Flashback to February, collating ideas for the first few shorts of the year, a good friend of mine and actress Sarah Kordas came to me with a killer idea for a short comedy sketch. Just Desserts was born.
Silent comedy had always been something that I had wanted to attempt but I knew that it was an avenue of the genre I really wasn’t too familiar with. Sarah had cooked up a really fantastic idea and had pretty much already assembled a cast and begun sourcing props when she came to me to see if I would be game for directing.
Comedy was something that we had dabbled in last year with our short ‘OH SHIT’. The reception was mostly good but indeed mixed and I think with the feedback we got, I realised that comedy is not always universally funny. What I’m trying to say is that with horror you can pretty much guarantee something will be viewed as horrific or scary. So many different levels of comedy exist, you have physical comedy, witty humour and practical gags, the genre is incredibly subjective. All of the above examples generate a different response with an audience. Not everyone appreciates a fart joke, while a witty comic response might go over the head of others, some don’t like their comedy to be too intellectual, whilst others relish a skit laced with commentary. That’s a balance I really hope to get right one day. This film however was too much of a great opportunity to pass up. C’mon who doesn’t want to throw cream pies at actors all day? Just me…OK.
Come time to shoot, at the start of March we rehearsed as much as we could before the shoot date. From the outset, reading the script and doing my research into the likes of Charlie Chaplin and Freddie Frinton, I knew that when it came to shooting everything would have to be perfectly choreographed and timed. It slowly turned into some sort of bizarre dance when all the pieces of the puzzle started to come together. I must take the time to say that everyone on screen in that short worked their bloody arse off and it was so worth it. Everybody worked so hard to hit their cues and exaggerate their gestures perfectly, being open to new little flourishes I wanted to add in when I was watching things unfold. For me it was a nice challenge to approach a project from such a different perspective. Knowing that the timing and actions were key to telling our story I wasn’t able to rely on the usual tricks of the trade to further sell what I was trying to achieve. The rehearsal time was crucial and even on the day of the shoot when we ran through the action it was so great to take certain moments of the narrative as far as they could go to really go for a laugh. Although an incredibly challenging shoot (we’ll get to that) it was certainly one of the most fun experiences on set I have had and I would love to work with everyone again given the chance – that could certainly mean we have a few ideas bubbling away to get everyone back together.
Moving on to the challenges, because what would a film shoot be without a little bit of a challenge. Come shoot day (5th March) little did we know Hurricane Doris was setting her course for the Midlands. Set in an outdoor marquee, on a beautiful English summer’s day, the actual weather on the shoot day could not have been further from what we needed. The roof of the marquee began to sag with the sheer amount of rain falling and collecting on top of it. We set up another gazebo to act as a sort of makeshift video village complete with an improvised guttering system we ram shackled together, but Mother Nature was not having any of it. Try as we might, the rain and wind just made it impossible to even begin shooting and it was just typical as we’d just come off of one of the hottest and driest weeks of the year so far.
Looking at the schedule for the shoot day we had already wasted about 2 hours trying to secure the set as best we could, I knew though there was no other option but to relocate. Luckily where we were filming had a rather sizeable garage we could look to use. Quickly the marquee was dismantled, props were carted inside and we got to work re-building our set. I could not have been more thankful to be surrounded by such amazing people that shoot day as we pulled together so well. Just look at the Behind the Scenes video below to get a glimpse of what I mean – also an incredible thank you to my lovely other half Charlie for acting as the BTS camera crew, makeup artist and general motivator on the shoot, we couldn’t have done it without you.
As I said and I am sure the above video confirms, the shoot itself was one of the most fun experiences on set I have ever had. It was incredibly challenging in terms of choreographing the action and ensuring we had all the coverage we needed each time we threw another cream cake, but it was so worth it. Also as a side note for any budding filmmakers who plan on utilising cream cakes in their story. Shaving foam is a killer alternative that doesn’t smell anywhere near as bad as the real stuff does on an uncomfortable actor, 2 hours after you covered them in it (of course it is not edible so sometimes you just have to put up with the stink). Finally and most importantly do not underestimate how difficult it can be to get the coverage you want when only shooting with a single camera and trying to maintain any air of continuity. Scheduling was my saviour on this shoot and going into it I had a clear idea of what master shots I needed to get when and where we needed to punch in close for those incredible cream cake splats. I think it goes without saying there should always be a plan to what you’re trying to achieve on set, next time I think I would definitely like to work with 2 cameras, that’s all I will say.
Just a couple of weeks ago, a few days before we uploaded the film online we had a fantastic ‘Cast & Crew’ screening which we absolutely used as an excuse to get everyone back together and consume our weights in alcohol. It was really great to see everyone out of the 1920’s garb, but more than anything it was really neat to sit down and see that all our hardwork had paid off.
This is the part of the blog where I really must give a massive shout out to our wonderful composer Pav Gekko for creating an absolutely amazing score that worked so incredibly well to tie everything together and really push those funny moments as far as they could go. When I received the first version of the score I could not help but smile when I lined up the audio and the video in the edit for the first time. It was amazing to see just how profound the effect was of having those musical cues bounce off of the actions on screen. I honestly can’t wait to collaborate on something again with Pav and know that he has an incredible future ahead of him both with film composition and with his personal musical career.
Since completing the short I am happy to report that the feedback has been incredibly positive. It was such a rewarding experience getting to try something so outside of my comfort zone. We had an incredible team of people on board for this short and I know that I will be looking to collaborate with everyone again in the future. The film has since been selected and screened as part of ‘Barcelona Planet Film Festival’ and ‘Frostbite International Film Festival’ with another screening set more locally at Short Stack in Nottingham this weekend. We have even landed ourselves an amazing an complimentary review from the guys at MIDLANDS MOVIES which you can read HERE (again with the shameless plugs). We have always appreciated the support and love for what we do horror wise, so its been nice to see that the love is still there even when we try something a little different. If after reading all this you are as tired as me typing it all up, why not relax and have a chuckle by checking out the film below.
Until next time.
DON’T BE A STRANGER: