Marc Price was kind enough to take some time out from touring the UK with his film Colin to answer some questions I put to him about his no-budget phenomenally successful debut horror film. So far the film, made on a shoe-string budget of £45 has garnered critical (Cannes sat up and noticed) and (I predict) commercial success and nabbed the 2008 Revenant Film Festival Special Jury Prize.
Colin is the first film from writer-producer-director Price’s production company Nowhere Fast and is fast becoming the undead darling of film festivals nationwide. I got the chance to chew the fat with Marc Price on a zombie’s coming-of-age, Romero’s leg-dragger Bob and why he decided to just grab a camera and shoot….
I recently watched the excellent American no-budget Deadgirl – which turns the tables on the undead and has the zombie-as-victim. Colin has a very different narrative trajectory. It’s almost a zombie’s coming-of-age, entirely from Colin’s point of view. Can you tell me a little about the entire process – from script to screen?
I loved the idea of making a zombie movie. But I wanted to try something that would feel new and exciting for fans of the genre (or at least the small number of people we initially expected would be interested in seeing it). The idea of telling the story from the perspective of the zombie struck me as something that must have been done before, but we couldn’t find anything that had been done in the way we wanted to do Colin.
The idea was to tell a story with little to no dialogue, which immediately eliminated the problem of recording sound on busy London streets which we could not control and allowed us to use the language of film to tell our story and develop our characters.
We had these incredible actor-friends who wanted to get involved and so I started writing the script whilst at work. In fact, I’d only allow myself to write at work. It kept me disciplined with the writing and, as an odd side effect, got me excited to head into the office.
My bosses and colleagues were fantastic. They’d even let me bring in my hard drive and edit at the office when it was quiet enough. Pretty much all of the action scenes were edited at Creative Courier’s office.
You had a budget of £45 and bags of gore and enthusiasm. How long was Colin in development?
As soon as I had the idea I knew exactly where I wanted the story to start and end. The middle section was the most fun to play with structurally, but it was always with an eye on how an audience would engage with Colin and the characters he encounters.
I started writing the week I had the idea and we never intended to seek out funding. We had what we needed to tell our story and just got on with it, I guess. I never for one moment expected anyone to be interested in the finished film, so I was making it to engage and excite my friends. These guys would be the toughest audience. Trying to get an emotional response out of them was the challenge I felt I was facing, so I was always trying to make Colin’s world feel real despite shooting it on an amateurish format. I hoped the story would take over from the aesthetic to some degree and involve the audience (which now extends beyond my friends)
How important was the Internet as a marketing tool for Colin?
I’m not sure that we did much on the Internet. I mainly put clips out for people involved in the film to see how the film could turn out. I put some outtakes up fairly quickly, hoping that other actors would see the fun we were having and would hopefully want to join in and increase our cast. The theory being “the more new faces, the more epic in scale the movie would feel”. I’m not sure that worked out as planned, but it was what we were aiming for.
Colin has attracted more than its fair share of global media coverage. Could you ever have anticipated it taking off as well as it did?
I had such an incredible experience making the film that screening it for my friends in my bedroom and watching their response was more than I could have ever hoped for. Everything else has been surprise after surprise after surprise.
There really isn’t anything special about the way we made Colin. Ask any other low budget filmmaker how they made their movie and they’ll say pretty much the same thing “just grabbed a camera, got some buddies together and edited it at home”. The one thing that pains me is that I know there are thousands of films made in the exact same way that we’ll never get to see because distributors won’t pick up a film unless it meets strict criteria. The only reason we’ve had time with any distributor is because of the press interest. The quality of the storytelling is secondary, unfortunately. That doesn’t seem right to me.
You’ve said in interviews that you didn’t want to seek out funding, which would’ve been a nightmare a few years ago, but would be even worse in our current economic climate, because you had all the tools already available to you. Were there ever moments of ‘I’m not sure I can do this?’
Not really… The main pressure was “is this going to work”. I was worried that revealing Colin the zombie to the audience needed to feel right and I’m pleased with the way it worked out, but it was so fucking scary watching that first screening and waiting for the reaction.
You cut your teeth on some shorts prior to Colin. Can you tell me a bit about your background in film or screenwriting?
The shorts were made in the same way as we made Colin (in fact, using the same 10-year-old camera). I’m not much of a writer, so I always see the script as the starting point. Once the script maps the structure of the story and the tone is clear, I encourage the actors to play with the dialogue and various ways to play a scene without deviating away from that tone. It’s a very exciting way to work.
You’ve cited the friendly zombie Bob from Day Of The Dead as a major influence on Colin’s creation. You also talk about Shaun Of The Dead, which has a similar vibe to Return Of The Living Dead by not taking itself too seriously. There are parts of Colin which are funny but also poignant. What are your thoughts on recent British horror films and horror filmmaking in general?
That’s an interesting one that I’m not sure I’m qualified enough to answer. There are certainly moments of Colin that make it easier to categorise as a horror movie (zombies, the basement scene) but for the most part we wanted to make the audience shed a tear more than scare the hell out of them.
Nowhere Fast Productions is planning a historical creature feature next?
Yeah, it’s a bit of a strange one… The film will be called Thunderchild, which is the name of a World War II bomber on a mission over Europe. On its way back to England a limpet-like creature makes its way onto the damaged plane and attacks one of the gunners.
I got the idea after watching a friend’s de-venomed tarantula slowly eat a locust alive! I thought, “if the other locusts teamed up to help their buddy they still wouldn’t be able to wrench that spider off him. And even if they did, what would it do next?”
I guess I thought that idea would lend itself to a bomber crew.
Have you always wanted to work within the horror genre?
I wouldn’t swear allegiance to any specific genre. I’m a fan of film and the beauty of that is that it’s all encompassing. I’m not a movie snob by any stretch and can watch the worst movie and still get something out of the experience.
I probably have a naive attitude to this, but I think the beauty of being a director is that you don’t necessarily have to tie yourself to a specific genre. Look at John Landis, Peter Jackson or Spielberg. I’m certainly not comparing myself to those guys, but they are very inspirational and keep my delusions alive!
What is your favourite zombie death scene?
Would that be zombie killing human or human killing zombie? For human-killed-by-zombie, I love Rhodes from Day Of The Dead: “Choke on me!!!”
For a zombie’s death it’s another Romero. I may change my mind on this one, but the zombie with the massive head who stands into the helicopter rotors cracks me up. Especially the first shot of him stumbling around!
Marc Price, thank you very much!