Thanks to the financial support of 150 people – and the moral support of countless more – we went to Cannes, we did some deals, we return with an international sales agent for the Zomblogalypse movie (or movies) and some potential deals for Whoops! and Amber. We are happy.
Cannes is a great experience but despite the glitz and swagger that you may associate with the name, it’s really just a (mostly) sunny place to talk to people and make friends and deals that could shape your film career.
So without further (we didn’t get into the press screening of Much) Ado (About Nothing), here are ten things I noticed while I was out there.
1. It’s vital to learn all aspects of the film industry. Whether you’re creative or business-minded, the bigger picture – and your place in it – is essential to understand.
2. Thanks to the Digital Film Library, I have a newfound love of short films. So many ideas and styles and it’s inspiring to dip into over two thousand films and try to select about one percent of them that you might enjoy. The ones with the best-written blurbs and eye-catching posters stood out the most. It’s a good lesson in marketing for filmmakers everywhere.
3. Cannes has its share of loud, obnoxious, swaggering people but we noticed it’s mostly the quiet ones doing the deals. The best ones played it down.
4. My boredom threshold for parties is approximately one hour. Free booze, however, is nice.
5. Panamanian filmmakers are much more welcoming and friendly than British ones. Plus you get free hats.
6. Some people will genuinely wish you well and share in the joy of your journey. Treasure those people.
7. Being 20 feet away from Marion Cotillard with no-one in between you is a lot more exciting when you realise the day after who it was.
8. Always be nice. Get on with people and forge new working friendships.
9. Believe in your work, be realistic and find the best deal. Compromise but don’t sell out, have a solid grasp of what you’re selling and pick the most fitting people to work with, people who share your vision.
10. Never give up. Even if you start small, think big and work hard. Amaze yourself, worry less about amazing others.
So that was our Cannes 2013. Coming soon: deals, news and a new phase of filmmaking in York. You can catch up with our adventures in Cannes over at One&Other where we blogged the hell out of the whole experience.
We attended an event by new initiative Proudly In York last night.
I’m very wary of backslapping/networking events in general as there are too many of them but this is the exact opposite; full and enthusiastic support from the local community, a chance to meet other creatives and celebrate the diversity and ambition of the arts and culture of York and its people as we look toward the future.
A few of us gave speeches and I was one of them. I wanted to express how important a sense of community has been to us in our filmmaking.
Here’s that speech. I meant every word and I’m excited about what the future may bring:
We started making films when we were kids and thankfully, that spark of excitement has never gone away. Filmmakers are often asked, ‘Why don’t you go to London?’ in order to get a film career going. We’ve known people who have gone there and either been absorbed into corporate work, been generally overwhelmed or come back because they didn’t get the support or sense of community that you get in somewhere like York. Rather than seeing this as not being able to hack it in the big city, I’ve always seen it as trying to develop York as a filmmaking city rather than run away from it because it was ‘a bit quiet.’
There’s much talk in small towns about being a big fish in a small pond and I’ve always hated that expression; that’s not a reason to stay in York and is a very cynical outlook, as if we all want to be megastars or something, idolised by the ‘little people.’ What Proudly and One & Other represent is the evolution of the idea of community; it’s not even ‘Yorkshire pride’ which is another phrase I’m uncomfortable with. It’s about a particular place and the people who happen to live in it or are drawn to it, the people who try and evolve the arts and culture of that place… and this is just about the most exciting time to live here.
What Proudly stands for, I think, is looking around and noticing & appreciating the immense talent, skill and industry that exists in York. In filmmaking terms, it was very important for us to break out of that provincial ‘small pond’ view and start getting our films into international festivals but remaining very much a part of the York film community and encouraging new filmmaking talent, so that film students leaving Uni don’t graduate asking, ‘So… what the hell do I do now?’ York is a very attractive city for filmmakers, not just aesthetically but for ease of filming and friendliness of locals.
MilesTone Films have two features coming out this year, both made in York, and we’re off to Cannes in May to prep for another – also to be filmed in York and which we hope will bring money and industry into the city – and it’s largely due to York people and York talent that the industry has sat up and started taking notice of our little town.
