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In the Begining

Once upon a time…

I’ve been involved in independent film for several years now. It’s an interesting industry where there are limited (or no) funds, but there are great ideas, amazing people and lots of fun to be had. Sometimes things don’t work the way they were planned, projects fall through or grind to a halt. Sometimes it’s hard work and silly hours for no return other than enjoying making something. Sometimes it’s more than that.

I’ve been lucky enough to be involved both sides of the camera in a great many roles. I’ve done lighting and sound, camera work, make-up and Special Effects, I’ve acted and most recently I had the pleasure of writing and directing for the first time. That’s the great thing about indie film; if you want to you can get involved on every aspect of a production and you can learn so much and gain a greater understanding of the processes involved. I’ve even been lucky enough to act in scenes that I’ve provided the FX make-up for; which is quite a strange experience. The bottom line of course is that I love indie filmmaking completely.

It all started for me one day many years ago. I was teaching Performing Arts and one of my students introduced me to her brother Dominic Holmes. He was making a zero budget thriller and my name had been mentioned as a potential actor. I jumped at the chance and ended up playing a South African criminal called The Boss! That was the start of a long association with Loosecrew Productions that’s still going on today. I got to wear a suit, wave a gun around and menace people and I got shot; not as fun as it sounds.

The Boss was a mean guy with a thin veneer of civility who had a nasty habit of menacing women. He slapped them around, screamed and shouted, threatened them with a gun and in the end got his just desserts. It was a mad, fun ride shooting on digital video with a single camera whenever we got the opportunity. One of my favourite moments was when I was holding a reporter played by Simone Dunne hostage. I was using her as leverage to try and get back money that had been stolen from me.

We were in a cafeteria and Simone tries to escape from me. I pull my gun, walk after her, punch her in the nose and drag her back to her seat. Nice guy eh? During the one take I overextended and clipped poor Simone on the nose! She fell apart laughing and I fell into a panic; it was all fine but it went to show that the unexpected can and does happen.

The other standout scene for me was when I got shot. I was rigged up with a pneumatic system that had a large hose running down my back. We did the scene several times and let me tell you that no matter how cool it looks on screen there’s nothing more unpleasant than having cold film blood running slowly down your chest. All I could think at the time was “My Calvins!” as the blood seeped lower on each take. Good times. As soon as we wrapped that day I had to rush off to the theatre where I was providing make-up duties for a show all week. Never a dull moment and never a minutes rest. The Courier also has a great surprise cameo from a rather well known Hobbit, which was a brilliant example of seizing an opportunity; guerrilla filmmaking at its finest.

The next Loosecrew venture was Last Time She Lived a film about murder and witchcraft. I got to play the complete opposite of my previous character; this time I was DI Haker, the man investigating the murders. I pulled second duty as the make-up artist for the film, providing a string of bloody FX make-ups that would get me noticed for another production. One of the most entertaining make-ups was for a resurrection scene where I put together a series of FX showing the muscle and skin growing back onto a long dead witch. The poor girl started rotting and decomposing later in the film and I had great fun film showing that process too.

We had stabbings galore, a whipping, a hanging and I got to work with some great actors. I still laugh about the long day we spent on Cannock Chase shooting the finale in blisteringly hot weather. The entire cast caught the sun and as I was bald I ended up rather red by the end of it! I saw a deer on the Chase for the first time ever that day too; which was rather cool. During one scene I spent a happy afternoon conversing with a skeleton and ad-libbing my lines over and over; a bad habit I still have to this day. In another I got to play hero and save the girl.

It was giggle city saving kidnapped popstar Savannah played by pageant Queen and model Sandra Marie Lees. She collapses into my arms; I rush her to my car, throw out a quip and run off to save the day armed with a hockey stick. But it’s hard looking cool, concerned, determined and heroic when you and your co-star keep falling apart laughing. It’s a good job you can do multiple takes for a scene.

Rise of the Rebellion was a Star Wars fan film I got involved with, providing a host of aliens and acting again. There were green screens, awesome locations, lightsabers and Darth Vader! I even got to play two characters; an Imperial Officer and Jedi Knight. For the Jedi I shaved my beard and donned a wig, huge horns and a prosthetic. I always feel that knowing what it’s like to wear prosthetics, wigs or FX make-up and then have to act is an advantage for me as a make-up artist. I understand the process and I can empathise more with an actor that’s undergoing that type of make-up. It can be uncomfortable, it can take hours to apply and remove and in amongst all that you have to remember your dialogue and perform; not as easy as it sounds. Having said that…seeing yourself transformed into a completely different person is awesome!

The end of Part One

 In part Two: Killer Clowns and an unexpected surprise.

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