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Producer’s Diary 3: Kill List’s Andy Starke at SXSW

Ben Wheatley’s Kill List, produced by Film4, had its world premiere in Texas at the South By Southwest (SXSW) Festival. Co-producer Andy Starke offers us an insight into the festival madness


So finally we’ve screened the film! The pressure eases off (aided by the at seat bar service at The Alamo Drafthouse) with every unfolding moment. It’s the biggest screen and the loudest volume we’ve ever seen the film at – and as the film tumbles into the last-act heart of darkness we all get a little bit emotional.

The Q&A was a bit weird due to what’s become known as “The Kill List Stare”. I quote: a “horrified gawp, slight nausea, sleepless night”. After all our test screenings it took about half an hour to get any sense out of the viewers. There are even reports of a fainting!

Yet again we’ve singularly failed to see any other movies. Our must-see movie, Joe Cornish’s Attack The Block, is screening both nights at the same time as Kill List – an occupational hazard – but it goes down a storm. At least Ben gets to catch up with Nick Frost, who’s here with Attack The Block and Paul.

Oblivious to all else, we stagger off into the night, only to awake to discover that we’ve woken up in an episode of Entourage. As the film was literally finished last week nobody has seen it, so last night was a frenzy of buzz and buyers – the next 36 hours are taken up with intense bargainings, rumouring and speculating about selling the film. Luckily for us we have the very wonderful Ben Roberts from our sales agents Protagonist to shoulder that burden. So, true to type, we resort to our cure all stress-buster – eating – and head to Smitty’s, the best barbecue restaurant in the whole of Texas.

Smitty’s is amazing: preserved as it was since the 1800s, the carnivorous frenzy builds to a fever pitch worthy of Lucio Fulci, as all the guests from SXFX dig in to meat, meat and more meat. No plates, no sauce – any complaints greeted by a sullen snort of derision. Tim League spreads rumours of an even better place an hour further down the road… we all wonder if we should try and make a film in time for Fantastic Fest 2011 in September so we can come back and try it.

Sunday night’s screening is even better – the word is out, so people know a little more what to expect and The Kill List Stare is less pronounced this evening. Afterwards we go back to a hotel to wait for calls with offers: it’s a bit like that bit in Location Location Location when they get the call from the estate agent. In the end its all too nerve-racking and we decide to wait til the morning.

We’re heading home Monday and Ben is appearing on the “Directing the Dead” panel along with other Midnight Screenings directors, including Jason Eisner – director of Hobo With A Shotgun and one of the all-round nicest people you could meet. Hobo even has its own video game! Kill List app, anyone? It’s a brief respite before we need to make the decision: who do we want to go with to release the film in the US? A very, very hard decision to make, and one that it’s impossible to make without feeling it’s personal, but eventually we make a call: IFC Films.

Job done, we head to Austin airport and get on the plane at the exact moment the screening for UK buyers starts. In twenty hours’ time we can see how the film goes down in the UK and start eating all over again.


Watch a carnivorous clip from Kill List

Producer’s Diary 2: Kill List’s Andy Starke at SXSW

Ben Wheatley’s Kill List, produced by Film4, had its world premiere in Texas at the South By Southwest (SXSW) Festival. Co-producer Andy Starke offers us an insight into the festival madness


So finally, 14 months after we first shook hands with Warp Films, Kill List gets its world premiere on Saturday night.

Having a midnight screening is a bit like having a flight home in the evening… the day is very, very long! The pressure cooker of anticipation from friends, press and buyers steadily creeps up throughout the day – fuelled by the fact that no one has seen the film from the industry, and by the reputation of Tim as a programmer. Gareth Edwards’ Monsters was discovered at SXSW last year and everyone is on the lookout for the first discovery of the festival. Talk of Bellflower (mumblecore meets insect-eating) combined with the filmmaker’s very cool self-built car and them being all round lovely people makes Bellflower my must-see film…

It’s a strange compression of day-to-day life where the only topic of conversation is movies and deals, so it’s important to try and keep a step out and realise there’s a world going on outside of downtown Austin. For us, that mainly consists of eating. First off, Tim League opens up his house to the SXFX filmmakers and friends for a crawfish boil – an amazing table full of crustaceans, chilli and sausage. Tim has a traditional start to all festivities – opening a bottle of champagne Napoleonic style – with a large sword! Director Ben Wheatley steps up to the mark and slices the top of the bottle off in the first blow with the skill of Porthos… good vibes for the film already!

