Markham – an experiment in filmmaking

As well as being a highly in demand script writer for hire and script consultant, regular readers will know that I’ve also just completed my first feature film as a director, an ultra low budget, experimental horror film called Markham.

Markham has been a lot of fun to make, but was also, extremely hard work.  The film was shot piecemeal over 18 months, without a script, without a budget to speak of, and without knowing if we could ever actually complete it.

It was really an experiment to see if we could conjure a film from nothing but a handful of locations and a few (very good) actors.

Well, we did conjure something up, a lovely looking, odd, arty horror film with a really good original score and some very accomplished acting most of which was just classic improvisation.

The film clocks in at just under 70 minutes, the story we finally settled on was short, direct and alongside the editor I’ve cut it down to the bones of the narrative. We’ve been careful to keep the atmosphere but otherwise there isn’t much fat left on the skeleton of Markham, it’s a quick, direct story without much meandering about.

I like the film a lot, alongside the aforementioned music and acting, the editing is like a ‘crazy woman’s quilt’ I think is the term the yanks use. There’s blood, gruesomeness, some practical special effects, some miniatures, and even some CGI.

The big inspiration for the film was H.P. Lovecraft’s story ‘The Shadow over Innsmouth’, and we have a set piece sequence in a hotel room that’s inspired directly by the story.

My years of working in TV also became a big influence, as the story took on a rubber reality type element, with a character unsure if he’s being set up in some ‘Truman Show’ style horror reality experiment (here’s a clue – he is).

I directed the film, in a grab hand style, because of the budget limitations, so, I had to get creative with the actors sometimes (who often had no idea of the film’s overall story) I was also the DOP, and I used a digital video camera, a DSLR, Go-Pro’s, super 8mm, Pro 8mm, and I even shot some of the film on a mobile phone.

I have access to Final Cut, and the full Adobe suite, but I edited the final version of the film alongside my editor on Pinnacle Studio’s latest editing suite. Pinnacle is really cut down Adobe stuff, but I’ve used it for years and I really like the feel of the menus and it seems to crash less than other software when handling large files.

None of the above is industry norm at all. And like the final film, it’s been a useful and at times exciting bit of experimentation.

With film finished now, I’ll be initially release it on Vimeo and DVD on August 31st – you’ll be able to buy the DVDs on this website and on the website dedicated to my works as a director – Matthew Cooper Director, there are a few interesting blogposts about Markham on my director website including ‘Markham – notes on making a zero budget horror film

Matthew Cooper has been a script writer for hire, UK Script editor  and UK script consultant for over 20 years. He’s written for most of the UK soaps, including writing award winning episodes of Emmerdale, EastEnders, Hollyoaks and Family Affairs and has been BAFTA shortlisted and Royal Television Society nominated as a script writer. His UK script coverage service, Script reading service and script development service are highly sought after.

You can find some of his broadcast credits on the IMDb.

You can contact Matthew directly to purchase his ebook The UK Soap Opera Script Writers Handbook.

His directorial debut, the rubber reality horror thriller Markham will be released in 2020. You can find out more about Matthew’s work as a director here.

You can get in touch with Matthew on