In high school, filmmaking is always extremely limited, everyone is working on school first, no one has money, and you have to work with what you have. My friend Brendan and I have been making films together for about five years, always using whatever location we are in. This Halloween Special is a horror-ish film made in a single day. It experiments with noir and shadow elements, using the solipsistic idea that your worst enemy is the one who knows you the best; yourself. All of the dialogue is improvised and there was no storyboard. The mouth effect is entirely practical and is physically attached to my face. We filmed with a Canon 60D and a single 55-250mm lens. Lighting was the most important element we considered and there is only ever a single light source, meant to symbolize the focus of the, in this case the disturbed, memories of my character. It's all pretty silly, but this is what a few 17 year olds are up to in Bellingham.
Written by Cody Dandliker
I did Welcome to Hell as a sort of exercise to see how stripped down a production can get. This horror short was planned as a two day shoot crewed by only two people. My point being to demonstrate how story is more important than fancy “Hollywood standard” gadgets and big crews. Making this video more in line with the early John Waters guerilla sense of, “Let’s write something, grab a camera, and go.” It is my belief that this sentiment is more prevalent now than ever with the growing popularity of Vlogs and Podcasts. So, I just figured since nothing I have seen in the local film community has spoken to me, I might as well use the tools I have and throwing something into the artistic chasm I would want to see, and that other people will have reaction to. Because whether people love or hate what I do; both emotions are equivocal in relation to passive carelessness. Welcome to Hell is a story about a woman named Trish who feels isolated and mistreated by everyone around her. She would give anything to have somebody around who accepts her for who she is. Who isn’t always trying to control her. Unfortunately for her, the only person who seems to be able to understand her feelings is Sonya.
After a warm night at the end of summer, with Autumn biting on the heels of August, and a group of cannibals in the woods (don’t ask…), an idea tapped me on the shoulder, and when I turned around, it punched me in the face. I never got an apology, but I decided to hear what it had to say anyway. I would spend the next day at work writing visual ideas as they came to me, like banshees in the night, until I could escape their seething clutches, or at least break their wrists and tell them “No (more) Soliciting.” Then I would go home and experiment with a script for a short film, written in a stream-of-consciousness method, without editing it (which was like telling a feline not to scratch off its fleas), and without stopping to think about the flow or the meaning of different scenes (which was much easier than telling a feline not to scratch off its fleas). And in a few days, I would round up my best door-to-door skills, put on my girl scout demeanor and begin asking my acting friends to join me in a spiraling descent of confusion and illusion. To my bewilderment and gratitude, they agreed. We began filming The Examination just a few nerve-splitting days later.
With the help of a very faithful crew, some pizza (my beloved), and a small score of local antique shops, the 11½ minute short film was shot in just over two sleep-speckled weeks. With several different camera operators, grips and even a couple gremlins, crew members were in and out, helping when they could. Each crew member did fantastic work, for no compensation, and for that, they can have my head on a plate. Or at least my whelming gratitude, 6 feet deep. Throughout filming and to proceed for a month after, I was to tame the fire breathing Chimaera of sound, and lull the flesh-hungry Cerberus of editing, before one or the other turned into a gray hair on my head. Luckily, they’re both sleeping, and calmly snoring in my closet, presently.
The Examination’s sound was recorded entirely in post-production, save for one scene. This meant “easy” filming, but tedious post production. Somewhere around one hundred audio tracks have been in use on the film. But lo, the method caught the feeling that I wanted, which was having each character feel like they’re trapped within their own head. Shortly when sound and editing was completed, with the flurried leaves of October ready to devour a tired September, I submitted The Examination as an entry to Bellingham’s local horror film festival: Bleedingham.
While I’m not necessarily fond of speaking about meanings or themes behind my stories, for fear of manifesting an interpretation that viewers wouldn’t acquire on their own, I will say that, with The Examination, as well as with most of the ideas for projects that like to gnarl their way into my brain, I didn’t want to follow most conventional film themes. This short doesn’t follow a beginning/middle/end structure, it doesn’t have a protagonist or antagonist. I meant it to be a sort of experience. An observation on human idiosyncrasies.
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