Thursday, 20 June 2013

The Making of NIGHTMARE - Part 1 - A Dream Journal


It has been over a month since I uploaded Nightmare to Youtube and while it has failed to reach the success of The Attic (which topped 1000 views in its first month), it has still been a success in my eyes - besides, do views really matter? No! It's the feedback people give and the outside recognition that really matters. The comments have been very positive, with praise aimed at the script, storyline and haunting atmosphere, and the criticisms mainly pinned on the poor camera quality and iffy acting. Once again, I am very pleased for the honesty my viewers have shown and this will only help improve future projects!

As with The Attic, Nightmare has an interesting and extensive history of planning, writing and other pre-production aspects that helped mould the entire film into the final product. Over the next few blog posts in this series, I shall be exploring the making of my most recent film. And, as you'd expect, the conception and writing is where we begin...

I was determined to make Henry a much different character than Joseph from The Attic.
The story for Nightmare is based on a short film I produced in 2010, titled Night Terrors. The film was made for a film competition at my school - I was one of two participants, because my school was shit and nobody felt creative. The film lasted five minutes and involved a young man experiencing a nightmare involving a strange black figure that murders his friend. The following scene takes place in reality and the black figure begins to haunt the boy before once again killing his friend, mirroring the disturbing events of his dream. The concept of nightmares bleeding into reality is nothing new but I had always been greatly interested in how it could play out and the reasons behind it. Nightmare was originally going to adopt the same title as its miniature predecessor but I felt the one word title sounded more sinister and eerie - Night Terrors sounded too try hard when it comes to fear factor. My goal was to pen a 45 page script and have a final film equal to the run time of The Attic. 

The concept of Henry's childhood abuse is inspired by issues personal to me and those I love - I was not abused as a child, but the true influence behind it I cannot divulge for personal reasons. It was something I thought would add a lot of emotional complexity to the story and would propose a more unique, personal approach to horror filmmaking. After The Attic succeeded in crafting a thrilling horror atmosphere which rested on a simple narrative, I wanted Nightmare to have a more explorative storyline that made you like and appreciate the characters and one that organically linked to the scary atmosphere. I knew the childhood abuse of Henry and the demonic entity that haunts him had to converge to make the story flow well with audiences, but finding a solid method to do this was very tricky. I eventually decided to have his parents abandon him to keep him away from the cursed family and ultimately save him. People ask me - why didn't his parents just send him away? Why didn't they leave him with someone else? Films like the recent The Amazing Spider-Man show such things and the main character always longs for the truth behind his parents as he cares for them. Henry had to be different - his parents abused, mistreated and hurt him to their disgust to keep him away from the family. They treated him so badly under false motivations so that he would want to stay away. Abusing Henry and causing him to instigate his own departure from home by calling the social was crucial to their goal as they wanted him gone and to never want to come back. And it worked.

Writing believable dialogue sure isn't easy. Some of the conversations scenes, in hindsight, don't feel too polished.
What also made Nightmare such a dramatic change from The Attic in terms of writing was the greater focus on dialogue to develop the characters and the narrative. The Attic only featured basic dialogue during the conversations between Joseph and Mike over the phone which wasn't so difficult - Nightmare features it more often than not and people will be surprised on how tricky it is to write natural dialogue that you'd be comfortable saying. Dialogue has to sound like the character is speaking on instinct - not reading a complex script. It's hard to write lines that provide exposition and act them in a natural manner, but I think in the end I managed to find a comfortable style even if some of the lines in the final film could've been further polished. The emphasis on the demon repeating its iconic dialogue was to enforce its loss of humanity and to simply make it easier to understand as its voice was admittedly quite distorted.

There isn't much else to say in the way of writing - Nightmare took in total about two months to finalize and didn't dramatically change much during the process. Unlike The Attic, which went from a complete mess to the acclaimed final product, the finished film of Nightmare is very faithful to the script. There are only some minor changes, such as Henry confronting Bill in his room over the door being open - originally this was meant to take place in the kitchen and was moved to avoid disturbing other people in the shared house. Otherwise, the script did not change an awful lot, and the only major things to discuss were the new challenges previously mentioned.

So thanks for reading, and until next time! I shall elaborate on the filming process in the next part!