present. Remember that you’ve got a lot to prove at this stage, and you’re likely to be asking people to work for little or no money, so for God’s sake be nice to everyone you meet. Word travels fast if you’re unpleasant, and that reputation will stick.
Cast and crew your film with people that you feel you can work with, not just whoever has the most impressive show reel. You’re going to all be depending on each other to make something great; you’re going to be a team. It’s important not to forget that. Make sure that you get the paperwork sorted before you shoot a single frame; you will absolutely need individual release forms from every person involved. Get them before, not after. Plan your shoot down to the finest detail. If there’s any way you can realistically do so, enlist someone you trust to come onto the production team and deal with that side of things. It needs to be done. And if there’s a chance to get your cast together for rehearsal days, those will save time and money when it comes to the shoot. Make sure that the shoot days are scheduled to make the most of available locations, available actors and to minimise the amount of time spent moving around. How long are you going to need for the shoot? You’re probably asking the wrong guy; I’ve shot an internationally released feature in 8 days. But I wouldn’t recommend it.
What format should you shoot? Whatever you’re most comfortable with. We’re at a stage where even the cheapest miniDV cameras can still produce broadcast quality images; if your film is brilliantly entertaining there’s no such thing as the ‘wrong’ format. The choices that you make with the sound are, counter-intuitively, probably far more important. Sound is often the weakest link in many a zero-budget production. The on-camera sound will not do. At all. Trust me. Go and get a decent shotgun microphone (rent one if needs be) and a boom pole, and connect that to the camera. If the camera doesn’t have the right (preferably XLR) inputs, you might be better off recording the sound onto something else entirely (a laptop? DAT? Minidisc? There are no rules really) and synching up the good sound later, using the sound from the onboard mic as a guide.
STAGE THREE: Production
Go and shoot the thing. Try not to go insane. Try remembering that you’ll look back on this as ‘the fun bit’, even if it feels like a slow-motion nervous breakdown at the time.
STAGE FOUR: Post-production
Unless you really enjoy swearing and crying for sustained periods of time, I’d recommend editing on a Mac system. I’m just saying this from personal experience; I’m not a Mac evangelist in any other respect. I use PCs for every other aspect of my work, from writing to photo manipulation, but I cut my first feature on a PC and I never, ever, ever want to do it again. The Mac G5 that I’ve used to cut my last three features, all in HD using Final Cut Pro, has only ever crashed once. It was nice enough to warn me that it was about to do so, and suggested that I save my work so that I wouldn’t be inconvenienced. When it comes to editing a feature, go Mac and FCP if there’s any way whatsoever that you can afford it. That said, if you’re PC based and I can’t persuade you otherwise, there are several pretty decent editing options. Pinnacle, which is now a division of Avid, make various affordable packages that shouldn’t break your budget.
Take your time with the edit, and get the best music that you possibly can (making sure that you’ve sorted the legal paperwork, which can be a headache). Scour MySpace and similar sites for unsigned bands, and approach them to see if they’ll let you use their songs. Edit the movie together in a way that you’re happy with it. Then watch the film back and ask yourself a brutally honest question. “If someone offered me £10,000 per minute that I remove from the running time at this point, how much would I remove?” Then go and cut that many minutes out. Nobody will give you the money, but more people will enjoy your film. I’m a running time hardliner, and I see 82 minutes including credits as the perfect running time for a micro-budget movie. Less, and people feel short-changed. More, and they start getting bored.
STAGE FIVE: Completion
Organise a cast and crew screening, even if it's just in a room over a pub. If you've got any money at all left in your meagre budget, hire out a screening room.
The next part of the process, which is getting your movie sold and distributed, is not only tricky but its also ever-changing. The internet has changed everything, physical formats are on the way out but, in my opinion, the next mainstream distribution technology isn't really here yet. Use the net to plug your stuff and try and get reviews on sites with an interest in your genre. Film festivals are an option but can prove expensive. Make as many contacts as you can and be nice to all of them. Don't listen to anything that anyone tells you, me included, because there really isn't a rulebook in independent filmmaking and nobody knows anything. Just try and make the best film that you can. Don't get too much fake blood on the lens, and don't record any important scenes onto head cleaner tapes.
That's my advice, and my conscience is clear.
Posted on Friday 14th September 2018
He's sold well over 350 million of books, has just as many fans across the globe and celebrates his 71st birthday on September 21st, Stephen King is without doubt the most famous genre author in the world today.
