Tuesday 31 July 2012

The Making of THE ATTIC - Part 4 - The Ghost

As Susan Hill so rightly put when developing The Woman in Black, a ghost cannot exist in a ghost story without a solid motivation to carry out its hauntings. There needs to be a decent and believable backstory to this spooky entity to enforce why it is so evil, so scary, so horrifying in appearance. When The Attic was first being developed, The Ghost did not even exist, instead being a suggested demonic presence reinforced by the supernatural capabilities of the necklace and its communication via notes.

The original idea was that a supernatural creature had returned after death, unable to move on, due to an obsession with a cursed object that magnetizes it with a supernatural force. We aimed for as little explanation as possible, hoping that the enigmas would create suspense and mystery. We also felt that the more backstory we revealed, the more potential we had to totally screw it up (and add a lot of cheesiness and plot holes). As you may know if you've been following along with these posts, the necklace was originally the star of the show in the first drafts of The Attic and The Ghost was not put forward as a physical presence until much later. It was around October 2011 when I came up with ideas of showing black, cloaked figures throughout the film and eventually this expanded into the full inclusion of a pale, malevolent spirit.

The design is not just inspired by the eponymous woman from The Woman in Black but also the conventional designs of ghosts and demons in fiction. Film such as The Devil's Backbone, The Exorcist and The Ring are just a few examples that portray ghosts/demons as pale with rimmed eyes, their skin resembling that of a corpse. I feel this approach to ghosts gives them a more tangible and as a result a more threatening and frightening appeal as opposed to a translucent, floating humanoid drifting through corridors and walls. Also, when it comes to visual effects, The Attic had nowhere near the budget, crew or software involved to produce translucent spirits anyway, so this physical approach was our only effective option. The decision to use a black cloak also stemmed from The Woman in Black, in which the titular ghost is dressed from head to toe in a jet black funeral gown which gives her a very prominent and scary appearance when juxtaposed with her pale white face, and this same effect is conjured here.

Nathan Carr in full ghost costume and make-up.
We wanted to create fragmentation for The Ghost, so that its appearance would be teased and hinted and its presence always felt in each scene. Small glimpses and sounds of its activity were used to create such fragmentation, such as the scene where Joseph catches sight of its cloak from the corner of a door frame, and exits the room just in time to see it slam the door at the end of the corridor. The cloak used for these small glimpses was actually part of a Scream Halloween costume my brother purchased in late 2011 for a university party. When he was finished with it, I tore the mask off and used the hood and a cloak to portray small glimpses of The Ghost, and even its full body when Joseph sees it in his dark attic. However, the costume was extremely light hearted and comical, not to mention cheap. The material was thin and easily tearable and its design was not apt to show The Ghost clearly in light; the arms had frills that drifted down to the feet and it was not quite a cloak, but actually a suit with sleeves which I didn't like the look of. It was okay when showing glimpses and the full body shot in the attic (as that was a very dark shot, making the cloak appear as just a black figure) but as we planned to reveal The Ghost's complete appearance in the ending, we decided that a better looking cloak was necessary.

I searched about for some nicer black velvet cloaks to use, taking inspiration from a red velvet cloak my girlfriend wore for Halloween outings. I eventually found one on Amazon for about £11 (which was probably the biggest expense for the film) and purchased it toward the end of May. Being composed of a sturdier and better looking material, not to mention possessing a better hood and sleeveless cloak design, made this a much more appropriate costume for The Ghost's full appearance. The make-up for The Ghost was, as previously mentioned, inspired by the conventional designs of ghosts in fiction, with a pale tone to the skin and sunken eyes rimmed with a deep black. My cousin, Amelia Beecham, crafted the make-up herself onto Nathan, who portrayed The Ghost in the film. The make-up was applied on June 2, 2012 when the last few scenes for the film were shot. We decided to devote a single day to filming the shots that required The Ghost's full costume and make-up so to avoid hassle of constantly reapplying the facial paint. This made for some interesting and equally embarrassing public walks, which featured a lot of weird looks from curious pedestrians.

Creating the sound for The Ghost was also pretty challenging, as I wanted it to have a staple frightening scream that didn't sound silly or melodramatic, but very ear piercing and unnerving. The Ghost has two screams in the film; one was found on the internet (can't remember the specific site, but it was one about comparing horror screams) and the other is the scream heard during the pony and trap sequence in the 1989 television adaptation of The Woman in Black (yeah, I'm aware of how many times this film/book has been mentioned). Both of them had reverbs applied (the latter only in specific scenes) to create a more eerie and powerful sound. The whispering associated with the necklace is also tied to The Ghost, and usually sounds during its appearances to further link the two.

