I can safely say I never know what I’m going to do next or for what reason.  Whether it be to suddenly choose to write three shorts and film them in one weekend (which reminds me – I must finish the other two) or shooting a music video as part of the Soska sister’s yearly Women in Horror Blood Drive. My latest short, Stolen, was no different.

I’ve been in the process of writing a feature for a while now. With one script completed, and one a third of the way I seem to keep resetting myself. The first was supposed to be a contained piece with a limited cast but the story got away from me and ended up as something I would need to raise a fair bit of cash for and with only short films behind me at this point I figured it was overreaching. I did get some feedback from Spectrevision (Elijah Wood’s production company) which was constructive but also informing me it wasn’t what they were looking for at this time.

The second started off with similar intentions. A constrained film, small cast etc etc. But once again my ideas started outpacing my wallet. So I ensured I had the big hitting points noted down and shelved it for later. I needed to concentrate on something that I could actually get in front of a lens. So a new idea was born and I started to write with all the intentions of filming it this year.

Photo by Mike Shawcross

I then had a period where some personal issues occurred and I stopped writing all together. The year started to whisk itself away from under me and I realised that I wasn’t going to be able to get this thing written and filmed this year. But I did want to film something, I just didn’t know what.

I had a few short film ideas that I had noted down over time one of which grew from a single image of a man delivering a parcel having the door slammed in his face. I dusted it off, as much as you can dust a digital document off and found it was one that was almost there and just needed some tweaking. Over the subsequent drafts, the character’s back story changed a bit and it went heavier on the gore. But essentially it remained the script I dug out of the back of my hard drive written all those 12 or so months ago.

Right, lets make a movie. First on my list of regular collaborators were Paul While for doing my special FX and he really knocked this one out of the park, then Guy Pearson for his skills on my post production work and my stupidly talented cousin Eric Elick for my score. Mike Shawcross was back to do his great BTS photography. I had recently shot my Bloody Nurses video with cinematographer Jack Ayers and that went really well so we teamed back up for this, who brought in his partner Freya Espie as the art director. I was then fortunate to get Lucy Clements on board as my Make Up Artist.  My cast was made up of just two actors. Samantha Elliott Brody and Oliver Malam who had previously worked with each other on Six Hot Chicks In A Warehouse.

Photo by Mike Shawcross

So that’s my cast and crew in place, now I just need to find a place to shoot the bloody thing. After much ensuing frustration, I was at my niece’s house cooking her dinner (yes that’s right I went over there and cooked) and we started talking about my new short which I was prepping and how I needed a place to shoot it. I was then knocked for six when she said I could use her house to shoot in (it’s really rather lovely). Without giving her the chance to back out I took this lifeline with glee!! I probably should have mentioned all the splattering claret at that time but it might have hindered my chances of keeping the location.

So everything had fallen into place. I was going to make a movie! We shot it over two days near the end of May and I had it edited within a week. That was mostly down to my lean shoot. I had the film in my head and knew exactly what I wanted and needed. So didn’t shoot a lot of coverage and kept my takes to a minimum. This made both the shoot go to time (in fact we finished ahead of schedule both days) and the edit much easier – as I didn’t have take after take to trawl through and then figure out which was best. Also limiting the number of angles stopped too many edit decisions and a number of single long shots. However what I will say is that is a risky way to shoot as you have nothing to cut to or insert if something didn’t cut together as you expected. Sometimes no matter how clear you have it in your head, when you get to the edit you suddenly see that “oh no she had her arms up and then when you cut to this angle they’re behind her back” or worse, your angles literally seem to change the logistics of the shot, such as the cardinal sin of crossing the line. Although I have seen this in big budget TV more and more – I don’t know if its just rushed filmmaking or if it is intentional. Either way it doesn’t work and you confuse where your characters are standing and who is facing who and should never be done – even if you intentionally do it. Just don’t!

Sorry, got off the beaten track a little there. Anyway the film is now in the submitting to festivals process and as I write it has been accepted into Film Quest in Utah, Chicago Horror Festival and Horrible Imaginings in San Diego. So for something that I made as I wanted to practice and do different things it’s doing okay so far.

For my first time we planned the whole colour palette up front so thanks go to Freya and Jack for taking me down that route. Having an Art Director really makes a difference and this was my first time having one. I used angles and focus pulls I hadn’t tried before, it’s far gorier than my other films, has little to no dialogue (just in one scene) and is hopefully scary. So I’m really excited that so far it is being received well! Hopefully we’ll get a few UK festivals too!

I like the fact that all my films are very different from each other. But I do also get a little jealous when I see peers that really have found their style. I genuinely don’t know if I have one but we’ll see. So here endeth the story of this part of my journey. I may have one more short to do but then it will be radio silence until I get that elusive feature made. But I will update you as and when that looks like it is happening. Cough…crowdfunding…cough!


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