Continuing with our food distraction tactic, Team Kill List heads into Austin for the world’s greatest hot dog at Frank’s but even this can’t shake off the realisation that a lot hangs on the next few hours…


Watch the making-of Kill List

Producer’s Diary 1: Kill List’s Andy Starke at SXSW

Ben Wheatley’s Kill List, produced by Film4, had its world premiere in Texas at the South By Southwest (SXSW) Festival. Co-producer Andy Starke offers us an insight into the festival madness

Kill List director Ben Wheatley at SXSW

Kill List director Ben Wheatley at SXSW

After a 26-hour journey, including a Lost Highway moment getting Barry from Warp Films to his hotel, I finally settle into an armchair at our host Tim League’s house in Austin, Texas. It’s been a hectic last couple of weeks getting Kill List ready for the SXSW screenings. We finished the film Tuesday and flew out with the masters Thursday, so it’s great to finally be at our home for the next few days. We’re here with co-producer Claire Jones, DP Laurie Rose and actor Michael Smiley.

Tim and Karrie League are the founders of the legendary Alamo Drafthouse Cinema here in Austin, home to the fantastic Mondo T-shirt and poster outfit – and of course the Kill List world premiere! They also run Fantastic Fest, where our previous film Down Terrace won the Next Wave Best Feature in 2009, and this week they host the SXFX Midnights. On top of all that, they’re also happy for an itinerant group of filmmakers and friends to fill up their house for the next few days. Passing through our dazed and confused consciousness last night were Simon Rumley and Sean Hogan, here with their compendium film Little Deaths (premiering Friday night) and Michael Lerman from the Philadelphia Film Fest.

After a few bizarre dreams about Michael Douglas and Secretariat the racehorse (ah, the joy of plane movies), we head into town to register. SXSW is huge! The interactive side alone must rival Jodrell Bank. After another surreal journey to pick up Barry we head out to Troublemaker Studios – Robert Rodriguez HQ – for the filmmaker’s inaugural lunch in what is basically a large barn housing a green screen that has been the location for all his recent features. Pretty amazing to think that less than 20 years ago he was making El Mariachi. Our attempts at networking consist of talking to people at our table – but on the other side of the room. Still, we at least manage to say hi to Janet Pierson – festival producer and the woman responsible for keeping this enormous festival in line.

At last we get to see a sample of Kill List on the very big screen: we head out to the Alamo where we get a quick taste of the movie. It looks and sounds amazing. Nerves steadied slightly, we head to The Highball – another of Tim’s places, and maybe the best bar in Austin – to celebrate. After a quick and good-natured debate with Scott Weinberg from Cinematical about the quality of Drive Angry 3D we head back to town to actually see a movie. It’s a split vote… most head to Source Code but we fancy the Genesis P. Orridge doc. How could we resist the secret of the Pandrogyne?


Watch the Kill List trailer

Producer’s Diary: Mark Herbert on Four Lions, Part Three

26 Jan, 2010 Productions Posted in: Producers, Sundance

BAFTA-winning producer Mark Herbert, whose credits include Submarine and This Is England, offers a peek at his diary from the Sundance Film Festival, where he’s shepherding Chris Morris’ Four Lions through its world premiere.

24 January

8.30am Sundance: At last. We’ve cut the umbilical cord on the film – it is now out there. We’ve made it and it’s up to the film now to stand for itself!

Yesterday was a very odd, nerve-jangling, exhilarating and mental day. It started off with two back-to-back breakfast meetings, one with a US distributor and one with an LA agent. To be honest, it was hard to focus because of the night ahead but they seemed to go OK. Not many people are around at that time in the morning so it’s easier to move up and down Main St.

I got back to the apartment and the nerves were showing in everyone. We have only had two screenings so far for cast, crew and friends. I attended the one in Sheffield, so I had seen it play well to a mixed audience – consisting of my 11-a-side football team, FC Casablanca, and some of the extras who’d been in the film, as well as crew. My mates are pretty honest – on a film I was involved in once, they came up to me at end of a screening and one said, “That was a bit shite, Mark. Can’t you do Dead Mans Shoes 2?” But they did not say it was shite this time, which is a very good sign.

To calm the nerves I went out onto slopes for two hours with Chris. It was just the tonic for some headspace. I bought a new balaclava that made me look a bit scary and freaked out a buyer I know whose name I shouted at a lift.

We all met at a bar outside the Egyptian Theatre and had a few beers before walking into the screening. There was a scrum for tickets outside the venue and the emails and texts were flying in from people I knew trying to get in last minute. I find it hard to enjoy festival screenings as I get so nervous and fidgety, but this one was good. The first laugh eased the nerves and then it flew by. At the end the actors, Chris and the writers took a massive round of applause. Chris said a huge thanks to me and Derrin on stage which made us both a bit emotional for about 30 seconds.

