JM - Your activities must have had considerable impact in such a close-knit community even in peak visitor season. How helpful was the community in letting you realise your vision?
BH - They were great. I think because its such an unusual thing to be going on in the area, everyone was keen to help. A local fishing and hunting shop loaned us a sword and some blank-firing handguns, a local chip shop gave us free fish suppers, and we were given free access to all our locations, too. There was only really one man who seemed out to get us, and thats because he kept drilling up the street as we were trying to shoot a scene. There was another one kept playing the bagpipes somewhere in the middle distance the next day. Im not entirely convinced it wasnt the same fella! Because its such an unusual project for the Highlands, we managed to get ourselves loads of publicity, too, so practically everyone in the area knew what we were up to. Felt dead famous, so we all did.
JM - What were your experiences shooting in DV? Is it up to feature film making? Any drawbacks what about night shooting?
BH - I think it depends on the feature, really. When we first got our Canon XL1, we didnt really give much thought to what it could do it was just something to shoot our feature on. Looking back now, though, theres a few things I wish wed considered earlier. Shooting on DV in general was great very fast, and, of course, instantly reviewable but being a film with a lot of horror elements, and with a lot of shooting being done at night, its obvious now that DV couldnt really handle the light/dark contrast very well. A lot of our night stuff is quite grainy, which is annoying. Shooting day for night would have improved the end result a lot, I think. Other than that, I found DV to be a great tool. You just have to make sure its the right tool for the job, I suppose.
JM - Post-production facilities are not too common in the Highlands, how did you manage that?
BH - We bought our own Pentium III 750 with a total of 95GB of hard drive and a copy of Adobe Premiere. Handles the job very well, though it did give us a lot of problems to start with. The captured footage kept going into black and white, and since no-one within a hundred mile radius knew anything about the software, I e-mailed Adobe customer support. They told me Id have to reformat both hard drives, which would have meant losing that footage Id already edited. In the end I just re-installed the video drivers, and everything worked fine. Had I wiped everything and then found out I didnt have to, I wouldnt have been happy. Just goes to show, no one really knows anything.
JM - You must be pleased to have landed an American sales agent for Zombie Love Stories.
BH - Oh yeah, thats a big relief. Distribution was one of our biggest worries right from the start, and we had actually intended to go the self-distribution route, doing all the copying and packaging ourselves and trying to get the tape into Blockbuster or somewhere. Luckily, that wont have to be the case now. The sales agent actually gave us an advance based on the script, so we must be doing something right.
JM - Now lets talk about Curse of the Bog Women. It was your first feature, written even before Zombie Love Stories. What was the first step you took with the script?
BH - I actually wrote Curse when I was 17. There was a class in college where we had to write the first scene of a film, and I just kept going. It wasnt until about two years later that I met Trish Shorthouse from the Highlands and Islands Film Commission, and gave her the script to read. She passed it on to Pilgrim Films in Newcastle, who said they liked it, but that it wasnt really their cup of tea. They later optioned another screenplay of mine, Making a Killing, but thats another story
About a year after that, I posted the script on Francis Ford Coppolas American Zoetrope site, where it was read by Chris Bancel in New York. I had an option contract in my hands about a fortnight later, I think.
JM - Chris Bancel the films producer said when he first read the title on Zoetrope he laughed, then he read the script and he laughed some more, so he optioned it. Were you surprised to get a call from a New York film producer?
BH - Nah, happens all the time. Hang on, I tell a lie. Yes, it was a bit of a surprise, but Id already been a bit shocked when Pilgrim optioned Making a Killing, so I dont think it took me aback nearly as much as it would have had I not already had that experience with them. I think the first contact with Chris was via e-mail, actually, since there was no way in Hell I was posting my phone number on the web for all the world to see. I went over to New York to meet Chris last year, which was great. I fell in love with the place straight away. How on earth do so many people get away with being so angry all the time? I love it.
JM - You have come up with quite an effective marketing plan, a sort of McBlair Witch project involving the Highland community where the film is to be shot. Its very imaginative, but it also seems very American. Do you think merchandising through a website will raise enough to complete a $4.5m budget?
BH - Well, a lot of the budget has been raised through private investment in the States, so we wont have to sell $4.5 million worth of t-shirts before we can shoot the film or anything. As a writer, what Ive found is that writing all about the day-to-day lives of the characters in the script, really helps flesh them out. Im actually planning a bit of a script rewrite, incorporating some of the back story recounted on the website. I might start creating virtual villages for all my scripts in future.
