British crowd-funding success Third Contact is headed for Oxford’s Ultimate Picture Palace, and its director explains to James Luxford how it got there

A unique film is headed for Oxford’s Ultimate Picture Palace next week, Simon Horrocks’ psychological thriller following a psychiatrist whose clients begin disappearing in apparent suicides which are more than they initially appear. Londoner Horrocks, right, made the film for about £40,000 – relative pocket change in comparison to Hollywood’s mega budget juggernauts – but has enjoyed success that many studios would envy.

Well received by festival goers in the UK and abroad, Third Contact enjoyed a historic debut at London’s IMAX cinema, the biggest cinema in Europe, and it got there through the power of crowd-funding.

Internet sites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo have made it possible for independent filmmakers to turn to the public to fund for artistic endeavours, and Horrocks raised £15,000 to screen the film in London, while simultaneously webcasting the event to over 37 countries. The beginnings of the film were somewhat more humble, as the director himself recalls, starting with one man determined to simply get a film made. “I had been working with the ‘Quantum Suicide’ idea (a key theme of the film) on another screenplay, which gathered some interest at the now scrapped UK Film Council” he explains. “I developed it further in a second script, but this time I wrote it with the intention of being able to shoot it myself, with whatever I had to hand. I had been writing screenplays for over 10 years but, although I'd sold a few, none had made it through to production. I was determined I would get something made.”

He achieved his ambition, and the response from industry press prompted him to take the film to a bigger audience. “A film blogger loved the film and, as he’d helped another British micro-budget film raise money for theatrical distribution (Borrowed Time), he suggested I do something similar. “The original idea was to raise money for a DVD release. But I decided, I wanted to try to get the film into cinemas.” That plan changed too, initially from a few independent cinemas to an unprecedented premiere at the IMAX. “As I worked at the IMAX, and some of the film was shot in the building, it seemed an appropriate venue for the ‘seat at the premiere’ crowd funding perk” he explains. “But the IMAX event became the focus in people’s minds, so I went with it. Also, as the campaign went on, I realised with backers around the world, we needed this event to be global. So we broadcast the film and Q&A live, using Twitter, Youtube and a Google hangout. In the end the film was seen by almost 1,000 people on the night, in 22 different countries.”

The film now comes to the UPP, with Horrocks coming along for a Q&A, in one of many dates funded again by crowd funding websites, a concept called ‘cinema on demand’. The Oxford event alone raised £800 from fans and supporters of the film keen to see it in their town, donating in exchange for tickets and various other perks related to the film. “The IMAX premiere lead to people who watched the broadcast offering to set up shows in their town” he explains. “From that we have recently had a sold out show in Zurich, and a possible offer of Swiss and German theatrical distribution. So it turned out to be a very good decision.”

The filmmaker believes that independent cinema venues like the Ultimate Picture Palace have become vital to films such as his, giving them a chance to offer an alternative to more expensive Hollywood productions. “I think it’s so important for the health of cinema in the UK to have these independent venues providing an alternative to the blockbuster-dominated multiplexes” he says. “How else will British audiences experience films outside the mainstream in the place where they are best watched – a theatre with a bunch of other people?” It appears people have responded to that alternative, with Horrocks heading from the Oxford show to Ottawa, where the film will have its Canadian premiere, again funded by the enthusiasm of movie fans. Having played so many roles in Third Contact’s journey from concept to exhibition, the director is understandably hesitant to consider his follow up just yet.

“It takes a lot out of you, making a film, particularly when you are everything from writer to director all the way to poster designer, website designer, and event plugger” he explains.

“I’ve done nothing but promotion for almost a year and my ideas have changed, in terms of what it means to be a filmmaker. So I will need to take a break at some point and digest it all before moving on to the next project.”

Third Contact Screening + Q&A With Director Simon Horrocks
Tuesday, February 18, Ultimate Picture Palace, Colwey Road, Oxford, at 9pm
Tickets: £15, at