Reply to a thread at North West Vision


Chief Bar Steward
Cast & Crew
This article was written as a result of someone on the North West Vision site asking about why everything that's everything goes on in London. I decided at that point to try and make a point that it's not always money and location that matters. If you have a good idea, which can become a good script (which works for what equipment you can get your hands on) - your first feature might not just be a pipe-dream. So here is the article, slightly brought up to date wink.gif

Feel free to agree, disagree with it below. However, bear in mind it's worked for us biggrin.gif

(This article was also posted on the North West Producers Network and provoked comments from people in agreement, and people who were downright angry about it. It's probably the most commented on thread at NWPD online, and if you'd like to take a look at it click this link: - if you do have comments, please take the time to leave them on this site, as well as the NWPD site)

Note ~ article has since been removed from both NWV and NWPD websites.


Basically, and this is probably the easiest way of doing it...

Start networking, meeting people of a like mind. Get a small army together but try to make it a very tight little group where everyone knows their place. Try and make friends with actors as well, especially the very good ones, who, when you aren't on form directing, can cover this by just being great anyway! Also make friends with any 'speciality' areas people like SFX, CGI whatever. They will be invaluable if you want to make a horror or sci-fi movie. Home-made FX generally look crap, and should only be used if that's the general idea!

Write your script. Read Syd Fields books. Make the script as great as you can. Also try for a simple concept, great character and a limited amount of locations - one location if you can - difficult, but better than spending time lugging your kit around. The script is the most important thing. Clerks was a brilliant example of this, some of the acting was ropey (and I'm being nice because I'm a big Kevin Smith fan), but the script held it together with its great dialogue and humour.

Budget the script, forget referalls for the time being, you need to know how much it costs so that you can give everyone an accurate percentage, from the investors -to the extras.

Then go on the lookout for millionaires in your locale. Most of them will tell you where to go, but there will be a few who will be bored, or interested in film enough to chip in a few grand. They should also be able to provide locations too. Always ask, never be afraid of being cheeky, you can always apologise later.

Then search for your actors. See who knows who, you might find a star who might work for peanuts. Try and work cameo appearances into the film.

Then find locations (try and write the film for the locations you have).

Also shoot on DV! You can spend years and years waiting for enough to shoot on s16mm or even 35mm. Life's too short. Beleive me, I waited nearly five years for film finance, then decided to go the DV route. And what I'm losing on image quality and earning on the gratification that we've got it in the can.

The next thing I will say, perseverance...

I started shooting my DV movie on 20th July 2000 and we are still making it. I started with a handful of friends including a few great actors, an exotic dancer, a cameraman, a 3-chip DV camera, a £350 microphone and a desktop video editing pc. I sold my car to get the money to buy the equipment, now I just rely on lifts from friends and family, and of course public transport (and the odd taxi, and beleive me some of them in Blackburn really are odd).

Now we have a team of great tv actors on board, two millionaire investors who are helping with locations and a bit of money here and there, an effects guy who has got to be one of the best in the country and now we have a pool of a lot more kit that we had in the first place. See, the momentum becomes difficult to stop once started.

And guess what? We are now editing it! See the official site at I'm 13 minutes into an online edit - I've already been through 8 hours of footage, and I'm really enjoying seeing it come together. Actually I was enjoying it, but now my eyes are a bit sore.

But, that's the sort of perseverance you need to have. Beleive me it is all worth it, because from what the film was, and what it is becoming, it really is magic.

By the way, I haven't mentioned the adversity. The amount of people that I've had ridiculing me over the past 7-8 years. Colleagues, friends of friends, neighbours - even people in the industry who will remain anonymous. They all add their little cheap digs here and there. You just have to ride it. I've heard the phrase:

"It's taking a long-time isn't it..."

Probably a thousand times, when I've felt like saying - or shouting even. "WE'RE MAKING A FEATURE FILM, NOT A FU*##NG CHERRY CAKE"

Beleive it or not, an idiot neighbour actually commented to my (then) twelve year old sister that he thought my finished film will probably be 'rubbish' and doesn't know why I'm bothering. Not that he'd ever seen a frame of it. Not that I really care, I just feel sorry for his wife if he goes by that rationale.

"Sorry love. No sex tonight. It'll probably be crap..."

Even when I was leaving Uni, my head of year asked what my plans where, and I told her about Bad Lad. She told me that it was pointless, I wouldn't finish it, and I would be better of finding the money to make a film trailer.

Hope this helps anyone interested in making a low budget feature with no money. It's not easy, it's frustrating, but it's worth it.

And hopefully next time we can get a real budget together. If not, see you in another three years!