There’s been a lot of growing buzz surrounding director Marc Price’s zombie epicColin, not the least of which is the fact that it was produced to the tune of about $75.
You read that right: seventy-five bucks. That’s it.
It certainly doesn’t look it, that’s for sure. Colin possess all of the grim atmosphere and heart-stopping visuals you’ve come to expect from a splat-tastic film about the undead; a testament to the talent and vision of Price and his crew.
What really kicks off Colin, however is the road Price has taken with the film in terms of plot. The film is told from the zombie’s perspective, telling the tale of the doomed Colin as he descends to the world of un-life after being bit by one of the walking dead. The film then proceeds to unfold-through sharp, intelligent camera work and very little dialogue-the back story of our ‘hero’ as he shambles his way through life after death.
It’s a film with impact, and one which demands repeated viewings. It’s also a pretty genius picture from Price, who remains genuinely humbled and surprised by the whole thing. I caught up with the director for a quick Q and A session. \m/G.
HORRORNEWS.NET: I was blown away by Colin, and want to congratulate you on what I can only assume has been a rewarding experience in terms of response? Have you been pleasantly surprised and pleased by the reactions so far?
MARC PRICE: Thanks man! The reaction managed to far exceed my expectations when I screened it for some friends in my bedroom. I thought those guys would be the only audience… So everything else was kinda crazy!
HN: When the film was still just an idea, what would you say you were most seeking to achieve here, and how did you set out to differentiate Colin from other films involving the living dead?
I was aiming for something that felt quite different but still had room for all the fun stuff that I would want to see as a zombie fan. When I first moved to London I was living with a creative guy who was quite skilled with make-up effects and thought it would be fun to get a few people to be zombies for the day. It was a way to make new friends and shoot some footage to turn into a fake-movie-trailer. So that whole experience was encouraging enough to know we could pull off a successful zombie siege, at least in terms of the number of people needed to create a zombie horde.
But I didn’t want to make another siege movie. As much as I love them, I didn’t really think we’d have anything new to offer, especially without any money to put into it.
The idea for a zombie movie from the zombie’s perspective came after a night of beer with friends whilst watching the European cut of Dawn of the Dead. I ran around waking everyone up trying to get them to listen to this idea.
Was it key for you to make this a story about PEOPLE, or person at least, go from there in telling the story? Was it important to give the audience a sense of knowledge about Colin as we experience his transformation?
I think most of my ideas involve looking at ordinary people in an extraordinary situation. Funnily enough, we shot a lot of footage that covered Human-Colin’s interests. But I felt he was a more interesting character when we didn’t know any of that stuff, so most of it was cut. There are still a few hints throughout the movie but the biggest scene we cut was where he wandered into a cinema that some guy had taken over and was using to run movies for himself.
How did you go about doing this in terms of letting the camera tell the story? There isn’t much dialogue, yet we see and learn so much simply based on how you’ve shot this, and the ability of your actors to bring us in. Did you purposefully keep the dialogue relatively minimal?
It was always about putting the audience in Colin’s position. Allowing them to cognitively piece together information that the character cannot. It was a gamble and I guess, inevitably, you lose some of the audience through approaching the story this way. But I didn’t make the movie for them… I made it for people who will have that patience with a movie and it’s always a relief to hear that it makes sense to a lot of people who are fans of the genre.
On a technical level we couldn’t possibly control the traffic, people or low-flying planes that heavily populate South London. So my plan from the start was to ditch the audio and build everything back up in the edit. So I spent a while working on the sound design. To get the cacophonous depth of distant gunshots we simply placed my camcorder on a windowsil during Fireworks Night in the UK and recorded a few hours worth of whizzes, pops and bangs… Edited out the squeeling firework sounds and what was left became our atomosphere track for all of the exterior sequences.
So much has been said of the film’s cost, and indeed the level of brilliance here far exceeds movies I’ve seen with countless times the budget you’ve used. How much assistance did you have from friends or family in creating this movie, and was this integral to the success of the project?
Thanks again, man! I think I have a habit of not really asking people to get involved. It’s more a case of “I’m going to do this… Come along! It’ll be fun!” I worry that I sound like William Wallace giving a pre-battle speech, but I’ve been lucky in that it actually has been a lot of fun.
Aside from the actors, a lot of the people involved were friends who have more of an interest in watching film over making film. Leigh Crocombe and Justin Hayles were my flatmates as we were making Colin and didn’t have any serious interest in working on a film. By the time we’d finished Justin had become an extremely talented make-up artist and Leigh has become an incredible visual effects man (Crocombe did every visual effect for short film “The End…” which appears on the Colin 2-disc DVD set)
Where would you say the lion’s share of what budget you DID have go to, in the end?
