Monday, May 23, 2016

Strippers vs Werewolves: The Premiere (Slight Return)

This was the most read post on this site before I deleted it on 22/7/13.

At that point, I was transferring all my old blog posts over to their new home at and decided to purge nearly all references to the horrible experience that was SvW from the new site. I also feel uncomfortable with negativity in general, and felt that since the point had been made I probably didn't need to leave it hanging around like a dark cloud.

In light of news articles of the last couple of days, I thought it might be worth reinstating.

Had a lot of people asking about Strippers vs Werewolves lately, including journalists. In fairness, this blog entry is probably long overdue but I'm not really a guy who likes being negative about stuff. 

Look back through the whole damn blog and I suspect you'll not come across many instances of me being negative about anything very much. It's not my style and it's not the way I operate. SvW has been, as I'm sure you guys are aware, a project of mine since about 2008 but has got roots going a lot deeper. As I explained in an interview with The Clapper Bored a while back the idea actually came from double-bill VHS tapes that I used to compile from Sky Movies back in the 90s. Me and 'Strippers vs' as a turn of phrase go back a long way; it's even a concept that I sometimes referenced when performing stand-up in the late nineties. 

I was reading an interview with Simon Phillips yesterday, one of the producers of the eventual SvW movie. When asked how the project came about, he offers the following delightful fictional anecdote: "Jonathan Sothcott came up with the idea about 2 years ago on a drunken night out that we were having at another one of our film premieres" Now, Jonathan Sothcott is another of the producers of the eventual film version. He's the person who sent the initial email enquiring about the script in 2010, at which point I'd never heard of him. Jonathan Sothcott's version of the story does manage to acknowledge my existence, even if it gets cause and effect bass-ackwards; the reason it arrived 'out of the blue' was because he'd sent me an email requesting to read it. The flick was already listed for production at Jinx, and Jonathan Sothcott was apparently interested in getting involved as a 'hands-off' co-producer. After a good first impression, I signed up as writer and director on the project. I was quite enthusiastic about the whole thing as you can see from blog entries around that time. 

The focus shifted away from being a co-production as initially agreed, and became a Black & Blue production only. I'm not going to go into the whole blow-by-blow of why what followed became such a miserable experience, but here's a partial summary. I was, very quickly, no longer the director. The script was extensively rewritten without my consultation or involvement, which was completely against the terms of my carefully-negotiated contract and felt oddly invasive as well as being massively depressing. These rewrites weren't actually revealed to me until after production had completed, and I found out some time later that whilst I was sending cheerful "Any further rewrites you need, just ask" emails to Jonathan Sothcott, key players such as Jonathan Glendening and Phill Barron were actively being told not to speak to me under any circumstances (for reasons I can't quite fathom). Actually, mentioning Jonathan Glendening and Phill Barron I feel that I should make something clear; both strike me as good, professional people who were doing difficult jobs under difficult circumstances. In fact, I felt like I'd been pretty hard done-by at the end of the day, until I started speaking to some of the other people who'd been involved in this and various other productions involving the same producers. 

At the end of the day, at least I got paid. 

Sothcott/Phillips new company appear to have announced a flick called 'Strippers vs Vampires', which certainly can't be a sequel, despite any appearances to the contrary, because developing such a thing without my involvement would be... Ah, what's the point? Jonathan Sothcott and Simon Phillips (neither of whom, just in case you've lost track, wrote or directed the movie) have recorded a commentary for the DVD, in which Jonathan Sothcott's Twitter feed states that he 'slagged off the wankers'. No idea if I'm included in that group term for the people he's worked with, since I haven't really got any idea why I got 'shut out' in the first place, but I'm sure it'll be an interestingly heart-breaking thing to listen to... The absolute opposite of the lovely, supportive environment that I've always experienced on shoots previously and since. 

There's a big red-carpet premiere of Strippers vs Werewolves tonight in Leicester Square. I thought long and hard about whether to attend; on one hand, I'd have to fake-smile my way through the culmination of a process that has been the worst of my career. On the other hand, Strippers vs Werewolves has been a Pat Higgins thing since the last millennium, so surely I should be around for the big finale. After all, it's not every day you get the chance to go see a movie you initially wrote on your iPhone screening in the middle of the West End. Luckily, the producers saved me the fake-smile moral dilemma by not actually inviting me. 

I hear that the director, Jonathan Glendening, won't be there either. I imagine that's a whole other story.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...
Interesting. A lot of peeps have been screwed by Sothcott and Phillips (not just plump actresses). Its good that you speak up. They really are exploitation filmmakers.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Blog reshuffle

Hi folks

This blog is mutating as part of our ongoing online redevelopment, so check out for our latest info. The front page is a repurposing of most of the content from here.


Friday, May 18, 2012

Endless Post-Production in the Digital Age

I've been editing bits of KillerKiller this month. Tweaking little moments (a close-up here, a dfifferent line-reading there) in a movie that was already been released across most of the globe in 2007. It's also having a polish on the sound-mix and a completely new picture grade.

