Manchester duo hope black comedy will change opinion student films are ‘horribly acted and horribly made’

Two student filmmakers are crowdfunding to create Grim Preacher, a black comedy about the bubonic plague.

Olly Philpott-Smith and Anthony Burtwistle are looking to raise £3,000 to cover the costs that come with producing a period film set in the 17th Century.

The film will tell the story of three plague victims who, in a last-ditch attempt to rid themselves of the disease, hide their blasphemous ways and turn to God.

Although funding is available from the Manchester College, Olly decided to start a fundraising campaign on Indiegogo which offers incentives to those that donate.

A signed script, an invitation to the film’s premiere, and even a nod as an executive producer is up for grabs depending on the size of the donation. 

The Manchester Film School students, who already have an award-winning short film under their belt, will spend the money on costumes, locations and make-up to replicate the gruesome wounds that plague sufferers developed.

The filmmakers told MM that they do not want Grim Preacher to be classed as just another student film.

They assume it’s just two people in a room with a little phone camera and they think it’s going to be horribly acted, horribly lit and horribly made,” Anthony said.

“They think it’s not going to be very good but in actual fact the ones I’ve been able to see at festivals and the ones that we make at University as well – some of them are really good.

They look fantastic and you’d swear that some of them weren’t short films.

It hurts me a bit that you can’t really say that you’ve made a short film if you’re a student.

One of Olly’s previous films, The Switch, recently won the Royal Television Society North West award for Best Comedy/Entertainment as well as the Best Actor award at the Milan Online Film Festival.

But the biggest problem the students face in replicating such success is money.

The Manchester College is set to provide production worth £500 on top of matching 50% of the amount the filmmakers put into the overall budget of the film.

It’s a lot of money and it covers your actors production wise, which you need a lot of capital for,” said Anthony. 

“For something like this – which is really ambitious for a student film – you need that production value to really sell it.

Due to the nature of the film, actors require expensive make up and costumes to portray ‘buboes’ and other horrific elements that people suffered when they had the plague.

Creepy locations are also required to convey the dark subject matter and there has been talk of using a barn in Wales for one of the scenes.

“It’s still proving to be fairly difficult finding good locations, but we have got a studio at university,” said Olly.

“If worst comes to worst we can at least try and replicate a plague house there but I imagine that’s much harder to do than just dress it so we are still in the process of locating somewhere.

“There’s a scene in a cemetery which is hoping to be filmed in a cemetery down in Didsbury.

“That definitely will be filmed in Manchester.”

To find out how to help fund help fund Grim Peacher click here.

Image courtesy of Olly Philpott-Smith and Anthony Burtwistle, via Vimeo, with thanks.

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