First day of shooting on The Richmond Family Massacre

“The best way to make a film is never to have made one before” Jean Cocteau

To me this quote sums up the naivety and blind passion that goes into making your first feature film. All the excitement, exhaustion and exhilaration will never really be the same as it is on your first outing. Of course that is because your gaining experience in a way that no book, short or teacher can…

The Richmond Family Massacre started as an idea for the Grindhouse trailer competition (much the same as the winning entry went on to become ‘Hobo with a Shotgun’). Lance one day mentioned the fact that it could actually be our first feature film. After making numerous short films we both liked the idea of creating something more challenging and started writing the script.

Initially the script was going to be something small that we could act in ourselves (much like the original trailer). The idea very quickly grew into something much bigger.  Soon conversations in the writing process were filled with comments like “that would be cool let’s write that in” or “I really want to film that, let’s make it fit.”

We knew we had something too big for us to act in ourselves so approached frequent collaborator Greg Smith about acting in it. He loved the project and very quickly spread word throughout the acting scene about the project. We very quickly had a large number of people to audition.

Knowing we were going to embark on a feature length project with very little money we started thinking about logistics. In order to allow flexibility for the cast to ensure we could engage a good one we decided we would need flexibility with equipment and crew. To allow us flexibility without being reliant on an equipment house or at the mercy of an operator we invested in our own camera, a Panasonic HVX202. We already had a Final Cut Pro suite on an I-mac and knew that hiring lights would never really be an issue.

Feeling overconfident and having a clear idea of what we wanted we took on all the production design and art department roles ourselves. Knowing we were going to have a low budget we decided to go with a black and white effect inspired by Sin City. We did numerous tests to get the most out of our camera and the effect so we knew what we were doing.  Costumes were going to be important, as we wanted the characters to be larger than life and focus on close-ups and tight shots so we wouldn’t have to spend money on set dressing. It was important that we provided as much of the costume as possible so we knew it would be there the whole time. We also wanted each character to have a specific look and feel to them. To go with costumes we were also going to need a good cast.

For our auditions we were lucky that Lance’s parents had an empty space. Well organized with coffee, set pieces and a clear idea of what we wanted the audition process went really well. We felt it was important to capture the actors and actress’s range so we had a number of pieces that we got everyone to audition with that came from different roles. We also think it’s a good idea to get people to explain what they feel about who the characters are from the audition pieces. That way we know we’re casting people who are on the same page with the characters as we are.

There were a few parts that we gave without auditions, Greg’s roles obviously, Tom Kane (Billy) who we had seen in a play previously, Toby Sharpe (Wade) and Shu-Wan Chao (Jewel) who we had worked with before. After going through the audition process we were worried we weren’t going to find anyone for our lead female role of Priscilla. Luckily for us Delany Tabron was one of our last auditions and as soon as she walked in we knew that the last piece had fallen into place…


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