We went out for a lovely meal with everybody rather than having a party. I like parties when we are not paying but I’d rather spend money on a great poster, trailer or something for the film rather than seeing some B-list celeb or other blagger supping expensive champagne. I then got a bit tipsy and I have a hazy memory of people wandering in saying they really enjoyed the film – and some story about an ice cube from a bloke who reminded me of the Fonz. We got back and saw our first review from Empire – it was a good one so I slept really well.

26 January

Delta flight to Los Angeles: I am writing this from the plane somewhere above Salt Lake City. It will be the last entry for my Sundance blog. I am happy because, just before boarding, our US publicist sent through another two pretty good reviews.

The last 36 hours were eventful to say the least. A few more positive reviews helped kickstart the day before myself and Chris met the actors on the slopes. We had just listened to BBC’s World service report on the film in which Robert Redford was talking about our film! My mum will be pleased.

We wanted to see how the actors were – especially Arsher who had seen the film for the first time at the premiere. (And I must say a massive thanks to Arsher: he got hijacked on the way out of the cinema by the BBC and, though unprepared, he spoke really well about the film).

A couple of hours bombing around the mountain (and riding into a tree) cleared the tension. At the end of the day I managed to bump into Zak, a neighbour from Sheffield. He was on business in Salt Lake and had popped to Park City. Weirdly enough, that day I’d talked to his daughter Scarlett who was playing round at my house with my daughter Bethany when I called home. They are bestest friends.

I called Awesome Hands (AKA Shane Meadows) to give him an update on some good meetings I’d had. He’s been reading this blog and described it as “Ivy Tildsley from Coronation Street does Hollywood.” Thanks, Shane.

That afternoon there was a press and industry screening of the film. We did not go but reports were that it played well again. In fact, better than night before: apparently the sound was better in this more modern theatre. The great news was that we were getting our first offers in on the film. I can’t say too much about with whom yet, because as I am flying Wild Bunch are negotiating them. Wild Bunch have sold to a few countries already and I really like the fact that amongst the first to buy were Israel and the Middle East. Maybe we can arrange an open-air joint screening in the square at Bethlehem and invite Muslims, Jews and Christians for a good old harmonious evening of laughter. It’s a much better solution than throwing rockets at each other.

Jesse the writer had an old schoolmate of his, Andrew, stay over. (He now lives in San Francisco.) Within a few hours the Warp condo had turned into a frat house. I had to go to meeting on Main Street but we all joined up at The Killer Inside Me party. By then a lot of tequila had been drank and everyone ended up back at the condo. Riz brought back a Muslim punk band called The Taqwacores who are featured in a film here. We discussed punk and skinhead culture. It was a late one but great fun.

Our last day in Park City was really a wind-down day. Had a few meetings just to lay out next action for when I get back. Our screening for 9am on 26th (today) had sold out and we were getting requests from all over for tickets. We managed to squeeze Tilda Swinton and a few studio executives in, so I’ve come away happy knowing that there is a demand for people wanting to see the film.
Also I have to say here that Caroline, John, Trevor and their Sundance team have made us so welcome here. A special thanks has to go out to Jaime and the many volunteers, it makes a huge difference to our experience when the people behind the festival are this good. When we saw Trevor Groth yesterday he was wearing a suit so damn cool that I had to take a picture of it.

I have one meeting in LA today about Richard Ayoade’s Submarine. We wrapped the film late December 2009 and are now in the edit. We partnered with Ben Stiller’s production company Red Hour and will be discussing the post production plan with Stuart Cornfeld, who is one of our executive producers. Stuart is really pleased with the rushes and now wants to help us start planning our strategy for the US market.

I can’t wait to get home and see my family. I have missed them massively. Whilst I have been away, my team, Sheffield Wednesday, have won three on the trot with our new manager. I can’t wait to read all about it in the Green ‘Un and watch Sky Sports news for a few hours.

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading ”Ivy Tildsley does Hollywood”. The film industry is not just some mysterious A-list world of $100 million budgets and red carpets. It’s mainly really hard work, punctuated by festivals like this where, providing you don’t take yourself too seriously, they be can be a right bloody laugh!

Producer’s Diary: Mark Herbert on Four Lions, Part Two

23 Jan, 2010 Posted in: Producers, Sundance

BAFTA-winning producer Mark Herbert, whose credits include Submarine and This Is England, offers a peek at his diary from the Sundance Film Festival, where he’s shepherding Chris Morris’ Four Lions through its world premiere.

Four Lions

21 January

7:30 am Park City, Utah: So, Sundance at last. Me, Chris [Morris] and Derrin [Schlesinger, fellow Four Lions producer) all got into Salt Lake City yesterday. The festival kicks off today and we have our world premiere of Four Lions on Saturday 23rd.

