One of the unexpected pleasures of having this blog has been making contact with fellow independent filmmakers. Why? Because they are ultimately my brothers and sisters in the “struggle.” They are working to maintain their connection to creativity, and their own personal visions of what film should be.
That said, few people I have talked to are as honest as Mr. Luther Bhogal-Jones. Luther found me through one of the horror blogger communities. He inititally approached me about watching his short Black Spot. What is that? Imagine a Tarantino/Rodriguez “Grindhouse” inspired short…but without the smarmy irony. This is the work of a filmmaker that respected the genre enough to use intensity instead of jokiness.
Luther is fully aware that he has to work a day job, and get his stuff out however he can. (This means approaching writers like me and using whatever audience we have).
Luther is fully aware that he has to work a day job, and get his stuff out however he can. (This means approaching writers like me and using whatever audience we have).
Luther provided very detail answers to my questions. Take a look, and then (most importantly) please follow the links to his samples of work.
Dusty: Mr. Luther Bhogal-Jones, please introduce yourself in a few simple sentences.
Luther: I've been making films in my spare time for 20 years – from college during a media course, to working full time since leaving college and continuing to make self funded films in my spare time. Life understandably gets in the way with a situation like this and when everyone is working for free/ expenses my films can take a long time to complete, so I'm not as prolific as I'd like to be!
Dusty: What were your formative film experiences? Favorite movies growing up? “A-ha moments” that inspired you to follow you the path that you are now on?
Luther: I'm not sure if they're formative film experiences – although I visited the cinema occasionally as a child once we got a VCR around 83/84 my exposure to film ramped up. My parents were pretty lax when it came to the films they'd hire out for myself and my older brother, so I sat through a lot of violent exploitation “trash” from an early age – films such as The Bronx Warriors and Atlantis Interceptors have always stayed with me, lots of 80s classics and not so classics.
Running tandem to this would be the films we'd be seeing on TV – Star Wars, “James Bond” films on Bank Holidays...
I guess these films became my favorites, but strangely some of my favorite films are musicals or musical based – Streets Of Fire, The Blues Brothers, Rocky Horror Picture Show, Little Shop of Horrors...
I don't recall any magical moment – there may have been a point during film making at college, editing on an analogue VHS edit deck and seeing some sequence come together, that really felt it flowed.
I sorta fell into film making, after lacking confidence in writing and being terrible at drawing – all I wanted to do was tell stories and film making was the next medium I fell into.
Dusty: You have your own production company; Faster Productions. Was this established for your to work on your own projects? Do you have a specific aesthetic that you are going for?
Luther: Faster isn't a proper production company per se, as this isn't what I do full time...I guess most film makers go under a production name to pretend to be bigger than what they are – it's certainly not something to produce other people's work as it's difficult enough to arrange my own films! There isn't a specific aesthetic to my work – I think everything since I returned to film making in 2006 has been stylistically diverse and I really like that. If anything, “Faster” has become an ironic name to work with, seeing as every one of my films seems to take bloody forever to finish...
Dusty: You approached Playground Of Doom to talk about Black Spot; an intense, ‘70s horror flick inspired extravaganza. We would love to hear about the genesis of this project, as well as the production.
Luther: The film was conceived as a “proper” narrative test for the cheap 3D camcorder I received as a Christmas present. I didn't want to invest too much time and money in it, as I had no idea how well the film would work with the limitations of the camcorder, so it was written around places I knew and things I had or could source easily. I'm not sure where the germ of the idea for the storyline came from, or why I decided to set it in a car – I think it may have been considering layers of depth upfront and so considering a location that would have a bit of depth and background to it. As the camcorder's 3D effect was apparently hampered in low light, I was probably also thinking it would have to be something predominantly set outside.
Although I hoped to shoot the film very early in 2013, the shoot didn't actually take place until around June time. I'd always wanted it to be a grey, desolate day but the UK weather is unpredictable to say the least, so there was no guarantee of that in January...then come the shoot it was a day of intermittent rain showers, but this did give me the grey, dreary look I wanted but thankfully without the low temperatures.
The most frustrating aspect of the shoot came from my issues with the camcorder battery – I mistakenly presumed I'd charged it fully when I hadn't. I also assumed (but hadn't checked) that I'd be able to continue shooting inside my car while the camcorder was connected and charging from the car's usb port – this turned out to be incorrect, so a vast majority of the shoot was spent sat in my car waiting for the battery to charge enough to continue, which added a new dimension of tension and urgency to the shoot and the performances from the actors.
Between the rain showers and the battery the filming over ran by about 3 hours but I'm pretty sure we did get almost all of the shots listed for the day. There was no sound or lighting crew, so in some regards shooting this was back to the freedom and from the hip film making from college and with the tiny size of the camcorder it was fun to get it in places where a normal sized camera would have never fit.
A couple of months later I'd shoot at a flat in Brighton for Paul's flashback – this was all improvised by the actors and took a few hours to do. The first edit had been completed with these shots waiting to be dropped in...
