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Friday, 11 May, 2001, 16:13 GMT 17:13 UK
Film novices' digital venture
policemen
The science fiction comedy features policemen...
Fact here
By BBC News Online's Rebecca Thomas in Cannes

Cannes is where dreams come true and shatter as thousands of debut feature film-makers arrive hoping to sell their cherished projects.

Some are completed, or nearly there. Many more are still just a twinkle in the director's eye.

Among this enthusiastic throng are a group of five young British men who collectively call themselves Caribou Productions.

Mark, Jerrard, Dave, Chris and Ben are good friends as well as self-funded work colleagues. And, on their first day in the hustle and bustle of Cannes, they are high-spirited and ready for action.

Their science fiction comedy LVJ is as good as finished. Caribou are confident it will stand out, and give hope to film-makers like them, for the originality of its concept and use of digital media.

"The novelty of LVJ is that we have tried to get the feel of a 20m film on a tight budget and have broken every rule in the book for first-time film-makers," says Mark.

... and aliens
"It's a feature, not a short, with complicated special effects, which is usually the reason why many debut projects are never completed.

"It's also shot on digital video by choice, not just because it is cheap, and we have already gained a following through our website and requests for distribution from LA."

Mark describes LVJ as a "tongue-in-cheek cross between Starsky and Hutch and Independence Day".

The story centres on the New York Police Department's most incompetent detectives in 1974. They are abducted by aliens and dumped in the late 90s, at the beginning of an alien invasion of Earth.

As the battle between the two sides rages, an FBI agent is assigned to keep the bumbling cops out of the way. But inevitably, they get mixed up in all the trouble - with dire consequences.

Caribou Productions
Caribou Productions: Used digital technology for film
The storyline comes from a comic book idea by Chris that had been lying on the shelf for around for five years. It was however too long for a comic or a short film.

The prohibitive cost of outside production companies meant the only way to get LVJ made was to do it, and pay for it, themselves. This is common for first-time film-makers without a track record to secure funding.

But taking on such an ambitious project meant being unusually hands-on and ingenious. Mark and Jerrard both act in the movie. Friends from the special effects industry also came to their aid.

And the 13 songs on the impressive 70s-style sound track were performed and recorded by Caribou.

'Instant access'

But, it was the use of digital media that was their saving grace. LVJ was, they say, always intended for a two DVD release - the film and another with behind scenes footage and featurettes.

But it was primarily the flexibility of DV that attracted Caribou.

"It's an instant access format for the production process. So, it was perfect for all the colour correcting involved in editing the special effects," says Dave.

Mark adds that big name film-makers such as Mike Figgis, with Time Code, and Lars Von Trier, with Palme d'Or winner Dancer in the Dark, have already proved the merits of filming on DV.

It also meant they could create a website easily - with encouraging results.

Low-budget

The website, with images and film synopsis, was originally for LVJ crew members to see that all their work was actually going towards something real.

"Then we started getting e-mails from all over the world from people who loved the film, asking when it was coming out and whether there was a DVD. Two distributors from LA also contacted us," Mark enthuses.

Future plans for the site include showcasing the featurettes, behind-the-scenes images and clips from the pop video to a track from the film. All of this will be for the benefit of fans - and other film-makers.

"We want show that special effects movies can be done on a budget. Passing information on is what the internet is all about," says Mark.

And, citing the huge worldwide success of web-based low-budget movie Blair Witch, they all agree the internet is the way forward when it comes to marketing and advertising films cheaply.

With all this in mind, Caribou is out to conquer Cannes. Their starting pitch, they say, is that they have already proved there is huge global audience for films like LVJ.

"It fits perfectly with the digital media consumer because it is sci-fi, comedy," says Ben.

Mark concludes: "Just look at Star Wars and the X-Files. They have a huge web-based community. So, though LVJ may not be the best-made movie, we know it can be a hit."


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