We want to evolve the York filmmaking scene so that the industry can thrive and grow. It’s not about taking all the gold and buggering off to Hollywood, it’s about bringing something back to a community that has nurtured and supported us and many others. It’s a privilege to be here, now, in this town amongst such creative people, and we thank Proudly for recognising and bringing together all this talent and representing the true meaning of community.
We’ve just signed off our next feature film. I say signed off, we’ll probably still tinker with it until the last minute. But Amber is done.
It’s been a long journey only in the sense that feature films always are. From the start to end of the process is usually about two years and it has been in Amber‘s case.
The film was shot in April 2011; pick ups were in May 2012 and final pick ups November 2012. This is mainly because it was a leisurely shoot and we didn’t intend to release it until we were done with it. The middle needed to be longer; it needed an opening credits sequence and so forth, and we learned this over the course of putting it all together from the improvised material.
We had no intention of rushing Amber to deadline as we had to with CrimeFighters; Amber is a small, personal film made on even less of a budget.
Even soon, when we release the film to festivals, the film will only ever be 99.9% complete in our minds, as we could tinker with it for years, but one way or another now we are done, and the sense of immense satisfaction has led, as it does, to thinking about why we make films. After all, it is a lot of planning, wrestling something into reality, enduring the weather, poverty, self-doubt, obscurity and all the other lovely things that come with the self-created job of indie filmmaker.
Yet somehow we keep doing it. And finishing a feature highlights why. It’s easy to get caught up in the business side of it all: YouTube view counts and Facebook fan numbers and Twitter followers – and the modern filmmaker has to be aware of the importance of doing all this – but amid the often obsessive focus on all these things, it’s easy to forget that they are not the work itself. It’s a little distracting sometimes, which is why finishing a film is a wonderful feeling.
A film’s marketing is not the film; neither is the ‘making of’ or anything we say about it: the film is the film. This sounds obvious but it’s something we ourselves need to remember with some regularity. Amber is about people, their lives and frustrations and seemingly small and petty trials & tribulations. It comes from somewhere we’ve all been. Yes, it only cost a couple of grand but everyone involved is proud of it and can’t wait to get it into festivals and to the viewing public, so hopefully they can also experience the joy of involving themselves in a film.
That time is nearly upon us and we intend to enjoy whatever it brings. A friend of mine who’s just had a baby said recently, ‘I imagine finishing a film is like giving birth; you forget all the bad stuff.’
Not knowing what it’s like to have a baby – and I’ll probably never know unless science does something terrifying in the next 20 years or so – I’ll just have to appreciate the metaphor.
Despite the fact that I can be a snarky depressive, it has been remarked by fellow filmmakers over the years that I am rather a cheerful soul. One guy even said I had a ‘Mickey Mouse’ cheerfulness about life. He meant it as a backhanded compliment, I think, because cheerfulness don’t pay the bills, do it.
His veiled point was that I am an optimist. Because when you’re depressive, being anything other than optimistic is a fatal wander down the wrong country lane, if truth be told. But we live and learn. Those close to me will know that the main thing I enjoy moaning and being negative about is negative moaners. After years of being like that myself in my twenties, I’m totally allergic to it now.
Look, a pretty picture I took today. Very keen to see Spring this year… Anyway…
Filmmaking. Optimism and filmmaking, that’s what this blog is about. When we at MilesTone semi-seriously decided to start making films, a few years ago, we had the lofty goal of making one feature and showing it to our mates at the local cinema. Afterwards, I don’t know what we expected to happen but we knew it wouldn’t be a Robert Rodriguez-style storming of Hollywood.
That myth, the ‘I’ll make a feature when I’m 23 (or at least 26 like what Orson Welles did with that Kane film) and it’ll get shown in a major festival and I’ll be off on my film career’ is a persistent one; both ridiculously ambitious and unlikely AND YET strangely more possible now that anyone can make a film. But I’ll come to that.
The main reason it’s unlikely is because MOST filmmakers (and I’m excluding Spielberg, Lucas, Tarantino, Edgar Wright and Rodriguez) aren’t born knowing what they want to do or how to do it, and it takes them a long time to learn how filmmaking works, and more importantly HOW NOT TO SUCK AT IT. I wasn’t an early bloomer in that regard and I of course envy those who are.
