Category Archives: Hollywood Film Making

Bad Reception Movie Reviews

DVDFullWrapCoverTemplateIt’s been over six years now since I took the plunge to go to LA and direct my first movie. Had I known at the time, the heartache and turmoil, the potential law suits and financial impact the film would bring…I still would have done it anyway. Wouldn’t we all?

Dante’s Criterion (later renamed to Bad Reception) was a film born out of mysterious circumstances. Having raised $18,000 to make a film, on the (then) new HD 1080i format, our over confident and under talented writer demanded $46,000 and a WGA contract for his script.


Oddly, we decided not to go this route which was, believe it or not, a shock to the ‘writer’. Bet he didn’t see that in his story arc?

So having a budget but no film, I was tasked with the job of writing a horror movie in 6 weeks. Horror is not my genre but 6 weeks later, script 5A was ready to roll.  I won’t delve into the production because it would be a very long posting and if you’ve made a movie you’ve heard it all before. The precis being “Oh woe is me, but we managed it anyway, huraah”

Since then my last wife and I had to endure the joys of delinquent producers, law suits, contract disputes, failed film screenings and numerous distribution let downs in order to get the film out on the market. Shami Media of New York (our distributor) seem like a decent bunch of people and have got the movie out there and getting noticed. Thank you to them. But, after all this time, money and a learning curve that would make Sisyphus weep, what impact has my hollywood movie made? Well, mixed.


In this one I am the next Roger Corman:

In this: The actors are meh, but we kill them well:

But all this said, my sanity was saved by a few words of wisdom from a friend who isn’t in ‘the business’. He said he’d seen  Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull recently, he wasn’t impressed with that (and he spotted a few mistakes). So, what chance did my little movie stand against the critics?

He is right, but as a person I consider myself a creative. And as all us ‘creatives’ know, the worst critic in the room is always sitting in my chair.

So roll on the next film project,  lessons learnt, I guarantee it will turn a few critical heads and raise a smile.



Press Release: Bad Reception UK film premiere for charity.


Dunstable-born writer and stand-up comedian, Spike Breakwell, is to play host to the UK premiere of his first feature film “Bad Reception”.  reakwell, formerly one of Rory Bremner’s writers and star of BBC2’s disability show “From the Edge”, plays Ziggy Fontaine in the award winning horror movie.

The premiere will be raising money for Macmillan Cancer Support as a tribute to Kevin Robinson, the theatre director and friend of Breakwell who died of cancer in September. “He believed I could act right from the word go”, Breakwell explains. “And I guess, as I’m in a Hollywood movie he was right”.

Filming days in Hollywood are long as Breakwell remembers “We were shooting my scenes on the set in North Hollywood, I was on set, made up and ready to go and it was only eight am”, he says. “My character is supposed to be very bubbly and lively and described in the script as a self-styled “Stephen Hawking of Hollywood” not easy at that time in the morning.”

Director Mark Todd (Guvnor Films) remembers, “Spike knew that the set wasn’t friendly to his disability, but he was a real pro and told the crew jokes as they carried him and his wheelchair up two flights of stairs.”

As well as appearing in the movie, Breakwell took an executive role as a producer on the project. He jokes, “That’s how I got the film company to hold the UK premiere in Dunstable”, he explains. “Mark (Todd) lives in Birmingham. Who wants to spend a night in Solihull?”

The event will be held atThe Highwayman Hotel Saturday 24th November 8pm and as well as Breakwell, director Mark Todd and American lead actress Ashley Trevathan will also be attending. The screening is free to all-comers, but the producers ask for a voluntary donation to Macmillan Cancer Support.  It should be a great night for horror fans and devotees of independent cinema.

Spike Breakwell

Mobile: 07976 289832


Guvnor Films website:

Film budgets and schedules, so easy a Gorilla can do it!

OK, so lots of film people are now trickling back from Cannes, enthused with new ideas and vigor. The less fortunate people will be coming back after having some really bad meetings. The reason for a lot of these, less than fruitful meetings, will be bad preparation or ignorance.

Mi Experience here in Hollywood has taught me that when you pitch an independent film project you need to know that project, not just how it will look, but also what it will cost. This is where a lot, and I mean a lot, of film makers come undone. So often a film budget is a figure plucked out of the air that sounds right and fits in with an idea of what the film ‘can’ cost or what the genre will tolerate. But here’s the thing, your flimsy financial model will crumble after a few simple questions (see my ‘3 Strikes Rule‘). You have just burned a potential funding option and slipped further down the credibility scale.

So, the usual route is to bring a producer or production manager on board to create a budget breakdown and schedule. Here in LA that means paying  $1500-$5000 to a third party, who in some cases will breakdown your script and not read it.