The reasons for this? Well, the movie will be finally coming out in the UK this year, where it has never been seen outside of festival showings (and imports, I guess, and naughty bittorrent downloads). Seeing as the territory is a bit of a clean slate for the film, I wanted to make sure that it turned up looking its best. Various territories ended up with a 4:3 crop being released back in 2007 (when the movie was shot 16:9) so it was already a no-brainer that I'd have to make sure that the version for my home territory didn't suffer any such ignominy. Ultimately, of course, once you're back in the project and making sure you're happy with the ratio, it's a very small jump to tweaking this and that and before you know it you've got a director's cut on your hands. Not a massively reworked version, granted, but something significantly different from the original release to warrant pointing out.

Thing is, where does this end? Is this the road that leads to George Lucas madness? Am I embarking on a foolish mission, and do I even have the right to take something back and screw with it once it's already been out on release?

Let's take that grade, for example. KillerKiller circa 2007 is massively desaturated, with a brittle, cold look to the whole flick. There's not a great deal of colour variation, even in the nightmarish kill sequences; the whole thing has more or less the same level of extreme desaturation. Ultimately, this was a decision I made under a specific set of circumstances; those circumstances being that I'd been staring at the movie on the edit line for months and months. After a while you get a bit edit-blind and start to mistake different for better. I remember the night that I settled on the look of the grade. I was absolutely delighted. I felt that the grade matched the tone of the flick, made it feel more cinematic, just worked.

Of course, I then got used to that desaturated look. As I watched the movie back at festivals, or at screenings, or for commentaries, or whatever, that desaturated look came to be how the film was in my head. Of course, when I came to review a few bits of the original footage a few years later (when I put the first Fake Blood on the Lens live shows together) I flipped out a bit; I suddenly thought it looked gorgeous. All that colour, man... All that colour detail that was missing from the release version...

But was I just falling back into the trap where different equals better?

For the new release I've tried to walk the fine line. I've got a decent colour grader (the multi-talented Paul Cousins, who has been my right-hand man on Battlefield Death Tales) to go through the film with a bit more sensitivity than I did in 2007 and grade accordingly rather than being constrained by what's already on the shelves. I've been feeding back on a scene-by-scene basis and I love the new look of the movie.

But what if other people don't? The version of The Exorcist that was released as 'The Version You've Never Seen' made me realise just what a delicate process messing around with previously released movies really is. I absolutely hated that version (and usually referred to it as 'The Version We've Fucked Up Completely') because in my eyes it broke a very, very delicate balance within the movie; I particularly felt that the addition of a load of new subliminals took the technique from being devastatingly effective to utterly ridiculous, and the whole movie suddenly felt cheap in places it had previously felt masterful.

KillerKiller, of course, isn't in the same league as The Exorcist, so to a degree there's a lot less at stake. I'm not meddling with a cherished classic: I'm tweaking a little indie slasher that very few people have seen. But the point remains as to whether I'm breaking my own rules and behaving in a way that I constantly berate bigger filmmakers for doing.

Sod it, the die is cast, and I much prefer the new edit. I'll just have to ignore the little voice in the back of my head whining that George Lucas prefers his new edits too.

The Devil's Music is finally going to appear on DVD in the UK this year, too, having been a solely digital release up to this point. That one, however, I'm going to leave exactly as it is.

Except for maybe just one shot...

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Battlefield Death Tales Video Diary #1

God, it was cold that day.

Battlefield Death Tales continues to rocket through post-production, and we've got some very exciting news about the project which we'll be telling the world soon. To keep up to date with the whole thing (including exclusive pictures, etc.) be sure to hit the official Death Tales Facebook page which we've been updating an awful lot more regularly than I've been updating this blog!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

These Crazy Schemes

It’s been a stupidly busy few weeks. We’re deep in post-production on Battlefield Death Tales, of course, with a view to actually locking the movie in a few weeks. Which is, of course, crazy. Absolutely batshit crazy. But sometimes doing crazy stuff is the only way to get anything done.

The original Bordello Death Tales largely came about (as you can discover from the bonus features) because my friend and co-conspirator Jim Eaves and his wonderful wife Laura were expecting their first child. Jim wanted to get another project completed before his daughter’s arrival, and knowing that he wouldn’t be able to fit a feature shoot into such a tight timescale he came up with the idea of putting an anthology together.

He approached me about the idea after a premiere screening of his movie Bane (which I thoroughly recommend you go and pick up). I thought it was a great idea, since Jinx didn’t have enough cash in our coffers to support another feature shoot at that point, but would be able to commit to a third of a feature without too many problems. I suggested Al Ronald as a potential third director, who was, happily, also up for it. And it all just dropped into place.