This scene became renowned amongst audiences as one of the film's scariest moments.
We needed to have a backstory for The Ghost, albeit a very discrete and almost unexplained one in order to maintain its mystery and fear factor and, as stated, prevent us from ruining its effect by adding a bloated amount of cheesy and unnecessary plot elements into the film. From the start it was decided that a demonic creature of some sort would lust after the necklace and refuse to die because of this, but when The Ghost came to fruition, we expanded on this concept to suit the addictive influence the necklace exudes and The Ghost's menacing persona. So essentially The Ghost was once a human being, who fell to the addiction of the necklace in such a massive way that its life became twisted and itself emotionally unstable. It died from its insanity and mental health decline, but refused to move on after death, instead returning as a malevolent spirit to keep beside the necklace it so truly desires and prevent anyone else from laying their hands on it. Think Gollum meets...you guessed it, The Woman in Black.

The only details explained in the film were that The Ghost fell victim to the addictive influence of the necklace and that it never completely died because of this; also that it kills the people that try to steal the necklace away from it. How it exactly died was not explained because this was, to me, unnecessary and irrelevant, but I decided later on that it dying from its addiction and subsequent decline in stability and health would be more effective to the story and thus have added it in here as a sort of expansion to the plot. The history of the necklace was left unexplained in order to keep its mysterious essence intact.

The pattern on the bathroom window gives The Ghost a slightly distorted look, which I felt was more effective than showing it outright.
That concludes Part 4 of The Making of THE ATTIC series, look out for Part 5 which will conclude the series by discussing the release of the film!

Thursday 26 July 2012

The Making of THE ATTIC - Part 3 - Editing

The Attic was not edited once all the footage was shot and saved; instead, the editing process ran in unison with principal photography, meaning when a day of shooting culminated, the footage would be imported onto the computer and edited into the overall product. As a result, the film slowly evolved as it was filmed, with music, sound effects and filters added to each scene after the shots were compiled roughly. All editing took place in Final Cut Express 4, a high end editing program (now discontinued) for Apple Macintosh computers. However, the footage was imported via iMovie and then exported from that program as an XML file for editing.

The first cut of the film which featured the previously mentioned opening scene shot in January 2011 was deleted when interest in the project died off, and it seemed the concept and storyline would not amount to anything. When the interest was rekindled, a new editing project was kickstarted and the opening scene was shot on October 27, 2011 and edited the following day.

Once I found a satisfactory method to make a scene shot in the light resemble one shot at night (lol), I began to grade the shots from the opening scene once they had been compiled into the necessary order and cut to form a single scene. The first shot was graded with dark blue colours and low saturation; the filter was then copied and pasted to subsequent shots to make sure there were no inconsistencies. When David exits the room, however, a change in the filter was necessary due to substantial changes in lighting. Inside his room, a lamp in the corner was switched on and illuminated the area. This meant the blue colours of the filter would not be exaggerated (due to the weak light source) nor would any severe light reveal them. When this filter was applied to the hallway, it merely looked like the same shot in the image you see above with a thin, dark blue layer slapped on top; simply put, it was hideous. The filter was then adjusted slightly with more blacks and whites, and reached a satisfying nighttime appearance. Of course the glowing spheres propped up on the hallway walls are the lights and are far from difficult to see, but the effect it casts on the area is quite effective. Rather than ruining it, I felt it created a moonlight-esque look and added further atmosphere. The grading was changed soon before the film was uploaded to add a bit more blue and saturation to avoid the scene looking black and white, which many people mistook the night filter for.

Editing for the rest of the film was fairly simple; but every shot was also graded. It probably isn't noticeable when watching but does provide a bleak vibe. Essentially, the saturation in each shot was slightly reduced and some greys were added, giving it a dry and dull appearance to fit the tone of the film. The only sequence which was not graded was the night scene where Joseph uses matches to light his path through the dark corridors, because the lighting was so minimal that the grading made it very difficult to see anything. As with the opening scene, the shots were not individually graded, but the filter was simply applied to the first shot and copied and pasted to the rest to save time and avoid inconsistencies to the look of the film. Occasionally, the filter would have to altered to suit a specific pattern of lighting in a shot, but most of the time it was a breeze.

