Debuting in June 2011, Bloody Cuts
is an anthology series of horror shorts (as well as the name of the production company) aiming for thirteen instalments, of which eight have surfaced so far. Available to watch free on the Bloody Cuts website, the films have attracted hundreds of thousands of views online, successfully hit the festival circuit, and picked up glowing notices from far and wide. With their most ambitious project to date, the award-winning Don't Move
, recently added to the online roster, Empire
spoke to the collective's Jonny Franklin, who gave us a taste of Bloody Cuts
' history and a glimpse of the future...
Most of the team have got little Gems hidden away in the film closet somewhere or other. A significant past project to mention would be Two Years of Summer
was made as a submission for the 48-Hour London Sci-Fi Film Challenge and is the first film where most of the Bloody Cuts crew came together. We all had a great experience making the film within the constraints of the challenge, and we finished in the top 10. Essentially that was what inspired us to create Bloody Cuts.
When/how did your core group officially come together and decide to give yourselves a fixed brand name?
About a month after the London Sci-Fi challenge, we formulated an evil plan that, rather than just taking the success of 2YS into a single film outside of the competition, we’d look into making an anthology of short films: something that could give our colleagues and creative friends an opportunity to try their hands at a variety of roles within the process. Shortly after this plan was hatched Ben [Franklin, Jonny's brother] and I teamed up with Anthony Melton to begin brainstorming names for the series, and Bloody Cuts was born. Anthony designed the initial knife logo and we were away! All we needed then was a first episode…
Most of the core Bloody Cuts crew all work within film and media in some capacity: mostly on the more corporate side. So our collective of filmmakers were able to muster enough equipment and a solid location to play as a stage for our opening act. The team came together one night after work and shot Lock Up, which we filmed in three hours! That soon made it’s way up onto the first simple website and Bloody Cuts was born!
Why did you decide on a fixed number of thirteen shorts? Was that the plan from Episode One?
Triskaidekaphobia: the fear of the number thirteen, of course! Since we wanted to set ourselves a target with the series as a whole, the number thirteen was just screaming out as us. We’re all huge fans of episodic horror anthologies and were greatly influenced by shows like Tales from the Crypt, The Twilight Zone and even The X-Files to some degree. And we’ve found that working toward self-imposed deadlines really drives us and creates very satisfying waypoints and a sense of achievement.
How did Millennium get involved? Has having an FX house involved dictated the direction you've gone in?
In the interest of trying to seek advice and guidance for the production of the series, which we’d always intended to include some FX, we fired out a few emails to some big players in the business hoping for a few tips at most. Amazingly, we received an email from Neil Gorton, SFX legend and owner of Millennium FX. He had seen Lock Up and been very impressed with it and it’s potential and wanted to come on board. That was absolutely fantastic as it opened up whole new directions that we could take our stories in, as well as upping the production values. So Bloody Cuts is made “in association” with Millennium FX and whilst they have been vital in providing advice as to the best way to achieve our special effects, they've also been very gracious in allowing us our own vision. Their awesome creations have all been true to the creative goals of the director.
What's your manifesto?
It still sits on the home page of the website: “Bloody Cuts are a team of UK film-makers producing an anthology of thirteen short horror films released free online for the love and passion of the genre.”
Each of our films are created by filmmakers that love and respect horror as a genre, and we’re trying to use that passion as a way to school ourselves into better filmmakers whilst bringing thirteen short slices of terror to the world for free. We’ve always planned to make each film different from the last in some way. We obviously stay within the genre but try to reach a selection of sub-genres and sub-audiences with our stories, trying different things with each film to present ourselves with technical challenges and keep our output fresh.
Whether it’s slasher, zombie, vampire or monster movie we’ve always tried to subvert the genre in some way, leaving a little surprise or twist with each film. These twists have become our calling cards to some degree and have helped make Bloody Cuts something of a household name amongst the horror community. OK, maybe a garden shed name… but we have certainly gathered a very loyal audience over the last two years.
