BARRY Ryan is head of production at Warp X, a new low-budget digital film studio in Sheffield, UK. He also line produced Dead Man's Shoes (Shane Meadows, 2004) and produced Grow Your Own (Richard Laxton, 2008) at Warp Films.
Warp X seeks to build on the legacy of Warp Records (established 1989) and Warp Films (established 1999) in shepherding creative, artist-led independent production. They recently won the bid to manage and produce the 'Low Budget Feature Film Scheme' as part of the New Cinema Fund, established by the UK Film Council and FilmFour. A slate of seven low-budget digital features is set to be produced between 2006 and 2008. The films have to be made digitally, on budgets between 400,000 [pounds sterling] and 800,000 [pounds sterling], and will have theatrical, DVD and television (Channel 4) distribution.
Warp X currently has two features in post-production--Donkey Punch (Oliver Blackburn, 2007) and Complete History (Chris Waitt, 2008)--and another in production--Hush (Mark Tonderai, 2008). Warp Films' debut feature was Dead Man's Shoes (Shane Meadows, 2004), followed by This is England (Shane Meadows, 2006).
AM: I like this idea of Warp X as a 'retox' for British cinema: 'an injection of adventure' and an 'antidote to the prevailing diet of blandness and repeated formulas'. How will this work?
BR: As a low-budget or no-budget filmmaker you've got no rules because you're borrowing money on credit cards or off somebody who is placing no restrictions, and you have all these great things happening where people are making what they want, though some of them don't have a market. But as soon as you get into the mainstream, as soon as somebody gives you 1 million [pounds sterling], there is the problem: you have to conform to a certain amount of rules. So when we set up the studio we talked to the financiers about this and about the ways it would work best and the ways it would work differently. Things like: on some films we will have a Completion Bond, that additional insurance for the financiers, and on other things we will say, 'Look, don't put a Bond on this because it's the wrong project, they won't understand how it works'.
So the goal is to match a low-budget aesthetic and vision with an appropriate industrial structure?
The Warp X mission reads like a New Wave or Degme95 manifesto of sorts. Do you see the digital as a revolutionary moment in the cinema?
I think so. Because it allows people to take risks. I think a big thing is that the film industry doesn't work like it should, especially in the UK. In a normal industry, you build a chair and you then sell the chair and you make a profit on the chair. Whereas in the film industry you get somebody else's money, you make something brilliant out of it but because they've given you the money, you never make any money. When it is distributed the distributor makes a huge amount of money. But now you can see it growing exponentially, being able to distribute either on DVD--we've got a DVD label that we distribute some stuff on--and also the whole downloads issue which is a huge, huge issue. At Warp X we are still working on that.
Saying this, the Warp X initial slate is for an initial theatrical release?
Yes. It's a really bizarre thing. There is still so much kudos attached to theatrical release, in people's heads. You know, MySpace are doing this million dollar movie competition, which is all brilliantly organized through MySpace, but ultimately the film will be released in theatres.
Warp X call for a cinema of 'irresistible stories and exotic worlds'. How can digital filmmaking practice fuel this?
For a lot of the filmmakers we are working with, it means they don't get isolated. There's a lot more collaboration going on across the board. For example, during the writing process they may be talking to actors and getting actors to feed into the process and they also work with cinematographers. …