This scene was inspired by a similar one in 2012's The Woman in Black.
No multi camera setups were used in The Attic, and so every shot was filmed individually (most of which lasting several seconds) and then cut into the Final Cut Express project. Timing is something vastly important to the editing process; if a shot is recorded from two or more angles which are cut between, then it is crucial to watch the footage of the respective shots and make sure wherever the first one cuts visually, the next one begins (I am fussed about the specifics also, so the way the character's body is positioned has to be consistent when cutting). Rendering the files was a frequent annoyance when editing (it would usually take ages if a few clips had to be done) and so a lot of patience was necessary.

Sound editing was of course a key element to the film, and something that was also very essential to capture the horror atmosphere. The most notable use of sound editing is with the ghostly whispering that emits from the cursed necklace; this was done in Audacity (as were most sound edits) by simply reversing an audio clip of me whispering gibberish and applying reverberation before reversing the clip once more and achieving the end result you see (well, hear) in the film. Some sound effects were also recorded via the camera's microphone (to capture background noise and make them sound less dubbed), such as doors slamming and the knockings heard throughout. To these, an AULowpass filter was added in Final Cut Express and the cutoff frequency was adjusted to give them the distinct muffled sound as if they are coming from behind a door. It worked very well in the end, and people who have watched the rough cut of the opening scene (posted on CarrCom Films on February 18, 2012) will notice the knocking sounds are without this filter and so do not sound very distant. The same filter was applied to other distant sounds from behind doors, such as the smashing heard during the final nighttime scene.

Shooting and editing the phone conversations was difficult as timing had to be spot on.
When it comes to audio editing, another notable part is the phone conversations seen in the film. There are several of these spanning different lengths, the most prominent being when Joseph contacts Mike to explain his previous experience at the house and his plans to investigate. These were very tricky to act and edit as they relied on thorough timing to sound like genuine conversations, so any overly long/short pauses between dialogue on camera and on the phone could cause problems. There was of course nobody talking on the other side of the phone when the scenes were shot, but all the dialogue was written in the script so it was not too difficult to create reactions. When the scenes were shot and edited, the phone dialogue was recorded (for Mike, my brother Matthew Compton was the voice over) via my Logitech desktop microphone. Once done, an AUBandpass filter (once again from FCE) was added to the phone dialogue audio clips and the cutoff frequency and bandwidth was adjusted to make the audio sound as if it is emitting from a phone. The same was done for the ringtone, which is a piece of music called 'The Air' from the video game Sonic Adventure (and used to be my real ringtone), and the sound of the phone vibrating was a generic sound effect take from the internet. For scenes where we see the phone ringing, all the sound is dubbed as the original audio recorded from the camera was subject to the radio interference from the phone.

Music in the film was a challenge, as we did not have a composer for the soundtrack and needed to find accessible music to match the various film scenes. After much searching in late 2010, I found a website called Incompetech which distributes self composed musical tracks from various genres for free use. The selection of music was utterly fantastic, the first I found being The House of Leaves which is used the opening scene (and was just what I needed thanks to its tense build up). As for scenes where I couldn't find apt music from Incompetech I consulted the soundtrack of The Woman in Black (the 2012 one) composed by Marco Beltrami. I myself have the CD, and so the music was easy to acquire and use in the film. The tracks used were Into The Fire and Crazy Writing and matched the respective scenes perfectly. Of course this isn't my music to be using in films, but The Attic is not making any profit and is simply a teenage film project. Credit was also given, so no harm done.

The sound in the film was also directionally edited by altering the pan levels of audio clips. This was to make the audience have a better understanding of where the sounds are emitting from if earphones/speakers are being used; a notable moment of this was when three doors slam shut on the upper floor of the house (just before Joseph is chased out by The Ghost) and emit knocking. The knocking sounds were edited to fit the direction of their door and so a variety of knocks bombard the audience at both sides, making them more than just overlaid audio files. Of course a stereo shotgun microphone would be much more suited to the job, but I didn't have one at this stage, and so this editing was the best I could do.

Editing of The Attic was completed on June 21, 2012, two days before the film was uploaded to Youtube. The last few edits were minor changes to sound and grading as the bulk of the cutting and syncing had been completed. The editing was an intensive but equally fun process, and a lot of it had to be done as we shot, in total, two hours and five minutes of footage (many outtakes were involved) and cut it down to the 45 (expected to be 25) minute film you see today. It was a challenge and involved a lot of patience and effort, but the end result was a true accomplishment.

Thanks for reading this part of The Making of THE ATTIC and look out for the next part which will cover the development of The Ghost, our spooky antagonist!

