So my friends and I did another short film this year. Costing F$150 (US$75) and shot over two nights and an afternoon, we made a little sci-fi/ horror film and called it Envy. I did a little Director journal for it that was supposed to go up on one of my friends blogs, but I thought I'd share it with you guys too.
Check out the short below and then have a read :D
Getting into the Kula films this year was an interesting experience. After our effort last year, which was met with so much positive response, as a group we knew we had to do something that would be seen as an immediate step up from Kania Na Yalo Bula.
As we were kicking around ideas for this years short, a number of things swept through my head. I knew I wanted to do something different from our last short, but exactly how different?
At one stage of the production we had actually settled on a script that was very different from what we ended up doing. It was an idea that I have had for a very long time which involved a young rugby star who gets mislead through drugs. This was interesting because even though I am open to watching any good film, such a story would not attract my immediate attention, because of this I thought it would be an interesting direction to take our short this year, it would be something that the audience would not expect after Kania.
This script went as far as gathering actors and even establishing a rough shooting date, but there was a part of me that wasn’t totally convinced by it.
At this time I was attending FNU’s Film and television course, and had learned a number of things that brought a new dimension to the way I saw my work. As artists or creative minds in any form of media, the trick is to always learn and expand on what you know, so I like to think my friends and I had come a long since making Kania, and this needed to be showcased.
It was then that the inspiration for Envy creeped it’s way into my head.
I get ideas in a number of different ways. That’s one reason I like to read a lot and watch as many movies as I can get my hands on. These things seep ideas and concepts into my work in many interesting little ways, and when I got the idea for the script that would be “Envy”, it came to me in a dream.
When I a woke from this dream, there I was at five in the morning, quickly turning on my pc to jot out what would become the first draft of Envy.
I quickly finished it and sent it off to the rest of n00b production guys who got pretty excited about it. Our producer was a bit worried about the actors we had lined up for our previous script, but I convinced him other wise :P
With Envy we had something that fell into my favorite category of Horror, and as an amateur director/ writer I really wanted to explore the genre more. I have always believed that when it comes to creating anything, you should always work around things you know, and things that keep your own personal attention.
Unlike Kania na Yalo Bula though, Envy was different in the sense that it wasn’t as straight forward . I wanted to work in a sense of suspense, and I wanted the audience to guess at what was happening and what might happen, then I tried to do my best to spin things the other way.
This years Kula entries had a run time of 10mins, as opposed to last years 5mins, so this allowed us to inject a little bit more time for the ‘set up.’ The script went through several revisions, most of it involving dialogue, but the core concept was always the same.
When it came to finding actors for the script, it was not my immediate intention to not have the same actors as last time, but because we had some new people who were interested in being part of our work, we ended up with fresh faces.
This I thought worked out very well for us.
This however brings us to one of the biggest problem I think any potential film maker would face locally, and that’s the lack of proper actors to pull from. There were a lot of comments made about the lack of acting skills the cast of Kania had, but you have to remember, these are my friends who are helping me out. They are not professional actors, and I am not even paying them. In fact, these guys actually give me money to make my films. So there’s only a certain level of believable performance I can get out of these guys, and there’s only so many times I can tell them to do a scene over and over again before I call “take.” Especially with Envy when we were working till 3am in the morning for 6 long hours with maybe one or two five minute breaks, with ‘actors’ and crew who paid their own cab fare to be at a certain location to help me out.
This however does not mean that our stars Gabriel Gravel and Michaela Asen didn’t give it their all. As in Kania, the small cast of Envy had to endure hours of fake blood, sweat and tears to get things done, and at times I considered my self very lucky to have friends that would put up with so much to bring my ideas to life.
Someone who brought a lot to Envy would have to be our last minute camera man Damien Light. We had made arrangements for a camera and a camera man, and on the actual day of shooting these plans fell through. At one point I had convinced the crew to shoot the whole thing on a handy-cam. But our Gore-effects man, Michael Jon Light, ever the skeptic, was a little apprehensive about using a handy-cam, so he spent the day hunting down his brother Damien, who only a few hours before shoot confirmed that he could help us out.
It was Damien’s keen eye for film and camera work that resulted in the visual flare of Envy. With his magic hat full of lenses and home made dolly rigs, he captured my ideas almost better than the way they looked in my head. I’m very particular about my shots, and story boarding is something I take very seriously, and working with him was one of the few times where changes were suggested that made me go “Whoa that looks awesome!”
Speaking of story boards, they were really important to Envy because even though we had them for Kania na yalo bula, we shot that pretty much in continuity. But Envy required actors to be in various stages of make up, which meant certain scenes would need to be done first so that our actors could dress up or ‘dirty up’ for other scenes. On the first day of shooting we actually shot the last bit of the short, before moving on to the other bits. Also unlike Kania that was shot in 8 hours on a Saturday, Envy was shot over two nights and a day. The lead actors and I met up during the week to go over their parts, so on the day everyone knew what to do.
We were using my buddy Michael Jon’s house; so on the nights of shooting, we had to let the family finish off with what they were doing before we invaded their home. But they were very kind and welcoming to us, even going as far as staying in the rooms or going over to the neighbors so as to give us space to work.
The second night of shooting involved the “Hatchling” in the basement, which was a lot of fun to shoot. So an afternoon was spent finding materials and dressing up what would be the creatures ‘nest’. Our Hatchling was none other than the star of Kania na yalo Bula, Danielle Whiteside, who stood patiently for about half and hour while we applied make to her. In the end it was a cold, dark and very uncomfortable role, but I think her hard work came out great.
The idea behind the Hatchling was to have something that looks human, but is clearly something else at the same time. Because of our lack of access to advance make-up and what not, we had to work this out in other ways. Eventually I had an idea of something that could be barely made out in the dark. Something slimy and slithery that blends in. For this bit I made some of the crew watch the last scene from Ridley Scott’s Alien. This one bit where the creature is blended into a space crafts wall, hidden amongst the machinery, barely visible until it moves.
In fact Alien would be a massive inspiration for me as far as Envy is concerned, aside from the obvious relation to the “Body snatcher” movies. I am a massive fan of body horror, and I like the idea of things from another world, be it biological, alien or supernatural, that come to destroy us, but they need our bodies to do their dirty work. The concept of something that looks like your best friend, or lover, but is not them is very creepy to me. Though the idea behind Envy has very little in common with Alien, that atmosphere I wanted to create, and the pacing of our short was very much inspired by it.
When it came to putting the film together after the shoot, it became very clear that we had something a lot bigger that our last project. When you sit through a raw cut of Kania, you can tell what’s going on, and you can get some sense and feel of the narrative even without the sounds and music. But watching a very rough draft of Evny, it was evident that solid visuals would not cut it. The suspense that I wanted to put across and the creepiness, relied a lot on sounds and music. Up until the Sunday before the movie was handed into the FAVC, I was still looking for sounds and music beds. Subtle sound queues and sound effects really enhanced the whole project, and once Meli Tuqota’s amazing graphics were added to the bloody mix, the whole thing came together better than I had hoped.
In the end we had something we were all proud of. Shooting out of sequence and applying ideas that involved some tricky shots, relying almost blindly on storyboards to keep things in order, and having faith in the end vision, all paid off for us.
I can only hope that the audience find our short as interesting and exciting to watch, as it was for us to make.