How to make a [horror] movie for just �45
West Hampstead actor Alastair Kirton tells Bridget Galton how film-makers managed to create a movie for the meagre budget of �45 without losing their heads . . . or any other body parts for that matter MOST of the �45 budget for zombie movie Colin was
West Hampstead actor Alastair Kirton tells Bridget Galton how film-makers managed to create a movie for the meagre budget of �45 without losing their heads . . . or any other body parts for that matter
MOST of the �45 budget for zombie movie Colin was spent on golden syrup, food dye and coffee to mix fake blood.
The rest went on tea and biscuits to feed the scores of friends and volunteers rallied by Facebook and Myspace appeals to play crowds of the living dead.
Director/writer/editor/producer Marc Price begged rotting offal from his local butcher, and a 'special effects' man simulated arterial sprays by spitting out gobbets of the sugary blood mixture into the leading man's face.
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"It wasn't the most glamorous job," says Alastair Kirton, the West Hampstead actor who plays Colin, a shuffling zombie named after Price's dad.
"The offal was horrific. I had to reach into a bowl of pungent lungs and intestines on another actor's lap and tear it apart while he writhed and screamed as Marc filmed us. As the wafts of offal smell reached me, I started dry heaving, then he started dry heaving and eventually we were all dry heaving and laughing at the same time."
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Amazingly, the DIY film shot around the Kilburn Park and Rowley Way estates on a five-year-old Panasonic mini camcorder is now set for a 10 screen cinema and DVD release.
"Marc and I became friends a few years ago through a mutual love of going to the cinema. As a huge movie fan, the thought of our film playing to cinema audiences is amazing," says the 31-year-old.
The ingenuity of Price and Kirton's makeshift solutions to get around the lack of budget is impressive.
Price, who edited the film over nine months while working nightshifts at a courier office, used bangs and crowd noises recorded on firework night to create a post-apocalyptic soundscape of random gunshots and screams.
During the nine-month shoot, Kirton in full zombie make-up would carry the ancient tracks and tripod as they roamed around Kilburn looking for suitably abandoned landscapes to film.
"Marc says film-making is just dealing with the problems that arise," says Kirton.
"We would look around and see what was available to us. We both knew actors willing to appear and Marc was good at creating an environment where people could bring their energy and enthusiasm and desire to be involved in making something. He has an infectious enthusiasm for everything he does and lets everyone come in with their own ideas and keeps the energy high. As an actor, it was the most liberating thing. If I have a choice between sitting around waiting for the phone to ring or shooting something and getting involved, I would rather do the latter."
Billed as "a zombie movie with a heart", and told from a zombie-eye view, the film has just 10 minutes of dialogue with the rest made up by grunts and groans of the undead shambling around a chaotic city in search of human flesh.
There is a horror-geek-pleasing house siege and street battle between humans and zombies but there are also flashbacks to how Colin became infected, what happened to his girlfriend, and a moving scene where he fails to recognise his sister and mother as they confront him with photos of his former self.
"Colin eats his fair share of people, he tears off ears and things, but we were keen to explore the extinguished humanity of this unwilling monster by following Colin on his journey and, hopefully, making that moving to the audience," says Kirton.
Price and Kirton experimented to find a physicality for the grunting zombie with the director occasionally issuing the instruction "too human!".
"Marc suggested I watch Romero's Day Of The Dead to observe a zombie called Bob and the way he holds objects in an awkward way. My older brother and sister have kids so another reference point was the way toddlers pick up toys and hold things. It's about moving in a stiff but more animal way - reacting slowly with a small depth of vision that means Colin struggles when something happens outside his immediate circumstances."
Price taught himself film techniques from books, directors' DVD commentaries and making of documentaries and made several short films before Colin.
Inspired by This Is England and Somers Town director Shane Meadows' comment that "anyone can get hold of a camcorder and make a film," he planned a horror movie and cast Kirton, whom he had met on a film set in 2004.
The duo are now raising funds for another feature film and Kirton says he loves the democracy of low budget movie making.
"I really feel involved in this film which is a serious movie with a sense of humour. We had so much fun making it. We want to hang onto the low budget ethic. We don't want to lose any of the sense of joy of film-making."
o Colin is playing at the Prince Charles Cinema in Leicester Square from October 23 and is released on DVD October 30.
See page 7 for a review of the film.