I wouldn’t really call it a budget. The plan was to make the film without spending any money, so by spending 1 single penny we were already 100% over budget. And even the bits and pieces we did pay for either barely made it into the final cut or were a bit of an unnecessary spend. I’m not very good with money!
We bought a crowbar (which features more prominently in a deleted scene, also on the Colin 2-disc DVD set) and a pack of tapes after I forgot to bring any spares to a shoot. When the new pack arrived we had wrapped for the day and didn’t even need them.
The rest was spread throughout the year on cheap tea and cookies for anyone who showed up on Sundays to help us with pick-up shots.
There are plenty of great gore effects here; how did you achieve these great results on the cheap?
A lot of it would be squishy sound effects and some blood made out of the UK equivalent of corn syrup, water and food colouring. My girlfriend at the time loved to bake, so I would raid her supply of household goodies.
Me and Leigh Crocombe had a lot of fun creating random, squelchy, feeding noises using packets of chewy sweets that we’d eat close to the camcorder microphones.
The house party scene is especially tense-was this one of the more difficult sequences to shoot for you? What were the most challenging shots of Colin for you?
That sequence was shot on our first two days. I hadn’t decided on a look for Colin’s early zombie make-up and wanted to see what would come from a scene where the make-up artists had a lot of creative freedom. The first zombies that came off the assembly line looked worryingly like mimes or bad Halloween make-up. I rushed back in and explained not to do any more like that, stuck the poor actors involved at the back of each shot and the rest were great.
The challenging shot came during the second day where a lot of the make-up team bailed on us and I was left with two make-up people (one of them being the lovely Michelle Webb who actually taught the cast and crew how to do the make-up effects and would leave her equipment for them to use). It was 30 minutes past the time I’d wanted to start shooting and we had 3 out of 40 zombies ready to go. So I asked everyone with make-up to play towards camera and everyone else to turn away from the camera and just act like zombies. That’s how we carried on, with more zombies facing the camera as the day went on right up till we finished.
Was it difficult establishing Colin as the protagonist? I felt it was great to view the apparent barbarism of the human survivors, even though we so often see this from the other angle of things.
Strangely enough, I was talking a lot about King Kong and Raging Bull when we were shooting Colin. In Raging Bull we have a pretty detestable character who we find ourselves caring for, despite lacking redeemable qualities. I guess we can all relate to failure and self-destruction, which is what that character is all about.
With Kong we’re talking about a creature that none of the characters in the movie feel any sympathy for, but as an audience we connect with him in a way that breaks our hearts as he falls from the Empire State Building.
I thought an audience would go along with Colin and forgive him for some of the more unsavory zombie-related acts. Colin’s role is to guide the audience through our little world. That’s what allows us, as an audience to forgive him for, say, chewing a crippled man’s lips off.
I read that you utilized Facebook and Myspace to procure the actors here? Was the experience a positive one, and would you go this route again, do you think?
It was more a means of communicating and co-ordinating the shoot for some of the bigger sequences. Particularly for the house siege, street skirmish and basement sequences. I’m kind of using Facebook right now to keep everyone up to speed on what we’re doing with the next film. That said, if Facebook or MySpace didn’t exist I’d just text or email.
What are you working on next, and has Colin garnered any investing interest from people seeking to fund your next project?
We’re trying to get some finance together to shoot a World War II movie about the crew of a Halifax bomber on a mission over Europe. After a devastating bomb run sequence the wounded plane limps home, separated from the rest of the flight. That’s when the crew discover a creature which starts attacking and slowly eating one of the gunners! It sounds odd summing it up in a paragraph, but I’m hoping the movie will be a lot of fun and have a nice pace.
Like what usually happens in film,it’s taking a lot longer to raise the finance, especially with the low low budget we’re proposing to make it for. So in the meantime I’m going to shoot a personal little movie at Christmas to keep myself busy.
Are you happy overall with Colin’s final results? If asked to remake the film with a larger budget, would you, or do you think this should stay as is?
It’s been outstanding. I never expected anyone to be remotely interested in our little movie outside of the circle of buddies who were involved.
I don’t think I’d be too interested in re-making Colin myself. I feel that we achieved everything I wanted on an emotional level, which is always the most important aspect of a film to get right. All I could do with a remake is shoot it on a better camera.
Interview: Marc Price – Director (Colin)