NO-BUDGET NIGHTMARES: INTERVIEW WITH DEAD IN FRANCE DIRECTOR KRIS MCMANUS

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Director Kris McManus dropped by to talk DEAD IN FRANCE, his background in photography, and his fascinating upcoming project SCARS: THE THIRD REICH IN RUINS.

Sweetback (SB): Before we get into DEAD IN FRANCE, could you tell me a little bit about the philosophy behind INROAD MEDIA and what prompted you to develop your own projects after your extensive experience in photography?

Kris McManus (KM): I’ve been making films since I was 13 – I was a big JCVD fan and wanted to make martial arts movies with my friends so grabbed an uncles S-VHS camera and started shooting movies – We were obsessed with Ninja’s and shot hours and hours of dreadful fight scenes. I got into photography at college and was lucky enough to run several studios afterwards and film-making (which was only a hobby as I wanted to be an actor more than a director anyway) got forgotten. Then years later a friend asked if I could shoot a music video for him. I did and that grew, shooting low budget music promos for new bands – many played on Scuzz and a few on MTV. Then I moved to corporate video and finally decided to have another go at film,only staying behind the camera… mostly. Inroad’s philosophy is just creating engaging content with the available resources – whether big budget, low budget or no budget. I think budget limitations can breed very creative solutions that can be very rewarding. I like that challenge.

SB: While much of the advertising cites Quentin Tarantino and Guy Ritchie as thematic influences for DEAD IN FRANCE, it’s difficult to look at the beautiful French environments and crisp black & white photography and not think of the French New Wave – or even Jean-Pierre Melville’s LE SAMOURAI. Were there any particular films – or film-makers – you had in mind when designing the look for the film?

KM: Yeah – I’m not really a fan of that angle on DEAD IN FRANCE’s advertising – it was a quote used out of context and although it’s being compared to some great directors I wasn’t trying to make that kind of Crime movie. DEAD IN FRANCE for me has one unknown character who is the most disrespectful and flat footed of them all – The Film-maker. Just as us Brits have a reputation abroad as loud mouthed tourists, I wanted to take the piss a bit out of myself by wading into French cinema with no clue other than shooting Black and White and setting it in France. For me that’s the films biggest gag; it is very deliberately the Brits doing French Cinema in a ‘Bull in a China shop’ kinda way. So yes it does try to draw comparisons with French New Wave – it just doesn’t do a very good job… on purpose… Ha, I’ve confused myself? Fuck it. It’s just about Crime, Sex and shooting Kittens.

SB: The film is co-written and stars Brian A. Levine, who also produced your previous film TRAVELLERS. How did you form your relationship with Brian and Delacheroy Films, and what drew you to the script of DEAD IN FRANCE?

KM: Brian and I met at Cannes – I’d shot TRAVELLERS with no money and had been stuck in post hell for about a year. I showed Brian a rough trailer and he stepped in as Co-producer and helped get it finished and to market. He had an idea of his own for a film DEAD IN FRANCE. I would say I was attracted to the idea of shooting in the south of France – TRAVELLERS had been shot in a cold, wet field in October in the UK. I didn’t need much convincing. I was keen to shoot a black and white movie and Brian was happy to take that chance so that was also pretty decisive and then just to be able to shoot a comedy with friends – always nice. We Co-wrote based on Brian’s original idea and before we knew it, we were shooting.

SB: Working on a limited budget, how did you go about getting permission to film in the locations featured in the film?

KM: Brian did a great job of writing for what we had. So lots of favors pulled. He was living in Cannes at the time and has a lot of willing friends. It was designed around what we had and what we could do from a very early stage in the writing.

SB: I’ve been reading up on your project SCARS: THE THIRD REICH IN RUINS with musician/author Lawrence Paterson. It looks absolutely fascinating, and the Pitch video looks absolutely stunning. Can you talk a little about how that project developed, and how potential contributors can help fund it?

KM: SCARS came about as I wanted to shoot a photographic book about Ruins. I brought in a very talented writer/historian friend (Who is also a very talented metal drummer as it happens) and said ‘how about helping me do a chapter on WWII ruins’; well, after five minutes talking with him it made sense to make the whole project about that. We are in development on a TV show now as well. It’s a very contemporary approach to history, encompassing adventure travel, photography and history. Hopefully a new approach. The book is to be published through a great company called ‘Unbound’ who are a crowd funding site for authors. They have a really awesome approach to funding and distributing literature and are worth checking out – www.unbound.co.uk. You can pledge for SCARS on the site – get some goodies and help us make what will be a pretty incredible book. Shameless plug over.

SB: Do you currently have other projects in development, or is the marketing of DEAD IN FRANCE and working on getting SCARS off the ground taking up most of your time at the moment?

KM: I have a feature in development I hope to shoot later this year. It’s full on Nastiness, based around a Private Military Orienteering weekend that goes massively wrong – or right – depending on your perspective. It’s shooting in the UK, Russia, Poland and St Helena and is really brutal. Think HUNGER GAMES on steroids and not for the faint hearted. I’ve been waiting to do a very physical, adventure movie for so long and this should be the one.

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SB: For those looking to check out DEAD IN France, or keep up on your current and future projects, what’s the best way to do so?

KM: Check out www.inroadmedia.co.uk for updates or to get involved in any of the developing projects. We are always looking for enthusiastic, talented people to work with, and of course funding for projects.

SB: Anything else to plug?

KM: I would really love to shoot a grindhouse style kung-fu movie in the States. Such a fan of old grindhouse Cinema. That would be great fun.

SB: Finally, do you have any advice for young and inexperienced directors trying to get their first projects off the ground?

KM: Man, I don’t know if you should listen to me as I don’t feel qualified to give advice. I’m still trying to work out the right moves myself, but I think – it’s that limitations thing again. Work with them, design around them and most importantly just go shoot something. There will be a lot of voices telling you ‘you can’t’ but you can – there is a million ways to make a film and none of them are wrong – though some watching mine may disagree. I’ve tried to verse myself in many aspects of production. That can be tough, and has almost certainly weakened me in certain fields, but also helps me see the finish line a little clearer. I have been fortunate to work with some great people both in-front and behind the camera and to have that is essential.

It’s a great time for Indie film and if you really want to tell a story or just get creative then grab the nearest camera and have a go. I think there are two types of film-maker, those who want to be ‘film-makers’ and those who want to ‘make films’ – the latter will just find a way. Like ‘life’ does in JURASSIC PARK – only much cheaper. Don’t try to make JURASSIC PARK with a micro-budget though, it will be shit! Solid advice.

Doug “Sweetback” Tilley

Doug Tilley

Doug has been a geek for as long as he’s been alive, but has only been blogging about film since 2008; originally writing for his personal site and eventually moving to Daily Grindhouse where he writes regularly about micro-budget films and film-makers in his No-Budget Nightmares column. At the end of 2011 he started the popular No-Budget Nightmares podcast with Moe Porne, and regularly contributes to a variety of other genre film podcasts. He likes movies, movies and movies.

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