This time around, rather brilliantly, Jim and Laura are once again expecting a child. Our date to lock picture is dictated partly by industry considerations and required release dates, and partly by good old-fashioned biology. The schedule this time has been crazier than ever, but I’m ridiculously excited about the movie and the footage I’ve seen so far. I’m hopeful that there will be a teaser trailer up in the next few weeks, and then hopefully you guys can start getting excited about it too.

Liza Keast and Jess Luisa Flynn in Battlefield Death Tales

The Battlefield shoot has also given me a chance to work with some of my favourite actors again (take a bow Jess Luisa Flynn and Geoff Sleight), meet some new actors (such as the wonderful Liza Keast, who stepped into a role at the last minute and was utterly fantastic) and also get to play around with rubber monsters and pyrotechnics in a way that we never really have before. It’s been a uniformly positive experience and has renewed my joy and enthusiasm for making films.

I’m already itching to go shoot another Death Tales movie, even before this one has been assembled (the three sections are always edited in isolation by their respective directors before being stitched together into one beast) but I’m also eager to go and shoot a feature again. House on the Witchpit is bubbling away on the back-burner awaiting the last piece of the funding puzzle to drop into place. The screenplay for Chainsaw Fairytale is getting close to completion but still has a question-mark hovering over its eventual destination; I wrote it expecting to sell it to someone else, but now feel strangely reticent to let it out of my sight.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Battlefield Death Tales and more...

Battlefield Death Tales has been shooting in a slightly stop-start fashion for the last few weeks, depending on the availability of actors. It's been a fantastic shoot thus far, and great fun. Rubber monsters, nazis, explosions (yes, proper big-assed explosions! Not CGI ones!) and more. My own chapter, Devils of the Blitz has only got one day's shooting left, and we're aiming to make delivery of the completed movie (rather terrifyingly) in about 5 weeks time.

Jess-Luisa Flynn in Battlefield Death Tales

The first photo from my chapter (as seen above, featuring the wonderful Jess-Luisa Flynn) was first seen over at
HorrorTalk. An exclusive image of the Devil Spiders from my chapter (brought to life by the combined genius of Russ Leach and monster-maker Chris Garrard) is featured in this month's SFX magazine (page 88, issue-skimmers). That issue also refers to me as "The Tarantino of budget gore flicks for style and dialogue", which is a quote that I imagine will be cropping up on posters and DVDs for my stuff for a while. It's in the wonderful Penny Dreadful's column; don't forget to follow her on Twitter. Oh, and follow me too while you're at it.

KillerKillerIt's been a busy month. You know that thing about one of our back catalogue I mentioned? The flick in question is KillerKiller, and the good news is that a UK release will finally be happening this year (the flick's been caught up in red tape for the UK since 2007). We're putting together new extras and stuff, plus giving the movie a little polish, so it should be a great package. Really looking forward to it.

Strippers vs Werewolves will be in UK cinemas on April 27th, apparently. I'll be curious to see how it's turned out.

My Fake Blood on the Lens live show will be back over the summer. We're planning to get one of them properly filmed, and then we'll look at getting it digitally distributed somehow. It's 90 minutes of filmmaking advice, anecdotes, clips and arsing around. Way back in the late '90s I spent a few years as a stand-up, and I think that's one of the reasons I love the live shows so much. They give me the buzz of doing a show without the pressure of having to get a laugh every 10 seconds. Anyway, I'll try and make sure that the one that gets filmed is a good one. There'll be a whole load of new stuff in it, so even if you've seen the show before it'll hopefully be worth a return ticket. Details to follow as soon as we've sorted out the dates.

Oh, and the script for Chainsaw Fairytale is revving towards completion. It's one of the best things I've ever written.

Rock on,

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Round up of stuff..

Ok, lots and lots to get through. That's my fault for updating this blog so goddamn rarely. If you'd like more regular updates and info you'd probably best follow my Twitter account, where you'll be able to find out all sorts of fairly useless information.

First of all, if you haven't seen The Devil's Music yet, click the widget above to rent or buy it wherever you are in the world. Plus you can make money embedding it on your own site. Distrify is cool.

Bordello Death Tales

Second of all, if you haven't seen Bordello Death Tales yet, you can buy that sucker from Amazon, HMV or wherever. It's all over the place. HERE, for example. Or you could try and win a copy somewhere like HERE. Oh, and don't forget to sign up on the official Death Tales Facebook page OVER HERE

Third, we proudly announced last month that filming has started on Battlefield Death Tales; all the madness of Bordello Death Tales but significantly more war. All three directors (myself, Jim Eaves and Al Ronald) are back, and you can check out the very first images from the shoot over at HORRORTALK. It's been a blast so far, and there are many more brilliant images to come from the Battlefield shoot. Keep your eyes peeled for an exclusive monster-tastic image in one of the big genre mags next months.

What else, what else? Well, as of this morning something cool happened with one of our older titles, but I can't tell you about that just yet. Soon, though. Soon.

Oh, and the Strippers vs Werewolves trailer hit the web a while back.

