When Robert Rodriguez was twenty three years old, his film El Mariachi became the quintessential indie success story. Famously made for $7,000 and given the star treatment with hundreds of thousands of Hollywood money injected after the shoot had taken place, Rodriguez became the filmmaker every kid with a camera wanted to emulate.
This young ambition is something of a mixed blessing, as director Dale Saxton explains. "It does make me very impatient, even though I know we’re just starting out as filmmakers." Dale and his producer Josh Fox are both twenty two and earlier this year entered their short horror film Post-It into Cannes Film Festival’s short film corner. With three thousand titles, the catalogue at Cannes is dauntingly impressive and gives visitors a huge selection of international shorts made for budgets in the region of anything from zero to thousands.
Post-It transcends some of the lower budget horror shorts by being well shot (using a Black Magic camera), stylishly lit, shocking in places and solidly acted by Hamish Logan, who in true Evil Dead style, seems to have suffered admirably through the shoot while required to cut parts of his body off to please a malevolent spirit.
Meeting at college, Dale and Josh made short films together until they managed to raise a budget of over £1,000 to make Post-It through crowdfunding. "Uni helped us out with kit, which was a major bonus," says Josh. "We wanted to get away from DSLR-looking filmmaking and use a camera and lights that would give the film a cinematic feel."
"The narrative is quite ambiguous," says Josh. "There is the horror short vibe of course but also more going on if you look deeper. We had a lot of fun making it."
Although you won’t see Post-It this year unless you attend one of the many festivals to which the filmmakers are submitting it, Dale and Josh have plans to release it online once the circuit is done… but they’re not resting on their laurels. "Getting a short film into Cannes is a bit of a minefield as the catalogue is huge but we did get some decent views for Post-It and it’s spurred us into getting on with making more films."
"Cannes was a strange experience. I didn't really get it at first but going round the market was helpful in terms of seeing how it all works."
"Seeing the terrible films being sold there was as useful as seeing the good ones," says Dale, "because you learn that a strong idea and poster can go a long way when selling films to people."
"We constantly look at our heroes who’d achieved so much at an early age," says Josh. "It’s easier to make films these days than it was then but now is you have to try and be really good, using the best available cameras and techniques to stand out from the crowd."
Dale has been writing his first feature script over the past year. "It’s killing me! It’s so hard to believe in yourself over the course of a film script but to finish it is so important. When people say they’ll never make it into the film industry it’s usually because their self-belief and enthusiasm drops off. I think you miss out if you don’t break through the pain barriers."
"I'm writing a cannibal movie at the moment. There aren't enough good cannibal movies around."
"We have some aspirations for who we want in the film," says Dale. "This is being written for a huge budget, in fact," says Josh, "not something we’d make if we didn’t have enough money. We’ll wait to make this one, even if we turn out another couple of lower budget films in the meantime."
So while the spirit of El Mariachi still rides, filmmakers like Dale and Josh have realised early on that they must proceed with a mixture of enthusiasm and talent alongside a knowledge of how the market works and a grasp of technical expertise. "It’s no longer good enough to just say you’re a filmmaker and dream, you have to go ahead and make things happen."