It's October and in October we celebrate halloween!! So why shouldn't this month's film be a horror film!
It's exactly this kind of limitation that I have welcomed whilst making all these films. I didn't need to just come up with any idea in any genre, I just needed to come up with some kind of horror based film. It might not seem like much but that limitation really allowed me to focus.
My experience with horror films has not been great, I do appreciate them but I just haven't found any that gave me the reaction I wanted. It's not all about being scared but it is about evoking an emotion. I actually found my greatest experience with horror came whilst playing computer games. Computer games do something that horror films cannot, they put you in control of a character. You become the one that forces the character forward, you tell them were to go and what to look at or not look at. You also spend a lot more time with the charachter unlike a film that last 2hrs. It's more active and less passive. This is in my opinion a much better way of invoking the emotional response you need from a horror film.
Let's be clear, I didn't end up making a computer game (i'll leave that to people like Tim). What I did was look to at what I wanted to get out of a horror film. Then try and make that.
My direct inspiration and my most favourite game is Silent Hill (Silent Hill 2 to be exact). They did make a movie but I would ignore that. I urge you to play the game(s)! They take a more psychological approach to generating a response form the player. It's not full of jump scares and it's not full of gore, it just makes you uncomfortable and it makes you think.
It's this wanting to make people think that has driven many of these projects forward. Films that don't tell you everything, the ones that let you make up your own mind. These kinds of films have always interested me. Perhaps that's because I like to write stories and if you have to make up or make sense of an ending... well that's just fun! This film would be a prime example of allowing the viewer to interpret what they liked.
Needing to find a location for this film would come so much easier than it had for any of the previous films. Bert who you may remember from his role May's film, his voice in Augusts and his role in September (Bert is in a lot of these films it turned out!) helped out with this.
Bert was currently in possession of a very old creepy house and although it was being put up for sale he allowed me to come in for a day and a night to film. This house is not just any old house but an old house that has had very few modifications and very few interior decoration changes. This maser it look incredible and meant that I did not have to set dress anything!
Check out the pictures below and you will see what I mean.
So the usual challenge when starting to put a film together was gone, the location was sorted. Next up was finding two actors that were willing to work with a very odd script! For this I went to the Oxford Actors Network which is a kind of database full of actors who operate in the local area. For Julys film I tired it out and put out a casting call but nothing came of it... apart form an email I got from Sally Beaumont. This is significant because she responded to a casting for a male role, this was a good move. She responded and said that if I were to change the venter of the character she would be up for it. Unfortunately I couldn't change the role but I remembered her. So when I thought about casting for Octobers film I went straight to Sally. The fact that she responded in an interesting way made me remember her and that's the difference between getting a job and losing it. My films are not going to make her career but it applies to all levels of casting 'make people remember you'. You may not be right for the immediate role but if they remember you eventually they will call and give you something are right for.
Sally was incredibly helpful! She agreed to play the part and I asked if there was any one else she might suggest who could play the other charachter. She did not let me down. Ruth Curtis was the suggestion and (as with Septembers film) having actors that had worked together before proved very very usefull. Ruth and Sally did something I didn't think would be possible, they took the script and figured out a way to make it work. The script was intentionally very vague and mysterious, they were putting a fair amount of faith in me that it would come out good in the end. Yet the fact that they thought about how it might work and for each of them to come with their own ideas and ways or portraying certain things was so incredibly helpful. Yet another example of getting the right people for the right job.
This was going to be a stylish film, much of what you felt would come form the look as well as the dialogue. That sounds obvious but there were certain choices made whilst we shot this film that help give it a different look. Chris Stephens was back!! Chris was the Cinematographer/DOP of this film (listen to him on the podcast and find out why he has two job descriptions here). He took the initiative to think about what we could do to give this film a 'look'. He picked out some different lenses (we tended to shoot all these films on Arri Ulta Primes), ones that weren't quite so perfect which would react differently to what we were used to. Lots of thought went in to how much we lit a scene and we kept the camera locked off for every single shot. Locking off the camera gives a kind of focus to the actor and their surroundings that sometimes camera movement can loose. It's like looking at a still image, you look at only what is presented to you not a little to the left or a little to the right. There is also no real back ground action, this is a sparse film and It's my hope that this will get the audience more involved with each scene.