Craig McDonald-Kelly: Setting deadlines to make your film happen

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Watch Craig McDonald-Kelly tell us about the making of supernatural buddy comedy Hangover Food, streaming now on Klipist!

00:00 – Introduction
00:33 – What’s “Hangover Food” about?
01:38 – How to adapt a short film into a feature
03:09 – Improvising hilarious lines
03:42 – Filming in small spaces
04:27 – Green screen and chroma key
05:07 – Last-minute costumes
05:40 – Don’t be shy and reach out
07:08 – Make the film set enjoyable!

The Interview

So we decided to start setting strict deadlines, like we’ve got to have the script done by this time, cast done by this time, location done this time, we’re shooting at this time.

Hi, everyone, and welcome to the Klipist Interview, the interview of filmmakers by film lovers. I am Julie and today I am receiving the wonderful Craig McDonald-Kelly. Hi, Craig!

Hello, Julie! 

Craig, you are an actor, film writer and producer.


Tell us a bit more about “Hangover Food” – tell us about the film, what it’s about and how you came up with the project.

Yeah so it’s a buddy comedy slash horror film with me and my friend… I play a character called Bruce, and my mate, David, plays a character called Lee, two big idiots who love to go on nights out and drink. The short is about a girl I met up with last night from Tinder, we’re all drinking, having a good time, and then we black out and wake up the next day and this is where the film starts. Lee is very hungover, and he’s so hungover he doesn’t want to get up. We basically find out he’s not hungover, he’s dying – he’s been bitten by a vampire, Bella, the girl from last night, and it’s our journey of friendship of, you know, feeling betrayed by your friend and then literally changing from a human into a different entity… It explores a lot of those themes, and we’re working on the feature film version just now. We’ve got a script written…

Really? There’s going to be a feature version of “Hangover Food”? 

It’s going to get made, because we’ve got deadlines.

There’s going to be a feature of “Hangover Food”! And it’s going to be good, it’s going to get made, because we’ve got deadlines and we’re going to do it. It’s a lot of work. The last one, it was like on a Saturday, it was a bunch of friends or people we knew… We spent money to feed everyone, hire some equipment, and we all had a good time and that was it! We can’t be like “Hey guys, you want to do that for three weeks, yeah?”. So we’re really excited to gear up for that.

How do you adapt a short film into a feature? Because the writing must be completely different…

Yeah, no, 100%. We had a big discussion about where it would take place, or how it would work, or what the story would be, and we decided it’s going to take place exactly after “Hangover Food”, where the short ends. So we’re going to reshoot the short film that we did, with new bits added in and bits cut out to service the feature, and it takes place as soon as the short ends. We decided that Lee doesn’t like being a vampire, and the only way to make it stop is to kill the vampire that turned him, Bella. So we go on a big mission adventure to find Bella, and to kill her, to stop Lee… to turn Lee back into a human. But of course, that’s not a thing. So nothing goes to plan, and it turns into a big beautiful shit show, and there’s a lot of blood, and garlic bread, and laughing, and there’s a scary vegan in there… It’s going to be a lot of fun!

What’s your favourite line in the film, from any character? 

I think it’s a line David says, when he’s playing Lee, and I’m offering him this coffee, and I was like, “Come on, man, it’s good!”, and he was like “I couldn’t care if it was Willy Wonka’s shit.” I think that was improvised as well.

I think mine is when you’re so proud of this jacket you got for a really cheap price, and Lee asks you “Was the bargain that it was being given away by an elderly prostitute?” I think that’s my favorite line, for some reason! 

So, now let’s get into the technical stuff. Most of the film takes place in Lee’s bedroom, which is quite a small space, and I counted 26 different filming angles.

Wow, did you?

Yes! How did you manage this?

We had a very small crew. I think there was only about four or five six of us in there at the same time, and a lot of moving things around. There was some messing around with green screen for the no reflection thing, we just moved a lot of the stuff out there, so it was a very basic room, and then we dressed it a little bit and just moved where we needed to move things. 

You mentioned green screen for the no reflection shot. So, spoiler alert, we see Lee, and there is a mirror behind him – so if we pay attention, we see that his reflection is missing. What was the trick there? 

For that one, let’s ask Ross McGowan, our director. 

We put Lee in against the green screen, in exactly the same camera position, and then put the two layers together in After Effects, chroma key the green out, and voila!

ROSS: It’s relatively simple because the camera doesn’t move, it’s purposely locked down so we could shoot the background plate of the mirror sans our character Lee, and then we could put Lee in against the green screen, in exactly the same camera position, and then put the two layers together in After Effects, chroma key the green out, and voila! You have a relatively simple trick.

So now, Craig, I’ve got a very serious question for you… because I read the credits at the end, but I didn’t see anyone in charge of costumes – is that why Lee is not wearing anything?

Yes! Easy answer is yes. Yeah, we didn’t think about costumes at all until the day… because it was filmed in our house, so I went into my wardrobe, I put on this top, I was like “Hey, Ross, what do you think of this? – No.” It’s like, cool, put on another top. “Yes, that’s the one. Lee, you’ll just be half naked the whole time.”

Now, about the ringtone – can you sing it for us?

Yes. “Whose phone is ringing? Mine, it’s mine!” And that’s it, it repeats that about 20 times. 

We found Casey Jost on Twitter, and messaged him “we’d love to use this song” and he just replied “Go for it”!

Why this ringtone, is there a private joke behind it or… what’s the reason? 

It was Casey Jost. Our director, Ross, saw him on a TV show somewhere, and he had this ringtone as part of the show. He just thought it was hilarious and he put it into the script. And then we found him on Twitter, and messaged him being like, “Hi, we’re, you know, a production company, we’re doing this with a short film, we’d love to use this song for a bit” and he just replied like, “Yeah, absolutely, go for it” and so we got the song! 

That’s amazing! 

We got permission, which is nice, yeah. 

So… well, you mentioned that “Hangover Food” was gonna be a feature soon, but I’m still going to ask you this: if you could change one thing in the way the film was made, what would it be? 

If I had free range of everything, I’d have money to be able to pay everybody, and then actually have some more kind of cool elaborate bits, and then flashbacks to the club the night before, and a bunch of things like that… that would have been great. But we just had what we had in front of us and tried to make it work.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

[Ryan O’Leary] has a “no asshole” rule.

Enjoy it. On set, like my first ever feature film I did was called “The Back Seat”, I shot that in New York, in New Jersey, in Long Island and all that… and our director, Ryan, it was his first feature as well, and he had a “no asshole” rule. And it’s such a better environment to be in, you know, every day on set, we filmed “The Back Seat” for like, three, four weeks, and every day I came to set, I was like “Hey, guys!” and I loved everyone there, it was so much fun! (Note: Ryan O’Leary’s film The Lost Weekend is also streaming here on Klipist)

Okay, so, enjoy what you do. 

Yeah, you’ve got to… you have to enjoy it, make it enjoyable. 

That’s the advice. Okay, amazing, I think that’s great advice. Not just in filmmaking but, as you said, in life.

In life, yeah.

Thank you so much, Craig! Thank you for being with us today. 

Of course! Thanks for having me here, and I’m excited to see all the films on Klipist. 

Absolutely! Bye, everyone, see you soon! 

Check out Hangover Food here, streaming now on Klipist. 

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