Friday 2 August 2013

The Making of NIGHTMARE - Part 2 - Roll the Cameras


The filming of Nightmare was stalled by one initial problem - I wanted a new camera. Many criticisms targeted at The Attic were focused on the poor quality of my SD camcorder, which I bought in 2010 and started using it to film The Map of Five. The camera cost around £100 and had little going for it aside from an easy point and shoot format - manual focus was poor and difficult to use, excess light was difficult to block out even with a lens hood and the camera performed poorly in low light situations. However, I wanted to keep making films without stalling the production dramatically - the camera I was aiming to buy cost a staggering £700 and, had I saved up for it, Nightmare still wouldn't have been finished even now.

As a result, in September 2012, I made the decision to continue using my Panasonic SD camcorder, but promised that Nightmare would be my final film to make use of it. After decisions in regards to locations were settled, the first day of shooting commenced on September 15 at my granddad's house - this was the opening scene, in which Henry has a nightmare and is attacked by the strange cloaked demon within the haunted house.

Nightmare's opening scene was intended to be more intense than that of The Attic. Whether it was or not is down to the viewer!

Filming was split into a schedule across the two main locations: my granddad's house to film nightmare scenes, and the flat to film scenes set in reality. During the first weeks of filming, scenes largely took place at night - as a result, the early darkness of winter was a massive benefit, allowing us to prepare a filming session after college without having to work into ridiculously late hours. On any potential days off during holidays or weekends, we shot daytime scenes - the first of these was the scene immediately after the opening (where Bill is introduced), which was shot on September 23.

Filming for Nightmare was less eventful than filming for The Attic as it moved on at a brisk pace over the course of seven months, with no major hiatuses or gaps in the schedule that delayed the release. It was more a team effort for the most part; The Attic was mainly just me and Nathan, but in Nightmare, my girlfriend Kerry often helped out during scenes where were both acting. For the majority of the nightmare scenes, however, it was me and Nathan, which is why Henry and the demon are seldom seen in the same shot.

The old aesthetics and worrying histories of my granddad's house made it an apt place to film.
Nightmare features more conversation scenes than any of my previous works and this is a true test of patience for any filmmaker. The conversation scenes were not shot in a multi cam fashion - only one was used and so we had to keep moving it back and forth, speaking our individual lines when it was recording and rinse and repeat. Some simple scenes took over 2 hours due to this time consuming task. The final scenes of Nightmare were without a doubt the most challenging and intense of the entire film - and a change in the script had to be made due to a personal error of mine. Originally, Henry was going to find a new letter amongst the pile on the table, written by his grandmother to his mother when she was a child - the letter would've detailed the activity of the demon. Not only did I find it to be a bit of plot contrivance, but I also forgot to make the prop of this letter for the final scene and so it had to be redone. It was removed from the scene entirely and so some of the finale had to be improvised, which made it even more testing. The scenes where Bill and Henry end up in the flat and then return to it for the climax were shot in the same session on April 1 which lasted a whopping six hours.

For those wondering why I chose my granddad's house as a location, it is simply because my mum had a severe nightmare involving it which was similar to the plot of Nightmare - this and the story of my original short film were combined to form the final plot. Many of my family members are scared of the house and are convinced it is haunted, apparently because the previous tenant was a woman who, after having a failed love affair, hanged herself in the living room. My mum has told many stories of the house from when she was there as a child, such as cold sensations felt during the night and strange tapping that appeared to be some sort of communication. Freaky as this all was, the only creepy aspect I found the house to possess during filming was its archaic aesthetic - nothing supernatural occurred during our experience there. Still, it was an ideal setting to film, and it made for a nice spooky set without trying too hard in my eyes.

Shooting this scene was a literal nightmare due to that bloody rain.
Filming concluded on April 1, seven months after it began. It was a challenging but fun process, though I personally enjoyed filming of The Attic more. That's not to say Nightmare wasn't fun, but it became very stressful at times due to scheduling conflicts and travel problems, not to mention the length it took to shoot some simple conversation scenes. I didn't expect it to go any quicker or be any less of a challenge but sometimes I burned out during production and got a tad bored, which I feel affected the film in areas. Still, it was a memorable experience for everyone involved, and the final product born from it was definitely worth any hurdles we faced!