As I type these words, I'm actually laid up with a stinking cold which has completely taken my voice away. It's a very weird sensation. Funny how you get used to being able to communicate so effortlessly; I keep forgetting that I can't talk, and then I'm all surprised when I open my mouth and nothing emerges but a strained squeak. It's pretty bloody horrible, (especially as I was hoping to record some DVD supplemental stuff this evening, and now can't).

Pretty sure I haven't even mentioned Chainsaw Fairytale on this blog yet, have I?

Maybe that's a story for another day.

And they lived happily ever after.

Friday, October 14, 2011

House on the Witchpit / The Devil's Music

The Devil's Music widget is staying at the top of this blog entry because it's simply too cool not to. If you haven't already got involved, started making money or at very least watched the actual movie then now's the time to do it. Make 10% per referral through the affiliates plan (by clicking the 'share' bit in the player) or simply watch the flick right now. No software to install, nice and simple.

Right, sales pitch over. Well, at least it's one sales pitch over, because now it's time to talk about our beloved The House on the Witchpit and the cool teaser artwork that we've released this week. It's designed by the brilliant Paul Cousins and it looks a little something like this:

House on the Witchpit

We haven't released all that much in the way of cast and cre details, but we did give a few plot details to friends like MJ Simpson and HorrorTalk, so you can read a bit more about it here and here.

There are two more things I can't tell you yet.

Not long now, though.

Friday, October 07, 2011

The Devil's Music is BACK!

Yes, simply by clicking in the widget above you can watch the brand new edit of the trailer for The Devil's Music (now featuring me) and then, once that's finished, you watch the WHOLE FILM on demand as a streaming rental, or pay a bit more and download it for keeps.

After years of being frustrated by the geographic boundaries of releasing movies on DVD, this is new ground for us. We've been keeping our eye on Distrify for some time, and now we're delighted to say that we've decided to use them for the re-release of The Devil's Music.

Not only does it provide a neat, easy way for people all around the world to watch the movie, but there's also a rather brilliant affiliate scheme whereby if you use the 'share' option in the player and set up your own account at the Distrify you can actually make 10% of the rental/download price as a referral fee. So you can plug The Devil's Music on your facebook site, and then actually make some money off the back of it. I think it's a fucking awesome system and, as the physical formats gradually die off, might well prove to be the way forward.

So watch it! Share it! Make some money out of it! It's possibly my favourite of the first wave of Jinx movies (although I love them all in different ways, bless 'em) so dig in and get your hands dirty.

Are you guys as excited as I am? Looks like the future's finally turned up.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

A long time away..

And the year started so well. Loads of video blogs and fairly consistent updates, keeping you all up to date with the various goings on at Jinx and beyond. Now, here I sit, with a blog I haven't updated properly in absolutely months and a nagging sense that I've left you guys hanging.

So, where were we?

Well, the unfortunate suspension of operations over at Indie Movies Online had a couple of knock-on effects, including the delay and reorganisation of the Bordello Death Tales DVD release and the temporary unavailability in the UK of The Devil's Music. Both of these situations are close to being sorted out so stay tuned for further details (and I promise I won't just bugger off for three months again).

The House on the Witchpit shoot has also been a little delayed. It's a shame, but it's definitely worth delaying the shoot to make sure it gets done right rather than just getting it done quickly.

I've also been editing together some videos charting my experience with Strippers vs Werewolves over the course of two years, which I have culled from my nightly video blogs. I record these largely for my own amusement, (and don't usually make them public, given my various states of sleepiness/bedhead hair) but when you edit them together they can sometimes create an interesting portrait of a particular period of life.

Finally, there might or might not be another secret project in the offing. Long-time readers will know that there have been two in the past, one of which ended up being The Devil's Music and the other Bordello Death Tales. This one might or might not involve some shooting next month. We'll see.

Bottom line, though, guys... We really need to meet up more often. I've been neglectful, and I've missed you. I'm sorry. It won't happen again.

What have you been up to?

Friday, July 15, 2011

I'll be at this on Monday in Southend on Sea. Come along.

Monday 18 July 1pm - 4pm

A three-hour master class, where the audience will hear new filmmakers talk about how they make their films, followed by a discussion with those who have made a career in the Film industry. 

The event will start with a screening of selected short films from the Southend-on-Sea Film Festival’s short film competition: 

Southend-on-Sea Film Festival Ident – Aaron Foster
Dream Builders – Focal Point Gallery
Spirit of Carnival – Chantelle and Shelby Ryan
No Strings Attached – Amanda Dube
Serendipity – Rob Shaw
Loss – John Ford-Crush
Ghosts – Luke Stazaker
The Confessions of.... – Kyle Springford
The Lonely One – Richard Laverick
Queensway – Gary Leon Bowyer

Running time: 53 minutes

Meet the Filmmakers: Some of the filmmakers of the previously screened short films will be invited on stage to discuss their work and talk about their future plans.

Meet the Professionals: Local professionals from the Film industry:
John Attwell - (
and Pat Higgins ( 
will join Paul Cotgrove on stage to discuss their careers and to offer advice on how to make the move from being an amateur to a professional in the Film industry.

