A case study of Internet’s impact on filmmakers

BAFTA: Down to the Wire 2013

Black comedy “Sightseers,” which won top screenplay at the British Independent Film Awards and is among the candidates for BAFTA’s British film prize, is proof positive that the Internet is bringing fresh blood into Blighty cinema.

Given the pic’s high levels of gore, literally so.

Director Ben Wheatley and co-writers/co-stars Alice Lowe and Steve Oram each got their break after posting dozens of experimental, self-financed shorts online.

“My career wouldn’t have happened without the Internet,” says Wheatley, who shot “Sightseers” in quick succession after his self-financed debut “Down Terrace” and his second pic “Kill List.”

“Sightseers” premiered in the Directors’ Fortnight at Cannes. He has finished his fourth low-budget film, “A Field in England,” and embarks early next year on a $20 million American movie, “Freakshift,” for David Linde’s Lava Bear.

“After college in the mid-’90s, I was making short films, showing them in pubs and cinema clubs.” Wheatley says. “It was going nowhere — the industry felt very much like a closed shop at that point — so I became a creative director in a marketing company.”

The advent of the Internet inspired him to start making flash animations and live-action shorts with his wife, Amy Jump, and putting them on their website mrandmrswheatley.co.uk.

“This was before YouTube,” he says. “There wasn’t a lot of video on the Web — you could make stuff and get literally millions of views.”

He got picked up by ad agencies and TV comedy commissioners, which gave him the confidence to make the kitchen-sink gangster movie “Down Terrace” with just $10,000 from his own pocket. Suddenly he was one of the hottest new talents in the British film industry.

Meanwhile, Lowe, a comedy actress with a background in physical theater, and Oram, a character comic, hooked up at the Edinburgh festival and improvised a double act about a sweet couple with a homicidal secret, which they made into a short TV pilot. It didn’t get picked up, so they put it online.

“We have the Internet to thank for ‘Sightseers,’ ” says Oram. “Alice and I did a short, stuck it on the Internet (and) Edgar Wright saw it.”

Wright took it to his producer Nira Park, who struck a deal to turn it into a full-length feature, attaching Wheatley to direct and Jump to do a script polish.

“I’ve been making short films for 10 years, and putting things on the Internet for the last two years under the pseudonym Steve Aura at www.lincolnstudios.co.uk,” Oram says. “You have more control over your creative output that way. You get tired of having meeting in TV and people telling you to tone your stuff down. If we’d done that on ‘Sightseers,’ it would have been rubbish.”

Lowe also ran her own website, jackalfilms.co.uk, with director Jacqueline Wright, putting a fresh “bloodied offering” online each month. Lowe is now developing her feature helming debut “Lily” with Warp Films and Film 4, which she describes as ” ‘Madame Bovary’ meets ‘Trainspotting.’?”

Oram has also expanded his short “Lincoln Tiger” into a feature script, which he plans to shoot next year.

“It’s a low-budget affair, inspired by Ben’s can-do attitude of just making very lo-fi films with his mates,” he says.

Adds Lowe: “It feels like there’s lots of exciting things happening in the British film industry, where people are trusting creative, individualistic voices. I’m interested to get on board with that.”

BAFTA: Down to the Wire 2013
Genius does not fade away | BAFTA evolves to handle doc boom | A case study of Internet’s impact on filmmakers

More Film

  • marvel

    Marvel Phase 4 Plan Revealed, But Comic-Con’s Big Winner is Disney Plus

    In a triumphant return to the San Diego Comic-Con main stage, leadership at Marvel Studios managed some splashy surprises and showed off risky creative bets for the next two years of content coming from the superhero operation. But the biggest takeaway from the Saturday presentation inside Hall H was how important Marvel will make Disney [...]

  • Florence Pugh, O. T. Fagbenle, Rachel

    'Black Widow': Scarlett Johansson and Florence Pugh Go Head-to-Head in First Footage

    Marvel’s “Black Widow” has only been in production for a month, but studio president Kevin Feige still delivered the goods for fans at San Diego Comic-Con on Saturday. Filmmakers brought an intense sizzle reel of on-location shots, kicked off by a dazzling and bone-crushing fight sequence between lead Scarlett Johansson and her on-screen sister Florence [...]

  • Natalie Portman Thor

    Natalie Portman Returns for 'Thor: Love and Thunder' as Female Thor

    Natalie Portman is coming back to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but she’s no one’s love interest this time around. The Oscar winner will play a female god of thunder in the fourth film from the Chris Hemsworth series, titled “Thor: Love and Thunder.” Portman hit the stage at San Diego Comic-Con on Saturday to great [...]

  • Fantastic Four

    New 'Fantastic Four' Movie in Development at Marvel

    Marvel is going back to the Fantastic Four. Marvel Studios chief Kevin Feige announced that a new movie based on the superhero group is in the works at San Diego Comic-Con on Saturday. Further details, however, including a release date, were not revealed. It marks the first Fox property for Disney to mine since the [...]

  • Mahershala AliMarvel Studios panel, Comic-Con International,

    Mahershala Ali to Star in Marvel's 'Blade' Reboot

    Marvel is rebooting the “Blade” series, and has cast Mahershala Ali to star. Marvel Studios chief Kevin Feige announced the news at Comic-Con on Saturday as the panel’s big ending surprise. Ali also took the stage at the announcement to massive applause, donning the Blade baseball cap. Wesley Snipes previously played the half-vampire superhero in [...]

  • Doctor Strange

    'Doctor Strange' Sequel Billed as First MCU Horror Film at Comic-Con

    A sequel to “Doctor Strange” was announced as expected on Saturday at Marvel’s Comic-Con panel — what we didn’t see coming was the tone. Director Scott Derrickson said the film, titled “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness,” will mine the original comics and play up “the gothic, the horror.” Derrickson said it will lead [...]

  • Simu Liu Shang-Chi

    Marvel's 'Shang-Chi' Finds Its Lead

    Marvel has found its next superhero. The studio announced that Simu Liu has been tapped to star in “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” during its Hall H presentation at Comic Con, joining cast member Awkwafina, who was also announced during the presentation. Additionally, Veteran actor Tony Leung has joined the film as [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content