The debut feature film of 23-year-old Dundee Film Maker Wayne Dudley has won a top prize at New York’s Big Mini-DV Festival, nearly two years after he was told he could never make a film on his own. The film entitled The Hidden Persuaders is a ‘Rock and Roll murder-mystery thrill ride’ surrounding the death of Rock Star Damon DeVille. The film is centred on newspaper reporter Frank Cash, who is sent to investigate the apparent accidental death of Processed Minds lead singer Damon DeVille. Written off as a drug-fuelled accident the police are looking at an open and shut case. Frank however is not so sure and his suspicions are confirmed when a heated conversation reveals more questions than answers. He must then use all of his experience to find out the truth as he delves deeper into a world of corruption, murder, sex, drugs and Rock and Roll.
The film was written, produced, directed and edited by Wayne Dudley on a budget of only £230, and was filmed entirely in Dundee with pretty much a crew of one (Wayne plus the occasional boom operator to hold the microphone). The cast contains nearly 60 actors from all over the UK as well as a couple from America with the lead character, Frank Cash, played by former Los Angeles actor Dayle Teegarden, who has previous experience working on television series such as 24, CSI: Miami, ER and River City as well as feature films such as The Longest Yard and Doomsday.
Wayne first entered the world of filmmaking at the end of 2008 when he joined the filmmaking society at Abertay University, where he was studying Business Studies with Marketing (and had to make time to fit in his graduation in the summer of 2010 whilst filming The Hidden Persuaders). This led to him writing, directing and starring in his first short film World Gone Wild, a psychological drama about a rock star that has problems dealing with fame. Utilising his contacts as a music promoter, a number of music tracks by local bands were used within the film, one of which was written by The Daze. After attending the premiere of this film The Daze were so impressed with what they witnessed that they asked Wayne to direct and produce a music video for their song ‘No One Knows’. Wayne has since went on to make three short films (Afterlife: Saint or Sinner, Johnny “Blaze” Johnson: Fire Starter and Pinguid Pirates: The Living Room Adventures) as well as three music video’s for Paula Knight, Southern Remedy and The Deadbeat Remedy. It wasn’t, however, until the summer of 2009 whilst travelling in Thailand and Australia that he decided he wanted to make a career out of filmmaking. Inspired by filmmaker Robert Rodriquez, who made El Mariachi in 1992 on his own for $7,000, Wayne decided the only way to succeed in such a competitive industry was to make a feature film on his own with little or no budget.
At the end of 2009 Wayne started to write the script for the film in between studying for his final year at university and had a rough draft finished by the end of January. Unlike most low budget films, which restrict the number of actors and locations to a handful at most, Wayne was faced with over 70 actors to cast and over 30 locations to find. Although this number would fall slightly there was still around 60 actors and over 20 locations featured within the film. The casting process began at the start of February and only a couple of weeks later Wayne had secured the services of experienced American actor Dayle Teegarden, who not only understood what Wayne was trying to achieve in the business but also his vision and determination to make the project a success.
The casting would continue right into filming as he experienced a number of cancellations at very short notice and was even forced to pull a girl off the street for a small role on the day. Wayne recalls “we were waiting for the owner of Dundee Music Studios to arrive to let us into the premises and we had exhausted our options trying to find a last minute replacement to play a secretary, as the previous actor had cancelled only the night before. Luckily a young attractive woman who fitted the bill passed us by on her way to work and we approached her to fill the role. She agreed but stated she only had a one-hour lunch break. We therefore agreed to pick her up in the town centre, drive her to the location on the Perth Road, film her scenes and return her to work. Luckily we made it with two minutes to spare. If you let incidents like this trouble you then you will never succeed in making your movie. You have to simply respond quickly to any obstacle you face and try your best to resolve the problem. It’s all part of the fun”.
After an intense pre-production period “plan, plan, plan. You can never underestimate how important planning is, especially when you are undertaking such a mammoth task on your own with actors arriving from all over the country and filming at so many different locations” filming began on 27th June and wrapped on 25th July.
“The 25 day filming shoot was one of the hardest and best experience’s of my life. I would get up in the morning to make the actors breakfasts and lunch, drive them to the set, film all day, upload the footage and prepare for the following day’s shoot at night and try to fit in socialising with the actors who were staying at my house all at the same time. Needless to say I didn’t get much sleep”. Wayne states that this experience made him go from ‘thinking’ he wanted to be a filmmaker to ‘knowing’ he wanted to be a filmmaker.
The next four months were spent sitting in front of his laptop for 10 hours a day creating a rough edit of the film, editing the sound, colour correcting the footage, selecting and negotiating the soundtrack, creating the credits and cutting a film trailer.
“This four month period has been one of the most intense I have experienced. You have to have self-discipline, determination and drive to succeed in a project like this as it can be soul destroying at times if you find a shot hasn’t came out the way you expected or after spending hours working on a certain section you have to start again due to technical difficulties. Things were especially difficult if I didn’t quite understand what the problem was as I was teaching myself a lot of what I was doing as I went along. Regardless of how hard things were I was always focused on my final goal of succeeding and that drove me on”.
The hard work was just beginning for Wayne as, two days after the premiere, he set off on a two-month journey to London, Los Angeles and Vancouver to try and secure a distribution deal for the film and future work in the industry.
“I was still just one of thousands of people who wanted to become a successful filmmaker and therefore in order to stand out from the crowd I decided to use every penny that I possessed to physically approach all the major film and distribution companies in London, Los Angeles and Vancouver”. Although his goal of securing a distribution deal didn’t quite go as planned, Wayne returned to Scotland with a positive attitude and straight away set about entering the film into 16 festivals around the world.
“Although I did not succeed in securing a distribution deal I did succeed in not only writing, directing, producing and editing a feature film on my own, but also had experiences of a lifetime, made life long friends with people from around the world and gained a wealth of knowledge along the way. You simply can’t put a price on that. At the end of the day nearly every successful person in this world has hit a few bumps along the way and although some will never recover from these others will fix the problem and learn from these experiences”.
After a few more bumps along the way Wayne was informed that his film had not only been entered into the 10th Annual Mini-DV Festival in New York but that is had won ‘Best Experimental Film’.
“It is a great honour to be informed that all my hard work, as well as my actors, has been recognised and honoured, especially from a festival in another country, and that it will be screened in a city that is known throughout the world. Although I cannot physically be in attendance a friend of one of the actors will be so it will be interesting to hear her feedback from the event.”
And what lies ahead for Wayne?
“I am still negotiating with a couple of film companies regarding the distribution of the film and I hope that I will gain some exposure for myself and the film after it screens in New York. Hopefully this will lead to me securing some future work within the industry”.