NYFA Grad Shoots Award-Winning Feature on $12k Budget

dutch killsAfter graduating from New York Film Academy in 2001, Liam Le Guillou returned home and began working at a major broadcasting station in the UK, ITV. While there he trained as camera and editor technician, building on his training from NYFA. Having reached some success at the station, producing his first 30-minute program after only 3 years, Le Guillou decided to set up his own company; Spike Productions. At Spike he produced a number of documentaries as well as some award-wining corporate and commercial content. But his love of narrative filmmaking was still burning and in 2011 he returned to New York to work on his first feature film, Dutch Kills, as Director of Photography/Producer and Editor.

Dutch Kills was filmed on a nearly impossible $12,000 budget, with mostly a four person crew (two of which were the lead actors). Despite the small crew and budget, the film won Best Thriller Feature at the Manhattan Film Festival in 2014. Also, Dutch Kills is being distributed by Screen Media Films, and is available now on iTunes!

Recently, we had a chance to ask the filmmaker and former NYFA student about Dutch Kills and his career since graduating.

How did you get involved with Dutch Kills?

I got involved with Dutch Kills when I met the Director, Joseph Mazzella, at a networking party in NYC. He told me he was starting the project but was still in need of a cinematographer. After I met with Joe and the two writers (who were also both the lead actors, Tama Filing and R.L. Mann), I realized they had a pretty decent script but they also needed some more help in getting the project off the ground. So I came onboard as DP, but also as a producer — particularly to help with the technical aspects of putting a film together. And when we found that the previously assigned editor was unable to commit enough time to project, I also came on as editor of the film.

In your own words, what is this film about?

Dutch Kills is about two close friends who get back together after some time in jail and are forced into doing “one last job” by a crooked cop. But for me it’s really a story about the nature of trust and friendship and how that can change over time.

Was your NYFA education useful in terms of being able to produce / DP / edit a film like this?

So I completed an 8-week intensive filmmaking course in 2001 at NYFA in New York. It was an amazing experience for a young Brit, who had never been to New York before. What I loved about the course was it was very practical. We took out 16mm cameras and shot our first shorts the very first weekend of the course. Those skills, and the experience, landed me a job in the technical crew as a trainee position for one of the major TV stations in the UK, ITV, where I continued my camera and editing training for the next few years.

Liam Le Guillou with Director Joseph Mazzella

Liam Le Guillou with Director Joseph Mazzella

What advice would you give to other filmmakers working on such a tight budget?

Dutch Kills was almost an impossible task of completing a film on just $25,000 (we finished shooting on just $12K). It’s obviously a really difficult job and there are loads of tips and tricks we used to make it happen, and I should probably write a book on it! But a few of the key things were to have a core team, (we had four of us) who were passionate about the film and also equal owners of the project. We each had unique and complimentary skills, which were crucial in pulling together all of the cast, crew, locations and equipment to make it happen. In fact, production went incredibly smoothly but we did underestimate the amount of work and effort post-production would take. I think if you have little to no money, you have to have someone in the team who is a good editor and has the time to take on the project. In our case, I took on the the edit with most of the other team members in the edit with me—this saved a huge cost. But the negative side to that is you don’t have fresh eyes on it, so we ran 4 or 5 test screenings with friends and family which gave us a new insight to the film, and actually lead us to shooting three new scenes, including a new end scene—almost 12 months after principle photography!

Are you currently working on another project?

Since we completed Dutch Kills, I’ve DP’ed a second feature film, Painless, which is currently in post and I’ve been working on a number of documentary and short form projects, including a really fun travel/fashion piece called Style Out There, for Refinery29. The series has had over 2 million views, which is really exciting. Have a look at the piece below!

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Published on: December 14, 2015

Filled Under: Cinematography, Digital Editing, Filmmaking, Student and Alumni Spotlights

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