Clear Focus Movies are another inspiring feature film production company from Scotland doing some really inspiring things.
They are working up in Aberdeen, away from the traditional Central-Belt focus of the Scottish Film Industry but still managing to make and sell films internationally. And they do this all by themselves. They are about to release their latest feature – Ghosts of Darkness and kindly give a little of their time to tell us about themselves.
Tell us a little about your background and route into the film-making world.
I was lucky enough to walk out of college at the age of 19 straight into the industry working for a small family run film production company, by this time I had made a couple of short films and had some success most noticeably winning an Empire Magazine short film Competition in 1999
For 8 years I worked as an Avid editor, one of the advantages of working for a smaller company was the chance to learn all the different aspects of film production. If I wasn’t cutting on Avid I would be out on location working as a sound recordist or cameraman and got to work on a variety of projects including TV, film, documentary and corporate videos. It was while working in the industry I decided to try and get back to making my own productions which can prove difficult while in a full time position. Evil in the Hills, Demonic & Dead Funny gave us a reasonable amount of success in the short film festival circuit; it was enough to spur us on into the world of feature length movies.
In 2009 I set up my own company Clear Focus Movies Ltd, specialising in corporate video, 2D/3D animation & feature film production. This allowed me to start production on my first feature film ‘Attack of the Herbals’. Luckily we managed to secure distribution in U.S, Germany & UK & had its worldwide premiere at the American Film Market.
Evil In the Hills - Short
How did this evolve into your features 'Attack of the Herbals" and the very successful 'Redwood Massacre'?
It’s fair to say our first film ‘Attack of the Herbals’ was a mixed affair, it was a £10k movie shot on weekends with friends, it was more like a filmmaking exercise to see if we could actually make the step up from short film to feature film. The movie ended up getting a worldwide release but the experience working in the cut throat world of sales agents and distributors left us with a bad taste in our mouth.
After trying in vain to raise funds to make our 2nd feature film, we decided that if we wanted to make another film we would have to self-fund again. Camera technology was starting to change and become more accessible and we wanted to see if we could actually make money this time. We decided to do an all-out horror film called ‘The Redwood Massacre’, when it’s your own money on the line you quickly realise your options are quite limited, making a feature length movie is not cheap and at £40k it was a bit of a gamble for us. We knew if we delivered a straight out horror we’d have a good chance of selling it at the markets, we all agreed a slasher film would work well with what we had budget wise. The Redwood Massacre is not exactly an original or fresh approach on the already over saturated slasher genre but it has a guaranteed audience and allowed us to take advantage of the horror formula and stretch our budget as far as it could go. Filming in a forest of deserted barn is free; sometimes making horror movies has its advantages.
The Redwood Massacre - Trailer
The Redwood Massacre was enormously successful for a film of it's size. How did you manage this, and how did the success affect your company?
We decided to by-pass all the sales agents and go direct to the distributors, the risk paid off and we sold The Redwood Massacre nearly as soon as we finished making it. After securing a great advance deal in the U.S we did end up finally finding a sales agent we could trust to sell the other territories including the U.K & Germany. The movie did really well in the U.S and ended up having a decent festival run picking up some awards along the way, the reviews have been mixed but we’re just glad people are still watching it.
And this led to Ghosts of Darkness?
The distributor was quite shocked when we told him the budget was only £40k, a normal feature production would spend that kind of money on post production alone which give him the confidence to fund our new film Ghosts Of Darkness. The new film had a budget of 45k including post production and delivery, it’s still a tiny amount of money for a direct to DVD film but it was enough to give us a comfortable 3 week shoot in Fort William and hire some great actors. The feedback from the distributor has been brilliant and off the back of Ghosts of Darkness we have just started pre-production on a new film we hope to start shooting later this year.
A little bit about the film, release, hopes etc.
We still have a couple of visual Fx to add into Ghosts of Darkness before it’s complete but we’re gearing up for its festival run and eventual release in November/December. The distributor is planning a small 10 screen cinema release in the U.S and a world wide release on DVD & VOD at the same time. I think we finally got the right balance with this movie, we learned so much from the many mistakes we made in our first two films and this has to be the first project we’ve done we’re all very happy with. ‘Ghosts of Darkness’ is a fun light hearted paranormal caper with some good scares and laughs mixed in.
What's next for you, and what are your thoughts on indie filmmaking in Scotland?
We have a slate of about 4 films to shoot, hopefully we can start climbing the budget ladder and work more closely with the crews we have here in Scotland. At the moment all our investment is coming from the U.S, we’ve never really tried reaching out to Creative Scotland for help but I have a funny feeling the low budget horror genre might not be that high up on their list.
You can read more about Clear Focus on their Facebook Page - https://www.facebook.com/ClearFocusMoviesLtd/
And see more on their Youtube Page here - https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCHjBGytursoRLhcjpBEGoRA