Just a few days ago, I had yet another conversation about how hard it is to break into this industry as a creative type... They happen occasionally and people who haven't "broken in" are, obviously, far more prone to them. What's interesting to note is that everyone that I went to film school with that concentrated on something more technical, say... camera or sound, has done very well for themselves. In fact, one of my good friends from film school, the guy who shot all of my films, went on to shoot reality TV. He's great at networking and has subsequently travelled the world as a cameraman and is now directing a reality show for MTV. On the other side of the coin, I know of no huge success stories of people that concentrated on just the creative stuff like writing or directing or filmmaking, as a whole. Is there a moral here? I don't know, but then again, it all depends on your definition of success... and I'd like to think that our stories aren't over yet. In fact, I'd like to think we're still in the first act.
Anyhow, the debate rages on in our little circles, usually after far too much booze. Someone got a nibble from a studio, someone has a literary agent reading their material, someone just finished a script, someone just had their indie film distributed, yet... here we all are. Waiting around for success to come knocking. What's the best route to take? Should you write spec scripts? Should you make low-budget features? Should you make short films? Or should you just take a job in the industry, somewhere, then pursue your filmmaking and writing on the side and wait for the two worlds to merge? If you're looking for an answer, I don't have it. All I can say for sure is, you're not going to succeed if you don't keep trying and nothing happens overnight, so you might as well be doing one of the above mentioned things. Myself, I'm concentrating on writing, but I do think the world of short filmmaking is going to explode and it's going to be a great place to be.
Let me just say that if you've made a short film, I encourage you to send it over to me. Usually it doesn't cost anything, just post it online and I'll watch it. It's for completely selfish reasons, too. Due to how people consume media now and where things are going, I think short films are going to become more and more marketable and are going to be getting more and more respect and I like checking them out. Whether we know it or not, we're watching more and more short films all the time through Youtube, on Facebook and other sites, not to mention all the festivals that are popping up. Anyhow, I just recently saw another great short film, this one called "Someone Else", from Andrew Newall and I spoke with him about the film. Technically, the film was great. It was acted well, shot well and it looked fantastic. However, for me, where it excelled was in how it was all put together. The film really opened this little window into this horrifying world and told a complete story. He could've flushed it out, but he didn't. It was quick, it was concise, I mean it was only four minutes long, but the story you get is so much longer. In fact, I was left thinking about it for a lot longer than four minutes. Anyhow, we had the pleasure of discussing the film with Newall...
So, tell us about your short film, “Someone Else”.
It’s a 4 minute film about a young woman who lives on her own, who frequently finds things have been moved out of place here and there. This has been going on for a while and she’s not sure if she’s done it herself or if there’s someone else somewhere in the house. The young woman is played by Karen Bartke.
If you don’t mind us asking, what was the budget?
The budget was around £200 (approx $300). Most of that went on hiring the office location for a day. Cast and crew all worked for nothing, which was fantastic.
I love horror films that are based around fears and anxiety revolving around what happens when you sleep. Really, it’s when we’re at our most vulnerable. So, where did you get the idea from?
I wanted to write something that would scare an adult, so I thought the best thing to do was ask an adult what scares them and go from there. Psychological fear seemed to be a common theme, and I was looking to do something more psychologically scary than gory anyway - not that I don’t like blood and guts. I make time for zombies and vampires.
The film is only 4 minutes long, but you did a great job of telling a full story. The antagonist doesn’t say a word, yet… with just a few actions, in just a few seconds, I completely get her character. Talk about how you flushed out the idea and developed the characters.
The antagonist (played by Sharon Osdin) never had any lines from the beginning. I felt her scene didn’t need any. The actions would hopefully explain themselves. From the start, I knew it was going to be a real person hidden in the house. A real threat gave it a more eerie feeling. The trickiest part in the character development was making it feasible that another person could be in the house, unnoticed. How did they get in and why were they there? Writing a quick character bio helped, even though her background isn‘t mentioned. She became a stalker taken to the extreme. She monitors the house owner’s actions/reactions, mannerisms, day-to-day patterns, until she decides she wants to take her place. I’m glad it came across as a full story, and not a couple of minutes taken out of a longer film.