Monday 23 July 2012

Movie Review - The Dark Knight Rises

Last year it was the final Potter film, and this year we have the epic conclusion to Christopher Nolan's Batman trilogy. Beginning in 2005 with Batman Begins, the series had its golden moment three years later with the release of The Dark Knight; the inclusion of the Joker, one of Batman's most famous enemies, and the untimely death of Heath Ledger launched the film in complete stardom and racked up its box office takings to over $1 billion. Four years on, the finale has finally arrived, but can it possibly live up to the already high standards of the trilogy?

Eight years after the events of The Dark Knight, Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) is a retired cripple whose legacy as both Batman and himself has dwindled significantly. Gotham has enjoyed a period of peace without severe crime and injustice, but soon a new foe arises: Bane (Tom Hardy), an idealistic terrorist who seeks to destroy Gotham and its inhabitants. With the aid of burglar Selina Kyle (Anne Hathaway) and Police Commissioner James Gordon (Gary Oldman), the caped crusader must don his cowl and armour once more to put a stop to Bane's plans before the city he so desperately wants to protect is turned to naught but ash.

As with its predecessors (The Dark Knight to a greater extent), The Dark Knight Rises orients visually toward the IMAX format which Nolan enjoys utilizing. With over 70 minutes shot in IMAX, the film is without a doubt one of the format's biggest releases, and the quality truly makes a difference to the experience of the film. Images are crystal clear and look extremely polished and refined, plunging audiences into a deeper experience. Footage shot on regular 35mm film can become jarringly obvious due to letterboxing, but it isn't enough to damage the film's appearance. The Dark Knight Rises does not adopt the contemporary 3D format unlike most blockbusters, and with brilliant special and visual effects as well as excellent sets, it's without a doubt one of the finest looking films of this year. The score by Hans Zimmer is wonderfully captivating, atmospheric and action packed, adding another brilliant soundtrack to the renowned composer's legacy.

Where The Dark Knight Rises slightly disappoints me is with its storytelling, which is far from sub-par but not up to the standards of its predecessors. Bane is a fantastically menacing adversary, with impressive intellectual and physical capabilities that make him just as sadistic and equally entertaining as Ledger's Joker from four years ago. But, without spoiling, his final few moments in the film downgrade him a lot, culminating awfully. The other narrative issues include a rather abrupt beginning, where Bruce Wayne simply launches back into his Batman persona after so long, which feels very forced and jarring. The film also lacks much excitement during the middle portion, and for a film about Batman, I found myself unimpressed with just how underused Wayne's alter ego really was. The film without a doubt has a fantastic ending, right until the last few moments, when it manages to totally ruin itself. Some twists in the film were also slightly generic and, though surprising, quickly lost their appeal.

Acting wise, The Dark Knight Rises is universally fantastic, with Christian Bale portraying Bruce Wayne just as well as he has done before, and his alter ego Batman as intimidating, dark yet vastly enjoyable. His distinct and infamous voice is really not that bad at all, if sometimes a little slurred. Tom Hardy's rendition of Bane is one that slots into Nolan's realistic universe nicely yet still exudes the terror and sadism Bane is known for; he is skilled, strong, clever and extremely intimidating, spearheading a lot of the film's most intense moments. His only fatal flaw is the god forsaken voice; the mask he wears causes it to become robotic and muffled, and though it was apparently tweaked following complaints toward the prologue released last year, it is still incredibly inaudible at times: particularly in a scene where he addresses a crowd of frightened citizens with the aid of a microphone. The other performances were also generally great, such as Morgan Freeman as Lucius, Sir Michael Caine as Alfred Pennyworth (who was excluded a bit too much), Gary Oldman as Jim Gordon and newcomers Anne Hathaway (Selina Kyle) and Joseph Gordon-Levitt (John Blake), both of which perform entertaining characters who are not forced into the narrative and actually do a great job progressing it.

The Dark Knight Rises is a bombastic and exciting conclusion to Nolan's brilliant Batman saga, but it lacks the punch and excitement of its predecessors. A lot of it feels contrived or underdone, and the lack of development for certain characters as well as the terrible exits for others sink the overall quality of the storyline. Not just this, but sometimes there can be a distinct lack of focus (like how the lie of Harvey Dent's murders is barely explored). The story culminates satisfyingly until the very, very end, and with universally great performances, fantastic visuals and a still entertaining plot that incorporates some gripping scenes, The Dark Knight Rises is a film fans of the previous two should definitely check out, and does a good job bringing Nolan's vision of the Batman universe to a solid conclusion.

Thursday 19 July 2012

The Making of THE ATTIC - Part 2 - Principal Photography

With the script complete, it was time for filming to commence! Though in actual fact, the filming process was vastly intertwined with writing the script itself. The opening scene of The Attic, featuring David getting pulled to his death by The Ghost within the dark room, was shot twice in the year 2011. Not only that, but with different actors!

