Kate McCoid takes us through her ﬁrst short film, and the long journey to SXSW.
Kate McCoid (@KateMcCoid)
My name is Kate McCoid and I am a British writer/director just getting started in this industry, and by just getting started I mean that I’ve been doing this for ten years. I still have far to go, but I am chipping away bit by bit. I come from a working class family in a small town in Essex and I came into Film and TV with no contacts. I lied in my first interview to get a job.
“Can you use Avid?” “Yes.” (No.)
“Do you have somewhere to live in London?” “Yes.” (No.)
Since my successful lie, I’ve spent the last five years establishing myself within the British post-production community working in editorial and VFX on feature films such as Far From The Madding Crowd, Edge Of Tomorrow, Man From U.N.C.L.E, and TV shows such as Tom Hardy and Ridley Scott’s Taboo as well as the upcoming feature Detective Pikachu. This year I screened my short film It’s Not Custard at SXSW as a first-time filmmaker.
The Origins Of Custard
The very first thought I had regarding It’s Not Custard was an image of a girl sitting on her bed facing a giant wall of acne. This idea popped into my head in 2014 and I sat on it for months until one night after a few glasses of wine the whole story spilled out. I wrote this story for myself, because it made me laugh. I had no intention of making this film until I sent it to a colleague, who sent it to a colleague, who sent it to a director, who told me I absolutely had to do something with it.
As a classically poor filmmaker with no funding options, it was decided by myself and Custard’s producer Alison Wroblewski that we should give crowdfunding a go, specifically Indiegogo as they offer fixed funding. This option allows you to keep any money you raise, the only catch being that you lose 10% to Indiegogo if you fail to reach your target.
Wow, crowdfunding was not fun. Our campaign was way back in 2015, and around that time it felt like everyone was using crowdfunding for their projects. We knew it wouldn’t be easy, but we didn’t know how hard it would be to reach an audience outside of our own friends and family. We needed an incentive for people to pledge! We decided to create a free SFX acne make-up tutorial as part of our campaign to interest people. We even managed to persuade No Film School to write about it. One hundred and twenty people pledged their hard-earned cash to the Custard campaign. Out of that 120, only one person was a complete stranger to the cast and crew. We had done everything we were supposed to, we followed all the online tips and tricks for ‘getting out there’, and had only managed to entice one stranger to part ways with their money. We wanted to raise £10,000. We raised £7,205 and received £6.205 after the 10% Indiegogo fee.
I learnt two things from our Indiegogo campaign:
1. My friends and family really believe in me. (Thank you.)
2. Unless you have an established audience i.e. a YouTuber, crowdfunding is like drawing blood from a stone.
We shot It’s Not Custard over three snowy days in 2015. The film has zero exteriors and is set in two locations: a house and a high school. At the time, my dad was selling his house and was away on holiday the week of the shoot. I used this to my full advantage. A good friend of mine by the name of Steven Scott works at the high school I attended as a teenager and wrangled permission for us to film there for five hours on a weekend. As far as shoots go, this was a relatively normal shoot. We finished two hours early on the first day, got cocky and then finished three hours late on the second day, before wrapping up nicely on the third and final day by the skin of our teeth as the caretaker was locking up the school. The entire cast and crew were spectacular on those three days. I owe an immense debt to them for what they did for this film. I could not be more grateful. I also, to this day, cannot believe how generous Take 2 were in aiding us with all the camera, grip and lighting equipment under our tight budget.
Onto post-production. Our mountain. When I started the pre-production for Custard in 2014, a friend of mine said to me “short films tend to take years, then they bounce around film festivals for years too. You’re gonna have to be prepared to still be with this film in 2017.” Not me, I thought. I’m going to get this out real fast, you watch. The post-production for It’s Not Custard took nearly three years. Why? How?…Yes, good questions. The short answer is, I pulled every favour I could with every high industry professional that I knew to help me on this film. I emailed people that scared the crap out of me, because I figured I had nothing to lose. Some of those people even said yes to helping me! These professionals have very little free time, and as I wasn’t paying them, I couldn’t push for any strict deadline. It took much longer than I had ever anticipated, but it has led to SXSW, for that, I mustn’t grumble.
Keep The Faith
So if you’re reading this and your short film is stuck in developmental/production/postproduction purgatory, fear not. Think of It’s Not Custard and be comforted by the fact that you are not alone, you will persevere, you will finish your film and, like me, you will be proud of it. We’re all in this together. You’ve got this.