MANCHESTER INDIE FILM: Invisible Bullets (2010)

In Part Two of a Manchester Indie Film feature special, Jane reviews short film Invisible Bullets by producer-director Chris Lane.


Michael Justice versus the Gnome


Runtime: 02:09mins

Audio: Stereo

Aspect Ratio= 16:9

Starring: Michael Justice & introducing Stan as Garden Gnome

Director: Chris Lane

AS IF IT WASN’T ALREADY kicking off up naaahhrth, the independent film scene in Manchester is on fire. Yeah, you know, flaming. Flaming in a perfectly good and metaphorical way.

In a perfectly straightforward way, Invisible Bullets is a short film – a Western, in fact, about a man making sense of his own wilderness. Or erm, about the man who’s feelin’ lucky, gets carried away with his shoot-em-up hobby so much so that the lines of reality and virtual reality merge and protagonist Jimmy gets a bit trippy and pretends to shoot things with his fingers in his backyard of a Mexico.

In just two minutes Lane’s vision is instantly recognisable as a very normal backdrop to a more extraordinary world: where man meets his arch nemesis, the innocent garden accessory: Stan the Garden Gnome. He’s such the cameo bad boy, he’s got his own minicult Twitter following. Stan got his lucky break after the original actor became a diva, and thought it was ok to get hammered before filming.

Chris Lane: “A slight setback happened two days before the shoot when I had a few mates over for drinks, and they got smashed. Unfortunately one of our lead actors got smashed that night too, but he was made of porcelain. Luckily for us we found an identical Garden Gnome. I’ll certainly think twice about having a drunken get together before future shoots.”

Invisible Bullets is a comedy, and it is particularly stand-out due to its special effects. “When I first showed the script to a couple of people eyebrows were raised,” said Lane, “and they did question how I was going to make a milk bottle ‘explode’ and leave a beer bottle ‘decimated’. In truth I didn’t know.”

“It was clear from the outset, with the film containing no dialogue, that we were going to be heavily reliant on high post production values and that this would take time to implement.”

Without a hefty budget, fireworks or live ammunition to work with, Lane had to find more novel ways of creating on-screen exploding glass bottle and bouncing gnomes.

“One afternoon I went round to Paul Anderton’s house to work on a couple of ideas and together we created something which we christened ‘The Contraption’ and that comprised of a chair, a walking stick, string, an elastic fitness band, gaffer tape and a Philips screwdriver.

“It looked a little unwieldy, but we did manage to smash a bottle with it. Then, the night before the shoot, I went to B&Q and spent £8 on a metal rod, a plastic tube and some elastic. In two hours I developed the ideas behind ‘The Contraption’ and built something a little more sturdy and christened it ‘The Crucifier’.

Sounds religious and religiously painful.

“‘The Crucifier’ was basically a catapult in the shape of a cross which we used to fire a metal rod at stuff,” said Lane. “The metal rod was then removed in post production by our special effects man Pete Johnson.”

Despite all odds, the film was completed in just three weeks.


Stella! Stella!



Invisible Bullets sees Chris Lane make his directorial debut after having worked extensively within production and post-production on films such as the comedy Bog Standard starring the toilet-bound Michael Justice; community film Hit The North, international film festival Future Shorts and finally the MTV-featured music video ‘Temperate Lives’ for The Maple State, a Manchester band on the High Voltage Sounds label.

“Hopefully it’ll appeal to the bearded one at Virgin and all the judges on the Virgin Media Shorts panel,” he says, clearly not talking about a certain Guy Ritchie megababe Thandie Newton.  “They’re the ones who will be responsible for choosing the winning films!”

Nota bene: the panel includes BAFTA award-winning director of Four Weddings and a Funeral, Mike Newell and the clean-shaven Radio 1 film buff, James King. Speaking of close shaves, Lane admits:  “We actually missed the initial deadline for the competition as we couldn’t work out how to apply the grade, but luckily for us Virgin Media Shorts extended the deadline by 24 hours.”

And luckily for us, there’s a bit of inspiration on the net for anyone who thinks film-making is restricted to kids who can afford gap-yahs and expensive spiritual journeys to Per-ah.

“In all seriousness though I think the film holds a lot of appeal. People my age will have a fondness for the 80s game music and a wide audience will be able to appreciate the references to the westerns.”


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    […] is the concluding piece of a three-part series on Manchester Indie Film. You can find Part II here and Part […]

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