Solomon Monk’s Pump House, Chalkwell Park, Chalkwell Avenue

Friday, June 03, 2011

STOP PRESS - Bordello Death Tales release date

Having gone on about not having a release date for BDT yet, the flick seems to have quietly gone up for pre-order on Amazon.

August 8th.

Go get it!!

Thursday, June 02, 2011

Bordello Death Tales Revisited

This week has been largely taken up with delivering final materials for the Bordello Death Tales DVD. The release date should be forthcoming very soon indeed, and you'll know as soon as I do. Well, that's not strictly true, I suppose. You'll know as soon as I do unless the distributors say to me 'and keep quiet about the release date for now', in which case you'll know as soon as I'm allowed to tell you.

Bordello Death Tales came about at the suggestion of Jim Eaves. He'd kindly invited me to the cast and crew screening of his great sci-fi horror flick Bane (which is itself heading for a UK DVD release on 18th July so be sure to check that one out). After the screening, we had a couple of beers and Jim mentioned that he rather fancied shooting an old-school anthology flick; a throwback to the 70s Amicus movies, or even Creepshow et al from the 80s.

I flat-out loved the idea straight away. I couldn't help feeling that an awful lot of anthologies from the 90s and 00s had been, at best, disappointments and, at worst, a dumping ground for unsold, unconnected shorts. I loved the idea of a proper anthology flick, with interconnected tissue but a separate vision behind each section. And that, pretty much, was that. I managed to coax Al Ronald on board with a trail of brightly coloured breadcrumbs, and suddenly we had our three directors. A brief meeting a couple of weeks later gave us an umbrella title of Bordello Death Tales and even some idea of a likely shooting window. Before you knew it, all three of us had scripts ready(ish) to go, (except my fledgling draft of Vice Day was actually called Wanking the Id at that point), and somehow we were actually shooting a couple of months later.

I've really never known a project come together quite so painlessly, to be honest. Maybe it was the fact that all three of us were used to helming full-length features rather than anything shorter, maybe it was because all three of us had amazing regular producers (thankyou Debbie, Laura and Pip) who were able to get the three stories off the ground with absolutely no mucking about. Well, at least in terms of getting them shot, anyway.. Somehow we pissed away over 18 months in post-production, meaning that the flick didn't actually show on a screen anywhere until its festival run last year.

Last week we reunited to do the commentary, which was a triumph of technology over location. Because getting all three of yus in the same room at the same time is notoriously difficult (and has only happened once since mid-2008) we opted to conduct the commentary as three separate local recording which would be mixed together, with us listening to each other via Skype headsets. Ridiculous, really, but apparently the end result sounds good. Elsewhere on the disc should hopefully be the notorious fake trailers that we played before the premiere, plus various other stuff that we've shot in the way of interviews, etc.

Hope you guys enjoy the disc when it turns up.. It was a really great experience to shoot and put together.

Monday, May 09, 2011

Cannibal Holocaust with only 15 seconds of BBFC cuts..

According to this post over on Cult Labs forum, the BBFC have just rated the long version of Cannibal Holocaust with only 15 seconds of cuts. For anyone who has followed the film's remarkable censorship history, this is an amazing situation.

Cannibal Holocaust is a brutal, unpleasant and difficult film to watch, and it crosses a line which many people (myself included) feel that films shouldn't cross with regard to the depiction of the killing of animals. The BBFC have decided that only one of these numerous sequences (the killing of a muskrat with a knife) actually represents animal cruelty, which boggles my mind a bit. The part of me that hates censorship collides with the part of me that really doesn't think that creatures should suffer or die in order to make a goddamn movie.

Regardless, I saw Cannibal Holocaust back in the early 90s, during a time when I was sharing a flat with a guy who was determined to watch every banned film that he could lay his hands on. I don't feel particularly moved to watch it again, but understand the point of view of those who praise it as a landmark film, and the unpleasantness with animals is clearly a big part of what makes the film as a whole feel so horribly transgressive. It blurs the lines of what you're watching, takes the viewer way out of their comfort zone and gives the faked violence against humans the uncomfortable air of something that might be real after all. The version I saw was a million-generation pirated VHS that had been Frankenstein-ed together from various prints, and whenever anything really unpleasant was about to happen, the screen tinted green (presumably these bits were spliced in from a fully uncut print with much worse picture quality).

Can't quite believe that those 'green bits' (as I shall always think of them) will now be legally obtainable in HMV. Amazing how much the BBFC has changed since their days of butchering the knockabout gore comedy in The Evil Dead.

There's a speech in the original script of The Devil's Music, (which ended up being shot but not used, and can be found in the deleted scenes short called 'The Last Tour' on the US Special Edition DVD) in which Erika Spawn explains her attitude to horror. 'Coincidentally', it mirrors my own.. Horror is a form of escapism, and when you mix real life shit into it the whole thing stops being fun.

