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Th'Dread Rattlin' (Making, premiering & distributing a £1k Feature in 12 weeks)

Hello all,

A long post but if you want a partial case study / distribution insight and
a free film to watch before it's official release, read on.

My name is Al Carretta. Since 2010 I've made 13 no-budget indie features and since 2014 I've run the Nightpiece Film Festival in the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. This August, I made 13th feature Th'Dread Rattlin' on an eight week turnaround to premiere as Nightpiece Film Fest's main feature.
Once we'd finished, that was it. No reshoots, no additional scenes; work with what had been shot.

Rattlin' is a psychological, dialogue driven horror about a noise phenomenon that is actually a parasite. There is more to it than that but it's trope laden and darker than you first realise. This was the first horror
I ever attempted and this one has nominal blood.

I make films differently to most. I get lots of criticism directed towards me when people don't understand I'm effectively making templates of products to build a back catalogue and perfect my craft with least risk. I've made 3 features in the past year and have literally played with ideas I wanted conclusions on - this is one of them. My films can hit and miss but that's the point of no-budget - you can produce what might be worth developing further.

On 31st October, Th'Dread Rattlin' gets officially released on Amazon Prime and Vimeo on Demand, however, it's also gone through distributor and is out earlier than planned on various US streaming services.

Any filmmaker can now get to this stage of distribution now but there is a lot of admin involved; about 5 working days if it's the first time you've done this along with overnight uploads on decent broadband. If you want to actually earn anything, as you're dealing with the US you need to fill out the W-8BEN Tax form (Vimeo and or Amazon guide you through this but once you've done this it applies to other sites). Then, you just need a film, a trailer, closed captions (we use, poster art in multiple formats and clearance documents (e.g. I own the film). Upload everything and you're away....but remember, Amazon pay £0.04p per hour streamed.

Disappointingly, Rattlin' has already been heavily pirated - search Google and you'll see the first 6 pages have various links to final cut. A crappy 480p version of the trailer was also ripped and put on YouTube yesterday - 1.6k views and the usual vitriolic comments but it's out there.

Rattlin' doesn't have a particularly strong film trailer in comparison to my others but I'm running with that knowledge. The pirate leak is an awkward one to pinpoint blame on. The 12GB Compressed Master got ripped somewhere online but with pirates come trolls, IMDb user ratings and non-sensical reviews which are generally of no use to anyone so filmmakers, remember to ignore these as they are opinion not critique. Incidentally, core negativity on my output comes from US based males aged 30-44 and that's reading the stats.

Total spend on this production was less than £1k and pretty much all of this was performer expenses/refreshments as per our Artistic Collaboration method. Filming started on Tuesday 19th June and wrapped Monday 13th August across 18 ad-hoc shooting occasions, premiering a week after wrap date on August 21st.

The crew on this film was 2 (two); myself and my assistant director Brett Thorne and we followed the indie rulebook to the absolute mark taking advantage of locations such as Hyde Park, London and a gig on Margate Harbour Arm in Kent. Also, I wasn't expecting the heatwave which is why so much of the film happens in blazing sunlight - it was easier to use that difficulty than work against it. An extra person would have been useful at points but not essential. The aerial photography was shot early in the morning before one of the final shoot days by the awesome Sendcake Films (Andrew Bruce Lockhart) and the original music score was produced by Bill McGruddy having been started in late Spring/early Summer.

So, behind a rolling edit that keeps the film coming together after every shooting day, above is a very rough outline of how you make and distribute an indie feature for £1k.

You can watch the finished film below. If you like it, rate it on IMDb or review it if you can be be constructive.

720p VIMEO Version
password: thdreadrattlin


Keep filming.

Al Carretta

  • How long is this Al? I'd like to follow and apart from some pretty young women it doesn't exactly grab you by the balls does it? Judging by the amount of blue on the time line (or whatever it's called) I'm only about a tenth through. I'm guessing you're of independant means since there's no way you could live on this stuff mate. Unless there's some trick or other. If so do tell.

    7 months ago
  • This is a 79m indie feature film that was premiered to an excellent response in the Edinburgh Festival Fringe this August. It's an exercise in visual style and generally called a proof of concept project. This is my 13th indie feature since 2010 and I can objectively rip it to pieces far more than you or anyone else can, however, on a £1k total spend this exercise is futile; very few directors can take their 'concept' to this level, flip it in 8 weeks and premiere it in EdFringe just to get some feedback. I've been making films and theatre for 18 years now and I work in a very deliberate style.

