Britspotting film festival. Made for a reported £45 (€50) in a lot of people's spare time, it caused enough of a stir in Cannes to get a British cinema release. Ben Knight meets Colin himself, Alastair Kirton. "/> Britspotting film festival. Made for a reported £45 (€50) in a lot of people's spare time, it caused enough of a stir in Cannes to get a British cinema release. Ben Knight meets Colin himself, Alastair Kirton. " />
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FILM

Eyes sewn shut – playing an emotional zombie

“Colin” is the title and hero of the new sleeper-hit zombie movie playing at this year's Britspotting film festival. Made for a reported £45 (€50) in a lot of people's spare time, it caused enough of a stir in Cannes to get a British cinema release. Ben Knight meets Colin himself, Alastair Kirton.

Eyes sewn shut – playing an emotional zombie
Photo: Nowhere Fast Productions

What did you spend the £45 on?

That was the cost of various bits and pieces on the way. We had a really good recipe for fake blood, which is incredibly cheap. Golden syrup and red food colouring, and coffee to make it grittier. You can use that coffee to give to the actors. Then there were some very cheap biscuits, and I think the director Marc (Price) bought a crowbar as well, for one shot, which cost about £7.

You filmed most of the film without permission. Did you have any run-ins with British coppers?

When we were shooting the street-battle, a police officer turned up, because somebody had reported there was a riot going on. It was on a Sunday in a cul-de-sac somewhere in Teddington. When the policeman arrived he was really relieved. Marc was very good in those situations – convincing people it was just a student production, and these were his friends. But he took care to remove the tape from the camera. The policeman was very nice about it. We asked him if he wanted to be a zombie but he turned us down.

Any difficult moments with the general public?

We had a couple of close calls. There’s the bit when Colin is being attacked by some youths, and a guy turns up with a samurai sword. That was filmed on quite a busy estate. But for some reason it was really quiet that day. Considering we had people wandering around with half their face falling off we were very lucky. We did have a few twitching curtains.

Some of the extras seem to be having a great time in the film. Did you ever have to tell them to tone it down a bit?

Marc did have to tell two guys who were doing some really big stuff – sort of banging into each other and things – because it was a close-up. But the extras were one of the most amazing things about the film. We had a lot of friends of friends in the film who usually spent their Sundays sitting around watching rubbish TV. We just told them, “Come down, bring two sets of clothes, and we’ll turn you into a zombie.”

How did the success of the film happen, without even a viral marketing campaign?

First entering it in a lot of horror film festivals, then going to the Cannes and Berlin film markets. Then all of a sudden the press picked up on the story. It’s a gritty, old genre movie, and suddenly it’s being reviewed in the Financial Times. I mean it was always meant to be a genre movie, which we were all fans of, but we hoped that with the emotional parts we were doing something you didn’t expect in a horror film.

How do you act an emotional zombie?

When we first started, Marc would just shout “Too human! You’re being too human!” because if you’ve got no dialogue, you naturally over-compensate by doing more and more. So we started by working out what worked best physically. We set up some rules, like I was only allowed to be aware of things that were in close proximity to me. And we developed things like holding objects the wrong way round.

A lot of low budget horror films get round their money shortage by leaving gory details to the imagination. Colin doesn’t go down that easy road, does it?

We were really lucky with our make-up artist, Michelle Webb. She had just come off doing X-Men 3. She’d spent about two weeks gluing Hugh Jackman’s side-burns. But she hadn’t done a huge amount of effects make-up. And Marc gave her free rein to create the most beautiful zombies. So basically it was a chance for her to do this amazing show-reel. The make-up team, who weren’t that experienced, had to come up with some really good ideas, especially for those people in the cellar with their eyes sewn shut.

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CULTURE

‘Sandals mean freedom’: Eight tips on how to dress like a German

Germans have an international reputation for enjoying functional clothing. A top German fashion expert told The Local whether the stereotypes of German fashion are really true - and what Angela Merkel has to do with modern style.

‘Sandals mean freedom’: Eight tips on how to dress like a German

‘Comfortable and practical’

“It’s pretty easy to define German style,” says Bernhard Roetzel, the author of books on men’s fashion such as ‘Gentleman: A Timeless Guide to Fashion’. “Nowadays the basic dress of a grown-up man is mainly blue jeans, some kind of sweatshirt and an anorak. The shoes are usually comfortable sneakers. This is the basic German fashion that everyone from workers to doctors wears, and it is suitable for 90 percent of occasions.”

The basic theme, he says, is comfort and practicality. “That is very important.”

According to Roetzel, this love for the practical stretches all the way back into the 19th century when most other Europeans still had strict public dress codes.

“It began with a movement called Lebensreform, which valued things like vegetarianism and woollen clothes, which were supposed to be healthy,” he says.

“Even if Germans at the time didn’t like political freedom, they loved the freedom to wear sandals. Freedom for Germans is to wear sandals in places where it is not appropriate!”