Most people’s early efforts are something like this but less hilarious (and this has ended up making Tommy Wiseau a bit of cash, so you never know):
But an important thing I’ve learned is that slow progress, rather than attempting to be some kind of teenage genius (which again I wasn’t), is probably a good approach for most filmmakers; learning technique at the same time as you’re learning about marketing and that kind of stuff.
The films I’ve made have only really progressed in scale and style (I hope) because of the vomitously talented people I’ve surrounded myself with and the things I’ve learned by trial and error.
Bottom line: I know there’s a spark of heartfelt entertainment at the centre of everything we make and a desire to make people laugh and cry, so that we’re always proud of the final film and how hard we worked to make it. Real ‘laughs round the campfire’ type moments. Oh how we’ve comically wiped tears from our eyes…
(THINK that’s the context of this photo)
The reason I bring up filmmaking careers a lot lately is because we’re in the process of learning so much about what it takes to have one. The first time someone asks you to write a script for them feels magical. The first time you charge someone for your screenwriting services is a bit special and then when you start getting paid to make a feature, you can start to see how this whole ‘career’ thing might work.
(This entire documentary should be mandatory viewing for every filmmaker.)
The next step, one which we’re taking with Amber, Whoops! and the Zomblogalypse movie, is to learn what to do with a finished film. Because the most important thing I would advise anyone on concerning making a film is FINISH IT. Finish that screenplay, finish that edit, finish that post production. And while you’re doing that, learn how the indie film market works. Meet Producers. Pitch stuff. Chat. Pick up hints and tips.
This blog about how to maintain an indie film career and this clip more eloquently explain what I’m talking about:
If I had the experience to teach a filmmaking course, I wouldn’t teach all that ‘Long Shot, Mid Shot’ stuff first, I would teach people to learn how to write, draft and finish a screenplay – one that had something to say – and then send them out with a cheap camera to film it. And then I’d make them finish the edit and deliver the film to SOMEONE, be it a tutor or a festival or a Producer or a bunch of mates. And then I’d tell them to take that experience and move on, make something else but do it better. And so forth.
I know a lot of talented young (and some older) filmmakers and I’m genuinely excited to see what we all come up with over the next few years. We’re ALL still learning and I hope that sense of development and improvement never ends. It’s not about who gets there first or who does better than the rest (although we’re a naturally competitive lot), it’s about sharing and improving skills, building film careers AND ENJOYING THE JOURNEY.
It’s about LOVING EACH OTHER, MAAAAAN. Okay I went too far. Shut up and make some films. And it doesn’t matter if you’re 23, 30 or bloody 45. Just get filming.
We get asked a lot when our films will be ‘in cinemas’ or ‘on the telly’ (the latter usually while filming them) so I thought I’d demystify the process a little.
With CrimeFighters, we went for the fast turnaround of filming in August 2009 and screening at the Edinburgh Film Festival in June 2010. That’s pretty swift but it was a low budget film that didn’t require… actually it did require a lot of post production, but nothing expensive or complicated, just months of tinkering.
10 months is a rare fast turnaround for a feature though, and it was because we were eager to send the film off into the world that we moved so fast. With our next few features, we’re taking things a little more slowly.
With Amber, although we filmed it in 2011, there was no rush to bring out what is essentially a no-budget arthouse film so we took our time, filmed some extra scenes, tweaked to our heart’s content and plan to send it out into the world early next year. If it does anything at all we’ll be happy because it’s a small, personal film that hardly cost anything to make.
What that means is that if any festivals accept the film, it will do the rounds for a few months, either pick up a distribution deal or not, then probably play in some small, independent cinemas as did CrimeFighters and eventually – possibly in 2014 – appear on DVD.
That’s why the Amber trailer says 2012 and that’s why there’s currently no Whoops! trailer predicting when the film will be out. Trailers and publicity are the kind of thing the eventual distributors of the film will deal with.
Whoops! has a more involved post production phase than our previous films. It needs extra shots filming in February 2013, sound and music work to be finished over the next few months, CGI work on some shots, an edit lock, picture grading the whole film, then submission to several film festivals, a list of which we are currently compiling.
A few people have asked, ‘When do we get to see it?’ and that’s impossible to answer at this stage.
