Sunday, August 07, 2011

Interview with director Marc Price and actor Alastair Kirton - 6th October, 2009

Promoting: Colin
Venue: The Horror Room in the Movieum, London
Interview type: One-on-two

ViewLondon (VL): Where did the zombie point-of-view idea come from?

Marc Price (MP): I was always a fan of zombie movies and I thought it would be great to make a zombie movie but I wanted to something that – to me, as a zombie fan – I thought I hadn't seen before. And the idea of doing a movie from the perspective of the zombie gave me so much to play about with, such as the lack of dialogue – I thought it would be interesting to use the language of film to engage an audience rather than a bunch of actors running around saying how they felt, which is how I write dialogue, because I'm just not very good. And I had Alastair very much in mind to play Colin. So it grew from there and then we looked at what locations we had available to us and other actors we wanted to work with who we knew and we based the script on that. And there were a couple of scenes that were kind of over-reaching but I felt that was important as well, because it's a challenge and it's fun.

VL: So, Alastair, were you there right from the beginning? You knew each other before?

Alastair Kirton (AK): Yeah, we'd worked on a couple of short films together. I think I was pretty much in Marc's mind when he first came up with the idea.

MP: No, you were at least fourth or fifth choice (laughs).

AK: (laughs) Thanks, man. Yeah. Dean Gaffney wasn't available. Yeah, Marc pitched the idea to me really early on. He didn't have a script, so he used wooden stirrers and sachets of sugar in a coffee shop to mark out the film and I knew he wanted me to do it when he stopped saying “And then Colin gets hit in the face with a hammer” and started saying “And then you get smacked in the face with a hammer and bundled into a car”, so I was like, “Oh, brilliant, he wants me to play a zombie. That's...terrifying.” But yes, I wanted to get involved and having worked with Marc a couple of times before, I really love the way he approaches things. Just his enthusiasm and joy at film, really. And we had a lot of the same reference points, movie-wise. So when you go into a project like that it's nice to know you're both on the same page and working towards the same goal.

VL: So are you both big zombie fans then? What was your first zombie movie?

MP: Dawn of the Dead was mine. We'd borrowed – of all the films – Ah'm Gonna Git You Sucka. My aunt had taped it for us and on the tape at the end it wound down and there was the end of Ghostbusters and we were like, 'Oh great, Ghostbusters' so we watched the end of Ghostbusters and then that wound down and then something else had finished and Dawn of the Dead was starting, so we missed the title but it was the shot of waking up and all the chaos in the television studios. And I just watched it, thinking 'This is fucking amazing' and then the tape ran out! And I was like 'Argh! What's this movie called?' I was about 11 then. And then, when I was 14, I think Alex Cox had it on Moviedrome and it came on and I recognised the shot straightaway and then it just blew me away. I couldn't believe all that amazing stuff was happening so early in a movie.

VL: Which zombie movies were a big influence on the film?

AK: Well, Day of the Dead was a big influence, in terms of Bub [a named zombie in the film]. Marc said that when he watched Day of the Dead he got really deeply emotionally concerned for that character. So Marc gave me Day of the Dead – I'd seen Dawn and a few other things, but I hadn't seen Day of the Dead – so we watched that and Bub was obviously a big influence. But then we kind of just chatted about what we thought the best way to approach it was. The idea was really to think that he didn't have much vision, he was just a creature very much caught in his own small circle of consciousness and just the way he approached things, the way he picks up objects and plays with them like a child, that was how we approached it.

VL: Tell me about the special effects, because the effects are amazing for such a low-budget film.

MP: In terms of make-up effects, we were really lucky to have someone like Michelle Webb. We put out a sort of casting call to make-up people and we said 'Hey, why don't you come? You're going to have to bring your own equipment because we don't have any money but you have total freedom to create any zombie you like, providing we have the ones that we need for the sequence'. And all the make-up people who came down were fantastic with that, but what Michelle Webb [make-up artist on X-Men: The Last Stand] did that was exceptional was that she'd show us how to apply these make-up effects ourselves and leave her equipment with us and say 'Okay, see you next week – good luck with the week's filming'. And then she'd come back, see what we'd done and say, 'Right, okay, you can do this now...' and she'd help us and teach us more. And where that ends up being a truly amazing thing is you've got someone like Justin Hales (who owns the production company with me, because he knows how to set them up), who's normally a very technically-minded guy, he's now an amazing make-up artist. And that's just through wanting to do something, not wanting to wait around for us to start filming. We were even leading the make-up session at Raindance with him.

AK: I think the other thing that really helped was the fact that, being shown how to do it and you knowing how to capture things and the way to shoot things is that you just worked out the best way to cheat stuff, like the eye gouge and the face being pulled off. It's knowing what you can do with make-up.

MP: And then how to light it and what the camera should be doing to sell it.

VL: Did that all come from trial and error or from Michelle pointing you in the right direction?

MP: It was more a case of what I'd read about film productions in the past. And also the setting I wanted to apply to the movie, how in the stiller moments where there isn't that human influence, the camera's fairly static or smoothly gliding along, but whenever the human is the dominant force we wanted it to have that sense of panic and franticness in the camera. And in the case of the street battle, if the camera was smoothly moving around then you'd see that none of those people are actors and none of them are capable of faking a decent fight (laughs).

VL: How did you decide on Colin as the name of the film?

MP: It's my dad's name. And I thought it was a gentle enough name and then we have him biting someone's face and ripping someone's arm off.

VL: What was the biggest difficulty? I imagine there must have been times when the low budget meant you couldn't quite get something you wanted?

AK: There was one make-up effect that we wanted to do, which was after the street battle, when Colin has a hammer lodged in his head and we tried so hard to get the damn thing to stick. We tried latex, we tried sellotape and I think the last thing we tried was four rubber bands, which were cutting off the circulation to the top of my head. And then we walked out and Marc was like, 'It's on the wrong way round', so we just lost it.

VL: Which scene are you most proud of?

MP: I think the street fight, what with the explosions and the very small amount of people we had there to shoot that scene and how we dealt with that, in terms of framing.

AK: I just enjoyed the slower, more pensive bits, like the bit with the pigeon. Just the little bits, like Colin on his own and being a bit vulnerable, from a distance.

VL: What's your next project, both of you?

MP: We're working together again on something else. It takes place entirely on a Halifax bomber, returning from a mission over Europe. The plane's badly damaged, it's limping home and a creepy creature attacks one of the gunners. But it's not like the monster's killing everyone on the flight, it's only attacking this one guy. It's called Thunderchild, which is the name of the plane and hopefully it's an exercise in tension and it'll be an exciting ride.


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