From his first novel, Carrie in 1974, King has scared, inspired, and entertained countless people. His descriptive and raw prose has given us some of the most chilling and memorable characters including Pennywise, Johnny Smith and a dog named Cujo.
On the night of his birthday, Horror is celebrating in style with the first episode of the acclaimed series Under The Dome and a quartet of big screen versions of some of his finest books.
Here's all you need to know:
Under the Dome (8...SHARE: READ MORE Horror has everything this Autumn because We Are Horror!
Posted on Wednesday 29th August 2018
Horror Channel kicks off the Autumn season with eight chilling prime time weekend film premieres including the UK TV premiere of Adam Green's slasher favourite that gave the world Victor Crowley,Hatchet (14th Sep), starring horror icons Kane Hodder, Robert Englund and Tony Todd.
There are also TV firsts for Kieran Parker's Outpost III: Rise Of The Spetsnaz (15th Sep), the third installment of the hit Nazi zombie action horror franchise, Steven Sheil's graphic underground thriller Dead Mine (22nd Sep) set in Indonesia and Will Canon's haunted house horror Demonic (29th Sep).
September also sees network premieres for the gory and hilarious 100 Bloody Acres (8th Sep), the erotic, murderous triple-hander...SHARE: READ MORE 10 FrightFest flicks for 2018
Posted on Thursday 16th August 2018
Stewart Bridle, Channel Manager for Horror Channel, selects the FrightFest films to catch at this year's event.
It's that time again when the most torturous experience isn't being slowly sliced in half by a deranged chainsaw-wielding maniac but actually deciding what to watch from the massive line-up of over 70 films at this year's FrightFest London on the August Bank holiday weekend. Unless you've found some mad scientist to clone you several times you'll never catch everything so here are ten devious delights I recommend this year.
SUMMER OF 84 The RKSS collective return to FrightFest after wowing audiences back in 2015 with the terrific...SHARE: READ MORE 5 Reasons To See Unfriended: Dark Web This Weekend
Posted on Friday 10th August 2018
Today marks the UK release of Unfriended: Dark Web. The latest nightmare offering an unnerving and unflinching look into what lies beyond the everyday realms of the internet.
When Matias (Colin Woodell) stumbles across a new laptop which runs a lot better than his current hunk o' junk, he connects with his friends online for their usual game night. He soon finds out that the computer he's picked up has a connection to the Dark Web, a horrific, and unmonitored part of the internet. Matias shares his findings, and his screen, with his friends during the game night, and finds himself the target of the laptop's original owner... who will ...SHARE: READ MORE Horror Channel unleashes monstrous FrightFest Season
Posted on Monday 6th August 2018
To celebrate FrightFest 2018, taking place in London during the August Bank Holiday, Horror Channel is dedicating thirteen nights to past festival hits.
Amongst the twenty-six fear-filled favourites, the channel will air four UK TV premieres: Simeon Halligan's 'terror-torial' home invasion shocker White Settlers; Jeff Maher's crowd-pleasingly ghoulish orgy of sex and gore Bed Of The Dead; Chad Archibald's breath-choking supernatural thriller The Drownsman; and the hauntingly sinister Nightworld, directed by Patricio Valladares and starring horror icon Robert Englund.
Plus, we're broadcasting three network premieres; Alberto Marini's sly and witty scaremonger Summer Camp; Bernard Rose's Frankenstein, a s...SHARE: READ MORE Horror Channel gets beastly in July with Animal Attack Season
Posted on Tuesday 19th June 2018
Nature gets nasty on Horror Channel in July with Animal Attack Season, a beastly collection of movies which will claw their way into your nightmares each Saturday at 9pm.
The season starts on the 7th with the big screen version of a Stephen king classic, Cujo. When sweet St. Bernard dog Cujo is bitten by a bat, he morphs into a dangerous beast and goes on a rampage in a small town. Stay-at-home mom Donna (Dee Wallace) gets caught in Cujo's crosshairs on a fateful errand with her son, Tad (Danny Pintauro). Stuck in their car, Donna and Tad have a frightening showdown with the crazed animal. Then the following week a movie that has real bite, Burning Bright. Johnny Gavenau's latest get-quick-rich scheme is to turn his Florida...SHARE: READ MORE Happy 50th birthday Rosemary's Baby
Posted on Tuesday 12th June 2018
Kids! What are they like? Some can be cute, others can be little devils... literally!
Today is the 50th anniversary of the classic shocker Rosemary's Baby so here we take a look at five of the finest devil child movies. Do you agree with our list and which ones would you refuse to babysit?! Note we have not included the Arnold Schwarzenegger movie Junior as that's horrific in other ways (!)