The BBFC passing of Cannibal Holocaust almost unscathed is culturally significant, but that doesn't mean I'll be rushing out to pick up a copy. Not when I could spend that 90 minutes watching The Haunting for the umpteenth time instead.

Saturday, May 07, 2011

Fake Blood on the Lens: TrashHouse Aftermath

I found this footage sitting in a drawer yesterday. It was filmed the week we wrapped TrashHouse back in 2004, just before we tore the sets down.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Elisabeth Sladen

I try not to let the deaths of people I've never met affect me too much. Life's big and loud and emotional enough when you're just dealing with the people who are physically there in your life, those wonderful people that you can hug and touch and punch. If you start letting yourself get overly emotionally affected by that other whole universe of people.. Those people of whom you are aware but who aren't aware of you, those spirits who dance within the tellies and across the cinema screens of our lives.. Well, the whole thing just becomes unmanageable. So, when one of those people dies I tend to just raise a glass and move on.

I seem to be having a bit of trouble doing that with regards to Elisabeth Sladen, the wonderful actress who played Sarah Jane Smith in Doctor Who and cheerful CBBC spin-off The Sarah Jane Adventures. I heard about her sad death from cancer last night, via the Grim Reaper's usual 21st century information service of choice; Twitter. It was one of those stories that seemed to have gained an awful lot of ground before it had actually been reported by a reliable news source, and for several minutes I hoped it was a hoax, or a mistake.

It wasn't.

See, I just can't seem to process Lis Sladen's death. Partly because she always seemed so energetic and vital, (not looking anywhere near her 63 years, but not looking like someone 'trying to look young' either), but also because she's always been there. I was so young when I first saw her in the role of Sarah Jane that I literally cannot remember life beforehand. She was the first companion that I ever remember seeing onscreen and although she'd left the role by the time I was old enough to watch Doctor Who without running away and hiding around the corner, when BBC video released Revenge of the Cybermen as their first ever VHS release of Doctor Who I rented it repeatedly. She left an indelible impression on me.

It's a tough gig doing the whole companion thing, especially in old-school Who. Elisabeth Sladen made it look effortless. By all reports she was as generous and kind in real life as one would dearly wish their onscreen heroes to be, a standard that precious few ever live up to.

I love the fact that she came back to the show, and that she gained a whole new generation of fans over the last few years. Can't help feeling for them too, today; if I'm left reeling by her loss, what effect must it be having on the legions of young fans who were eagerly awaiting the new series of Sarah Jane Adventures later in the year?

Rest well, Elisabeth, and thanks for the memories. You meant an awful lot to an awful lot of us.

(Tardis noise. Fade to black)

Monday, April 18, 2011

"Sale" at the video shop..

About a billion years ago, (1995), I worked in a video shop. It was part of a chain. I won't mention which chain, obviously, but it's probably the first one you thought of. Yes, that one. Yes, I suppose it does rhyme with 'cockthruster', now that you mention it, but I'd rather not think about that, thanks very much.

Look, can I get on with the bloody story?

The particular store I worked at, (which I'm sure wasn't policy across the chain, naturally), used to generally employ a single member of staff at the very bottom of the payscale (£3.01 per hour, I seem to recall. My only pay rise during my tenure brought this up to a dizzying £3.03) and would just leave them to it in the store on their own. This presented a few problems, since various day-to-day requirements of running the store revolved around use of management level passwords, on the assumption that the poor grunts on £3.01 wouldn't be left solely in charge for days on end. Which we were.

One day, I got a call from a 'regional' manager which I remember vividly to this day. He told me that the quarter's takings across his stores hadn't met targets. The store that I worked at had met them, but some stores in the middle of nowhere were dragging his average down and he wanted a quick boost of profit over the next week.

His instructions run thusly;

1) Tape up the 24 hour drop box with industrial tape, and put a sign reading 'Drop box out of order; please return films to counter' on it.
2) Whitewash out all of the windows in the store and write 'Massive Sale Now On!' in the whitewash.
3) Sit back and watch the cash roll in.

His logic about the dropbox ran thusly;

1) If a customer is forced to walk into the shop, they might buy something.
2) If a customer can't return a video in the middle of the night, they'll come back tomorrow and buy something.
3) They might not be able to come back tomorrow, and will thus accrue profitable late fees.

His logic about the whitewash/sale ran thusly;

1) Everyone loves a sale! Whitewashing the windows will increase the curiosity factor!
2) Once inside the shop, they'll forget why they came in and won't notice that there isn't a sale. They might buy something.

