Sophie Goodwin chats to Joe Hallet about Paintball Massacre, and the battle to get the film to audiences.

Producing and starring in a film is an achievement in any circumstance, but Joe Hallet – producer and co-star of Paintball Massacre – has had to overcome more obstacles than most. His ambitious film was produced on an original budget of £75,000, squeezed up to a modest £100,000 once shooting began. But for a film that first came to Joe as a concept, it’s had quite a journey – evolving into a feature film that’s seen successful distribution during the pandemic in the USA and Canada, and more recently a UK release.

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Paintball Massacre is an ensemble cast comedy-horror that follows a group of friends who end up involved in a deadly game of paintball at their school reunion. It’s Joe’s first feature film as a producer, and has been in the making since 2017.

The first hurdle it faced was actually getting into production. Like many independent British filmmakers, Joe had experienced his fair share of setbacks and films failing to come to fruition. However, he succeeded in getting the funding for Paintball Massacre through the support of private investors and his own family. He described the experience as “an added stress as the money was coming from family members but they believed in the project and they believed in me.”

The production jumped through hoop after hoop as it became clear how difficult it would be to shoot what was needed on such a limited budget. The production had to move from London to the Somerset countryside in order to keep costs down. However, the move itself incurred further costs as the cast and crew had to be paid living expenses for working outside of the city.

The decision to shoot outdoors between September and October in the cold English countryside was not helped by the fact that the outdoor set had no running water or electricity. However, the move to Somerset had its advantages too, as local businesses chipped in and contributed to the film throughout production; in return, Somerset was put on the British indie filmmaking map.

Still, the movie didn’t have funds for a casting director as priorities had to be given to the actual shooting of the film. Instead, Paintball Massacre cast an ensemble who Joe and other crew members knew of or had previously worked with. Yet the film doesn’t shy away from familiar faces: Steps star Lee Latchford-Evans and British comedian and writer Katy Brand, for instance. In fact, Brand proves to be one of the many successes of the film as she steals all the scenes she’s in as the commanding Marshall Shelley.

Moving the production outside of London also allowed for the cast and crew to become a close-knit team as Joe described them as being “one big family” who would eat dinner and chill together, playing cards after shooting.

Despite being shot with such limited money and resources, the film manages to go above and beyond its production values while paying homage to classic conventions of the genre. The film include nods to classic horror films of the 80s such as Friday The 13th and more recent features such as Saw.

With the special effects used for the gory blood and guts through to the explosions for the violent killings, Paintball Massacre succeeds in creating a film that sticks to its horror roots – all with a dark sense of humour. Joe credits the balance of slasher and horror with comedy to screenwriter Chris Regan, who joined the project late and turned around a script in only a month.

The film wrapped in 2018 and then the mission to get it distributed began. As an independent comedy-horror production, Paintball Massacre had the odds stacked against them. Joe admits that he faced a great deal of rejection and even began to question the film as he sought distribution.

“A year ago we didn’t have any distribution. I knew the film was good, but when you start getting all the rejections from the companies you start to question yourself,” he tells me. “But I knew I had to stand by this project and people would love it.”

In order to secure distribution, Joe and his team released teaser trailers promising the film would be released in 2020. However, nobody could’ve guessed that the world would grind to a halt due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Despite the uncertainty of the future of the independent film industry, Joe’s soon paid off as it secured a North American release through Uncork’d Entertainment. The film began screening in December 2020 and has been received well.

Although the future of independent British films seems so uncertain due to the pandemic, Joe is optimistic that Paintball Massacre will find its feet upon its UK release and be a success in the country where it was filmed. “I can’t wait until the day l can walk into a shop and see it on the shelves. Partly because it’s my first film as a producer, but also it makes all those hours of blood, the sweat, and the tears that was put into this film by everyone who was involved not forgotten about.”

Paintball Massacre was released in the UK on DVD and digital on 5th April courtesy of 4Digital Media. It’s now available to rent on Prime Video too.

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