In January 2011, the filming began, with George Bligdon (you should know him as George from The Map of Five) portraying David. The entire film was shot with my Panasonic SDR-S26 camcorder, previously used to the film The Map of Five and The Reign of Five. The footage is now lost as it was deleted when I lost interest in The Attic and felt I had no decent way to develop the story. It was essentially the same as the version you see in the final cut, with David hearing the knocks, awaking from his sleep and approaching the locked door where he is dragged to his demise. Even the music was the same: The House of Leaves from Royalty Free Music.

As a horror film, it was essential that The Attic had a frightening opening scene.
The opening scene was pretty much identical in terms of shots, with the only key difference being the shot you see above. In the original, this shot was instead one of David's feet pressing the ground (with floorboards squeaking prominently), but we decided a shot that captures the darkness of the area would be a lot more eerie and effective. The opening scene, as it was written in the script, had David using a torch to light his path in the darkness, but when testing this it proved to be ineffective as the area surrounding David could not be seen well enough. Unlike the later match scene, which uses the inability to see to increase the tension and suspense, we wanted to clearly show the darkened landscape in this introductory scene to illustrate the layout of the house: so that when Joseph visits it later on, the audience can instantly realize what house he is in and who the initially unnamed character in the opening scene really is.

To sort out the issue of showing a nighttime setting, I sniffed about online for some tips at grading the image to make it appear as a nighttime scene, and found a custom made filter for Final Cut Express that could achieve that effect. Although the glowing of the lights is clearly seen, it sort of adds a creepy, moonlight esque tone to the footage and thus didn't bother me an awful lot. Once I returned to The Attic in late 2011 the opening sequence was reshot in the same fashion (bar the aforementioned shot) with Nathan Carr portraying David. This reshoot took place on October 27, 2011 and the scene was edited and placed on Facebook as a teaser the following day, receiving a lot of positive reception.

Originally this shot was meant to show The Ghost barely visible through the window, but test shots showed it was not visible at all due to light reflection, and so a POV shot was adopted instead.
But with a busy college schedule, lack of ideas to finish the script (it wasn't complete when the reshoot took place) and minor burnout, The Attic went on another hiatus. During this time I was adding ideas to the script and thinking of various locations to use. Those who have viewed the opening scene on Youtube (the video of it uploaded in February) will notice it ends with silence as David is dragged in, then subsequent knocking and the appearance of the title. This was the original cut from October 2011; in January 2012 I came up with the idea to utilize trains in the film to help it span several locations and to make good use of my rail card which I used to journey to college. As a result, I developed the idea to have a train horn drown the loud screaming and cut to a train speeding past the camera. I did a test edit of this by using a video of train passing from Youtube, and filmed the real clip on January 31 during a college free period. Regular filming commenced five days later, ready to go on for almost four months.

On February 5, me and Nathan got together and filmed the scene where Joseph returns home from the train station and then leaves the house to meet Mike and his friends at the park. This scene was shot before the footage of Joseph on the train, it passing through Totton Railway Station and him exiting Southampton Central Station. The entire scene from the train passing till Joseph exiting the station was not complete until March 10.  The next scene to be shot was the first 'big' scene, which saw Joseph entering David's home to find it empty. This scene was shot on February 18, the same day the CarrCom Films channel opened, and makes use of a lot of cinematographic techniques I favour: long shots, detailed close ups and POV shots. The following scene took place in Brockenhurst (the location of my college), which was selected for variety. Filming at the train stations was not difficult and required no special permission; usually Nathan (operating the camera) would catch a train to Brockenhurst ready for me to follow on the next train and exit it with him filming. The scene where Joseph exits Southampton Central was originally much longer and saw the train entering and then Joseph getting off it, but this was cut down extensively as it began to get extremely boring and unnecessarily long.

Luckily nobody admired the camera at the station!
For the most part, filming was challenging but never to the point of impossibility. Scenes such as when the box tumbles from the attic were tricky and required a lot of effort; for the aforementioned scene, we had to load the box onto the attic door, pull it open and allow it to fall down and spill everywhere multiple times for the mere two seconds in the film when it happens. Lighting occasionally became an issue as did the lack of crew (meaning the final shot where The Ghost attacks had to be setup carefully before acted out), which is something I intend to rectify in future film projects. We did have some clever techniques of getting around this lack of crew issue, however. For example, in the shot where Joseph leaves the house and the camera pans up to reveal The Ghost at the window, the camera was placed on a nearby wall, elevated slightly on the tripod clip, and once I passed I merely pushed it down at the back to angle it upward. A cut was made during the time between me exiting the frame and then moving the camera to make the shot flow better. As filming spanned such a long period of time, people may notice some changes in sets: for example, posters for The Amazing Spider-Man and Beauty and the Beast appearing in my bedroom when Joseph packs his bags for David's house, as well as changes to the bed duvet in the same scene (previously a zebra pattern and then suddenly brown). The duvet on David's bed also changes from a blue, patterned cover to jet black at one point in the film (spot it yourself!).

