In response to the brief for unit 5 and 6, I decided to do a psychological thriller short film based on a conversation I heard as a kid; it’s about an anti-social mentally ill person who kidnaps his therapist and holds her hostage, he spends his time questioning what’s right and wrong, he cares for her but is battling with the problems in his mind and eventually kills her. But instead of moving on, he feels guilty and his way of processing it is to hand a body part of his therapist to a family member in a way to say “Sorry”.
Since it was a very complex story and I had to fit it in 5 minutes or less, I opted for voice over instead of dialogue between characters. In post production, the actress wasn’t free to record the voice over so I had to find a way to go over it and chose to use background music as it was a trailer or montage. The process of finding the song was the hardest part – nothing fit. Epic dramatic music made it sound more “inspiring” than it was, soft emotional classical music didn’t get the message across but in some scenes the dramatic notes of the piano fit. In the end, for the first scenes before the therapist gets kidnapped, I chose to use Chopin’s Nocturne No. 20 in C-Sharp Minor for the first scenes and the end credits. The scenes where she gets kidnapped was harder to find, I tried more than 3 different types of songs; but eventually I found something called Fesliyan Studios, lead by David Fesliyan who is a music composer that allows you to use his music for free, as long as it’s not for commercial use. I used two of his tracks for the short film, one for the intro and another for the kidnapping scenes; the one I used for the kidnapping scenes fit perfectly, there was a ticking clock sound in it that I used to my advantage to show a metaphorical clock in the main character’s mind that he is one step closer to the edge. I also overlaid a heartbeat sound, it starts off almost silence and increased as the scenes went on and by the time the therapist gets killed, it shows the inside of the main character’s head and the heartbeat becomes more intense and faster. Towards the end scenes, I used the original audio from the footage and re created some sound effects to layer on top of the original audio to make it more believable and accurate. If I were to do it again, when it comes to audio I would give more time for post-production for little details like actor’s schedules or record the actors’ dialogue in the scenes so I have the possibility to use it.
Visually, I was trying to be experimental with some shots, I used close ups a lot but my camera wasn’t the best quality so a lot of things I imagined in my head didn’t quite show because of the equipment. One of the thing I struggled with was the camera quality when using my DSLR camera, that was essentially made for photography not video making and in some settings, it becomes very grainy and that makes the video look poor quality. When filming, I also used two cameras, one of them belongs to a friend so the camera quality changes a little throughout the short film. In the future I would use only one or cameras of similar quality, and possibly get external lighting equipment to improve the overall quality of the video. Thanks to these technically difficulties, a lot of the footage I shot from the therapy scenes and the moment she gets attacked couldn’t be used because of camera quality or the lack of transition shots so when put together a lot of the shots it didn’t make sense. I feel I focused too much on the kidnapping scenes as it was the big focus of the short film, and forgot about the other scenes. This is why the short film ended up being 3:43 minutes long not 5 minutes like I planned to.
The brief specified that no violence could be shown nor offensive themes or weapons, and because of the nature and theme of this short film can be controversial and disturbing to some people, I made it so the short film had a more artistic and less graphic approach to this. I made sure not to show any violence, just barely suggest it to not disturb audiences further. The brief wanted a short film that was within 5 minutes, they wanted us to get creative and expand our skills and I feel I met what was asked of me, I created a short film within 5 minutes that met the requirements and even worked around the restrictions that the brief presented.
I tried to represent the characters as best as I could, without relying on stereotypes based on a social group so I wouldn’t offend anyone, but there is always a chance to indirectly offend someone by the choice of actors perhaps or the storyline. To make sure I was accurate in dealing with the sensitive topic that is mental illness, I carried out a lot of research on psychology, mental illness, therapy and even talked to a psychotherapist to tell me how things usually go in therapy, I also watched a series of different short films of different themes and similar to help me visualise what I wanted and how I could show what I wanted through this short film. I was loosely inspired by Alfred Hitchcock in the sense that he suggested violence by cutting in the right moments, creating suspense. I also research my target audience, by carrying out questionnaires and talking to people, I found people have mixed reactions about the theme of this film, some people were intrigued others said it wasn’t their style of movie. I took people’s opinions and what I wanted to do and put them together, I used elements that I thought would intrigue people, like using young actors to appeal to a younger audience, I also used a lot of experimental artistic shots to appeal to the student filmmaking community like I wanted to. After I finished the film, I uploaded it to Youtube and showed it to a lot of different people, the overall reaction was positive; some people commented on the quality that was good and the story hooked you and made you want to watch more of it, a lot of people said it left them on edge and disturbed in a good way.
In the time I worked on this project, I learnt a lot about time managing how it’s necessary to leave enough time in case something goes wrong, I learn more about the technical process of filmmaking, both editing and directing. I learnt that directing and creating a short film is more than just having an idea and filming it, it’s about building characters, setting a scene, effectively managing your time, directing the actors in the right way to project your ideas onto the screen; a big part of it it’s also research, about target audience, character and story building. It’s a big process and I learnt a lot through it. Another important thing which I found myself thinking a lot is the ethical and legal side of it, I thought of a million ways on how to keep my actors safe when performing the more “violent” scenes, giving them breaks and pauses between intense scenes, because when one does a short film of this nature one has to think also of the psychological effects on the actors and I pondered about that a lot in this project.
If I were to do this again, of course, there is a lot I would change, I would plan my shots better and be more realistic about my expectations. Even with its problems, I feel I met the brief and worked around the constrains to my advantage and produced a good outcome within my possibilities.