Indie productions have shifted into overdrive with the ease that they can now be created. Most only aspire to be short films with a budget of £1000 but director Andy Wilton stayed bold and true with his idea to create his first feature-length Behind the Scenes of Total Hell.
In fact, he’s created two as Total Hell – the Jamie Gunn horror ‘masterpiece’ the mockumentary is based around – is available as a DVD extra along on www.btsoth.co.uk which has a lot more information and merchandise available too.
Chatting to Andy Wilton has painted the picture of an honest, down-to-earth guy with a penchant for filmmaking. Always open to chat but committed to driving his film out there for it to be seen, not for financial gain, his commitment to filmmaking remains despite how long it has taken the film to get to the distribution stage. Instead of distributing through the normal mediums, Andy has decided to push it through YouTube to combat piracy – a bold, interesting decision that he happily clarifies.
Putting this out on YouTube proves Andy makes films because of his love to. I chatted with Andy for a while to find out more about the budding director about the release of his film finally, his influences and his thoughts on the final product.
First off, introduce yourself to the world as this is your directorial debut and give us a bit of back story into your love for film then attempt at filmmaking.
Hey U Guys! I’m Andy Wilton, I’m a 32 year old filmmaker from Newcastle upon Tyne. I’ve always had a passion for stories and film, starting from a very early age. I can remember exhaustively watching Ghostbusters on a loop as a child. I started filmmaking in my spare time while stacking shelves at ASDA – this led to a directing career for Clients such as Nike, Orange and The Prince’s Trust. “Behind the Scenes of TOTAL HELL” is my first feature and is based on a love of film and filmmaking.
How did Behind the Scenes of Total Hell come about? Were you the sole writer behind the idea or did you work with others?
I was working very hard for a film company and discovered that I’d work so much overtime, and taken so little time off, that I had a month of holiday to use. Rather than go on holiday, I decided to make a full feature film. I wrote the film myself, although all of the dialogue is improvised (under strict supervision). We shot the film in my month long holiday, but the reality is that it took 2 years to then edit the film and a further three to get to a distribution stage!
Are you happy with how it turned out in the end considering the limited budget and production time?
Uncool as it will seem, I love our film. I think it’s really very funny indeed – and I don’t feel egotistical in saying that as the vast majority of the best stuff was adlibbed by our fantastic actors. If I got anything right on that film it was the casting which is excellent.
A lot of people will probably struggle to comprehend the challenge of making a full length feature film for £1000. It was an incredible undertaking but I am really proud of our results.
Did you enjoy making it?
Making the film was the single toughest, energy sapping, mind-crushingly difficult thing I’ve ever done. It was also the best time of my entire life – I was in my element. Hopefully some of that passion comes across in the finished film.
What inspired the mockumentary style of shooting?
The inspiration for the film was “Lost in la Mancha”, a documentary about Terry Gilliam’s unsuccessful attempt to direct “The Man Who Killed Don Quixote”. It is a fascinating documentary in which disastrous events conspire to make TG’s film production a farce, completely beyond his control. I was in awe, but also heartbroken for him (one of my heroes). I decided that this would be an excellent concept for a fictional film, and why not about “low budget filmmaking” – something I know a lot about. A mockumentary seemed like the best approach as someone with the ego of our protagonist, Jamie Gunn, would love to be followed by a film crew.
It’s been standing since roughly 2007, did that hurt your hopes a little or was it right for it to be shelved?
It has been incredibly difficult. We premiered the film to good reviews in 2009 and had various distributors in talks with us. In the end, no major distributor was prepared to take a chance on a £1000 film with no major stars. The small distributors weren’t offering us anything we couldn’t do ourselves. Some of the small distributors even informed us that they were struggling to continue. With DVD piracy and the internet they were struggling to sell film. We decided to embrace piracy and the internet and just to get our film seen by anyone who’d like to – legitimately. At no point have I doubted the film’s potential – just our ability to find an audience. Hopefully this will only get easier in the future.
Now that it’s finally coming out, are you happy with the end product or would you like more refinement?
I’m very happy with the finished film. It doesn’t look like “The Matrix”, but this is a film which is supposed to look as if it was shot by people of a similar level to the fictional Jamie Gunn. Why would a professional film crew be following him around? I am capable of shooting much better looking product (this film is ALL about character and comedy) but I am very much a story-focussed filmmaker. Nine tenths of good filmmaking is story – the other tenth is everything else.
Is comedy your genre of choice?
I’d like to think I’m capable of most genres of filmmaking – but I do adore comedy. Most of my favourite films are comedies.
What’s next for Andy Wilton? Any other future products on the horizon.
I have a number of projects that have been languishing in development while waiting to release this. I have a couple of comedies and a science fiction film – but the next thing might actually be a really cool sitcom we’re working on. To be honest, I’ve (literally) hundreds of project outlines – it’s just trying to get things made and finding an audience.
It’d be nice to know a bit more about the man in the chair: who are your inspirations?
My inspirations are fairly diverse I guess. I love film, but I also love the process of filmmaking. As a youngster I was as interested in “making of documentaries” as the films themselves. I’m a huge fan of Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez, but as much of an influence is Liverpudlian band SPACE.
Your choice to distribute YouTube to bypass piracy is a different one. Why did you feel it was best to distribute openly like this?
I have a lot of belief in our film, I always have had. With not being able to find a distributor who could offer us a suitable road for the film – we felt this was the best approach. The film’s out there now and I hope that those who enjoy it will share it with their friends and family. I really just want it to be seen.
If you had a directing technique what would it be?
I guess I’ve got many techniques – it’s horses for courses really. I have been known to make cast and crew sing karaoke on set, to try and foster a bit of a bond and breakdown any inhibitions.
Will we see you delve from comedy into other aspects? Perhaps anything thematically you’d like to delve into.
I’m really a story guy more than anything – I will definitely be exploring other genres and artistic methods. I love writing, I like radio, theatre, art – but yeah, film is pretty badass and good combo of all of those things. I do love comedy though and think I’ll always know I can come back to it.
Is there a dream project for you, something you’re yearning to do but waiting on until the budget is big enough?
Too many to mention! Most of my projects are actually very modest in comparison to major Hollywood projects. Robert Rodriguez is pretty much my filmmaking idol and I live by his book “Rebel without a Crew”. I have a science fiction project in development that could genuinely rival Hollywood’s best – and could be made for a few thousand pounds. I guess that one is the current dream (but I have a lot of dreams!).
Directors who love films usually have some holy, untouchable films. What are you favourite film(s)?
My favourite film, by a mile, is “Withnail and I” – which is just utterly perfect. I’ve seen it an immeasurable number of times and it’s still fresh. I spent last summer visiting the locations from the film with my Sister Alice. After that I adore “The Big Lebowski” and “Clerks”. Outside of comedy I think Tarantino is pretty much the man. I love everything he’s done and, while it won’t go down in history as his best film (because of the quality of Pulp Fiction), I consider “KILL BILL” to be the best visually directed film of all time. I could watch those two films forever.
If people enjoy “Behind the Scenes of TOTAL HELL” is there a way they can see more?
If people like the film then they should come back to the website (www.btsoth.co.uk) and find out more about it. They can also buy merchandise such as T-Shirts, mugs and muesli (really!). The DVD is also available which contains over 8 hours of extras and is a really cool product for fans of the film.
Behind the Scenes of Total Hell is now available on YouTube which is embedded below. To read our review of it click here. We’d like to thank Andy Wilton for giving us his time and wish him the best in his quest to be a filmmaker as his talent is apparent.