Filming concluded on June 2, 2012, where the last few ending shots were completed and edited into the film. Filming wasn't a continuous process throughout these four months, but took place whenever time was available; in April there was a minor hiatus due to particular contraints and problems, meaning no filming took place between March 10 and April 21. It restarted on the latter date with the scene where Joseph is chased out of the house by The Ghost (after trying to rid himself of the necklace) and subsequently continued on a regular basis.

That pretty much covers the filming process, so look out for Part 3 where the editing will be discussed!

Tuesday 10 July 2012

The Making of THE ATTIC - Part 1 - Writing The Concept

Originally the film was to have no trailers or posters, but I decided it was necessary to create anticipation and attract a large audience.
It has been almost three weeks since The Attic had its early release of June 23 on Youtube. The film was a massive success and surpassed expectations, achieving over 1000 views and gaining a handful of detailed and overwhelmingly positive comments. Praise has been aimed at the astounding gloomy atmosphere maintained throughout as well as the cinematography, music and sound, acting and shock moments. I am not only pleased by the positivity, however; this is my first film where a lot of honest criticism has been provided, which is a huge insight for me as to what my viewers like/dislike about my style and what they wish to see improved. In The Attic, criticism was mostly aimed at the occasional shaky handheld camerawork, poor lighting and the laptop scenes, which intended to document the happenings and Joseph's experience with them (and many did still find them effective), but several viewers found them dull and emotionless.

But it's hard to think that this all began with a single idea I had in September 2010, when I heard strange knocking sounds in my room which sounded as if they were coming from inside my attic. It turns out that it was merely my neighbour putting up a shelf next door and my hearing was a bit dodgy, but it still sparked the idea inside me to make a film where something lies within the attic, knocking and knocking, but never revealing itself. This original idea is one that the final film adopts only in one scene, as over time it expanded into a much deeper, conventional and varied ghost story with the title remaining intact simply because I could not perceive the film having any other name. Titles such as The Necklace and That Door were considered, but they were terrible, and the original title was kept as a result.

This is all a night filter - the scene was actually shot with the lights on, hence the luminous white glow
But the final script is of course not at all similar to the original drafts and outlines. Writing for the film began in November 2010 once the idea had been fleshed out a bit more; interestingly, the renowned opening scene where David is seen getting dragged to his death by The Ghost was written into the film shortly after the first draft. It remained the only scene I deemed perfect for the entire writing process from the start of penning the script, and so was not scrapped from the final film. However, what followed on from that scene was vastly different to what is shown in the released film, and instead of being set in David's house, it was mostly set in Joseph's.

Originally the film opened with Joseph playing a video game before realizing he is late for a meetup with friends. He was to grab his coat and leave the house, returning in the evening. This scene would also have shown knocking from the attic, but it would have been vague and discrete and, as a reverse of how I heard it in real life, Joseph would assume it is next door being a nuisance and yell at them to be quiet. Upon returning from the meet up, he would have gone off to bed and, in the middle of the night, would have heard knocking from his attic. This time it would have been loud and almost menacing, waking Joseph (who now knew where it was coming from) and frightening him. He would have grabbed his earphones and placed them in to block out the noise and, too afraid to go inside, would have moved the very corner of his bed and not have taken his eyes off the attic door. However, in a scene similar to one in the final film, he fell asleep.

We dubbed this shot 'The Amazing Stair Pan' due to its awesomeness.
What followed on from all this was Joseph finding the necklace in the attic and attempting to be rid of it. Instead of having the addictive, supernatural influence it possesses in the final film, the necklace would have been something that stalks Joseph and mentally tortures him; constantly appearing in his pockets and around his neck when he tries desperately to destroy or lose it, even throwing it away in the common during one scene. Alongside this, knocking would continue to emit from the attic, and Joseph would see notes appearing all over his home that read "GIVE IT BACK" (another idea kept in the final film), suggesting there is another entity in the attic who controls the necklace. The main idea would have been that it demands Joseph to return the necklace yet keeps handing it back through supernatural means, attempting to cruelly toy with and frighten him for some sick recreational desire.

