Film Grad Charlie Steeds first £2000 self-financed film has made over $100,000 in world sales
Charlie Steeds is just 27 years old and is about to go into production on his 10th ‘retro horror’ feature-film, he graduated London’s MetFilm School in 2014 after studying a two-year BA in Practical Filmmaking.
Charlie’s love for films started when he was only 10 years-old, he’d discovered the films of Tim Burton and as he grew older, he discovered Stephen King, but it was an interview that he saw by Quentin Tarantino that encouraged him to become a filmmaker.
Charlie said: “I was probably 14 years-old, I’d seen Reservoir Dogs and I was interested to know more about Tarantino, I watched an interview he gave, I think it was part of the special features on the Jackie Brown DVD when I learned that Tarantino was basically once a film geek like me – he was working in a video store and just started writing scripts.
“Straight after I saw the interview, I managed to get hold of a camcorder and I grabbed some of my friends and that’s when I started making films.”
Mid way through his A-levels, Charlie started investigating film schools, he’d originally considered going to America, but the cost of doing that was prohibitive so he looked closer to home. He chose MetFilm School because it was a practical hands-on degree that he could complete in two-years.
He said: “One day our tutor Robin Vidgeon took a few of us to Pinewood Studios and it was incredibly insightful. Naturally, being a horror fan, I admired Robin (who worked on the Hellraiser films) and his advice/knowledge was always inspiring, as was the whole cinematography department.
When Charlie graduated in 2014 he didn’t have a job to go to and felt there wasn’t one on the horizon so he went back home to Bristol and eventually got a videography job with Mountain Warehouse.
He said: “Having the film degree was important to them, I’d never have got the job otherwise – I was making their corporate videos, content for their social media and website.”
While employed Charlie managed to save enough money to make his first feature-length film. The film, originally called Labyrinthia (retitled Deadman Apocalypse for the US market) was released in 2016, it cost less than £2000 and has since made over $100,000 in sales.
Charlie said: “I didn’t know how to release a film and get it picked-up by distributors so, I made a trailer, created an IMDbaccount and sent some information about the film to a movie magazine.
“I was lucky, the magazine did a five-page feature on the film and it wasn’t long before an American sales company got in touch, wanting to pick up the sales rights.
“The sales company required me to shoot an additional 20 minutes of the film and change the title to Deadman Apocalypse, they felt that it would boost sales, they were right.”
He attributes the success of this film to coincidence, the distributers wanted something like Mad Max Fury Road (which had just been released) and Charlie’s film fitted the bill.
Using some of the money he’d made on Deadman Apocalypse, he self-financed another two films.
One of these films, The House of Violent Desire explores LGBT themes, it has a black female lead and has a running time of nearly two hours – all things a sales agent, at the time, wanted to avoid or cut from the movie, for the sake of international sales.
Sadly, the film agent was right, the film didn’t sell as well as Deadman Apocalypse, but it hasn’t deterred Charlie from developing and writing black characters; he’s just completed another film where black actors are the lead protagonists (battling KKK cannibals) and… it looks to be a winner – he’s just sold the USA rights and has big plans for the 2021 release – it’s called Death Ranch.
These days, others finance Charlie’s movies. Distributors approach him and tell him the sort of thing they’re looking for, he said: “Different distributors want different things and there are trends to watch out for too… one company might want vampires or werewolves and another might want sci-fi or paranormal.”
Charlie’s recent release, A Werewolf in England – reached number 3 in the UK DVD charts, and remains in the top 100 six weeks later, it’s his biggest project to date.
According to figures, compiled by The Official Charts Company, UK consumer spend on digital buys grew 87% to a value of £113 million ($145.6 million) during the lockdown period, from March 28 through to late June. Research firm Kantar also reports that 1.8 million new customers either bought or rented digital content during lockdown.
Charlie is back living in Ealing and continues to make two films a year for the straight to DVD and digital download market, you can find his films in HMV, ASDA, Tesco and Sainsbury’s and via digital downloads on Sky, Apple, Amazon etc.
Charlie’s mother, Megan Steeds has been a huge support to him, Charlie said: “My mum has been incredibly supportive, as a child whenever I needed a camera, or equipment she made sure I got what I needed. She had to sacrifice a lot to send me to film school.
“I was delighted when she agreed to play a small part in one of my films, it’s a cameo in The House of Violent Desire, she plays a maid – slashed to ribbons with a razor and dies in a pool of blood on the floor.”
Charlie seems quite relaxed about his future, he says: “Naturally I dream of being discovered one day by the big film companies like Netflix, I’d love to make a film with a £500K+ budget, but I’m happily enjoying straight-to-DVD filmmaking at least until I hit my 30s. But if I’m not discovered, that’s okay too – I love the creative freedom of working with lower budgets and I’m having so much fun doing it.”
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