If Whoops! is accepted in film festivals (and we’d like to take it and the prepped Zomblogalypse movie to Cannes in May) it will tour around for a good few months before, like Amber, it gets picked up. After that, the film may appear to paying audiences in cinemas in late 2013 or early 2014, then onto DVD shortly afterwards.
So the short answer (too late) is it may be a year or so before the general public get to see Whoops!; that’s just the way it goes. We won’t be allowed to screen the film to audiences while it’s in festivals, and we want the film to be considered for proper distribution so we must observe this process.
Trust us though. It’ll be worth waiting for…
So, the world hasn’t ended yet but there’s still time…
We hope not though, because although 2012 was the first year we haven’t filmed any Zomblogalypse since we began in 2008, it’s been Zomblog-heavy with the planning of the feature film. With our Producer, Steve Piper, taking the web series to Cannes to pitch the film version, things really started entering the big leagues for MilesTone Films.
We also filmed a music video for the wonderful Nine Black Alps, and additional scenes for our follow-up to CrimeFighters, Dogme-esque comedy drama Amber, to create a 70 rather than 60 minute feature from the improvised material.
2012 was also the year we had the most extraordinary time filming Whoops!, our most ambitious feature to date, with a fantastic cast and crew. You can watch Charlotte Boyle‘s EXCELLENT video blogs on the making of the film here and here.
Without further ado, here are 12 pictures that sum up our year of filmmaking. It’s been amazing. As for next year… that’s going to be amazing…er.
And as per tradition, here’s all the stuff we put online this year. Quite a lot of stuff, actually:
Pick ups are those hallowed/dreaded periods of deferral spoken about in dismissive whispers during the main film shoot: ‘Ohhh, sod it, we’ll do that in pick ups.’
Most filmmakers aim to complete their entire film in the allotted time of Principal Photography. Inevitably this is never long enough and there will be gaps in scenes, gaps in logic, gaps in the actors’ teeth, whatever, that obviously need fixing after the first rough cut viewing.
We’re now in the position of readying ourselves to shoot pick ups for two features.
We shot Amber in 6 days back in April 2011 with no script, just a rough plan. You can read about the making of the film here. We had so much fun with the ‘Christopher Guest approach’, being big fans of This Is Spinal Tap, Best In Show and also TV shows like Parks & Recreation where the cameras wander about, documentary style. The filmmakers shoot many takes and more or less create the film in the edit.
This not only frees up the actors but also creates a sense of anarchy and snarky, off the wall comedy that we love using in Zomblogalypse. You never know quite what’s going to happen and it’s always a delight finding out.
The result turned out to be a 60 minute film that went down very well in a few local private screenings, and one which our Zomblogalypse movie producer Steve reckoned could be given more of a chance of gaining film festival screenings if it were 10-15 minutes longer. We agreed and set about deciding what extra scenes should be in the film.
These are now planned for shooting on the 12th November this year, some 19 months after Principal Photography. By some remarkable coGEEKcidence, this is the date in Back to the Future when lightning struck the clock tower. And in Amber there’s this clock in the background…
It’s a fitting analogy – as well as being anally geektastic – that we should be revisiting the film on that particular date (almost like that date is some inherent junction point for the entire Space-Time Continuum) since going back into a film you shot a year and a half ago feels like going back in time.
On the other hand it could all just be an incredible coincidence.
Luckily all the cast are still as youthful and beautiful as last time and have kept all their costumes and hair. It’ll be weird dressing them up to exactly match their earlier selves, not to mention standing in a room with characters I’d thought long since consigned to movie immortality.
Although Tony will need a haircut. Any volunteers?
As for Whoops!, the other feature we’ve made recently, this requires two days of pick ups, also likely to be in November. Since Whoops! is already 90 minutes long, those are quite simple and mostly involve shots of things we didn’t have time to get during the main shoot.
Let’s just hope there are leaves on the trees…
It feels incredibly gratifying to be finishing off our last two features at the same time and priming them for festivals for the New Year.
Each film is totally different in size, scale and tone and it’ll be interesting to see how they both do when we cast them out into the big wide world before moving onto the Zomblog movie.
Whoops! will be the fourth feature film MilesTone Films has made in the last six years. If you count (and we do) our cult Zomblogalypse series, which also doubles as two features, that’s six in six years. We think that’s pretty good going.