A scene set during the middle of the night was planned and dubbed 'the main hauntings'. Here, there would be a series of supernatural and spooky occurrences in Joseph's house. Such events included constant knocking on the attic door coupled with ghostly screams from inside as well as one from outside the house. This would see Joseph fleeing from his house in terror when the lights suddenly go out, panting heavily outside in his driveway. Then, a ghostly shriek would sound from the distance (with a frightening echo attached) and continue endlessly. This would represent a difficult choice for Joseph; continue hearing the terrifying scream or go back inside into the darkness. He chooses the latter, and falls the floor in his house, refusing to open his eyes until the lights suddenly flash back on and knocking from the attic door upstairs continues. Joseph loses his temper and throws the necklace at the attic door, yelling at whatever is inside to just take it and leave him alone, but it shows him several notes: one reads 'BECAUSE IT'S FUN'. The attic door would then fly open loudly and ghostly shrieks would emit from within, terrifying Joseph into unconsciousness. This entire scene sounds good here, but when rereading it later, it was far too congested and poorly timed. Much like the nighttime scene in The Woman in Black (2012), the scares were tacky, poorly paced and kept attempting to be mere jump scares. The one I regret getting rid of is the shriek from outside the house, which even now seems like a very creepy concept.

These window shots were difficult. Communication for timing had to be done through phoning one another constantly.
Then came the ending. The ending is something that has changed several times throughout development, even during filming. In the first draft, the ending would include Joseph handing the necklace back calmly and then revisiting the attic later to find it gone. Content in believing that whatever haunted him has now left, he resumes his normal life and invites his friend Mike over for a bit. When playing a video game, Joseph heads off to the toilet and during his absence Mike hears knocking sounds from the attic. Curious, he enters the room and notices a small door in the corner is open and emitting whispering sounds. He approaches it and, whilst Joseph exits the toilet, a scream is heard. Joseph enters the attic, panicking, to find Mike gone and the necklace in front of him. The film then ended with the attic door closing and the camera panning away from Joseph's bedroom as his and a ghost's screams are heard from within. This seemed like a relatively creepy ending initially and I enjoyed the concept of the attic door closing Joseph inside, but it seemed far too random and inexplicable, and the introduction of Mike at such a late stage was utterly forced. The final part of the ending was altered slightly afterward, where Joseph would enter the attic after hearing Mike scream and enter the same door he entered, ending up in a dense, secluded part of forest with a strange black figure behind him. Both of these endings were disliked eventually.

Another ending idea was for Joseph to pack his bags and leave the house. The final scene was to be shot in Romsey War Memorial Park, where Joseph would be walking contently having fled his home a month ago to escape the horrors inside. However, at the park, he sees a black figure in the distance and has the necklace back in his pocket - this ending was never finished, however, as I myself thought it was just so bad. On the final draft of the script, the ending saw Joseph trying to flee the house in terror as all the doors begin to knock but be unable to escape. He then loses his temper and angrily throws the necklace at the door from which The Ghost lurks behind and is suddenly dragged in to his death, mirroring the opening scene. This ending seemed too abrupt and sudden in the script, and was finally changed during filming to the one we see in the final film where Joseph is attacked by The Ghost when fleeing from the house. This ending was also done to experiment with The Ghost's physical appearance, allowing us to show it as more than just a black cloak. The Ghost was added half way through making the script as we wanted to show it as an evil entity, and not just some suggested essence done via whispering.

This scene was inspired by a similar scene in The Woman in Black (2012).
This ending was chosen and finalized as the most effective. It is the most notable element of the script that was changed during production, and a choice I am very happy for making. After a huge hiatus throughout 2011 (though portions and ideas were suggested and added during this time), The Attic's script was finished on February 5, 2012. Of course many alterations occurred during filming, such as the aforementioned ending. Other examples include the scene where Joseph finds the counterfeit necklace in the ruined front room, which originally involved him finding a slashed photo of David holding the necklace. The counterfeit necklace was introduced by two funny coincidental happenings; the original necklace prop was lost and a backup one was going to be used, however the original was then found, so we ended up with two necklaces. After this, there was insufficient printer ink to print off the photo of David, meaning we had to make last minute changes - and these really spiced up the storyline in my opinion. This scene was also very different in one of the earlier drafts of the script, instead seeing Joseph enter the common with the necklace in his pocket and suddenly find it gone. Panicking, he races back to the house and finds it, demanding that The Ghost stop trying to take it back. It was rewritten into the scene it is now to be less casual and abrupt, as well as more insightful to the overall narrative. In the original script, a night filter was going to be applied to the scene where Joseph finds The Ghost in the front room (originally the living room) where smashing is heard. The Ghost would also be seen standing motionless, facing away, and then turn around to attack him. The decision to use matches was inspired by the notable scene in 2010's Shutter Island, and The Ghost could not be shown standing still before attacking due to the black cloak blending into the darkness. As a result, we chose to incorporate a much more effective jump scare as The Ghost shrieks directly at Joseph, its pale face and sunken eyes clearly visible.