    7 months ago
  • Really Decent! for that budget especially I think it's a really great accomplishment. Don't think the IMDB rating is fair at all so I've given a good rating. I think it's inspiring that you just go for it and make a feature film and it's definitely something I want to do in the near future. Well done mate!

    7 months ago
    • Hi Danny, thankyou for your positive feedback; much appreciated! Al

      7 months ago
  • I didn't say my opinion is definitive and Danny is obviously appreciative but really Al you spent a grand on this? Don't get me wrong I got some of it, your camera angles particularly having done a wodge of student stuff lately and the fact you showed at the Edfringe is interesting. I was there with the missus partly because of my Caledonian lineage but mostly to listen to pub jazz and visit that amazing whisky place on the Royal Mile. I didn't even know it had a film fest. Not that I like them much. They're funny animals. So carry on mate. I note you're still not letting on where the bread comes from but that's your biz. You've got me fantasising now about spending a grand on one of my shorts.

    7 months ago
  • Hi Allan,

    Yep, £1k, probably a bit less.

    I'm self-funded. In my entire adult life I've never not been in £K's of debt pursuing my 'career'. Everything I earn goes towards making films, staging theatre and raising the profile of my operation. I've never received a penny in external funding and I've never crowdfunded. I started the Nightpiece Film Festival in the Edinburgh Fringe in 2014 as there isn't a film festval in the Fringe (bar 'C The Film' who we've worked in collaboration with since 2016 anyway) and it's a great way to build profile.

    At present I can still only produce on the resources
    I have available and this limits my execution of things but I still deliver. Some people don't understand this way of working and think I'm sitting on some magical pot of gold. I'm not; I just know how to produce on nothing. Money is exceptionally tight and I constantly have to rely on ingenuity but my skillset brings a lot of money to the table that you'd otherwise have to pay for.

    2017/18 has been my 'experimental year' but everything is out on Amazon Prime and Vimeo. The scripts I've produced were either old (Tara Reata), conceptual (Rattlin') or just needed finishing (The Madness of Tellaralette Seville) because I'm a completist. It's key to note, this time last year, I made a deliberate choice to use more inexperienced actors over the trained performers I'm worked with on 10 previous feature films. I'd never do this again but I still finished 2 other features in 2018. Just before Rattlin', I made 'Tara Reata' which was flipped and released for £500 (cast, shot and edited in May) to realise block shooting and screen test key cast for suitability in Th'Dread Rattlin'. Prior to this 'The Madness of Tellaralette Seville' shot between October 2017 and March 2018 for around £2000 was released on May 4th. This production overran by 4 months and put this whole year out of sync but many factors were involved.

    Th'Dread Rattlin' might have actually come in short of £1k. It never had a budget; it was total spend added up after each shooting day - 18 in all but these weren't mega days as I literally filmed some of the performers in windows of hours. This did get very boring as I knew we were heavily undershooting scenes. Most expensive filming day was Hyde Park, didn't get the boat shots I planned to save £70 but otherwise key costs were made up of travel expenses and food. Rattlin' was made under intense pressure. There's a lot of compromise in this film but there's also a lot of value too.

    As product, what this film is missing is a proper 'showstopper' scene. e.g. the one that everyone goes wow at. The current opening scene isn't what was intended at all and has the crappest interior location of the entire film. With some extra clarity and feedback (which is so hard to get) I'd now cut the first few minutes of the film but it's gone out everywhere now.

    Originally, the opening was going to be shot tourist style in Venice on a gimbal aka 'Don't Look Now' with the 'noise' chasing. Our original lead performer (who was replaced) wasn't in tune with how you bring value into an indie production and didn't get how we would achieve this so I had to shift away from this idea. Ultimately that was to the cost of the production but that sums up why 'Th'Dread Rattlin' concludes my 'experimental year' of feature films!


    7 months ago
  • 1K and twelve weeks from start of production to its premiere in Edinburgh, really quite amazing Al. I take my hat off to you, now to figure out how to get those show stopper moments on a minicule budget....

    6 months ago