Sign up for our weekly newsletter
The Comedy of Errors


20 October 15 words: Harry Wilding
Local film production company Holomax have been kicking out some right good short flicks, so we grabbed them for a chat about their work
alt text

In August last year, Holomax entered their short film, Hubert’s Ghost, into the Shortcuts to Hell competition. “It felt like they were trying to do an X Factor thing, with judges on a stage and everything,” Lloyd reminisces in dismay. “We won, which was great, but it was through a public vote, likes on Facebook and such, which was an awful experience.” The prize was not to be sniffed at, however – £20,000 to make Hubert’s Ghost into a feature film, with a guaranteed premiere at FrightFest and on the Horror Channel.

“They wanted the film completed for this year’s FrightFest,” says Joe. “But we didn’t want to rush it and make a bad film.” They’ve been working on it since last September with another of their brothers, Tom. Lloyd says, “[it’s been] quite challenging, having three different opinions in the mix.”

“Between us, we’ve read through it hundreds of times,” says Joe. “I can never be bothered to read through it again but once I get to the end, I’m happy with it.” The Shortcuts to Hell competition has a horror theme, but Holomax maintain that the tone of Hubert’s Ghost spans a few genres and is “more like an adventure film about a family who are struggling to cope together,” citing their main influences as E.T., Gremlins and, of course, Back to the Future.

Unfortunately, things have taken a recent turn for the worse for the film. “There were things that the producers weren’t happy with in the script, but we were very passionate about. We are more than happy to take feedback and work on the collaborative aspect of filmmaking but it was pointless making changes we weren’t happy with. In the end we decided it was best for us and Hubert’s Ghost to step away from one of the producers.” This doesn’t mean the project is dead though. Hubert’s Ghost is still a priority for Holomax. “We’ll find a way of getting it made, it just might take a bit longer than we expected.”

Holomax’s filmmaking path began through Swound! – a band made up of all four Staszkiewicz brothers. They made their own music videos, played at Radio One’s Big Weekend, were featured in Kerrang! and did a jingle for the hugely popular US kids’ telly show, Yo Gabba Gabba!, being the first unsigned band to feature (keeping company with the likes of Arcade Fire, The Killers, Weezer, The Flaming Lips and Mos Def). When the band split, Joe and Lloyd continued with the video work. “We talked about starting to play again, just more casually,” says Joe.

alt text

The ABCs of Death 2, which makes its way through the alphabet with 26 short horror films, all from different filmmakers, all involving death. The guys entered their Krampus short M is for Merry Christmas, shot in Sherwood Forest, but lost out to the phenomenal M is for Masticate. However, out of 541 entries, they were one of 25 to be featured in The ABCs of Death 2.5. “It’s a bit weird, to be honest,” Joe laughs. “We thought no one would get it and a lot of people didn’t. It was a good competition, though, we’re quite good friends with some of the other directors who entered and the producer of the whole film.”

Their latest series of short films, dubbed their Micro-Cinematic Universe, have become a huge Vimeo hit after the first, Blood Drinker, was chosen as a Staff Pick. Joe explains: “It’s had about 50,000 views and got such amazing feedback. We even got jobs from it. Good jobs. We liked the tone of it so we wrote another one in that theme, Jacques Diego’s Last Stand, and people kept saying they loved the series, so we’ve got about ten on paper now.”

One of these good jobs was for a film called Canned Peaches, an adaptation of an Australian sci-fi comedy, which will be shot in the Dominican Republic and directed by Hector Valdez. “At the moment we're going through the script with them, making suggestions and changes,” Joe explains. “The fact that it’s being shot entirely in Spanish isn’t really a problem as we’ve been learning parts of the language, like ‘mis amigos me llaman Murphy, usted puede llamarme Robocop’. We’re going over there for six weeks in January, which will be very exciting, and then we’ll be directing some segments for the film here in the UK.”

Currently on their third in the Micro-Cinematic Universe series, there’s an engaging, Wes Anderson-like playfulness to the films. With cinematography full of bold, bright colours, and silly stories full of fantastic ideas such as The Coke Boys, a bunch of ruffians wearing matching red Coke jumpers, and The Spooks, a band of white sheet-wearing ghosts. “We learn so much every time we make one,” Lloyd says.

“We should be filming the fourth one soon,” Lloyd continues. Nick Boshier, the Australian comedian who created the YouTube hit Bondi Hipsters, has also been in touch, wanting to get involved. “The end game is a feature film based on that world and the characters – a Pulp Fiction kind of thing. We need to get other stuff out of the way before we can start putting pen to paper, though.”

alt text

They’ve also made a pilot for a mockumentary telly show last year, Capitol State City, in which Lloyd dons a wonderfully eighties Forest cap as the enthusiastic and naive Burt Johnson who, in 1987, is attempting to make the ultimate cop show. “It’s a passion project and we have so many ideas for it,” Joe tells us. “We sent the pilot around to a few people. Sky emailed back saying they loved it but because they were putting too much time into Modern Family, they didn’t want anything occupying that kind of space.” It sounds like the kind of show that Notts TV is crying out for – inexpensive, funny and original work from local filmmakers. Joe shrugs, “It’d be nice to do something with them, but we haven’t received any responses from the several emails we have sent their way.”

Filmmaking at this level is a struggle. It means taking on multiple jobs and begging favours, all for the love of it, with an unpredictable future ahead. “We’ve been very lucky with people who are willing to help us out. I don’t know if they enjoy it but we guilt them into it,” Joe laughs. “I hate the shoot but I always forget that by the next day.”

All their films are shot in Nottinghamshire. “It’s just easier,” Lloyd says. “All our friends are here and there are plenty of good locations. There’s been no need to go anywhere else.” To pay the bills, both brothers are freelance filmmakers – Lloyd is based in London, but gets back to Nottingham as soon as he hasn’t got anything on. “When you’re shooting a factory conveyor belt or a recycling plant, you just want to be doing something creative, but freelance does give us the flexibility we need. It becomes passion versus need for money.”

The Stas bros’ ultimate goal remains grand and humble at the same time. “We want to direct and write films for a living. To have a catalogue of films to live on after we die.” Here’s to immortality and great movies.

Holomax on Vimeo

We have a favour to ask…

LeftLion is Nottingham’s meeting point for information about what’s going on in our city, from the established organisations to the grassroots. We want to keep what we do free to all to access, but increasingly we are relying on revenue from our readers to continue. Can you spare a few quid each month to support us?

Support LeftLion now