Minor changes were also made, but that is the case with any film script. In general, the final film is relatively faithful to the final script, which is 14 pages long (obviously there is a lot of description, so that's why the film adds up to 45 minutes). Thanks for reading Part 1 of this Making of The Attic series, and check out Part 2 where we will delve into the filming process!

Tuesday 3 July 2012

Movie Review - The Amazing Spider-Man

The initial reaction to the cancellation of Spider-Man 4 (which would have been over a year old by now) and subsequent reboot of the film franchise was one of little positivity. Fans ranted that it was far too soon for such an idea, and that the to be announced new cast and crew would not surpass those of the original trilogy. Now, two years later, that negativity has transformed into hype as The Amazing-Spider Man, the start of a new series, swings into theatres at last.

Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) is a troubled young man whose parents left him in the care of his Aunt May (Sally Field) and Uncle Ben (Martin Sheen) at a young age. Eager to uncover the mysteries of his past, Peter finds himself at the renowned Oscorpe headquarters seeking answers from Doctor Curtis Connors (Rhys Ifans), a colleague of his father's. In the process, he is bitten by a radioactive spider being used in a genetics experiment and suddenly gains the abilities of an arachnid; seeking to use his powers for good, Peter dons the title of Spider-Man to fight crime and injustice throughout the city, and eventually must put his abilities to the ultimate test when Connors' long-drawn plans for genetic crossovers spiral out of control and turn him into a destructive reptilian monster - The Lizard.

It goes without saying that The Amazing Spider-Man is an incredibly visual film, with a heavy focus on CGI and set pieces. It is certainly good looking as far as the visual effects go; The Lizard himself suffers from a somewhat daft design but is rendered in a very realistic fashion, which flows in conjunction with solid animation. Spider-Man himself is a lot more polished than he was in the original films appearance wise, with a vibrant costume and slick animation that sparks enjoyable and equally intense fight scenes. The film is definitely one to view in IMAX 3D; the depth of the effect is standard yet really shines during some of the POV shots the film frequently adopts, and the crystal clear quality of the images makes for a much more refined film experience.

But can the narrative live up to the visuals? Not so much. The story is well told and easy to follow, but definitely slots into the generic comic book film plot, with a standard villain, standard climax and incredibly dull romance. The film also seems to create a number of questions throughout the storyline, yet cease to answer them, merely paving the way for future sequels. The transformations of both the hero and villain into their respective alter-egos are also very rushed - when Connors mutates into The Lizard, the final battle is right around the corner due to a sheer lack of build up. The fight scenes are also not spread out enough, instead being crammed into the latter half of the film and feeling very enjoyable, yet very samey.

The acting is great for the most part, with Garfield definitely playing a superior Peter Parker and, by extension, Spider-Man than Maguire did in the original films. He is a lot less boring and far more comical when underneath the costume, making his character incredibly enjoyable and more faithful to Spidey's original personality. Rhys Ifans plays Connors well, though his character's development is flawed, as he is forced into The Lizard's aggressive and demented personality very quickly. Sally Field and Martin Sheen are very good at playing their parental roles (the latter being quite exceptional) and Denis Leary, who plays the antagonistic police captain George Stacey, performs an interesting and entertaining role. As Peter's love interest, Emma Stone portrays Gwen Stacey as, well...a girl. She's not very amusing, the romance is forced and there is not an awful lot of chemistry sparking between the two characters.

The Amazing Spider-Man is superior to the 2002 film in my opinion, but not by a great deal. Both are well made and entertaining superhero films, but are flawed. In the case of this film, it is far too reliant on the visual side of things; that could be argued as normal for superhero films of this nature, but even the narrative has flaws that extend beyond its familiarity. There is not a lot of build up and the villain is weakly portrayed (and looks silly), which is a crying shame as The Lizard has so much potential in the live action environment. It's a film definitely worth seeing for fans of the web slinger and those who have waited so long, and despite my criticisms, I did thoroughly enjoy it.