It’s 4:00 AM and there’s a knock at the door. Do you go to investigate? What if you’re pooping, do you still go?
A horror short film you should KNOCK be scared of
However, it turned out to be a blessing in disguise. Because in order to enter the competition, the video would need to be cut down from nearly 2 minutes to 1 minute. That’s half! #theydidthemath.
Instead, we let it breathe. That’s what’s best for horror. To leave lingering, suspenseful moments that let the dread set in.
How to write horror and alienate people
Step one for the CTK team was to have a script to even shoot. There was a limited time & no budget but we wanted to make sure there were oodles of quality.
But what makes a quality horror? What’s scary? I’m a horror fan but I find very few horrors actually scary.
The common theme or threat is some sort of inevitability. Something is coming for you and you can’t escape it. Ultimately, this is death. It’ll be dressed up in fancy ways. It’s a creature out to get you. There’s a ghost haunting an old house or tree’s that murder. Yup, even The Happening fits this description. My lord that’s a terrible movie.
Knowing death or pain is coming for you isn’t fun…It’s terrifying. The simplest way to achieve this is by making the character see their own death. They’re naturally going to want to escape that fate. So all you need to do is write your protagonist down a path they don’t want to go.
And then death appears.
So two scripts were written. 1 chosen. And we moved onto production.
Lighting the dark and other production challenges
As this was a short, last-minute project, I’ll sum up the pre-production process. We planned to shoot in the spaces we had available, with an actor we knew and trusted, with only a 2 man crew. This left us with not a lot to arrange. The hardest was the outside stairwell, but luckily a fire escape saved us. That’s not ironic, Alanis.
Moving onto the actual production. We had 29 shots, 8 hours. 3 locations. 2 lights, 2 actors, 1 of which was also one of the 2 crew members & 1 camera.
This made filming fun (fun ~ difficult). Managing the camera, the lighting audio and any ques the talent needs with two people leads to wearing a lot of hats. In a couple scenes, both actors in a shot meant one person operating everything. But we made it work and to great effect [editor note: we hope].
The key is to keep it simple. Luckily a horror means low key lightning. It was lit using the Aputure M9 and tube light. We had the option to use more but we quickly realised it wasn’t needed.
The inside hallway went through a couple of different lighting setups. We’d done a quick pre-production lighting run through the day before but when it came to the shoot day, the option to have a singular light above the doorway just made sense.
What’s most important though, is the big thanks we need to give to our main talent, Joe. He came over with little notice and as always, put everything into it. We absolutely couldn’t have done it without him.
Time – Money – Quality: Pick 2
If you’re not aware, this is a common problem in film-making/project management. We could have put out the video in time for the competition deadline (and would have if we knew the right date) but the final quality wouldn’t have been there.
So, by spending more time on the project, we could do it for cheap and in a relatively quick turn around, without sacrificing quality. Of course more of everything would have really helped.
See you next week!