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Feature Review - How to Make a Movie for 43 Pounds

By midlandsmovies, Apr 19 2014 05:31PM

How to Make a Movie for 43 Pounds (2014) Dir. Rhys Davies

“One Man. One Dream. No Budget” is the tagline for this feature from Midlands based Hive films and was made by Leicester director Rhys Davies. A “meta” film with hints of Adaptation and lashings of The Office-style mockumentary, the movie showcases the talents of local actor Christopher J. Herbert as a fictionalised version of Rhys himself as he sets out to make a romantic infused movie for the princely sum of £43 sterling. Written by Rod Duncan, the movie’s handheld camera imitates the low budget end of documentary footage but the movie itself, filmed over 2 years, also contains sequences from the fictionalised film they are making which gives the audience a much needed rest from the shaky cam to more fully fledged cinematic-style shots – even if these are sometimes played for laughs.

Mainly a subversive love story, the film follows the challenge set by a fast-talking US-producer who dares Rhys to quit his job and make a movie for just £43 which would secure his place in the record books and give this first-time “Marty DiBergi” some much warranted public exposure. Sylvana Maimone plays the producer with a pantomime largeness but I thought this was much needed against the understated performances from the rest of the cast and before long the audience is quickly moved though the plot to the casting sessions themselves.

Set at local Leicester location Firebug, Rhys tests many a wannabe actress and actor before settling on Marie (Olwen Davies) and Josh (James Murton). From an exquisitely shot snow-soaked music-video to sunny country fields we get clips of the movie-within-a-movie alongside the disarray Rhys faces at every turn. In addition, some talking-heads vox pops are inserted which help personalise the problems he faces including unsuitable locations to on-set bust-ups. These shots of the movie in different seasons also show the real length of time it took to get the movie made and the changing of the weather mirrors the changing fortunes of the leading couple.

Although working from a script, the film clearly uses Best in Show-style improvisation techniques with actors’ wittering and inventive off the cuff lines key to the inherent spontaneity and authenticity of the film and making the relationships within it much more believable. From the x-rated swearing of the couple’s break up to the (not quite x-rated) “love” scenes – both in the film they’re creating and during the couple’s make-up scene, the actors are relaxed, sincere and honest in their performances and Christopher J Herbert as Rhys even dons the requisite facial hair of a frustrated film-director (the petit goatee is a facsimile of the real Rhys’ style). Therefore, the humour comes not from clowning around but from subtle set ups with witty dialogue, amusing situations and droll dramas.

The film’s couple start, end and reignite a relationship as rocky as the movie’s production itself and we wince through uncomfortable drama as well as the filmmaker’s frustrations. His creative endeavour is at odds with each new aggravated situation that provides more torment for Rhys who has smash hit desires but very little faith that his production will ever reach the premiere. However, like most feel-good films, the story comes full circle and despite the hurdles, it finally wraps and I felt genuine affection and admiration for the protagonists as their journey draws to a tender conclusion.

With the premiere of “£43” a huge success on the opening Saturday evening of Dave’s Leicester Comedy Festival, the “real” Rhys Davies has now moved on to his next film “Finding Richard” with an aim to enter and screen at Cannes 2014 and the experience and feedback gained from this feature will no doubt provide the appropriate spring board into greater things.

A superb demonstration of producing art both in front and behind the camera, the film uses a fake-movie to create a great movie and with high aspirations it will see a new life amongst the UK and Worldwide festival circuit. How to Make a Movie for £43 may show the struggles of movie-making on a budget but contains invaluable lessons on the power of passion and hard work and ends up as priceless comedy that is a template for local film-making at its best.

Midlands Movies Mike

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