Note: This is going to be quite a bigger read than usual. Feel the movie needs more explanation than usual due to the conditions it was made under.
This film was the first fictional film I have undertaken in a while (and completed!). It was for the 60 hour Film Challenge put on by Colchester Film Festival. Not only did we have to come up with the idea, film and edit it all in the 60hr time frame we also had to follow a certain brief. This was sent right at the beginning of the challenge to all the teams to signal the beginning of the challenge. Our brief was as follows:
Dialogue: “It was the only thing I could hold on to.”
Action: A phone is plugged in and with a piece of furniture.
During the week our team (named WALL SQUAD as an homage to our school days) came up with a host of little ideas we could work off. Then we got the brief and the title Ultraman. O’ how we hated the title! It was obvious with that name what they wanted *cough* superhero *cough*. We really didn’t want to go down that route for a few reasons: we didn’t have the budget for costume or possible effects, lack of actors to hand and various other logistical problems. Within the timeframe we would not have been able to pull off a good and convincing action film. And also the name sucked, did I mention that?
We bandied around a few ideas. From black comedies to sci-fi dystopian dramas. But given the time constraints, the resources available and a few strong images we went with something completely different with the name. We went with a horror.
With the genre and story sorted we narrowed everything else down. With the constraints we decided to take options that would make the shoot easier for us. We’d be shooting at night (instantly creepier), shooting indoors (more control of our environment), with as little amount of actors and dialogue as possible (to streamline and intensify what was on-screen). Music was going to be sparse and tense. We wanted to get away from the mainstream horror of recent times so that meant getting away from gore and the over reliance on jump scares. We were looking to make it more subtle and psychological akin to It Follows and The Babadook.
The film was purposefully made to be very ambiguous and of the moment. We wanted to place the audience into a scenario that was similar but different. There is a deep hidden narrative to the film but it definitely takes a back seat. The film itself was made to just be an experience of mood and tone. Our overall goal was to create a great sense on unease. We did not want you to be comfortable.
I believed we caught the tone of what we wanted to achieve pretty well. What I would have done is to have streamlined the whole thing. Less scenes so we could emphasize certain beats more and heighten the tension even further. I would have possibly taken out one of the antagonists too (the Lady) to focus and mythologize Ultraman further as a proper horror to behold. Also I would have made the narrative even less important, more ambiguous and more surreal. These are personal preferences and probably wouldn’t have gained much traction with the production team but, in all honesty, would have made the film more difficult to film in the time frame!
On the technical side, there was two main concerns that came up in the edit. First was the audio. Most of the night we had a sound guy but he was gone for the most important scene with audio; the one scene with dialogue. We tried to improvise in his absence but it didn’t work. We did what was possible with what we had but just wish it could be cleaner. And the other is obvious: lighting. I tried to go as natural as possible because: 1) I thought it would add to the horror 2) Didn’t have access to decent lighting. When I got to the edit A LOT of it was unusable. I’m not sure if my eyes had adjusted to the dark surroundings on the shoot or what but it just needed more lighting!
All in all I enjoyed the challenge set out. Got to spend time with old mates, got the creative juices flowing again and was able to get back into fictional filmmaking. In the coming year I definitely want to do this type of filming more. I’d also probably do the 60hr challenge again but with a few changes:
- No night shoots! We spend a day not really doing much. Wasted hours in a 60hr time frame!
- Get an actor beforehand! Decrease the panic!
- In fact get all possible equipment beforehand! LIGHTS!
- Inform girlfriends of house use! (sorry!)
- Not get the title ULTRAMAN in the brief! Seriously though…..Ultraman?