Blood & Honey’ Director on Why He Passed on Studio Offers
Feb 19, 2023
Imagine going from making a couple of short films in 2014 to producing dozens of features in 2021 and 2022 alone with no signs of slowing down. That’s the filmmaking path Winnie the Pooh: Blood and Honey director Rhys Frake-Waterfield is on.
Two years ago, Frake-Waterfield opted to leave his job at EDF Energy to make micro-budget horror movies. It’s a big pivot, but it’s proven worthwhile. Not only is he credited with producing 40 to 50 feature films since making the move, all of which secured worldwide distribution, but he’s also at the helm of viral sensation Winnie the Pooh: Blood and Honey.
The movie puts a horror twist on A. A. Milne’s Winnie the Pooh. In Frake-Waterfield’s film, Christopher Robin (Nikolai Leon) abandons his Hundred Acre Wood friends. With no one to look out for them, they become desperate for food and opt to eat one of their own, Eeyore. Traumatized and feral, Pooh and Piglet become bloodthirsty and eager to kill any human being that crosses their path.
Image via Jagged Edge Productions
With Winnie the Pooh: Blood and Honey now playing in theaters nationwide, Frake-Waterfield took the time to chat about his journey from EDF Energy to sparking an absolute frenzy over his micro-budget Winnie the Pooh horror movie. Frake-Waterfield began:
“I used to work in corporate strategy for a big multinational energy company. They were called EDF Energy. I think you guys have them in the US. So I did that for about eight or nine years, and my partner was in the film industry, so through osmosis [I] started learning about it and getting more and more interested in it. Approximately two years ago, I just thought, ‘Oh, I’m just gonna give it a go.’ I just quit my job and then started doing it.”
When a new filmmaker says they just “started doing it,” often that means making a first feature — and making a first feature alone. However, in Frake-Waterfield’s case, he started making feature films non-stop alongside Scott Jeffrey at Jagged Edge Productions. Here’s how he broke it down:
“Those films on IMDb, it’s actually even more mad than that because a lot of them, they’re just waiting, and they’re in the post-production pipeline. So they’ve already been filmed and we’re just doing the last minute tweaks before they can get released. But in those two years alone, I think I might have produced about 40 or 50 feature films all of which have got worldwide distribution.”
Frake-Waterfield laughed and further explained, “A lot of people call these productions ‘heart attack productions,’ at least for the producers because you’re constantly manically going from one set to the next, and you’re having to wear a lot of hats.”
Clearly he can handle that kind of filmmaking schedule, but Frake-Waterfield also noted that Jagged Edge’s goal going forward is to produce less in an effort to focus on upping the quality of their films. “It’s a bit more quality focused now, reducing down the number, so I’m probably producing about four this year. Winnie was one last year. We’ve got Winnie 2, we’ve got Bambi, we’ve got Peter Pan and a secret project.”
Image via Jagged Edge Productions
In addition to evolving their production model, Frake-Waterfield and Jeffrey are also evolving their distribution strategy with Winnie the Pooh: Blood and Honey’s wide theatrical release. Frake-Waterfield took a moment to break down how a Jagged Edge film is usually distributed:
“So all the other ones, essentially the model [is] we make them. We’re the filmmakers, and we’re from the UK. And then ITN are our US partners. We hand the film over to those guys and then they handle the worldwide distribution of it. And normally that includes straight to DVD. So, for example, Walmart. A lot of these will be in Walmart super stores. And then you’ve got all the foreign sales as well. So they’ll sell it to loads of different foreign territories. And then you’ve got the VOD element, so streaming online. And then all of that compiles together to help generate some profit.”
Wondering how those numbers compare to a traditional theatrical release? Frake-Waterfield couldn’t offer specifics, but he did provide a broad sense of their movies’ reach:
“We don’t really get viewing numbers because all that really happens is we’ll make the film, hand it over to them, and then those guys are in charge of basically trying to make as much money as they can from it. So we don’t have massive visibility around the kind of quantity of people it’s been exposed to. However, it is in the millions, and it goes to loads of different territories. So we’re always getting people messaging us about it. But yeah, it is quite far-reaching. It’s just not got that theatrical component at the start. But everything else is probably very similar to what it is in a normal kind of filming structure.”
Image via Jagged Edge Productions
Thanks to the images and trailer going viral, Frake-Waterfield and co. got the opportunity to pursue a different distribution path with Winnie the Pooh: Blood and Honey. Ultimately, they teamed with Fathom Events to give the film a nationwide theatrical release beginning on February 15th and running through February 23rd. While that is a very big deal for this very small movie, Frake-Waterfield confirmed that they did indeed receive offers from “some very large companies” to buy the film outright — offers that they turned down. Why? Frake-Waterfield explained:
“There was a discussion we had with the distributor about that because one option was we had some very large companies, some of the biggest, you can probably imagine, message us and ask just to buy it outright, and take over all the rights. But it wasn’t for a huge amount and we thought the film had a lot of potential, and so we thought, we’ll start off with a theatrical route, see how that does, and then we’ll look more towards our traditional model after, which is the DVD, the VOD element there. But since those offers, it’s just continued to get bigger and bigger and bigger. After the stills, after the trailer, every week, it’s just been growing in size, which is mad. [Laughs] And it culminated in it being the second most anticipated film this year. So I’m glad we didn’t just hand it over to someone!”
While they didn’t accept that lump sum from a potential distributor, after the marketing materials went viral, they did opt to funnel more funds into the production to get it in tip-top shape for its theatrical release via Fathom.
“We had quite a limited amount of resources and budget for the principal photography. So the intention, at the start, was make it as good as possible. I thought it would have a small theatrical run, but then as soon as the stills started going online, it got bigger and bigger and bigger, and then that’s when we had this moment of going, ‘Oh my god, there’s gonna be a lot of people watching this, so we need to make this as good as we can.’ And then that’s when we got some more money and resources coming in. And then we did some reshoots and added a load of more fun scenes and made it quite action [driven], really. I really wanted it to be so when you went to see a Winnie the Pooh horror film, you see a lot of Winnie the Pooh. I didn’t want him to just be in the film for like 20 or 25 minutes, which is probably what it would have been if it was left to the principal photography. Now I think he’s in like 50 minutes of the movie. Something crazy.”
Eager to hear more from Frake-Waterfield on the making of Winnie the Pooh: Blood and Honey? Be sure to check out our full conversation, which includes spoilers, in the video at the top of this article!
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