In Communion

Greg Hall talks low budget filmmaking.

by Jennie Kermode

As the Bootleg Film Festival opens in Edinburgh, we talk to director and producer Greg Hall about the workshop he's presenting there, his new film, and his production company Broke But Making Films.

Greg Hall on set.
Greg Hall on set.

Greg is passionate about making films; his enthusiasm infuses everything he has to say. Communion is his fourth feature, the story of “a priest burnt by his faith who turns into a vigilante and takes to the road” before meeting Maria, a Mexican punk. He describes it as an odd couple tale, written by himself and lead actor Paul Marlon, who also collaborated on his award-winning short film Bruised. Like that film, it was put together with impressive speed – developed as an idea in May last year, crowd funded in July, shot in September – and it's due to be released in August.

“We're self-releasing,” Greg says, explaining that this makes it possible to bring out the film on a very small budget, in keeping with the way it was produced. “From May into June we'll have exclusive screenings and universities and film schools, then we'll have a big launch party for the soundtrack in July. It's by London post-rock group 52 Commercial Road. In August we'll have a two week run in London and then we'll take the film touring round the UK, in lots of small independent venues. After that will be in New York at the Tribeca Film Center and then we'll have some international screenings, hopefully in Mexico.”

It sounds like an exhausting schedule – especially as Greg is already working on his next film.

“I'm looking to shoot my next feature, again working with Paul Marlon, in 2014. It's called Douglas. Basically we're trying to buld up a fan base so we can crowd fund. We use a similar model for each film but the aim is to grow it each time. We don't want to become Rich And Making Films but it would be nice to have a bit more money”

It's a plan that Greg stated working on at an early age, making his first feature, The Plague, in 2003 when he was just 23. The film was a surprise hit, enjoying a cinematic release in 2006 and eventually being bought by the BBC. As a result he picked up a scholarship from Mike Leigh. The Plague cost just £3,000 to make but he was gradually able to increase his budgets as he kept working. During this time he also expanded the collective of creative individuals he was working with, to the point where Broke But Making Films is now moving into distributing other people's films as well as producing its own.

On the road in Communion.
On the road in Communion.

Despite what many people think, working in the film industry is not an instant source of riches. Greg is yet to make much money from his film work so he also works with young people in care, often teaching them how to make films. The workshop he's running at the Bootleg Film Festival draws on some of the same skills. “This is a unique Making Of Communion event,” he says. “There'll be myself and Becky, the producer, and Paul, the main actor, and we'll take everyone through the journey of how we got the film made. Then there'll be an exclusive screening of the opening 12 minutes.”

Having won awards there before, he's particularly excited about contributing to Bootleg. “It's a great festival. For us, it's all about celebrating low budget, independent filmmakers. I'm going to be cecking out lots of other work there. Paul is screening his short film, As You Like It – his directorial debut – on Sunday. On Friday I'm in a panel discussion called something like Can low budget filmmaking become a viable career? I'm really excited about that because there are going to be ome great independent filmmakers there.”

You can find out more about Broke But Making Films here.

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