Wednesday, January 9, 2019

The Cold Caller - It's a Wrap

On January 6th 2019 The Cold Caller was filmed. A great deal of preparation, lasting around three months, occurred prior to that date and it’s a good feeling to know it’s ‘in the can’, so to speak, or more accurately but less romantically, ‘on the cards’. 

The shoot was typically tough (and cold!) and took much longer than expected. Make-up, which was extremely important for this movie, took about two and a half hours for just two characters. We started at 9:30 in the morning and our small cast and crew were done at 9:45 the same evening. A long day! 

Thankfully, there was an abundance of enthusiasm and patience, and there was plenty of fun and laughter, which always makes for a good set and shoot. 

The whole things was shot in my garage which had been stripped of its ‘useful’ contents and replaced with a selection of weird and macabre items to depict the lair of a psychopath; seemingly with a history for murdering young women. It’s an oddly enjoyable thing to scour charity shops and ask people for anything old, creepy and rusted. As usual, doll’s heads featured prominently and there is much to give a clear indication, from the get-go, that we’re in a very dark, evil place. I make no apologies for borrowing many of the more common horror tropes. It is entirely deliberate and designed to show the audience that we are very much in the midst of a grim situation and things will get ugly, pretty damn quickly! As the piece will have an expected runtime between 90 seconds and just under three minutes, it was crucial to let the scene setting be the exposition.

The film opens with a young female victim (typically!), played wonderfully by Marian Elizabeth (Mazzy) strapped to a chair and unconscious. Yep, we’ve seen it a hundred times before and we know it’s never a good place to be, and so it begins! I can’t thank Mazzy enough for travelling from London to Coventry, to effectively be strapped into a chair (in what is effectively a stranger’s garage) and be covered in blood, gunk and all kinds of stuff and nonsense, while being surrounded by more strangers in the blistering cold! Thankfully, she was well looked after, and I’d love to work with her again. We had lots of conversations beforehand, of course, and I’d discussed what was required over a period of months, but even so, it was a wonderful leap of faith by her and really appreciated. It is important, as a director (and producer!) to ensure everybody is looked after, respected, appreciated and fed! I shall not mention the sudden depletion of Custard Creams ever again!

A huge debt of gratitude also goes to Mark Hancock, The Psychopath, whose enthusiasm (quite frighteningly!) and humour made working with him a joy. A local filmmaker himself, Mark agreed to the role after we’d met at the Encounters Film Festival, back in September. Again, developing the look and feel of the character, albeit stereotypical in many respects, was an important step in getting him in the mindset for the crazed world in which he was to inhabit. We developed some useful traits and an annoying hearing aid. This serves, without apology, as a useful device to legitimise his inability to track ‘The Victim’s’ movement and to compensate for any potential sound issues which will invariably occur when filming in a suburban garage!

We have some great music from Chris Pemberton, whose musical score for Scarecrow really elevated that production. I can’t wait to get to the sound design on this once I have an assembly edit in place.

Then there’s Jessica Peck, who provided the make-up for the movie and did an absolutely stunning job. We couldn't have been more impressed with how both characters looked, especially ‘The Psychopath’. Working to my brief, she detailed so much nastiness in his look in a small space of time. She also provided welcome conversation and laughs to the actors and crew, during periods of downtime in filming.

Damien Trent and I assumed camera and sound responsibilities and much more! It really was a skeleton crew, as it realistically had to be. There are plenty of willing and talented people who could have been enlisted to help, but the tight nature of the set meant it would exacerbate the cabin fever and create as many problems as it solved. We had to grin and bear it all, basically. Continuity, clapper, set-ups, problem solving… So much more besides! However, we still remained focussed and in good spirits throughout, which helped. A good partnership which hopefully, at this stage, looks like it may have created something great.

The one downside of the day is that we didn’t capture a cast and crew photograph, which means I must work especially hard to get this movie made into something which will be shown far and wide. Then, hopefully, we can all meet up and get that final ‘shot’ of us all together!

And so, post-production begins. So far, so good. A quick scan of the footage means confidence is high and the desired aesthetic looks like it’s been achieved.

We shall literally see if all the hard work and preparation pays off. The Cold Caller will be finished soon. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

2019 - A Productive and Fruitful Year

Much of the New Year’s plan for 2019 was outlined in my earlier post ‘Dumped is Dumped and a New Slate’ in October, which really was a springboard into a new raft of projects. Since then, work has been continuous and Return from the Moon, a 'hangover' from years ago, has now been finished and a great deal of pre-production work has occurred on The Cold Caller. This will be my first film of 2019, however, I’m hoping for several more.

Return from the Moon is an experimental animation and, typically, it allows for a more surreal expression to take place, rather than the linear narratives of my live-action efforts. Evidently a lot of people will hate it. I’m not entirely in love with it myself, but it did give me a chance to develop new techniques and understand different processes. In some way, it was a necessity to get it finished; an itch which needed to be scratched, using lots of old 'jumbled' material I'd created over the years.   
It is often a dilemma for me to consider whether such movies should be launched onto the festival circuit for public consumption, or simply confined to a draw, under the bed and padlocked, like a guilty secret. I have always said I’m not a purist when it comes to animation. I simply use it as a medium to tell stories which are more oneiric in nature and when a cast and crew simply aren’t available. However, in 2019, I aim to develop my animation skills and become more ‘traditionally’ accomplished. Filmmaking objective number 1.

2018 has been a year of learning; some of it good, some of it bad. There’s plenty to keep me inspired, however, there’s an awful amount which can really drag me down. It really is my intention to attend more festivals in 2019 and to discuss my movies with like-minded filmmakers and network. I see some fantastic short films and some great filmmakers. What is especially pleasing is that there is a wealth of super-talented filmmakers right on my doorstep, here in the Midlands, UK. But, with that said, the affecting negativity which can sometimes pervade on the independent filmmaking circuit is so stultifying, that I’m never far away from just simply saying ‘sod this’.  This is one of the annual feelings I must overcome (again!) to simply keep going! Filmmaking objective number 2. Essentially, I think it’s entirely important to say nice things about films you like and help other people if and when they’re struggling. It seems far easier for people to bitch and moan - always, or get ultra-competitive and petty. To me, that’s just plain daft… I believe that admiration and inspiration is the key to improvement. 

And so, 2019 begins and I have a full-slate of movies already up for consideration (as outlined previously) and the possibility of another crowdfunding campaign for Happenstance; a tidy little live-action comedy, which could also be made in the second part of the year. So far, early script reads have been more than promising!

MIKE and FREYA are both single, unlucky in love and drifting towards their 30s. Seeking counsel, they slowly unravel as their innermost fears, thoughts and desires are explored and recounted to a bewildered COUNSELLOR. Seeing beyond their blinkered future view, the counsellor offers more than they could have anticipated.

I aim to make 2019 a productive year.

So, Happy New Year to you. Let’s hope it’s a good one for us all. Keep filmmaking, keep creating and be kind!