5: Devil's Due (2014) A recently married couple on honeymoon experience a bizarre warning, a long journey, come across some strange symbols, then are drugged, left in a room and a couple of weeks later the wife discovers she's pregnant! Her pregnancy is a time of torture for her and convinced she's being watched. Could...SHARE: READ MORE 13 reasons why John Carpenter is The Horror Master
Posted on Thursday 31st May 2018
On the eve of Horror Channel's John Carpenter Season (stars June 2nd), we present to you 13 reasons why he truly is the Master of Horror. Agree or disagree let us know via out social media channels.
1: Made the slasher movie cool again with Halloween (1978)
2: His use of a Steadicam put us in the heart of the terror on screen.
3: Gave the world the finest horror movie theme, ever (Halloween, 1978)
4: Turned Kurt Russell an action hero.
5: Way ahead of his time with They Live (1988), Carpenter delivered a movie that woke up the world to the evils of subliminal consumerism and stimuli via a cool sci-fi movie.
6: They Live also has a fight scene that lasts over 6 minutes and co...SHARE: READ MORE Horror Channel to celebrate the films of John Carpenter in June
Posted on Wednesday 23rd May 2018
From horrific hauntings and supernatural sorcery to alien invasions and blood-sucking battles, Saturday nights on Horror Channel at 9pm in June will be devoted to John Carpenter, one of the true Masters of Horror.
The celebratory season is highlighted by the network premieres of Carpenter's classic car-rage chiller Christine, with the superb Harry Dean Stanton, and John Carpenter's Vampires, a horror Western starring James Woods, as a vengeful, stake-wielding bloodsucker hunter. It also includes iconic favourite The Fog, the high-kicking fantasy thriller Big Trouble in Little China and his timely sci-fi political thriller They Live.
The Fog on the 2nd is set in a Northern California fishing town, built 100 years ago over ...SHARE: READ MORE 13 reasons why you need to watch The Evil Dead
Posted on Sunday 20th May 2018
Sam Raimi's horror masterpiece, The Evil Dead is rightly regarded as a true horror classic.
So, it's weird to think then that there are still some viewers have yet to enjoy this ultimate experience in gruelling Horror.
Here's 13 reasons why you need to see The Evil Dead when it's shown on Horror Saturday May 26th.
1: The film spawned a cult hero in star Bruce Campbell and gave the world Ash Williams. 2: The BBFC deemed it to be placed on the Video Nasties list in 1983 even in cut form and not released uncut until 2001. 3: Stephen King liked it saying in 1972 that it was "The most ferociously original horror film". 4: The cover art for the VHS was the first...SHARE: READ MORE Exclusive: Director Johannes Roberts talks 'The Strangers: Prey at Night'
Posted on Tuesday 1st May 2018
This weekend sees the release of a long-awaited sequel to one of 2008's most beloved slasher films. Yes, nine whole years after The Strangers premiered, UK cinema-goers will be met once again by Dollface, the Man in Mask and Pin-Up Girl in The Strangers: Prey at Night.
Starring Mad Men's Christina Hendricks, Bailee Madison, Martin Henderson, and Lewis Pullman, son of the late Bill, the film sees a family of four being stalked and tormented shortly after arriving on what was supposed to be a quiet family trip to a remote mobile home. The family must decide whether to take on the dreaded strangers hell-bent on wreaking havoc, or to run for their lives.
We had a chat with the film's direct...SHARE: READ MORE Acclaimed sci-fi thriller Radius amongst four UK TV premieres on Horror Channel in May
Posted on Tuesday 17th April 2018
The gates of Hell are well and truly opened on Horror Channel in May, as the UK's most popular TV destination for genre fans plays host to chilling Chinese legends, sinister sorcery, deadly zombies and a rampaging Arnold Schwarzenegger.
There are four prime-time UK TV premieres this month, headed by Caroline Labreche and Steeve Leonard's unusual and compelling sci-fi thriller Radius on the 25th.
Premiered at FrightFest in 2017, it weaves an ingenious plot from the moment Liam (Diego Klattenhoff) wakes from a car crash with no memory of who he is. As he makes his way into town to look for help, he finds only dead bodies, all with strange pale eyes. Liam's first assessment is that a virus is present in...SHARE: READ MORE Features Archive: 2018 | 2017 | 2016 | 2015 | 2014 | 2013 | 2012 | 2011 | 2010 | 2009 | 2008 | 2007 PICK OF THE WEEK
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