By Dan Witherall
MA Creative Writing student, School of English
Hi, I’m Dan and I’m a filmmaker. Well, technically I’m a filmmaker, but really more of a screenwriter. I’ll explain:
Me and my BFF (Colin Adams-Toomey – you’ll be reading his name a lot) decided to make a film. We decided this separately, about twenty-six years ago. Me in my South Welsh village of Cilfynydd, and Colin in his Delaware household over in the USA. We were eight years old, and Jurassic Park had just blown our minds, via our eye holes. Ten years later, Colin and his family decided to leave the States after Bush got his second term in office, and thank goodness he did. Because it was that decision that led Colin to enrol in Aberystwyth University back in 2003. There, he met me.
We didn’t get on. He was too loud and me too misanthropic. But eventually we got over that. I bought earplugs and he lowered his standards of ‘friendship’ significantly. Once that barrier was crossed, we decided we would make a film together. And then another. And another. And then more.
Years later, Colin calls me and says, “Dan, I know what film I want to make. It’s Lost Creek.” I knew the film (we’d been batting ideas back and forth for years) and I was not happy. I’ll explain:
Lost Creek is a fantasy horror/drama that centres on a young boy’s friendship with a little girl in the woods near his house. As his friendship with her strengthens, his dreams begin to come to life. And they ain’t pleasant dreams. It’s basically about the loss of childhood.
Seems fine, right? Wrong. This is our first film, and Colin wants to take three children into the woods of Delaware over the winter months and chuck at least one of them into a river. Why not throw a cat in the mix to make it even harder? But, he was adamant and I’m glad he was. I’ll say it once and once only: Colin, you were right.
I should also point out that if it were not for Colin then I would absolutely not be a filmmaker right now.
Writing Lost Creek was arduous in the sense that we were on different sides of the planet, but we’re kinda used to that, so by then we had a formula. Colin’s idea, Colin’s lead. That’s how we work – other scripts have been vice-versa. So, Colin writes a chunk and sends it to me, I send back detailed notes. Rinse. Repeat.
Then, of course, we needed money. I chipped in a chunk (hence the Exec Producer credit), Colin dumped a load in, and the rest was garnered through good ol’ Kickstarter. Without it, the film would never have been made. No chance.
We got $30,000. It’s a lot of money, I know, I get it. But to make a film? It’s pennies. But Colin was smart and had help projecting a budget and we wrote with budget in mind. If you’re planning to make an independent film (and please, please do!) then you will need to do this.
Colin and I are very much a team, but he is certainly more the director, and I the writer. This will change, but it was handy at the time because I don’t love filming. And they shot it in the States, so I was only there for one day of filming. Colin did a handy – and lengthy – blog here about the practicalities of making the film. Check it out. It’s genuinely great!
So, the film was made. We cut a trailer. We made a website, Facebook and Twitter accounts. We submitted the film to about forty festivals. Then, some bloke called Trevor approached me on Twitter and told me that he has “an in” with some YouTube channels and asked if I’d be okay with him promoting our film. I said yes.
The trailer is suddenly viewed 20,000 times in its day of release. Our festival submissions mean that IMDb have set up accounts for us* (my picture is rather fetching). The trailer gets over 100,000 views and then suddenly fake torrents of the film are showing up on illegal download sites. The film isn’t there, so don’t try. But, this made us think that people were actually starting to want to see it.
That’s gotta be good, right?
So in the next edition, I’ll be talking about the madness that came next. And it is madness. I’ll explain:
*My IMDb page also features Cunning Stunts, written for BCU and used as a showreel for the actors involved.