It is mid-June in London, and James Corden is sweating in a yellow raincoat as he runs through a foggy forest, carrying a condom full of holy water. Director Phil Claydon calls out his instructions: "Vampire fighting formation, please!"
This is the set of Lesbian Vampire Killers. "The title tells you where you are," Claydon says with a smile. "It's more a comedy than a horror. We want to make a shameless, popcorn-eating, Friday-night romp."
Producer Steve Clark-Hall, who produced Guy Ritchie's RocknRolla, was attracted to the project because of the funny script by TV veterans Stewart Williams and Paul Hupfield and also by Claydon's enthusiasm. "Phil knows everything about this genre," Clark-Hall says after the shoot has wrapped. "I thought he was an amazing, enthusiastic young director."
Corden and Matthew Horne, best known in the UK for their hit Bafta-winning comedy series Gavin & Stacey (headed for a US remake), play two slackers who go away for a country weekend and find themselves attacked by a gang of beautiful lesbian vampires. Paul McGann plays a local vicar who helps the guys.
The film shot for six weeks in May and June, mostly on a creepy forest set at 3 Mills Studios in east London. The production had eyed a shoot in Bulgaria, but Clark-Hall (also a seasoned line producer) was able to work out a budget to shoot in the UK instead. "Bulgaria wasn't sufficiently cheaper to run the risk of going there," he says.
The film is produced and co-financed by AV Pictures, Velvet Bite and Alliance Films, which will be releasing the film through its international distribution network: Momentum (UK), Aurum (Spain) and Alliance (Canada).
Claydon set up the project several years back, but the financing fell through. With the new backing from August 2007, Momentum brought Clark-Hall on board. The UK tax credit also helped: "My view on the British tax credit is that producers should just accept it for what it is, and don't try to abuse it, it works well," Clark-Hall says.
The low-budget film stayed mostly on schedule for its six-week shoot, even through a stranger-than-fiction shutdown because of an undetonated Second World War bomb that temporarily closed 3 Mills (Clark-Hall laughs that it was a "nightmare that should have been taken care of in 1945").
Lesbian Vampire Killers is aiming for a March 2009 launch; AV says there has been much buyer interest and it will screen the first footage to buyers during the AFM.
Corden, one of the hottest names in UK comedy, says he believes this is a small British comedy that will travel. "It's just about entertaining people and being funny. And this film feels funny," says Corden, also known for The History Boys. "One of the first things we did during rehearsals is Matt, Phil and I did a read-through, and with every line we said, 'Do we need it' Is it funny'' There was no time for ego. I think it will be fast and fun, and have a real chance to succeed."