Guerilla Film Makers Masterclass Alumni Rhys Davies: Micro Budget Horror Case Study, Released This Weekend!

This weekend has seen the release of ‘Zombie Undead’, a micro budget horror film made by a film maker, Rhys Davies, who I first met a few years ago on my Guerilla Film Makers Masterclass. His journey and film is a classic example of micro budget film making, a true ‘micro crew’ production. In advance of the Guerilla Film Makers masterclass this weekend, I asked Rhys to share some of his experiences on his journey. And while I cannot disclose the amount Rhys made the film for, nor can I disclose the amount Rhys got paid for UK rights from Metrodome, I can tell you that one number was significantly larger than the other. OK over to Rhys.

‘2007 saw the start of my filmmaking journey which reached a major milestone today with the release of my feature film Zombie Undead. In 2007 I made my first ever film – a short called ‘Prime Cut’. Previous to this I had been a bookseller, teacher, programmer, asylum worker – in fact anything other than work in film. The short provided a crash course in film production and was a fantastic experience. After a favourable reaction to ‘Prime Cut’ however I chose not to follow it up with another short but to shoot a feature film.

‘Zombie Undead’ was shot over 2 years with a year of pre-production and as a first time Director / Producer working on a micro budget sourced from friends and family, I can tell you, the whole team was ‘up against it’. But it has now all paid off. ‘Zombie Undead’ has just had a limited theatrical release in its home city of Leicester and is now released in the UK by Metrodome.  ‘Zombie Undead’ was also selected for screening on the opening night of Fantasporto 2011 where it was described as ‘the purest British gore’.

The process of sales and distribution was a whole new world to me.  Being the producer on ‘Zombie Undead’ was born out of necessity not desire – no-one else was going to get the film made apart from me. So when the film was finished and ready to be sent out into the world it was myself, with the admirable help of Christopher J.Herbert ( Phil in ‘Zombie Undead’), who had to get it out there. 

The process of attempting to sell my first feature was at turns exciting, stressful, patience testing and exhilarating and we learnt a hell of a lot. Here’s what I would advise…

  • Be prepared for a long haul. From the initial screener being sent out to getting the film in the shops took us about a year. I have no idea if this is standard or not but it’s still a year – a year in which you want to be making your next film but still have to sell your current one.  Just don’t give up!

• Do your research. Target your film at distributors who are selling films in both the same scale and genre as your film. With a horror film, like ‘Zombie Undead’, certain distributors won’t touch it so don’t waste your time and money trying to get it seen if there is no chance. This is not to say don’t aim high but to know your product, know your market and create your distribution strategy accordingly.

• Do the home country deal yourself. Our approach was to send out screeners to selected companies within the UK. We gathered the responses back and chased any outstanding ones. Our logic for chasing the home country deal ourselves was firstly to learn about the process first hand but also to develop contacts within the various distribution companies.

• If offers come your way get someone trusted and knowledgeable to check contracts. As a first time filmmaker it was flattering and tempting to take the first offer on the table. We had one offer early which would have strung us up had we taken it. Luckily I had made contacts through making ‘Zombie Undead’ that I could ask to run an eye over the contracts to see if it was a good deal or not.

• Get your film to festivals. The more people who see it the more chance of sales.

• Be meticulous in gathering and storing your deliverables. While waiting for offers make sure you have all you need to enable you to actually sell your film because when you get an offer there will be a time limit in the contract as to when you have to get your essential materials to the distributor.

• Develop a relationship with your distributor. They may support your ideas for a marketing strategy or poster design etc.

• If you have any problems talk to your distributor. If you don’t know what an Assignment Of Rights is? Or how to set out a Credit Block? Ask your distributor – they will help. It’s in both parties interest to get your film out there.

• We did the grading in house for ‘Zombie Undead’. When you go to a post production house (we used Finishing Post in Nottingham ) to transfer to a higher res format such as digibeta, make sure your audio and visuals are perfect. We had several errors in ours, low budget means cutting corners sometimes, so had to return twice more to the post house, which all costs money.

• Don’t look back. We had offers for distribution after we had accepted an offer.  Our chosen distributor Metrodome’s offer happened to be the best but it’s always a risk.

• Don’t take refusals personally. If they respond, Distributors will rarely give details on reasons why they don’t want the film. They haven’t got time to write a lengthy response so in all likelihood they just pick out a couple of comments. It’s up to you to decide which, if any, ring true.

• Don’t sit on offers too long. Take the plunge if offered a minimum guarantee.  You want your film in the shops as soon as you can so you can say you are a profit making film maker!

  Hope some of this helps!

Rhys Davies -Director/Producer/Editor

http://www.hive on DVD in UK from 30th May 2011

You can buy ‘Zombie Undead’, signed, direct from Rhys. As you know, I always advocate buying the DVD direct from the film maker. You can do that here.

Of course, we spend a whole afternoon on sales and distribution on the Guerilla Film Makers Masterclass next weekend. As I write this, there are just six seats left, so if you are lucky, you may bag one of them. You can sigh up below…

More info on the official site here…

Onwards and upwards!
Chris Jones
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