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The Man-Virgin Flesh-Eating Monster-Vamp from Hell ! by Philip Beasley got a 5-Stars award at BIAFF 2009 and an award sponsored by AKM Music.
Do you ever get inspiration but need a kick up the butt to make it happen? Thats exactly what happened to me with this film. It took over two years to get from the germ of an idea to the finished disc.
Procrastination can be a terrible thing, but as always, the film had already been made (in my mind anyway) but other things (life, etc) had always managed to get in the way. I love film making, but I find it is an incredible all-encompassing demand on your life while its going on. However, the end result more than justifies the means (or has so far!)
I decided that I would pay homage to one of my favourite genres, horror. Seeing Sean of the Dead was a great inspiration and I loved the typical British view to horror situations. Also, Id grown up loving the old Hammer & Amicus productions where there were short tales interwoven into a overall situation, so that was a great starting point. Id decided that this was going to be as perfect as I could make it, correct in as much detail as I could.
With that in mind, and as this was going to be the biggest project Id undertaken to date, I decided that I really couldnt do it justice by doing everything myself (which I love to do). Every part of the film-making process is wonderful to me, from the script to the storyboards to the casting, the rehearsals, filming, editing, sound mixing and even making the promotional material, so I was delighted when Nigel Woodham and Nicole Freeman-Wright came on board.
Nigel is a talented film-maker in his own right and was happy to come in as second camera, but as we both share a no-nonsense-get-on-with-it attitude, once the project started he was finding props, adapting equipment, handling lighting and generally taking on many of the myriad of minor details that are crucial in making a good film into a great one!
Nicole Freeman-Wright is a very talented actress who I had worked with before, and again she threw herself wholeheartedly into the role, giving 100% plus, calling in favours from people she had worked with in the past to ensure everything was as perfect as possible with location, supporting cast, props and promotion.
I also had a look in mind for the film, so I invested in a semi-fisheye lens that really added an extra dimension to the look of the film. Again, Nigel was great as a balanced outsider and I would have probably made the whole film with that lens as I was so enamoured with its look a new toy! So we balanced the story sequences with the wide angle while using standard lenses for the main setting.
I wanted to give the film a cult feeling, and in the best Rocky Horror Picture Show tradition I decided on The Man-Virgin Flesh-Eating Monster-Vamp from Hell! Its a great title that you really have to think about to remember (it even took me a few goes!), but when you can, you can join the exclusive club, its like a secret password! As in Rocky Horror, it can be shortened to Monster Vamp, and that was what I used to set up a website to promote the film: www.monstervamp.com.
Once the script was finalised, I was able to list everything I needed in terms of cast, locations, props, equipment, etc, and set about systematically filling the blanks. I decided to really push the production and used the local newspapers and BBC Essex radio to spread the word I was amazed how enthusiastic everyone was to help and run the story. From that we got the missing cast, locations and props, including the loan of a beautifully restored 1961 MG sports car!
The internet was invaluable to fill in the rest of the blanks, with crew and actors sites that have an abundance of talent who are happy to get involved for the joy of making a great film (and add to their showreel!). I had people ready to come down from Scotland and sleep in their cars for the shoot, but in the end I decided to use local talent wherever possible as this was not a paid film. It also meant that I made some great contacts and well probably get together again in the future. Working alone is nice as you have total creative control, but a good team really does make the job easier and more importantly more enjoyable!
I wanted this film to be the best quality I could afford, so I decided to shoot & edit it in Hi-Definition HDV. As both Nigel and I have the same camera, the fabulous Canon XH-A1, I was also able to film the main story circle sequences simultaneously on two cameras, which made the editing much easier and the filming much quicker!
Video is lovely for creating nice effects, and lighting was predominately very simple just a keylight to give high contrast & shadows where possible. As the Canons were so good in low light, for the main sequences we were able to use cheap three-pound wind-up torches & standard glow & LED lights, positioning them carefully to get the maximum effect. It was amazing what can now be achieved with next to no equipment budget! The biggest light used was a 300w and everything came out sharp and sculpted.
With some rigorous preparation I managed to shoehorn the whole filming schedule into two and a half days very intense, but it meant that I didnt have to worry about people getting sick, changing haircuts, etc.
As always, every shoot went over time and there was a huge amount of pressure, but it was brilliant fun as everyone was totally committed and we had a real family atmosphere.
As always there were a couple of problems, we lost our main lighting guy after the first day as he didnt feel he was appreciated enough (Id been so busy getting on with job and assumed that everyone else was doing the same fortunately everyone else was!). Again, Nigel rose to the occasion and took on the lighting role as well as second camera what a star!
Apart from that everyone put in and gave more than I could have asked for and after 3 days the main shooting was complete. I was absolutely knackered but ecstatic, as everything had been filmed as I had pictured it, or an acceptable compromise worked out on the spot!
Then came the task of editing down 6 hours of footage into a short film! Fortunately hard drives are cheap and fast, so I was able to digitize the whole workload and started editing online from the beginning, saving different versions as I went along. I used Adobe Premiere CS3 with a Matrox RTX2 card in the PC which handled the HDV material beautifully. The couple of times I pushed the system too hard and it collapsed I was able to restore everything on re-boot. The final edit came in at twenty minutes, and I made sure I had breaks in the editing schedule to reflect and re-evaluate. I also showed the various versions to people I trusted and listened to their comments, some I agreed with, and some I didnt. Thats the beauty and the frustration of film making there usually isnt a definitive right answer, its your interpretation of the right answer! Anyway, I went through an additional seventeen tweaks of the final draft edit (some of them very minor, but it was something that I suddenly saw as wrong) before I sat through the film and could honestly say it was the very best I could produce, that was a very satisfying feeling!
Of course there is always room for improvement, but I feel that Monster Vamp is a definite step forward in my film making career. As a complete package of script, production, direction and editing I made some personal breakthroughs and also some mistakes, all of which can only help to make the next film even better. Now all I have to do is get some inspiration..!
Many, many, many thanks to Nigel, Nicole and everyone that helped by giving their time, expertise, props, locations and support too many to mention here, but everyone is on the website www.monstervamp.com and I would like to personally thank them & recommend every one of them, so do go and check them out & drop them a line if you like the film!
If there is anything youd like to know that isnt covered in this article please feel to email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Philip Beasley
Here is what Philip and the team have to say on video about the film with the longest title at BIAFF:
Making Monster Vamp.