Séamus Hanly told Stuart Clark how he begged, borrowed & possibly stole to make his superhero movie spoof, which was picked up by low-budget gods, Troma Entertainment.
University film course directors look away now…
“I did four years at IADT, which was brilliant but I learned a million times more making this film than I did during my time at college,” reflects Séamus Hanly, the Republic Of Telly sketch writer who’s gone all spoof superhero with The Middle Finger. “To quote Stanley Kubrick, ‘The best way to learn how to make a movie… is to make a movie.’ Which was Kevin Smith’s ethos making his first zero budget feature, Clerks, which was a massive influence on me.”
With Séamus either owning or borrowing the gear needed, the cast and crew volunteering their services for free, and the likes of The Amazing Few, Myles Manley and No Monster Club donating songs to the soundtrack, the entire Middle Finger budget wouldn’t have even covered the Republic Of Telly tea ‘n’ biccies bill.
“The whole thing cost €3,000 to make, which is peanuts… not that we could afford peanuts,” Séamus deadpans. “Because of cheap technology, the possibilities these days are limitless. In the ’80s and ‘90s you instantly knew a movie was low-budget from the sound and picture quality, whereas now you can buy/borrow a Canon 5D and a zoom and produce something that looks like it’s come out of a Hollywood studio. It’s totally democratised the filmmaking process, but also made it bewildering because you’ve so much choice. Every so often you have to remind yourself, ‘I’m not Steven Spielberg, I really can’t do that!’”
The Middle Finger has been picked up by Troma Entertainment, the New York-based makers and distributors of thousands of micro-budget films, which for all of their unashamed schlockiness are often hugely entertaining.
From radioactive mutants and sex-crazed zombies to pyscho chickens and Mein Kampf-brandishing surfers, all forms of B-Movie life are represented with Billy Bob Thornton (Chopper Chicks In Zombietown), Kevin Costner (Sizzle Beach USA), Paul Sorvino (Cry Uncle!), Trey Parker and Matt Stone (Cannibal! The Musical) and Samuel L. Jackson (Def By Temptation) among the future Hollywood stars who’ve Troma at the foot of their IMDb page.
“They’ve done a few UK movies, but this is the first Irish one which I’m very proud of,” Séamus beams. “I was thinking of going the film festival route, but a friend of mine, Zoe Kavanagh, who made a feature called Demon Hunter that’s now on DVD, said, ‘You’re better off going straight to distributors.’ Another friend of mine, Tom Rowley, just happened to be in New York editing films for Troma, so I sent them an email, which he made sure they read.”
With the bottom falling out of the VHD/DVD market that sustained them through the ‘90s and naughties, Troma have made a chunk of their back catalogue available for free YouTube viewing, so get the beers ‘n’ spliffs in and fill your streaming boots!
“The first thing Lloyd Kaufman, one of the Troma co-owners, said to me back in February was, ‘Well done, man, but you’re not going to make any money from doing this. Those days are over.’ He’s bitter, in a playful but real way, about what he calls ‘the devil-worshipping Hollywood elite.’ The Middle Finger has a couple of similarities to my favourite Troma film, Sgt. Kubukiman NYPD - who’s another superhero that doesn’t really know what’s going on and can’t control it - so it seems like the perfect fit.”