When I stumbled upon 20th Century Flicks, the World’s oldest video rental store, I instantly knew I had found the subject for my next film; I had a group of likeable characters, a cool setting, and a story steeped in nostalgia. I knew I had a film with potential. What I could never have anticipated was that it would wind up being my most successful short film to date.
To have The Last Video Store selected for Raindance 2020 was an honour, and a dream come true. It’s always been one of those bucket list film festivals for me. Despite being forced online by the pandemic, the festival was a profoundly positive experience from start to finish, which most likely attracted a greater audience than if it had been a traditional festival. There was a real sense of community, and the care, communication, and professionalism demonstrated by the Raindance team were unrivalled by any other festival I’ve been a part of. But the journey doesn’t stop there.
The film has been invited to screen at festivals from California to Croatia, with more official selections continuing to come in. I received my first Vimeo Staff Pick, independent cinema screenings, features at Booooooom TV, Film Shortage, BBC Radio, and countless websites and blogs, and if that wasn’t enough, it won me the $75,000 1st prize in the documentary category at the 2020 My Rode Reel short film competition!
Accolades aside, I think the film just strikes a chord with people, especially those in the film industry, or those who have fond memories of browsing the shelves in their local Blockbuster. I’ve received messages from people who have literally been brought to tears by this film, or who have taken a pilgrimage across the country solely to visit this little video shop.
And now the punchline…
The film was created on a measly budget of approximately £35. I shot the film myself over a couple of days using my own gear – an old Panasonic GH4, a few Sigma Art lenses, a Rode lavalier, a Zoom H1 audio recorder, and a couple of LED panels. I cut the film myself, and sourced free music through a trial subscription service, along with some archive I could use under fair use. I wanted some retro titles evocative of the 1980s / 90’s video store vibe, so browsed After Effects tutorials on Youtube until I found something that jumped out. Within a few days, I had a cut I was happy with, applied some final tweaks, and finally a grade and mix.
Understanding the importance of promotion, I poured a lot of time into creating artwork and press packs, submitting to news outlets, blogs, and curator sites, and sharing across social media. I made myself available to interview but also ensured my email contained enough information for journalists to write articles without the need to contact me for further details. Within no time, I was reaping the rewards of my efforts
For me, The Last Video Store is proof that you don’t need a big budget to create a successful film, and that a little resourcefulness can go a long way. If you’re fortunate enough to have a budget, then great. If not, don’t let it prevent you from creating something. There are stories all around us waiting to be told, and you can tell them without breaking the bank.