With each film, we’ve done our best with the resources we had, learning a multitude of lessons along the way.
What was lacking from our first feature in terms of production values, we improved in our second with stunning cinematography leading to international festival and cinema releases (not to mention outselling Kick Ass 5 to 1 in its opening weekend in York). With our third feature, we threw the script out of the window (it had food on it) and improvised the whole film to create something funny, Dogme-esque and surprising which we shall be unleashing later this year.
Now with Whoops! we’re combining everything we’ve learned to create a film that can stand proudly beside any of next year’s theatrical releases. And hopefully be accepted as dark and funny entertainment in the vein of the best of British horror comedy. Horredy? Corror? Either way, we’re setting our sights high with this one.
We’ve already raised the bar by hiring a cast of brilliant TV & film actors rather than our (very talented) mates as on previous films. Some of the cast are known, some less so, all are complete stars. We’ve secured enough budget to make the film to an even higher standard than our previous work, shooting on RED MX, and we’ve collaborated on the script to an exacting degree.
One thing we’ve always relied on throughout our burgeoning film careers is the support of your good selves; our friends, fans and the kindness of strangers.
And here’s where you come in. We need YOUR HELP in finding the extra budget to take us through the latter stages of production on Whoops!.
Having cast, crewed and shot to the highest possible standards, we also want to digitally grade and professionally sound mix the film before submitting it to festivals worldwide. These are things we just haven’t been in a position to fully do before, due to the expense. But we want Whoops! to go far and wide and look nice and shiny when it does.
YOU can help Whoops! be all it can be by getting involved with our IndieGoGo page which is being slowly developed into a community that will list contributors, add perks such as set visits and goodies, and feature regular documentaries throughout production so you can see how the shoot is developing.
We hope you’ll join us in making Whoops! a truly stunning film that not only entertains, but represents York as the strong centre of filmmaking it is. Thank you all for reading.
Now where’s the script?
By way of reporting on what we’re working on this week, here’s the schedule for the next 7 days.
Sunday: Screening of the new cut of Amber for cast, crew & a few friends. Partly to see the new grade and partly to plan the extra scenes we’ll be shooting in the autumn.
Also doing some writing on the horror script, which I’m aiming to finish by the end of the month. Really enjoying writing a genre script and trying to make sure the jumps, bumps and scares are jumpy, bumpy and scary rather than cheap and predictable, although that can be fun in genre writing too.
We’re not talking a Cabin In The Woods oh-so-knowing (and funny) commentary on the horror genre; more an attempt to settle the audience gently into a scenario they think they’ve seen before and then cause the hairs on their necks to start tingling…
Monday-Thursday: Hannah, Tony & me are spending a few days developing the script for the Zomblogalypse movie. We’ve got reams of paper full of ideas, inventive zombie deaths and funny lines we can cram into the film, and now we need to reduce the ‘everything but the kitchen sink’ approach to a 90 minute film script that both revels in and explodes (sometimes literally) the Zomblog ouevre.
Friday: Off to Leeds to finalise casting for Whoops!. We had such an immensely fun time casting about a dozen of the 20 or so characters in the film, and we aim to complete this task and start rehearsals, costume fitting and camera tests in late June and into July.
Whoops! is a film we’re becoming more and more excited about as we add some phenomenal cast and crew members to the production, all to be announced soon. We’re 7 weeks away from the start of the shoot and although you never feel quite ready, we say bring it on. But we’re glad there are 7 more weeks left as there’s a TARDIS load of stuff to do.
Saturday: More Whoops! business as we pop over to the FX workshop/garage of one of our Zomblog FX masters, Darren Grassby, to cast a willing (he says) volunteer for body parts. Because… without going into detail… there will be blood, accidents do happen, and several other tantalising cliches.
That’s our week ahead. More as it happens, do join us on the journey as and when you can, and as always thanks for reading and supporting us. Things are about to get good.
Our Producer Steve Piper is back from Cannes, and now it’s time for us to work our arses off on the Zomblogalypse movie script!
LOTS of work to do in the coming months and things are looking promising for Z-blog and indeed for Amber, for which we may be shooting some extra scenes…
With those two films and Whoops! we have a hell of a lot of work to be getting on with. You can help by continuing your wonderful support.