Now, tell us a bit about yourself. What are your influences and what got you in to film?
The interest in film was there from a young age, but the idea of being seriously involved just seemed away up in the clouds. I used to work beside Simon Ross, who co-produced Someone Else. He was doing film production at college and I talked to him about it all. He suggested I get a book on screenwriting as a start, so I did, and started pouring out ideas on to scripts. Mark Boggis, the DoP on Someone Else, was a filmmaker friend of his and I helped them out on a couple of their early projects, running for them, storyboarding, etc. I saw every project we worked on was bigger than the last, and in 2002, we wrote and produced Cool Blue, which Mark directed. It got shown at a film festival in Glasgow and I saw my name on the big screen as a writer and producer. That was a buzz, and I thought if I could do it with that one, I could do it again.
As far as influences go, I get most inspiration from reading interviews with writers/filmmakers, and watching their DVD commentaries. That way, I’m hearing about what they do in their own words, whether they’re from here in Scotland or wherever. I like what I’ve seen of Christopher Nolan’s films. His Batman films have been good, but I really liked Insomnia. I think he could direct a good horror. I also like some of Brian De Palma’s work. I’ve seen some smooth camera movements in his films and that’s what I was looking for in Someone Else. In Scotland, the first names that pop into my head would be Peter Mullan and Lynne Ramsay.
Film school: yes or no?
Can’t answer that one as I haven’t been to any but it sounds like a sensible start.
What’s your goals for “Someone Else”? Are you looking to enter into festivals and get some accolades? Are you just using it as a calling card and are looking to open some doors? Talk about why you made the film and what your goals with it are. Have you accomplished those goals?
I made it to enter into Zone Horror’s film competition in 2009. As it happened, we missed the deadline but it was too long anyway (Zone Horror’s film has to be 2 mins max). We had two scripts to choose from: one was a horror comedy and the other was this one. My immediate goal is to get it into festivals, not to go looking for accolades but just to see how it holds its own in competition, and to see if people get scared!
Have you entered it into any festivals? If so, how did it do? Is the festival scene something that you would recommend to other filmmakers? Why or why not?
I’ve submitted it to some but so far, it hasn’t played. It had a screening in Manchester in February. Even if it didn’t play at all, I’ll promote it other ways. Reviews so far have been fairly positive, I’m happy to say. I’d recommend the festival scene because you’re getting it promoted and it’s being seen by an unbiased audience. One thing you’d maybe want to watch for is the entry fees can mount up if you’re targeting the major ones all the time.
Did you learn anything through the process of getting the film made that you could pass on to other filmmakers who are looking to go out and make a short film?
The biggest lesson I learned from the whole production was to be as organised as possible before the shoot.
Talk about the indie horror scene, where do you think it is now and where do you see it going?
I think we’ve been seeing more psychological horror in film in recent years, as opposed to mainly gore or “jump” scares. Using an example from short films, Kasting was good. It won the 2008 Zone Horror competition and I thought it was very well done, very atmospheric and kept tension building. It made perfect use of their 2 minute rule. El Orfanato (The Orphanage) was a Spanish feature from 2007 which I enjoyed. I liked how it used the children’s game near the end. Where do I see the indie horror scene going? Well zombies and vampires don’t look like they’re going away any time soon…
Where can people check out “Someone Else”?
Nowhere at the minute, unless I send them a DVD copy! Hopefully at a festival soon. After I’ve taken it as far as I can, I’ll upload it to you tube. Cool Blue, our other short, is on there.
What’s next for you?
We’re determined to film another short this year. We have a few scripts we’re looking at. Personally, I’m hungry to do another one. I had a short story I wrote make it to the finals in a competition in the U.S. I think it would make a good short.