Incredibly one of the hardest aspects to film was the end title sequence with my wonky cardboard road signs – I had to return to the location several times as several factors continued to make the footage unusable and awaiting the right opportunity to shoot it never seemed to arise due to temperamental weather.
My original edit ran for around 7 minutes, then I cut this back to 5 minutes (including titles) as I was hoping to enter it into a film festival which I thought had a running time limit (I later found out it didn't!) but this version seemed to run too fast and felt almost incomprehensible to watch, even to those who had read the script and knew what was supposed to be happening!
I went back and gave the film some breathing space which resulted in the final edit.
The last aspects were the sound and grade – my grader had problems where everything he did to the footage came out in the wash during the process to 3D, resulting in much of his work not being very apparent. The composer/ sound mixer was particularly meticulous and we had to adr (additional dialogue record) every aspect of the film as all the sound on the in-camera mics was unusable. He was so meticulous he scored the film twice – after hearing the film with almost complete sound design, he decided the score wasn't quite right and went back and recorded a new one!
(Editor’s Note: For any filmmakers reading this, this is a very logical and practical approach to making a movie.)
Dusty: Black Spot is available in two different versions. One of them is in 3-D. Was the movie shot for 3-D and how are you planning to use this technology?
As above, the film was conceived as a test for the 3D camera so would have never existed if it wasn't for the camera. I'd love to do another 3D film but it's doubtful I'd use this camera again as it is, though I have had a particular idea I need to try out to see if it work, but apart from that and with no funds for a next level HD 3D camera I don't think I'll be doing another film in 3D in the near future.
Ironically I hoped that the 3D element would be the thing that set the film apart from the multitude of other horror shorts available to view on the internet and to some degree it has, but I've been amazed how many horror bloggers haven't had a pair of red/ cyan glasses to view it as I presumed it would almost go hand in hand. At the time of writing the 2D version has had more than twice of the red/ cyan 3D and stereoscopic 3D versions put together, which seems to suggest that the criticisms against 3D and the lack of public interest may well hold some weight.
(Editor’s Note: That is because we can’t afford the glasses. I can’t speak for my horror blogger comrades, but I’m broke ass poor.)
Dusty: You’ve done an interesting and brave thing. You have reached out to the horror blogosphere to help promote your projects. (Even lazy writers like me who take forever to get interview questions to you). How are you planning to use social media as a filmmaker?
Luther: I'd like to think it's not that interesting or brave – I'd presume that many filmmakers in a similar situation/ level as me would do the same. I don't have any spare money for marketing, nor to enter it to film festivals that charge entry so this seems a free and targeted approach to help promote myself and the film. I previously approached the horror blog community when Creak was finished and had a really encouraging response that time, so that spurred me on to approach a wider range of horror bloggers this time round as well as go back to those who supported me previously.
I do get the impression that some bloggers are sometimes at a loss of what to post and feel the need to have new content as often as possible, so being handed something on a plate, whether they like it or not, is a good thing to have. I've also found that no response back isn't to be taken as a lack of interest, as quite a few bloggers never received my initial email and I've gone back to several chasing them for a feature, which has finally resulted in some belated posts.
(Editor’s Note: Oh, really…guilty as charged, unfortunately.)
I've perhaps been a bit more thorough this time with the bloggers I've contacted, keeping tabs on who has posted what, responses back etc but the information I've sent out has also been much more thorough – with Creak I was using the advice from Chris Jones of Living Spirit Films fantastic advice for press releases, FAQs etc to promote your films and with Black Spot I followed his advice much more closely and it seems to have resulted in a better response.
I'm not in marketing, so the press release and all the marketing materials are written by myself, but as many bloggers have pretty much placed what I've sent them up as a post verbatim I like to think that might be because I've written a solid press release...though I do miss the personal touch!
As for the social media thing I don't that it's working that well for me – despite probably around 50 blog posts for Black Spot across the world I've not seen a massive uptake in Twitter followers, nor Facebook followers – and I don't really know how to create a particularly big upswing unless some super large scale horror site gets on board with it, but even with the expected 2% response back it's not going to result in a mega increase.
I guess Twitter followers are growing organically and slowly, but I struggle with the profile that you're supposed to keep up (if you read any How To Succeed At Social Media type guides) as those channels are only maintained during spare time and I don't see the point in spamming out some inspirational quote you've cribbed from 101 Inspirational Quotes To Use On Twitter To Keep Your Profile Up etc.
Twitter seems great at starting or even joining in conversations with people, but there's also a horrible white noise aspect to it – if you're being followed by someone with 25k+ followers, realistically what is the chance of them seeing your post, promoting it, sharing it? Hmmm...
Gallingly, despite the great response from the blog community it still hasn't brought in that many views per post – I saw a friend was involved in a 48 hour sci-fi film challenge in the UK and within 2 days that film had received more views than Black Spot had received in 4 months online and with all the blog support. Frustrating, but at least if someone did search online for myself and the film there's plenty of posts out there, so it has a presence, if not the views...