JM - You wrote Curse of the Bogwomen. Would you like to shoot it in 35mm, as planned, to direct it, as you did the Zombie trilogy?
BH - Yeah, Id like to direct Curse in 35mm. Even though more and more people are leaning towards digital technology, film still has the edge by a good margin. Video looks much more realistic, but film just has that magical quality about it that can make even the most badly composed shot look good. Sometimes. Its about the right tools for the job again, though, really. With Curse were aiming for a cinema release, whereas Zombie was always planned as a straight to video bottom shelf number. You have to find your market and target it as precisely as possible if you want to get anywhere starting out, I think. Thats what we did with Zombie, anyway. Straight to video horror cant beat it.
JM - What if a US financier came along and said "Heres $2.5m but we want George A. Romero to direct", what would your reaction be?
BH - Id say double it and youve got a deal. Actually, I dont know what Id say. Romeros great, but Curse is even less of a horror than Zombie is. Its more a comedy than anything else a horror spoof, and I dont know how Romero would handle that. I certainly wouldnt discount it straight away, since his name alone would bring in a lot of audience interest. Hed probably be too busy, anyway, isnt he signed up to do the Resident Evil movie or something? Or is that all off now? I lose track. Id let Sam Raimi direct in a second, though, but that wasnt the question, so forget I said anything.
JM - I gather youve had some major talent interest from people who have visited your website at wwwbogwoman.com Whats your wish list of people you would like to see headlining your movie?
BH - Billy Connolly would be up there, definitely. But bearded, I dont want no bald-faced Billy in my movie. Hed be great as Dr MacGregor, who turns into a tree in the end, if I remember right. Bit of a strange one, I know, but Id also like to get Countdown presenter Richard Whiteley as the editor of the Glen Lachart Star, Duncan Burns. Duncans a bit of a seedy pervert, and I think Whiteleys the perfect man for the job. Hes just the right side of seedy to be likeable, I think.
JM - Lets talk about Glen Lachart
How busy is the website?
BH - Were well on target for hosting a million visitors a month by the end of the year. I think were up near 200,000 a month at the moment, which is pretty nuts. I remember when we first started the site late last year, we were excited when we got past the hundred a month mark, and now its through the roof. Its amazing logging onto the forums and seeing all these people talking about and interacting with these characters I created five years ago. Madness.
JM - Is this an easy way to finance a film, or is it just as hard raising the profile of the website as raising film cash?
BH - A lot of our visitors now come through word of mouth, so the profile of the site is raising all the time without us having to do that much. To start with it was a slog to get people logging on, but its taken off all on its own now, and doesnt show signs of stopping. At the start, we were logging onto bulletin boards in their hundreds and leaving messages to come visit the site, and what do you know, it mustve worked, because they came in their thousands. Our regular visitors, who now have honorary citizenship of the village, do a lot of advertising for us, just by posting links on their own sites and the like. Several of them have even done spin-off sites, creating new locations within the town and making pages and pages of stuff about them. Theyre very dedicated. Insane, perhaps, but dedicated with it.
JM - I believe the Pig and Bicycle, the pub in Glen Lachart, is about to go live on line with a camera and itll be interactive, with visitors able to buy a round for those in the bar. Is this a way of getting publicity or a cheap way of getting drinks paid for?
BH - Both. The pub in question is my local, so my thinking is I can kill two birds with one stone by promoting the site and the film, and getting pissed while Im at it. Whether me falling down drunk and vomiting will be a sound marketing strategy or not remains to be seen. It should be a lot of fun, and well be running special events in the bar that online visitors can join in with.
JM - Whats next for you after Bogwomen?
BH - Not sure yet, really. Myself and Kevin have several other projects on the back burner at the moment, so well be doing one of them. I actually have a short Im going to shoot on DV before Bog Women comes about called Flatmate. Kev is currently writing a vampire script, so that may well be our next piece after Curse. Well wait and see how it all goes, though
JM - Good luck Baz, with your project. Can we have a final piece of advice for indie filmmakers who are still looking for that initial backing to get a project off the ground?
BH - Dont look for "the right way" to do things. Kev and I spent too long trying to work out how things should be done, when what we really should have been doing was just going out and doing it for ourselves and learning from our mistakes. There is no right way to do anything, so ignore anyone who tries to tell you how things must be done. Even me ignore this entire paragraph if you like, just get out there and make your movie.
Oh, and move to Scotland, people with money here arent nearly as tight with it as everyone says they are.
JM - Of course they are not. By the way its your round Baz.