What's the process for getting a Bloody Cut up and running? Do they all develop in much the same way?
We tend to work with the director and writer about two or three months prior to the actual shoot date, making sure that we’re totally happy that everything we have is achievable within our means. Once we have script sign-off we move to pre-production and start to plan our attack on the project in question.
It varies from director to director, but generally we try to arrange location as early as possible (although sometimes we seal the location days before the shoot) and then start to schedule the biggest challenges way up front. We always try and negotiate a strategy with the episode director and Millennium FX for the prosthetics and FX as early as possible. Often the more time we can buy for the wet stuff the more scope we’ll have for crafting something even more monstrous. And we try to assemble the crew from an early point, assigning roles to members of team whom are available for the episode. With each film we have tried to mix the roles and responsibilities around so that our crew can develop different skills within various facets of the production.
Budget is always a problem, and thanks the generosity of others we’ve been able to make the first eight films without it really costing too much out of our own individual back pockets. But with no series sponsor as such, and no real vehicle for us to make a lot of money from what we do with the series, we have to scrimp and save every time to make each film. We recently crowd funded Don’t Move and fairly easily made the £3000 we needed to bring it to life. That was very heartwarming and we can’t thank our supporters enough for helping us with that. We’re going to need to hit the fundraising trail again soon, and explore new avenues to help us make these films. We make high quality films for barely anything (our series spend is probably just over £10k) but it’s still tough. Very tough.
Historically we’ve always had the next film in sight, although right now after Don’t Move we’re taking a beat to gather our momentum and explore some interesting opportunities that have arisen. Don’t Move’s launch was a particular success, and it’s drawn a lot of new attention to the series.
Which have been the toughest ones to do? Were any actually easy?!
Due to the commitment of our team, each shoot has been tough but achievable. We are always trying to push ourselves, so if it’s easy we’ve probably not utilized all available time! We aim to shoot all principal photography within two days and whilst that structure is self-imposed, we try to stick to it: we’re hyper aware of the generosity of those donating their free time to contribute to these productions, and we don’t like to take advantage!
The two hardest shoots were undoubtedly Dead Man’s Lake
, and Don’t Move
. We had a sunny day for Dead Man’s Lake
, mixed with some of the most torrential rain some of us have ever experienced. For a slasher film set in the summer, and with our tight deadline and requirement to shoot entirely in the light, it meant that the rain heavily restricted what we could do. And of course every time it rained, the crew, the actors and the set all got drenched. It was that heavy, that on the second day of the shoot, the entire set was waterlogged and we couldn’t even access it. So kind of amazingly, we ended up shooting the rest in the Franklin back garden! At some point in the film (and I won’t tell you when), we transfer from the lake location to the garden, which is actually kind of ridiculous when you think about it. But it works seamlessly, and it’s thanks to our wonderful team who worked magic to take it from one place to somewhere completely different, and still make it work.
With Don’t Move there was over forty of us crammed into a smallish cottage, shooting what was a very intense film, with a huge amount of special effects to consider. We had death scenes that involved wirework, various SFX setups, and lots of blood (and plastic sheets lining everything), and in some cases our actors only had one or two takes to get the scene. It was incredibly tight, and the pressure of controlling the blood splatter was a job within itself! We even had to lay a carpet, for the first death scene, for fear of ruining the original flooring in the property. We had to work most hours of that weekend with very little sleep. Ian Whyte (The Demon, pictured above) was incredibly patient: at a guess he had to stand around in the makeup for 24 hours in total, which must have been very difficult. But it’s that kind of a positive attitude that means we can do the things that we do, and we think that’s carried across the entire crew.
All films come with some level of difficulty, but it’s how you deal with it and learn for the next time that carries you through.
