Lee Greenhough on how he made a feature film shooting over four days for less than the price of a second hand car.
I remember a quote I heard from a mentor once: “it runs in your blood, a passion you can’t get rid of, it’s frustrating and sometimes overwhelming”. And it’s true, you have to follow your dream. Even if it never works out, at least you gave it a shot.
For me, it’s always been films, whether I’m watching them, making them or writing about them. And so the path was always going to lead me – just an ordinary bloke – to making my first feature film. To cut a long story short, after years of writing, acting, making shorts and trying to get my debut film off the ground, I’d had enough. The reality is raising money for a debut feature film with no real pedigree is impossible.
In August 2018, I decided I would make a film no matter what. I would have to write a script that I could film with the resources I could get hold of (some people say beg, steal or borrow, I like to call it resourcefulness). A Kidnap was born, filmed over less than four days, in locations I could get hold of and with several long takes. “Long takes?” I hear you shudder. The truth was Alfred Hitchcock’s 1948 film Rope had always been an inspiration to me. By following a similar approach, I was sure I could make my film on a micro budget.
I got my long-term cinematographer Paul to come to the pub for a chat (always an easy lure). It was there that I told him my idea. He started to laugh, told me how crazy it was and that we had no chance.
We started filming in July 2019. Now I knew I could call in some favours, but that still meant I needed cash for simple things like SD cards and having to feed the cast and crew. I decided to do a crowdfunder, couldn’t be that hard, could it? I’m always seeing people raise thousands. It was a disaster! The reality is unless you are totally committed and are happy to spend all day on social media and networking, forget it. Saying that, friends and family put some money in so it wasn’t a complete waste of time. It also made me realise I had support from those I needed most.
Now I knew there was no turning back. The lead-up to the filming was stressful, but I was ready.
Plenty of people told me it couldn’t be done, but I knew the story better than anyone. I had the vision and I knew how to implement it. I just needed to persuade a cast and crew. By far the most important thing to sell the film was the screenplay – it had to be perfect. I was trying to get actors and a crew to basically work for next to nothing, so they had to believe in the story.
The next thing was the concept. I know actors like a challenge and the thought of long shots would entice them, the same for the crew (cue Dracula laugh). To my surprise, it worked! I got a small but great crew and cast together. This was easy – why had I left it so long?
Then the problems happened.
As with any low, no, micro, zerobudget film, there are always hitches. First, our location fell through, then our sound recordist couldn’t make it. Then my first AD broke his collar bone… shit! There were other issues along the way, but there’s a great line in the film, “don’t think of the problem, think of the solution”. I found, as director, you had to have the answers, and a nervous breakdown wasn’t going to help. You have to have focus and, no matter what, get the job done, meanwhile reassuring everyone else it’s all hunky dory, of course.
Filming was testing, but the cast and crew were unbelievable. The concentration of everyone on each long take gave an energy that hopefully shines through. We knew we could only do up to four long takes of each scene, and by the third or fourth shot, we got it. It was the ultimate in team collaboration and I couldn’t be prouder of all of them.
When you start making a film, it’s amazing some of the opportunities that can arise. One such miracle was with the film’s score. One day, I received an email from a composer in Italy who had worked on high-level films. After many conversations, he came on board, which then led to a music publisher being involved. The score sounds amazing; there will even be a soundtrack CD! I also managed to get a local band to write a song for the credits. I knew they were talented and asked them for an original, and they came up with a cracker. I suppose the key is not only selling the film, but also yourself. I think being genuine and honest goes a long way; you definitely can’t bullshit in the filmmaking game.
So where am I now? Well, as someone told me, “now the hard work starts”. Distribution is a minefield, you hear so many horror stories, but again I’ll do my homework, learn even more and hopefully make the right decision. What A Kidnap has done is give me the confidence to know I can do it. I’ve already finished my next script and want to film it next year. I just need to get Paul to the pub again.
So can anyone make a film? Well, I’d like to be modest and say yes, but when I look back at my journey I suppose not everyone can. I mean you have to have the passion, but you also need the vision and courage to move forward no matter what… oh and to be a stubborn bastard! But, if all of this applies to you, do it: make that film.
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