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Crowdfunding Halloween Short Films: Trials and Tribulations

October 22, 2020

“Evil doesn’t have a timeline,” James Coleman said to me. I sat down with James and his brother, Vince Coleman, to discuss their Halloween Inferno short films. Expressway Cinema Rentals has historically assisted independent filmmakers in providing gear and advice to assist in their productions, and we were thrilled to work with Coleman Films on this project. We were lucky enough to chat with them about where their interest for horror and filmmaking started, crowdfunding their short films, and securing gear on a budget. As a fellow lover and producer of horror films, I had a heightened interest in their goals and how they sought to achieve them. 

The third installment of their popular Halloween shorts released at the perfect time—right before Halloween! Catch the full film at the end of the Coleman Brothers Q&A.

Halloween Inferno III

Ben Spitler, Expressway Cinema Rentals (ECR): What inspired you to begin this series? 

James Coleman, Coleman Films (JC): We actually began our career as filmmakers with a Halloween film we made as kids. We were no older than 10 or 11. Our good friends who were also brothers had their Grandfather’s old Hi-8 cassette tape camera and we had the Michael Myers mask so one day we just decided to make a Michael Myers movie. As for the Halloween Inferno series, we had pretty much moved on to our own original content after graduating high school. We always talked about Halloween and its influence on us, [and] as the 40 year anniversary came up and the release of Halloween 2018 approached, the fire reignited.

We contacted our childhood friends and told them we have this really cool idea for a Halloween fan film. They immediately respond with “We’re in”. With theirs and the help of our amazing cast and crew we went into production on Inferno. To our surprise, the fans became instantly engaged with the series and we were receiving praise and accolades from the Halloween and Youtube community.

(ECR): Why do you think it’s important to create this content? 

(JC): One of the most difficult things as a filmmaker is getting your content seen. For so many

years we put our work out there with no real response. Fan films have a built in base, which can have positives and negatives , but making films is not about praise or glory for us. We do not want to make films, we need to make films, but it is nice to get validation from the fans.

(ECR): How did you market the first two to your audience? How successful have they been?

(JC): We are firm believers that if you do something good people will take notice. We did no advertising on Halloween Inferno Part 1. We just posted the film on youtube and within the first few days the views skyrocketed and people began to share and repost it. With Part 2, we simply just reached out to the fans who had interacted with us and asked them if they wanted to help produce Part 2. We raised a very small amount of money that helped tremendously with rentals. We’re about to hit 500,000 views in less than a year.

(ECR): Has it been easier to market as your fan base has grown?

(JC): Yes, tremendously. We have gained tons of subscribers, and now anytime we post something, we have people who are already tuned in. The comments and subscriptions increase daily and we hope that they will also check out our original content based on what they’ve seen from our Inferno series.

(ECR): How have you been funding this?

(JC): The indiegogo and out-of-pocket primarily. We’re finding it difficult to get crowdfunding even though we have a relatively big following for these specific films.

(ECR): What methods have you been using to gain traction with crowdfunding?

(JC): We mostly just post update videos and Facebook posts to keep people engaged.

Behind the Scenes of Halloween Inferno III

(ECR): What are some challenges of self-producing?

(JC): The biggest challenge is wearing too many hats. We prefer to just be the artists, but we have to schedule/find locations, contact actors, raise money, handle rentals, pay for wardrobe/food/actors, etc. Sometimes with all of that on your plate it can be hard to just focus on the film. We do have an amazing team that helps break up the work so that has been a blessing.

(ECR): What are the difficulties of finding locations and actors in the time of the pandemic?

(JC): Finding locations hasn’t been too bad. We have been shut down by the police though. That is the toughest thing about low-budget, indie filmmaking; a lot of the time, you end up relying on the kindness of the community, and some people don’t quite understand how invasive filming a movie can be. We have been doing our best to follow Covid precautions on set and so far we have been very lucky that our actors are willing to still work.

(ECR): Can you elaborate on what you like about your actor’s interpretation of the character?

(JC): Vince Coleman as Michael Myers is the fan favorite. One of the biggest sins with fan films and the sequels is the way they portray Michael Myers. It’s completely wrong. Vince has been playing Michael Myers since he was 11 years old so he has had a lot of practice. We focused more on the stalking and spectre type essence Michael Myers had originally. We wanted to get away from that scary brute in a mask that he seemed to develop into over the years.

(ECR): What’s it been like trying to replicate the look of the original films?

(JC): It’s probably been one of the most exciting parts. I have always admired the cinematography of the original Halloween. It really influenced my style as a cinematographer and director. Oh, and the lighting, as well. I believe lighting is the most important thing when it comes to achieving that cinematic look. 

Halloween Inferno III

(ECR): What lighting gear did you use for this third installation?

(JC): For lighting, we primarily used Mole Richardson 2k fresnels, Arri 650’s, LED Light Panels, the Aputure 300d and MC 12.

(ECR): Have you been shooting predominately in Rochester?  

(JC): We have been shooting in Rochester and its surrounding suburbs, but the film still exists in the main timeline of Halloween so it technically takes place in the fictional town of Haddonfield, Illinois.

(ECR): I heard about the production getting shut down from having too real of a cop car. Can you tell me more about that?

(JC): We just so happened to be shooting on a main highway and came to find that having authentic looking emergency lights on a main highway is illegal. Luckily, we rescheduled and found a much better location and in the end, the scene turned out to be far better.

Behind the Scenes Coleman Films Halloween Inferno III

(ECR): Any other, similar obstacles you’ve had to overcome?
(JC): Literally every single shoot day had some obstacle. We lost both the main house and sheriff department on the day of shooting and had to scramble all day to find replacements. Also, we shot in an old barn that rained so hard on a tin roof, the audio was unusable, so we had to scrap the entire day. Thankfully my team is very flexible and knows how to roll with the punches. 

(ECR): Was there a particularly difficult shot or scene you and your team had to accomplish?

(JC): One of the toughest shots to pull off was the 3 minute one-take that follows Michael Myers down a driveway into a house as he kills two people with a hammer. Having to keep consistent lighting and pacing without cuts is very challenging. Luckily my brother and I are pretty in-sync with each other when it comes to Myers’ movements. It was enjoyable choreographing, and it almost plays out like a dance that we are all a part of. 

(ECR): What are some takeaways you’ve gained about crowdfunding and producing as you’ve created these?

(JC): Crowdfunding needs to become a full time job. You need to post everyday, even if you feel like you are annoying everyone, and then post some more.

(ECR): Any advice for other independent filmmakers out there?

(JC): My advice to filmmakers is make the films you want to make. Have fun doing them and be creative. Find movies you like that inspire you and learn from what you see. This is an amazing time to be a filmmaker. Technology has made professional grade gear affordable to anyone. Never deny the opportunity to learn. Every set I am on, I learn something new. There is always something to learn from someone. 

Halloween Inferno III

Big thank you and shout out to James and Vince Coleman for involving Expressway in their production! We appreciate them sitting down with us to provide some honest answers to our questions.

Check out all three installments of the Halloween Inferno short films:

Written By:  Ben Spitler – Branch Department Manager, ROC