cannes, cinema, festival, film, horror

Micro Horror dead at Cannes 2014?

7 days in the South of France at the Cannes film festival – what did I learn? Allow me to explain….

So this years festival was my 12th year attending Cannes – I’ve missed a few years since I started going – due to the births of our two children – most recently our son so we haven’t been for two years.

Horror not so Hot?

Something that’s noticeable from previous Cannes, but even more so at this one, is the lack of Horror in the Marché – especially sales agents peddling just horror features. The stalwarts were there but this was very different to the previous Cannes attended, where you couldn’t walk five feet without seeing a giant horror poster front and centre.

Why less horror on display? Well, now that micro budget film makers have easy access to HD quality equipment/home editing systems the market has become flooded with horror movies (most of them bad), which makes it most definitely a buyers market – Sales Agents can be selective. One high-profile Sales Agent I spoke to won’t even look at found footage horror due to the quantity of bad quality films out there.

One of the first Cannes I went to was the year ‘The Blair Witch Project’ exploded, as a result EVERYONE wanted horror as there was a feeling every micro budget film could potentially be the next big money spinner. Now horror sits in amongst the other genres, the boutique sales agents have disappeared or evolved. Sales Agents have to appeal to buyers with a number of genre interests and offer every genre (and sub genre) imaginable.

One horror sub-genre that seems to be on the up and up  is “Animal-horror” mash ups – due I imagine, to the success of Sharknado.  This year we had ‘Panda-saurus’ – ‘Atomic Shark’ and even a zombie movie involving zoo animals ‘ZOOmbies’.


Meetings and more Meetings

This year was spent running from place to place meeting with producers, distributors and sales agents. I was in Cannes touting Science Fiction Horror ‘Dark Matter’ – notice I put the Science Fiction first – turns out Sci-fi is hot right now – phew!



Ah the parties – we were lucky enough to attend quite a few this year – special highlights had to be the launch party for the new Spandau Ballet  film ‘Soul Boys of the Western World” with Tony Hadley and Steve Norman performing an awesome acoustic set.


The Thai film night party boasted the attendance of royalty in the form of Her Royal Highness Princess Ubolratana Rajakanya Sirivadhana Barnavadi  along with an impressive display of martial arts, onscreen presentations and a delicious Thai banquet. Thailand is fast becoming South East Asia’s production centre and boasts great locations and world-class technicians.



Films at the fest

Unlike previous years, I wasn’t able to get along to screenings of the films in competition or any of the genre fare at the smaller cinemas. I did see one film though and it made up for it. “The British Film Industry: Elitist, Deluded or Dormant?” was a fantastic documentary from Birmingham filmmakers Robin Dutta and Vinod Mahindru. A stark look at the British film industry and how it has changed since it’s heyday from the likes of Ben Kingsley, Alan Parker and Stephen Frears (to name but a few!). I urge you to see this film, its funny, and enlightening and it will make you angry. These two documentary filmmakers deserve massive points for scoring an impressive list of interviewees they intelligently engage with. You can find out more about the movie and watch the trailer here:


film, horror, looking like a prick, photography, Uncategorized

Try not to look like a prick

I’m going to talk about publicity. I haven’t had to do much in the way of publicity for my movies – mainly written interviews online/in print where I’d have the time to think about ‘clever answers’. A couple of radio interviews – which I found highly stressful/embarrassing and one video interview with a plastic rat with a plastic penis – which unfortunately i don’t have the footage of to show you.

In my day job (we all have one) I work with professional sports personalities, I interview them a lot – I’ve even carried out media training… the ABC method (google it) all sorts of techniques to look good on camera and get your point across. But none of that ever works for me – I just end up looking (and feeling) like a bell end.

The worst example of this was when the ‘Daily Echo’ decided to run a piece on the release of ‘The Witches Hammer’. I think the casting of Stephanie Beacham had peaked their interest. They went with the whole ‘Local film maker on his way to Hollywood’ story – a headline that has probably been used across the country for thousands of film makers in a similar position. See Fig 1.


(Fig 1. Above – a few articles from the CatnCage Pictures days – DON’T ask me why I wore that t-shirt)

I was in a good position as I had the centre spread of the sunday tv guide/supplementary and was guaranteed a few good stills from the film, they even sent a photographer…. and heres where I start to cringe.

The photographer asked to meet me at a church for the photos – I thought nothing of it… when I arrived, the photographer proceeded to take standard head shots of me smiling,  then he asked nonchalantly ‘ I wonder how it would look if we put you over there by the church doors?’ ‘OK’ I said – being polite, and not used to being photographed … next he said – ‘How about over there by that tree?’, ‘Sure thing’ I replied, click click click – more pictures. Then he suggested – ‘Heres an idea, why don’t you climb up in the tree?’ at this point you’d think alarm bells would be ringing, but I just replied ‘Yeah, no problem’, after all he must know what he’s doing right?

I clumsily climbed up into the tree… ‘Put your hands out there and legs here and here’ he said, positioning me like an overweight out of costume spidey. Then he said ‘Why don’t we take a few over by those gravestones’… ok, I’m a horror director, that makes sense – so I went over and stood by one… and again he says  – ‘Try squatting and put your hands like this and look over there’ thats it – I’m smiling, a friendly I’m a nice guy smile… click click click –  hang on I think he might have taken one when I wasn’t smiling – oh well I’m sure they’ll pick the best one….Herein lies the lesson….

If they take a thousand photos they’ll choose the one that fits the story, not the one you like or the image of yourself you’d like to present to the world – thats for your own website/social media…. Thankfully the fat-spidey pics never saw the light of day, so heres me posing like Hitchcock looking like a pretentious cock.


(Fig 2. I can often be found hiding behind gravestones.)



film, Uncategorized

Exploding cars and killer clowns

I read reviews. I do, I shouldn’t, but I do – some are funny, some are positive and some are painful to read, but time gives you comfortable perspective.

The movie ‘Hellbreeder’ (I co-wrote/co-directed/co-produced with Johannes Roberts) was shot in and around 2001 – at the time we set out with lofty ambitions of creating a unique art house horror movie. Shot on multiple formats, characters talk direct to camera and have their inner thoughts expressed as subtitles. It had dream sequences, black and white, flashbacks, gruesome body horror, nudity and even Darren Day wielding a samurai sword – what more could you want?

Well, distributors wanted a hell of a lot less actually. All of the craziness had to go – nix the talking to camera, cut the voice over, bin the multiple formats – but leave in the gore, the nudity and Darren Day wielding a samurai sword.  Add in a new scene explaining the whole plot (to be fair it was pretty confusing). Then create some artwork that gives away the only surprise in the movie (the killer clown) and you’re onto a winner… well actually a bit of a stinker.

I have a lot of fond memories of the shoot for Hellbreeder; shooting non stop on a 48 hour slog, taking French actor ‘Dominique Pinon’ to ‘The Dungeon’ night club in Southampton and filming an exploding car with a clown on fire – now there’s something to tell the grandchildren about. It was our sophomore feature and we literally threw everything at the screen… but none of the good stuff stuck, it was ultimately cut down or cut out so we could get distribution.

But I should accept some responsibility – something reviews force you to do, although it turns out the more time that passes since you made it, the better it feels and the easier it is to face up to the bad stuff.

When you’ve just made a film its still very raw, you’ve put so much time and effort into it you don’t want to hear all the reasons someone else thinks its shit – but later down the line you can appreciate those mistakes, impartially judge if they actually matter and if they are big clunkers then learn from them.

Here’s a couple of video reviews for Hellbreeder I found  – both spot on – both made me laugh and had me nodding along with the reviewers.