Alan McCracken came to the studio door in February with a feature film length script for the C Project submission that he co wrote with his friend David Withers. I read it and gave him the good news and the bad news. I congratulated him on writing the script in the first place but I had to decline the script as it was too ambitious for the C Project. However, there were elements of the story which I really liked and I thought it was a creative, modern take on an Irish myth. I gave Alan a choice- he could go away and try and find funding for a feature length version from somewhere else or he could collaborate with me through the C Project and hack the script down into a high quality short film. He accepted the latter and we started several script development sessions.
Poster design by Adam McCausland.
Ten months of Pre Production and a script read through later, we had an ambitious three days scheduled for the ‘Desecration’ shoot. We had the actors and crew members that we wanted and there was no going back! Belvoir Park in Belfast, Northern Ireland was such a perfect location and it ticked a lot of boxes for us. The area of the park which we chose catered for 90% of the scenes and avoided the extra hassle of trying to move kit, crew and actors around various locations. Due to the nature of the story, it was important that we had a military advisor and a pyrotechnic professional on set. So many times I watch low or even high budget military/ war films and I am nearly always disappointed with technical aspects and costume. Attention to detail was so important to me on this one and there were no excuses.
Actor Tom Collins with the military advisor. Photograph by Ricky McQuillan
Actor Chris Simpson waits for his scene. Photograph by Ricky McQuillan
Actor Chris Simpon’s weapon training. Photograph by Ricky McQuillan
When I sit down to watch low budget indie films it’s the acting and sound that let me down. However, on this production we were blessed to have such talented actors and a great sound team involved. By the way I don’t believe you can make high quality zero budget films-but that’s just my own opinion and another blog article altogether The script could be potentially strong but if you haven’t got the skilled crew in place or professional actors on board then the audience will inevitably pick up on that and take the focus away from the writing and subsequently the story.
Desecration cast and crew brave the Irish winter. Photograph by Chris Huston
Actor Tom Collins with camera operator Aidan Gault. Photograph by Chris Huston
Two generator failures on the 1st night of shooting (five minutes of each other) meant we had to make the decision of sending everybody home. It was frustrating as we only managed to get a few shots in the can. As I drove home, I knew that the chance of getting all the scenes done now was near to impossible. The shooting schedule was always going to be tight and ambitious anyway. After reading behind the scenes on horror productions such as The Exorcist and Poltergeist in the past, I was convinced the shoot was cursed from the start
Directors Marty Stalker & Alan McCracken check over the shot list. Photograph by Chris Huston
The next day we had to ignore the previous power let down and went straight into filming with two feet. The low temperatures didn’t help much but we powered on through regardless, this time with a reliable Honda generator and a back up on standby. Morale was lifted when the catering department arrived in the evening and delivered some of the finest stew ever!
Actor Chris Simpson far too happy on set (Stew must have arrived). Photograph by Chris Huston
By the third day, we were getting slick with the scene set ups and a few pages of script got churned out. I always like to keep any SFX scenes to the last and we were all in for a treat. The pyrotechnic expert arrived and supervised all weapon firing and SFX scenes. With the added VFX (which will be added in Post) these particular shots are going to look glorious. You can’t beat having experts on your film set to really raise the production value of your piece.
Actor Tom Collins prepares for his scene. Photograph by Chris Huston
Shoot #2 for ‘Desecration’ was planned over two more days when we got back from Christmas. We gave everybody a week to recover from the festive break before we re-scheduled. We were so thankful that everybody committed to the second, unscheduled and unintentional shoot. By keeping the previously shot scenes on the memory card we could check the lighting set ups and costume on the camera to assist with continuity.
On paper we are mad. It’s a horror film- a difficult genre to nail; We were filming it mostly at night, so vast amounts of lighting equipment was required and finally we were filming in an Irish winter which can be unforgiving. Personally, what I will take from the ‘Desecration‘ production is that I learnt a valuable lesson working with young talent and sometimes less is more when it comes to crew. The premiere of the film is scheduled for the end of February along with the other three C Project films and my friends’ pilot production ‘Coast’. It promises to be a great evening and everybody is invited to the Premiere on Saturday 31st March 2012, Odeon Cinema, Belfast.
Behind the Scenes video coverage by Sam & Danielle Kwam from Cinematic Tide