But as I said, Twitter is brilliant at starting conversations with people and as a free facility to a film maker it's a fantastic tool, perhaps I'm just not using it right!
(Editor’s Note: If it helps, I’m not sure there is a “right way” to use social media or the blogosphere. I have been incredibly surprised that I have gotten any responses at all to this site…or my films. I think you’re over the hump just by trying.)
Dusty: You have other short films currently making the rounds at film festivals and the blogosphere. Would you tell us about Creak, The Crunch and Stranded?
Luther: Well, none of them are doing the rounds as such. The Crunch, which has always been a marmite film, had a few screenings at film nights (not festivals) for a few years after it was finished, but always seemed to get a wall of silence afterwards – quite uncomfortable! I got suckered in with Stranded as some people who saw it initially genuinely thought this was going to be the film that would take my career up a ladder and help me towards making a living doing this, but the response back from film festivals was nothing, so again, apart from a few film nights and being online it hasn't done anything, which was a massive disappointment to me.
After the failure of both those films with the festivals, and the lack of money to send anything to festivals, Creak was always intended to go straight online and to hell with premiere rights that some festivals demand. I think I made the right decision and that's what I intend to do with most of my short films in future.
Creak at least had a market I could target with the horror bloggers, but there are no bloggers that cover psychological/comicbook/drama/noirs, nor any that specialize in melancholic coastal dramas. Outside of genre bloggers, general film bloggers don't seem very interested in short films, preferring to concentrate on commercial releases for reviews and analysis, either the art house or mainstream end, so I couldn't promote these films in the same manner I presented Creak and Black Spot to blogger. As far as I'm aware there's been no coverage for them online that I recall.
I still continue to submit those films to screenings where I can, but as time goes on there's less opportunities to give them an airing.
(Editor: As you and I both know, Vimeo is a wonderful thing!)
Dusty: What is your ultimate “dream job” as a filmmaker? Is there a project that you hope to someday make?
Luther: Hmm, well, as an English director I guess I've always joked it'd be great to do a Bond film and relive those Bank Holiday Monday transmissions for real. As a big fan of the comic 2000AD a dream project would be to turn Zenith into a movie – the first chapter is pretty concise with a self centered 80s pop star fighting a resurrected Nazi super soldier with the assistance of his parents' aging washed up superhero friends. It's one of my all time favorite comics...and probably something like Halo Jones (which would cheese Alan Moore off yet again) or Strontium Dog – all which I could see working so well on the big screen. Anything along those lines would be incredible.
I'd love to do a Phillip K Dick adaptation – I have a soft spot for We Can Build You and Clans Of The Alphane Moon, though the latter would probably be a hard sell.
Or Bronx Warriors 3, if Enzo Castellari wants to pass the mantle to me. Or a sequel to Streets Of Fire, if Walter Hill would give me the scripts to the further adventures of Tom Cody!
(Editor’s Note: I hate to break it to you…but Albert Pyun made a quasi-sequel called to “Streets” called Road to Hell. The thing barely got a release, though…so that works in your favor.)
Dusty: What’s next?
Luther: I'm in post production on two films – Pick-Ups is an awkward comedy drama short which I've just done some previews of and got some good laughs, which is really encouraging and hopefully that should be complete in the next few months. I've also had some really good news this week which means my 15 minute fantasy thriller Goodnight, Halloween could be coming closer to completion – it's required some reshoots that I've been unable to do and these now look like they could happen in the next month or so. I've always described it as The Diary of Anne Frank meets Clive Barker's “Nightbreed,” set in an alternative 1986 Detroit where Halloween creatures, that exist alongside mankind, have been outlawed by the right wing Christian government.
I'm in the middle of shooting Sincerely, Psychopath 2 which was to be called “Knock Knock,” but seeing as there's at least two features being shot with that name I think it'll be going through a name change – that's a real homage to Mario Bava's Drop Of Water from Black Sabbath, as well as elements from Argento's Opera (Daria Nicolodi at the door and her demise) and the final of Tenebrae...but I'm hoping for some of the playful madness from Hausu to creep into it too.
With the SFX contact making the reshoot of Goodnight, Halloween a reality it's really opened up the next two Sincerely, Psychopath shorts I want to make – one is basically a big fight between two bird humanoid creatures in a forest, as wafer thin plot wise as Black Spot but should be striking looking and memorably odd, then a more splat-stick horror short that I think I've got a pretty interesting angle on to make it stand out.
Naturally long term I'd love to do something feature length – I've got a strong idea of a feature film following the MacKenzie family from Black Spot, I've got a treatment for a commercial monster movie that I think could tick some right boxes and I'd really, really love to do a giallo around Worthing where I live, something coastal, and again I think I've got an interesting take on that harkening back to the past of the giallo genre, but coming to terms with the present.
Faster Vimeo (featuring Black Spot): http://vimeo.com/fasterproductions
Faster's Production Blog: http://www.fasterproductions.blogspot.com