My objections were varied and manifold. A small selection might include;

1) People will notice that a sale doesn't exist.
2) No, honestly, they will.
3) They'll ask what's on sale. I will reply 'The usual fine selection of goods'
4) They might, at this point, stab me. I wouldn't entirely blame them.
5) How can a hole in the fucking wall be 'out of order'?
6) A customer who has accrued a late fee because we've removed his means of returning his video will refuse to pay it.
7) A customer who has travelled all the way to the store in the middle of the night to find that we've removed his means of returning his video will simply post the video forcefully through the letterbox instead.
8) A videotape being pushed through the letterbox with sufficient force will set off the motion detectors and summon the police.
7) The police will contact the keyholder to come out in the middle of the night to turn the goddamn burglar alarm off.
8) The keyholder is me. I hate you beyond my ability to express myself.

Funnily enough, I managed to express my rebellion at the whole plan by sticking to the company rulebook.

"Where can I obtain whitewash?"
"From the store down the road"
"Where can I get the money to purchase the whitewash?"
"Perform a disbursement from the till"
"I can't do that without a management level password"
"Look, I'm sure you know a management level password"
"For an employee to obtain the passwords of other employees is grounds for dismissal"
"Just take it without running it thorugh the system"
"That would also be grounds for dismissal. Besides, I can't close the store"
"Just put a 'back in 5 minutes' sign up"
"It's grounds for dismissal to close the store during opening hours"

and so on and so on.

Eventually, the horrible bastard got utterly fed up with my complaints and came down and did it all himself, which was at least more satisfying than me having to do it myself. It clearly made me the guy's number one enemy, though, and provided me with my first real glimpse of management level thinking.

Ah, hell. I didn't have much in the way of life-fun back then, and small victories meant a lot. I also look back fondly upon completing a staff-improvement manual, which the same regional manager had to deliver to his superiors. My favourite questions (with my responses afterwards) from that manual were:

Q) Read the 'Health & Safety' information on the wall in the staff room. What have you learnt that you weren't previously aware of?
A) That the store is 5 degrees below legal minimum operating temperature.

Q) It is important for any store to listen to the concerns of its customers. Write down, exactly, the next question a customer asks you.
A) "Why is it so fucking cold in here?"

Thursday, April 14, 2011

No pillow as soft as a clear conscience

I sometimes use the phrase 'My name is Pat Higgins and my conscience is clear' as a sign-off when I do live events (like the one coming up on Wednesday 27th April at Southend Film Festival) and have done for years. In fact, I gave the expression to a comedian in Hellbride as a catchphrase (although using the character's name, not 'Pat Higgins'. Otherwise that would be ridiculous. And confusing). The phrase started out entirely as a joke; a call-back to something that I tended to mention earlier in the evening. Over the years, though, I guess I've become fond of it.

Received an email yesterday, informing me that a distribution company that I have dealt with in the past are to cease activities. I won't name them, since their website hasn't broken the news yet and the last thing I want to do is leak the story if it's not public yet, but I feel that the demise of the company is particularly heartbreaking (above and beyond the usual sadness of a business closing its doors) because of one simple fact.

They were nice.

Actually, I'll expand upon that. They were honourable. They had excellent communication with people they dealt with, they were polite and friendly and they always delivered whatever they'd promised. I've been paddling around in the shallows of the movie industry for close to ten years now, and those sorts of qualities have seemed depressingly few and far between.

Is being nice really so tough? Because, if you want to be all hard-nosed and business-like about it, in terms of gaining loyalty and repeat business and all those other things that companies claim to seek, being nice is a pretty goddamn cost-effective way of getting those things. As either customer or co-worker, I'll put up with a much worse situation for much longer if I feel I'm being treated with empathy.

So why don't more people in the industry embrace being pleasant and honourable as the default way of doing business? I don't mean the fake smile, have-a-nice-day bullshit so favoured by soft-skills training courses; I mean genuinely treating people well for no other reason than it makes the whole experience much more rewarding for all parties?

There was a particular film set I visited a few years ago that sticks in my mind. The shoot was several budgetary notches above the films that I was making at the time, and in several respects it should have been the sort of shoot I was aspiring to. Didn't take long on set to work out that it wasn't. In fact, the atmosphere was borderline poisonous. Not only would cast and crew not talk to each another, but half of the crew wouldn't even talk to the other half of the crew. Conversation on set seemed to consist almost entirely of bitching. It felt like a state of arrested development; adolescent egos rubbing each other up the wrong way and constantly trying to get one over on each other. I thought about how it compared to the upbeat atmosphere that I try to foster on my shoots and I found it rather sad.

The film industry seems to attract assholes like moths to a flame. I understand the reasons for that, but that doesn't mean I have to like it and that doesn't mean that it's the only way things can be done. Yes, of course there's pressure.. But teachers dealing with classes of 5 year-olds are under pressure too, and they somehow manage to avoid using it as an excuse to treat people badly.

So, on a day when a rather lovely little company has closed its doors for the last time, I'm reminded of why I liked them so much and reminded that, no matter how long I stay in this business, I will never let it turn me into something I'm not. I will never run a set where the cast and crew won't speak to one another. I'll never put someone in a position where they'll regret signing a deal with my company. I'll never accept that behaving like (for want of a better word) a dick is somehow a norm, or something to be aspired to.