A woman lies on the shore of the Schwarzachtalsee in Baden-Württemberg still wearing her sandals. Photo: picture alliance / dpa | Thomas Warnack

Dressing down became even more acceptable after the First World War, when Germany became a republic and the aristocracy, with its formal sense of dress, lost its importance. “The Nazis also propagated being active outdoors,” Roetzel notes. “Fashion was seen as something awful created by the French and the Jews to bring about the downfall of German culture.”

When the craze for casual wear crossed the pond from the US in the 1960s, Germans were slow to adopt it. But now jeans are even standard clothing for septuagenarians, he says. “Twenty years after jeans arrived people started to realise that they are great for all occasions – and now everyone wears them. This was the last blow to formal German clothing.”

Dress down for work

The German love for all-purpose clothes means that it is perfectly appropriate to wear jeans to work, according to Roetzel. 

“If you don’t work in a bank or law firm you can probably wear jeans in most offices. A non-iron, short sleeve shirt is also very important. German men love these shirts, despite the fact that you get hot in them.”

You can even wear sneakers in the office. Or, if you have to look a bit smarter “some very cheap, comfortable leather shoes” will make you fit right in.

“In business, it is very important that you don’t stand out,” Roetzel advises. “If you are smartly dressed people will ask if you have an important meeting or will think you are looking for a pay rise. For everyday business, you dress as casually as possible.”

A woman cycles to work in jeans and a simple jacket in Hamburg. Photo: picture alliance / dpa | Christin Klose

Nothing too sexy

Meanwhile, women’s workplace style, perhaps even more than men’s, is based on the principle of ‘the more forgettable the better.’

“Women in German business must not look too sexy,” says the fashion writer. “If you wear a skirt, for example, it should not be too short and heels should not be too high.” A “boxy, mouse grey suit” including a jacket that doesn’t complement one’s figure completes the look.

“Whereas in Italy, businesswomen carry Chanel bags, in Germany they usually carry a laptop bag or something very practical. Makeup is also rather reduced, not too much lipstick, nothing that is too obvious,” he says.

No door policy

Ties are basically a redundant piece of apparel in modern Germany, meaning wearing one really is a matter of choice in most settings.

“There are very few places where you are not allowed in if you don’t wear a tie,” says Roetzel. “I don’t know a single restaurant that wouldn’t admit you if you don’t wear a tie. You might not be allowed into Cologne Cathedral if your shorts are too short, but basically, you can wear everything everywhere and Germans love this!”

Funerals and weddings

Even the most formal occasions, such as weddings, funerals and important birthdays are much more informal events than they once were.

“At funerals, people will wear black but they rarely wear a black suit, most people will wear a black sweatshirt and jeans,” says Roetzel.

Copy Merkel

Angela Merkel’s unpretentious style appealed to Germans. Photo: picture alliance / dpa | Fabian Sommer

Anyone looking for inspiration need look no further than recently retired German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who famously wore variations on the same trouser suit for most of her career.

“She had different colours and fabrics but that was her uniform and she also found her hairstyle and that was it. I don’t think she had a stylist,” Roetzel says. “That’s what Germans love. It’s recognizable and it doesn’t look expensive.”

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“In Germany, one thing you should never admit to is wearing expensive, tailor-made clothes,” he explains. “As a politician, you can admit that you like drinking but you should never admit to having an expensive wardrobe.”

In fact, the cheaper the better. “Olaf Scholz has always earned a lot of money but his clothes are awful, his suits are awful – this is just perfect for Germany,” says Roetzel.

Splash the cash subtly (or on outdoor clothes)

This is not to say that all Germans wear cheap clothes, but they don’t make a big fuss about the brands that they do wear.

“People want to express status by wearing certain brands,” Roetzel points out. “But in Germany, this is done in a very subtle way. You will see small details in the clothes and glasses of a professor or doctor that will tell you a lot. Class exists but people hide their status because it is negative to show it off. This can be hard for foreigners to detect.”

There is one major exemption thought to the rule of not flaunting your wealth – outdoor apparel.

“Outdoor clothes are really a big thing here,” Roetzel says. “It gives people a sense of freedom and healthiness. Spending €800 on an outdoor jacket is perfectly okay. But it is a sin to spend the same amount on a tailor-made suit – you will destroy your image if you admit to doing this.”

Moreover, anyone who wants to impress Germans through their possessions would be better advised to buy a good car or modern kitchen, the fashion expert says. “It is perfectly normal to have a very expensive kitchen, but your clothes should still be cheap.”

Focus on inner beauty

The German (dis)interest in fashion can actually tell us a lot about deeper German values.

“There is an old Prussian saying of mehr sein als schein (content is better than appearance). Germans feel that if something is too beautiful there must be something fishy about it. Anyone who is too smartly dressed could be a conman,” says Roetzel.

“Germans are very honest, they like to be very direct. They say “what’s the point in not wearing sandals if it’s hot?’”

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