How a Stephen King short film came out of – well, quite a lot of stuﬀ as it happens.
Chris Marshfield (@MarshfieldChris)
It’s the sound which dominates my memory. The shattering glass that seemed to fall around me for minutes, but in reality was more like a second. Next came the screams; blood curdling and panicked. At this point, I know that Simon Pearce, the director, removed the long shard from the back of my co-star’s neck. I know this, but I don’t recall it. My subconscious decided I didn’t need that particular image.
There was no way I’d come out unscathed, I knew that. I felt a warm trickle run from my neck to my shoulder. I pressed a hand to the back of my head; blood confirmed. A mistimed tackle had sent us crashing through a glass office partition. The back of my skull had been the point of impact, shattering the glass, leaving me with a clean three-inch slice (and a scar that freaks out my barber.) As Jon, my co-star, fell onto me, he’d taken the brunt of the falling shards. I stood up, walked to the corner of the disused office and sat cross-legged on the floor. The adrenaline was already pumping from the fight scene we’d been shooting, so I think I was making an effort to calm myself down as the crew rushed to our aid.
Now that I’ve used up my one and only Quintstyle scar story, I can tell you that our injuries turned out to be minor. A quick trip in an ambulance, some surgical glue for Jon, a few staples for me and we were all sorted (it certainly gave my Halloween costume an edge that year).
What project was so important that we shed blood for it? Was this the one that would finally break us into ‘the industry’? No… It was a 24 fan film. That’s right, we were such big Jack Bauer fans that we gave up our weekends and spent a year shooting an hour-long homage, imaginatively titled 60. We did this knowing it was unlikely to get us anywhere (for copyright reasons if nothing else). A curiosity for superfans on YouTube at best. We just did it because we loved it.
However, this was by no means the first endeavour for Simon and I. It all started in the year 2000 and we, like many kids with cameras back then, were making a Blair Witch Project rip-oﬀ . It was rubbish, but hey, we were only 13 and that wasn’t going to stop us. We just kept making them. Those Hi8 video gems were quite something and, as I think back on them, staggeringly violent. Here are some highlights from the years preceding 60…
Grand Theft Auto 2: To be clear, we had not made a Grand Theft Auto 1. This particular project was only titled this because we recorded the game’s opening titles off the TV to give it ‘production value’. I don’t remember the plot, but it consisted of running around the woods with plastic guns (to be honest, that’s what happened in most of our earlier productions as well).
Death Wish: Nope, not a remake of Michael Winner’s original (nor a remake of Eli Roth’s remake of Michael Winner’s original). However, our unofficial take on the story did involve me killing Simon’s girlfriend (I was a villain in my teenage years) due to some vague sibling inheritance beef. It ends with a delightful point of view shot of Simon exerting his revenge by stabbing me in the face.
Untitled Slasher: Hmmm. We couldn’t even be bothered to name this particular production. The highly original story revolved around some sort of sibling rivalry, where I do some murders, before Simon subsequently strangles me with a bungee cord, then shoots me in the face with a shotgun (in POV, of course). I mean, you can’t accuse him of not killing the villain when he had the chance, can you?
In Debt: Simon owes me some money, so you can imagine how that all manages to pan out. The most remarkable thing about this one is that my character was named Carlos. If I remember correctly, Simon burns me alive come the ending of the movie. Which made the project that we tackled next a little unexpected.
In Debt 2: Our first sequel! Despite my character dying in the original, I returned to play Carlos’s twin brother who was named, wait for it… Ivanovic. Pretty sure I survived this one, though. As such, the door’s open for a trilogy…
As silly as these films were, you don’t spend that much time doing something without learning a few things. As time went on, the cameras got better, we started casting proper actors, the editing got tighter, and the stories more sophisticated. It was in the ten years that followed 60 where the serious development happened, but to be honest, it’s not as funny as describing the stuff we made in our teens. Long story short: university (for me), a series of day jobs, numerous short films, Si’s first feature films (Shank , Judas Ghost ) and two-season web series Horizon. In October 2018, 18 years after we started running around the woods with a camcorder, Simon won Hollywood Screamfest’s Best Short Film category with an official adaptation of Stephen King’s I Am The Doorway.
The point is, it’s been almost 20 years and we’re still doing this stuff. Still essentially just kids running around in the woods with a camera, just better at it. We spoke the other day about what comes next. These conversations often lead to questions around who’s producing, who might distribute, and where will the money come from. It came back to the usual conclusion, “You know… we could just shoot it.” I’ll leave you with my favourite piece of advice from Christopher McQuarrie: “Don’t ask permission to make a movie, just go do it.”