My last day in LA was OK. I went out to Warner Studios at Burbank for a meeting. We talked about ‘small’ films, which to me is about £100,000 and to them is around £20 million. It could be interesting to try and make a ‘studio’ film, but you’d have little control over what you were making. I was discussing it with an LA producer I know, and it turns out that on her last film (which in Hollywood was small) their parking and transport costs were higher than what we made Dead Man’s Shoes for. On all our films you have to really watch every pound you spend and there is little slack. I imagine that it may get a bit easier with more money – would love to find out one day.

I somehow managed to check in and end up sitting amongst the LA women’s basketball team at Los Angeles airport. I’m a bit Ronnie Corbett myself and it was quite intimidating. The most humiliating bit was on the plane, when I overheard one of them whisper, “Have you heard how funny that little guy just said ‘cup’.”

We got into the condo at 10pm and crashed around midnight. It’s so quiet here, which after Sunset Blvd is a welcome relief. We’ve got the same place that we used 2 years ago when we were here with Donkey Punch and A Complete History Of My Sexual Failures. It’s got a big fridge.

Today is a relatively quiet day (before the storm that will be next few days), so I am going to meet up with Nick Batzias who works for Madman – an Australian distributor that we work with a lot. We are having a snowboard race and the losers pays for dinner and drinks later. He’s a pretty huge Greek Aussie with the best sideburns you’ve ever seen. I shall take a picture of them for my blog tomorrow to show you. As well as beating him on the boards I intend to sell him the Australian rights to This Is England ’86 TV series whilst on the ski lift.

22 January

9.00 Warp Condo, Sundance: Yesterday started off well. Chris and I went boarding with Nick and Paul from Australian distributors Madman, the snow was lovely and I managed to get an offer for This is England TV series from them on a ski lift. Business should always be like this. Sadly Nick has grown a full beard so his amazing angular sideburns. I explained I’d already blogged about them so he used his finger on the pic to demonstrate how they used to look – and he promised that next time I see him he will have them back.
At the end of the afternoon, we got back to the condo and something weird happened. I think it may have been a mixture of altitude, jet lag, nerves and a day of boarding but none of us could make even the simplest of decisions. (How we made a feature film I do not know). Alex Marshall from Warp arrived and thought we’d all taken magic mushrooms. Chris jumped up at one point and ate three bowls of cereal, one after the other.

The actors started to arrive. Riz, Nigel and Arsher were all here. I had a dinner with US distributors IFC. They have distributed 4 of our films and they have a great team and are good fun. (They are also really keen on the TV series – they did a great job on the film so should be good for the it). I also found out most of them are coming to see Four Lions on Saturday.  They got me into the Spike Jonze  Absolut Vodka party. Bill Murray was there, as were as was a lot of vodka cocktails, but I hit a bit of a wall and was very sad not to be able to drink more and stay for the duration.

We are all starting to feel the nerves a bit in preparation for the screening on Saturday. There is good buzz picking up so far and it’s great that the four main actors, the writers Sam and Jesse and some of our funders are here to experience it with us.

Am taking Riz Ahmed and Arsher Ali snowboarding tomorrow – they have never done it before so the pictures should be good to look out for…

Bye for now.

23 January

7.30 am Warp Condo, Sundance: First thing I have to say is a massive Happy Birthday to my wife Anita: “Happy Birthday, hope you like your present Xxx.”

We all got over our psychotic cabin fever from yesterday. The reality of the world premiere kicked in yesterday and the nerves are jangling. The actors managed to blag some free Burton gear to use and I took them out. Riz had also blagged some free Adidas gear and was absolutely the most bling person on the mountain. Arsher was also on the slopes and I realised he has not yet seen the film, so today is really exciting for him. They spent most of the day on their backsides but did manage to still look cool (except for the helmets). I took a snap of them so you can decide.

Kayvan Novak (aka Fonejacker) arrived too yesterday but have not seen him yet because he is staying somewhere swanky… unlike our writers Sam Bain and Jesse Armstrong. Because they turned up last at our condo, they have ended up in the bunk bed room. They had come from LA where they were staying in individual suites and doing high powered meetings into the Warp condo which consists of bunk beds, Guinness and rather a lot of flatulence (courtesy of Chris’s roasted garlic).

We actually made a decision last night to go out and see a film. I’d heard a lot about it and knew the producer Liz Watts and we’d been following the director’s short films, which were great. It is Animal Kingdom by David Michod and I thought it was incredible.

We have heard from the UK that the clip we put of the film on The Guardian site is going down really well, but I am now getting too nervous to think of things to write and I have to run out for a breakfast meeting. Will report back after the screening.