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How to make a british blockbuster…on a budget

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When it comes to making great films for no money, Ben Wheatley is your man. His first, the critically adored Down Terrace, was made for just £6,000, while 2011’s Kill List and last year’s blood-splattered Sightseers cost less than Tom Cruise’s trailer. Probably. That’s why we asked him how to create that difficult first blockbuster.

Use your critical cache

“Because Down Terrace was a film we self-funded and it did well critically, we could show we knew what we were doing. When we pitched Kill List, we just showed them that film. People trusted us to deliver.”

Seek unknown stars

“Cutting corners is negative. Work to your budget: that dictates the people you can work with, but it also means that you can work with whoever you like, because there’s very little financial pressure. Being a star isn’t a talent thing. There are brilliant actors all over the place.”

Know your fx

“If I want special effects in a film, I know exactly how much it’s going to cost before I start shooting. Some directors say, ‘I want this – just make it happen,’ and then things get expensive. It’s also worth looking into the cost of things such as music rights. There’s free stuff out there. In Kill List, we could only afford one track – It Could Have Been Better by Joan Armatrading – so we just used public domain music, which was mostly old blues stuff because it was free.”

Keep it handheld

“Shoot a film like a documentary. Use available light, don’t think about tracking, dollies and cranes and all that sh*t. In Sightseers and Kill List, everything’s handheld, which means you work a lot faster and you’re just working with the actors. The thing audiences take away is the performance.”

Sightseers is released on Blu-ray and DVD on 25 March

(Image: Rex Features)

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