One of your earliest films was about a killer clown, called Stitches. Then last year there was a feature about a killer clown, called Stitches (starring Ross Noble) but there doesn’t seem to be any connection between the two. What’s going on there?
preceded the feature film of the same name
by several months. Ben and I are fans of Stephen King's IT
and wanted to make a short involving some kind of twisted clown character, so we made the film our second short in the series, loosely basing it on the 'clown in the corner
' urban legend. We then got a call from a producer, saying he thought there was potentially a feature to be had out of that character, so we set up a meeting and started fleshing out ideas. And the next day
, there was an official announcement of another new clown movie… of course called Stitches
. To say we were surprised is an understatement, but we don't believe it's connected: just pure coincidence... we hope! It's a shame though, because we do think our character is actually a better design than the Ross Noble clown. And we'd have played it very straight too, and very scary! It was good early lesson though, that you can't really get attached to anything you do, because someone else might just beat you to the post with it.
Why give your films away for free online? There's been a bit of an upsurge in anthology movies lately - V/H/S, ABCs of Death, etc. - so did you ever consider going that direction?
To be brutally honest Bloody Cuts is about evolution and we would have been potentially foolish to consider at the beginning that we could create something consistent enough to tie together as a portmanteau. We consider each film a success, but you can clearly see a progression and a learning curve in terms of experience for the collective as a whole. So whether they’d hold up as a full feature is a question… although we have found the experience of watching them together with a big audience has been thrilling. The night in Edinburgh at the Bootleg Film Festival - where they had to turn people away due to the sheer numbers - was one of the best nights we’ve had as filmmakers. And that’s because we could really see the series working as a whole: the crowd lapped it up and we got a huge round of applause at the end. At that point we realised just how well the series had developed, and that’s what partially drove us to put together the forthcoming Blu-Ray/DVD where you can watch them all back to back. In an ideal world though, rather than truly making a feature experience out of this series, we’d prefer to tackle a brand new anthology film full of new stories – Bloody Cuts: The Movie perhaps? We’d love to produce a horror themed TV show, actually. With the popularity in the USA for that type of content at the moment, we could do something quite brilliant there given the chance!
You're just over half way through the project: do you already know what all the remaining Bloody Cuts will be?
As mentioned earlier we are taking a beat to gather our thoughts, although we do have several ideas already cooking for certainly the next two. As we only have five left, (well four: Episode Thirteen has been earmarked for something special…) we’re trying to make sure that we absolutely nail the scripts and outdo ourselves in the remaining episodes. At the rate we were going at before, we would probably have finished the thirteen this year or the next, but things have slightly slowed down for us, due to a number of factors. The shorts are taking longer to develop because of the rising ambition that goes with each one, and at this point we can’t really afford to rush anything out.
That word “afford” is also significant because we don’t really have any funds for further films right now. So it’s kind of ‘back to the drawing board’ when it comes to seeking funding/sponsorship and all the other expensive elements that come with making these films. The Bloody Cuts vaults are empty after Don’t Move and we’re going to give it a few months before we might think about running another Kickstarter campaign. Hopefully with Don’t Move we have proved that we can successfully fund an episode this way, so if people enjoyed what their donations produced and are generous enough to dig deep again, perhaps we’ll do this sooner rather than later!
What's the status of Scarecrows, the BC feature film?
As mentioned there are several things we’re looking at, at the moment, and unfortunately we’re not really in a position to talk about any of them, Scarecrows
included. We hope to be able to bring everyone news in due course!Bloody Cuts So Far:
Episode 1: Lock Up (directed by Ben Kent)
Episode 2: Stitches (directed by Ben Kent)
Episode 3: Prey (directed by Jonny Franklin)
Episode 4: Mother Died (directed by Neil Gorton)
Episode 5: Suckablood (directed by Jake Cuddihy & Ben Tillett)
Episode 6: Dead Man's Lake (directed by Ben Franklin)
Episode 7: Death Scenes (directed by Joel Morgan)
Episode 8: Don't Move (directed by Anthony Melton)