So what are your options? You can buy your own software, attend some seminars and produce your own breakdowns. For most people that software was Entertainment Partners film software Movie Magic, often, if not always, hailed as the ‘industry standard’. The investment is around $1000 (plus updates) and until a few years ago there was nothing else, so the industry standard was more of a Hobson’s Choice.

In 2007 I discovered an alternative film budget and scheduling package called Gorilla made by Jungle Software  – I have been a fan ever since. I met with the CEO of Jungle Aaton Cohen Sitt, last year. After learning the company was rolling out a new version of the software, I agreed to join the beta testing of the new version 5. Having attended the seminars at the Movie Magic HQ, I can honestly say Gorilla is without doubt the industry standard for independent filmmakers. Why? Watch the video!

As an independent filmmaker you have to wear a lot of hats. Gorilla 5 offers complete control of your project, all the information you need is in one place and easily accessible. So no matter what questions people have, you always have an answer. Now, people may choose to disagree with your figures/dates, but when you have a budget and schedule to show, you are far more in charge of your projects direction. That is very important in a business “where nobody knows anything” (William Goldman – Adventures in the Screen trade).

Mi personal feeling is “things are only right until they’re proved wrong”. Example’s:

  1. [Anecdote] “No one wants sci-fi right now”.  George Lucas heard this from all the studios while pitching Star Wars
  2. [Filmmaking Rule] POV in movies doesn’t work. Please see Cloverfield, Blair Witch, Paranormal Activities/s
  3. [Perception] Digital will never replace film. Take your pick of any recent successful digital movie

As an independent film maker you are constantly trying to get credibility. If you can toss a top-sheet budget and a schedule on the table when asked your credibility as a filmmaker increases. That has to be work $400 of anyone’s money.

I’ll be putting together some budget and scheduling pointers in future postings, till then feel free to contact me with questions.

Happy filmmaking.

The Guvnor

The Future’s not as big as you think!

The World agrees – Size matters. But if bigger is better, why does tech keep getting smaller?

The brand new, shiny Sony Handycam I held in my hand in 2005 is still in mint condition today – but it’s useless in this RAW, 1080p HD world. Not only is it bulky and heavy (just kidding), it shoots on tape (??) at 480i – a mobile phones shoot at a higher resolution nowadays. But these are cameras for mortals, surely the high-end film cameras made for ‘real’ filmmakers are above all this, aren’t they? 35MM will be around forever, right?

Well, no. Since the inception of the RED things have been changing in film circles too. The RED was originally described to me by a film cinematographer as an” Ugly camera…And of course it’s digital, so it doesn’t have the feel of a good film camera.” But RED started a revolution that I believe reaches right from the heights of Hollywood down to the more humble offerings on YouTube. RED allowed everyone, including cinema-goers and (begrudgingly) DP’s, to believe that digital did have something RAW to offer, and in doing so the wheel began to turn.

You see, once you embrace the digital universe you know in your heart it’s only a matter of time before the item you hold in your hand, will be half the size and twice the quality. Combine that with Canon’s idea of ‘Let’s use our still’s camera to shoot HD video, so we can utilize our fantastic lenses...” and you cannot escape a creative revolution. The feature film cameras of tomorrow are here today: the RED Scarlet and Canon 5D already have production credits and I’m sure the new Black Magic 2.5K Cinema Camera, (at the amazing price of $3K) will ruffle a few DSLR feathers.

This is my point: Big WAS better, but not any more. The way people experience the world has changed and ‘small’ allows us to get right in there with the action. 1080p action cams put us in the middle of the action, in the air, underwater, wherever. Big can do that, but it will cost ya!

Heed my words -now is a golden time for film makers. With the ‘quality field’ being leveled. the challenge is to be creative with the small tech we have. Lets face it unless I’m shooting a 3D effects loaded blockbuster, my 1080p pixels can tells as good a story as anyone elses. Chasing big cameras, big studios and big budgets is a waste of your time. All the things you need to shoot, edit and distribute your projects are all available to you now. I’ll talk more about those in future posts.

In Mi Experience creativity always beats budget, so watch out Hollywood. When more people begin creating quality film and TV shows with small tech (at a fraction of the price) bubbles will be burst.

Now you may agree, you may disagree – either is good. Remember this blog is all about me and Mi experiences, so I leave the door open for you to prove me wrong.


Mark A. Todd is a writer/director working under his own companies Guvnor Films and Guvnor Media

Independent Film Bad Reception – The end of the beginning!

This is the movie which started everything. I learned the value of three questions and the reason why you have either made a feature film or you haven’t. In Mi Experience will discuss my experiences and pass on the hard fought lessons along the way.

If you don’t agree with me that’s good, lets swap war stories.

Bad Reception feature film – official trailer.

%d bloggers like this: