SciFiNow recently spoke to director Marc Price – aka the man who created zombie treat Colin on a 45 quid budget – about the hurdles of indie filmmaking. Aspiring filmmakers out there, prick up your ears.
Operating on a minimal budget, how did you choose the locations for Colin?
We lived in the same area that we shot most of the movie. The idea was to make up the zombies at our house, and take them onto the street to quickly shoot the various bits and pieces we needed before causing so much of a stir that a responsibly minded member of the public would call the police. Knowing the area as well as we did, we were able to work out the time and days that’d be best to shoot a few gory-looking zombies staggering around.
Did you shoot digitally, or onto film?
We shot on Mini DV… We had a stroke of luck and ended up with a bag full of tapes, which bailed us out of buying any. A friend of mine was a runner for a TV production company and he was asked to get rid of a bag of Mini DV tapes (about 100!) so that saved a few bob. Although, admittedly I turned up at one shoot without any tapes and we had to shell out for a small pack.
What equipment did you shoot with, and how did you go about acquiring it?
We shot on two Panasonic camcorders. The bulk of the film was shot on a 3-chip NV-GS250 but that died on us about halfway through so we had to shoot the rest using a single chip Panasonic, which was the first camera I’d ever purchased.
In terms of effects, you obviously had to work within your means. Were there any particular challenges that you remember?
The biggest trick was trying to hide the slight of hand style effects we employed for the most part. We wanted a few gags to make the audience sit up and say, “How’d they do that?” We had one gag where a brick had to bounce off a zombie’s head so it would bleed in the same shot. Making the head bleed on cue was easy, the biggest challenge was getting the brick to hit the zombie because we’re all rubbish shots.
Was the writing process constrained by the budget at the beginning, or did you just write the screenplay and then edit down according to need and circumstance?
We’ve got a bit of a strange system. I generally know what we have available to us and how we can shoot it, so I’m always writing with that in mind. When it came to scenes in Colin, like the street skirmish between a bunch of cornered zombies, I knew that would be a challenge in terms of organisation and location, but I won’t let that limit the writing process. Filmmaking is at its core problem solving, and it isn’t something to shy away from.
How important was it to keep the size of the team working on the production under control?
In the case of Colin I found myself performing most of the technical duties – like Robert Rodriguez describes in Rebel Without A Crew. There were a couple of guys (Justin Hayles, Leigh Crocombe and Damien Largey) who would always be around and we’d always try to anticipate problems for the day, but in most cases we’d solve problems on the fly.
How long did it take you to shoot all of the footage?
We were shooting tiny bits and pieces right the way up to the first day of the screening. About 18 months altogether. We shot and edited simultaneously, and the bulk of the shoot was completed in about 11 months and every Sunday was dedicated to pick up shots.
How did you raise money to fund it?
We didn’t even try! I didn’t much like the idea of having to give a script to someone only for him or her to tell us it wasn’t good enough to turn into a movie. We were in a position where I felt it was entirely possible to make this movie on our own.
Do you have tips for people setting out to make their own films at the moment, or anything you learned that would be invaluable?
Practise using whatever equipment you have available to you; at the very least it’ll help you to adapt to becoming resourceful. Solving problems is pretty much the one thing filmmaking appears to be about – whether you have a budget of millions or no budget at all. Don’t worry about giving people specific roles but make sure you have some trusted amigos to help out. At the start of Colin, Leigh Crocombe had never acted before, but he recently performed in two plays in the same week; Justin Hayles is now an astounding make-up artist, yet at the start of the shoot he’d never even heard of liquid latex. If you can be polite, appreciative and say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ it’s amazing how much commitment and skill you’ll find in the people around you.
If you had to choose one aspect of the production that you absolutely have to get right, above all else, what would it be?
Unfortunately there has to be a balance between everything. There are certain areas of filmmaking that didn’t apply to making a movie on the level we made Colin. We didn’t have catering but told people to bring a packed lunch; there wasn’t a budget, so no need for an accounting department. The most important thing to get absolutely right is that synergy between everyone, so that everyone is working together for the film and not for their individual department.
How did you manage the editing process? Did you have your own software, or did you work out an arrangement with somewhere that offers professional facilities?
I edited the whole film on a very old PC using very old editing software: Adobe Premiere 6.0, which came with the capture card I picked up almost ten years ago. I was able to do everything in the program from cutting and grading right the way through to mixing the sound and music.
Were there any points where you didn’t think that the film would reach completion?
I knew we’d get there in the end but it did feel at times like there was no end in sight. You have to keep chipping away. It helped having a job where I didn’t have much to do other than sit at a desk for nine hours per shift. It kept me working when otherwise I’d probably have slipped away and watched TV.
Once the film was finished, how did you go about promoting it?
We didn’t promote it as such, I think we got lucky by attending a relatively quiet Cannes. That combined with the global economic crisis made our story an interesting story. Interest in the distribution is just an extension of that story, I guess. It’s quite a worry that a lot of great filmmakers have truly amazing films but because they don’t have any publicity, distributors won’t give them the time they deserve. I’m hoping there’s something that can be done about that.
Colin is out on DVD on 26 October and can be purchased for a cool £5.99 on play.com.