My name is Pat Higgins and my conscience is clear.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Scre4m (Or Scream 4 if you're not in marketing, or 12 years old)

The Scream franchise means quite a lot to me.

When the original hit the screens in the UK in May 1997, my life was changing in all sorts of ways. I initially saw Scream at the cinema with my friends, some of whom weren't used to horror films and found it pretty gruelling. By the time the run had finished, I had gone back to watch it again with the woman who would later become my wife. It was the first horror film we saw together at the cinema.

I approached Scream 2 with a certain amount of trepidation, but thought it was fantastic. For me it stands up as one of the great sequels; one that ratchets up elements of the original without ruining the feel of the cinematic world by doing so. The sequence in the trashed police car stands up as a fantastic bit of tension building, and the death of Randy remains one of the most heartbreakingly ruthless yet utterly necessary bits of business in any franchise. By killing Randy, the flick reminded you that, yes, this is a horror series, and people aren't going to be safe just because you feel affection for them.

Then along came Scream 3, which ruined the feel of the cinematic world and kept people safe just because you felt affection for them. Not only that, my enjoyment of the film on first viewing was also marred by the fact that I'd fallen victim to a spoiler.. Some twunt on a message board had posted the identity of the killer in caps on an unrelated thread, thus ruining my day and causing me to grumble endlessly. Except, funnily enough, the twunt hadn't actually posted the killer's identity; they'd taken a guess and got it wrong. Nevertheless, I spent the movie convinced that I knew the twist.. The tragic thing being, of course, that the actual resolution of Scream 3 wasn't even as imaginative as the twunt's fake spoiler. So I got the worst of all worlds, which probably didn't help pump any excitement into a film that was already pretty limp.

So, we have the approach of Scream 4. I'm torn; on one hand, I'm concerned that it's going to feel like that piss-awful Blackadder reunion show they did for the millennium, but on the other hand Scream 3 wasn't exactly closing the series on a perfect note, so maybe the creative team will come back with batteries recharged and all guns blazing.

I've just got to make it through the next few days without seeing any spoilers, fake or otherwise. Plus, I'm a bit apprehensive about viewing the flick with an audience, which is kind of a shame.. It's been given a '15' over here in the UK (a first for the series) and whereas seeing a horror movie with a pumped up crowd of fans can be fantastic (just go and see a screening at Frightfest if you need convincing), watching a '15' rated horror movie in Essex can be a truly punishing experience. It just takes one nervous teenage boy blurting out endless 'jokes' to show how not scared he is and the whole experience takes a tumble.

Still, sod it, I'm in. Optimism engaged.

Thrill me, Wes.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Into the Pit

Non-disclosure agreements can be the enemy of decent blogging, but trust me.. The one I'm under at the moment will be well worth it. Can't tell you much at all about the upcoming shoot for House on the Witchpit, for reasons that will become apparent once things kick off.

We're unlikely to be advertising for cast and crew through our regular channels, however we have set up a special email address for interested parties (for either cast or crew) to get in touch. I realise that this is all frustratingly vague at the moment, but the details we can give are as follows..

House on the Witchpit is a feature film shoot taking place in the UK later in 2011. The creative team have a proven track record for producing critically acclaimed, internationally distributed genre features. It's a full-tilt supernatural horror with a decent helping of wit and intelligence; it's not a body count movie or a torture flick, but instead sets out to genuinely freak out the viewer.

If you've got something unique to bring to the flick, either in front or behind the camera, feel free to contact the production team at..

Can't guarantee individual responses, (it's just not realistic I'm afraid, and a standard cut and paste response has always struck me as oddly pointless) but we can reassure you that we're grateful for your interest!

And, for those of you who are just interested in watching the thing rather than making it.. There should be some news soon. I know I've said it before, but it'll be worth the wait.

Friday, April 08, 2011

New Workshop Date

I'm pleased to announce that I'll be running another workshop at the Southend Film Festival this year.

On Wednesday 27th April at 6.30pm, I'll be chatting about micro-budget filmmaking at an event called "DIY: Making a Feature Film to Launch Your Career". Places are really limited, but can be reserved on 0845 5212345 or by emailing

More details can be found over at

Thursday, March 03, 2011

Bringing it all together.

Keeping everything together in the sprawling age of Facebook, YouTube et al has proven a bit of a headache for me. Working out what leads where, and following how the hell people ever find out about us are challenges that face any small business.

With this in mind, we've just whacked some fucking great big buttons on the front page of which will hopefully point you towards whatever it is you're after.

For example, we've been updating our official Facebook page with never-before-seen photos by the brilliant Debbie Attwell from the shoots for KillerKiller and Hellbride

We've put together a nice, convenient list of our stuff over on Amazon that features all our flicks so far, (we'll be adding Bordello Death Tales very shortly, of course), which can be found over here..

Plus, there's other stuff too.. Ah, hell. Just go to the main site and click the buttons. The first step in a long process of keeping all our stuff together rather than being scattered all over the web..!