Happy Halloween! What better way to celebrate All Hallows’ Eve than to give everyone a spook and a scare?
In the run up to the most frightful of all days in the calendar, we have been catching up with some of our expert film lecturers as well as our students here at Screen and Film School. We wanted to hear about some ghoulish moments they have experienced on set or in the cinema, when things turned out to be not quite how they first appeared. Some of the answers were as close as you will get to art imitating life…
“I went to see It Chapter Two with some friends, I loved the film, however when we were on our way back home our whole town suffered a power cut, so we had to drive home completely in the dark. This wouldn’t normally be a scary ordeal, but we had just seen a film about a dancing crazy clown that thrived in the dark, so tension in the car was high. About five minutes away from home, the driver decided to play a prank on us: he shut off the car and started to say we had broken down. We all joked about this and got out. Once we had stepped out, our friend who was still in the car, started the engine and sped off, leaving us in the pitch black. Safe to say when we saw him again, we made sure he was as scared as we were that night!”
Alex Vernon, first year student, Screen and Film School Manchester
“We once held a Brighton Rocks Festival screening in a Sussex field. One film featured actors playing hardcore villains (right-wing fascists). They had come en masse on motorbikes and were dressed in character: leather gear, wounds, scars, prop knives. We introduced the screening and pressed play. Despite multiple tests, the images and sound were garbled. We had to stop the screening – the only solution was to download a new version, but there was no Wi-Fi. The producer and I ran to the nearest hill and finally got a connection. Thirty stressful minutes later, we returned and resumed the screening. The villains were actually extremely charming and understanding, so all’s well that ends well!”
James Rowlins, lecturer, Screen and Film School Brighton
“A particularly funny filming story happened due to the first pandemic lockdown. After restrictions were lifted, my friend, the lead actor on a film we were shooting, had significantly longer hair than on the rest of the previous shots. We only realised this after wrapping, however, and had to leave it in the film!”
Lewis Bedford, second year student, Screen and Film School Brighton
“The two moments that leap out to me are: going to the cinema to see Arachnophobia when I was twelve and a ceiling collapsed late on in the film, and literally a hundred tarantulas streamed down on their silk lines dropping into the room in tandem…what an image! Then more recently I remember going to see The Woman in Black, and it’s such a spooky film but Hitchcock-like in that most of the film is just the threat of something happening. Yet the moment near the end when you see her in the rocking chair…I can still feel the shivers go up my spine, such a cinematic moment of terror I’ve never forgotten. Great film!”
David Thompson, College Principal, Screen and Film School Manchester
“We were filming a low budget short film in Digbeth at 4am. We had a scene where the actor had to lie down on the road. The camera and crew were all in the middle of the road. All fine, because the streets were empty and desolate. Suddenly out of nowhere, a van started speeding towards us, followed by a sports car with blacked-out windows. It was a full-blown car chase. They must’ve been going at about 150 mph. The sports car was ramming the van, and sparks were flying. We all scattered. Luckily no-one was hurt!”
Louis Price, lecturer, Screen and Film School Birmingham
“I was working on a small production; an independent satanic horror film called The Devil’s Business assisting the SFX make-up artist on set. We were in a garage, near a town which was decked out with pentagrams, candles and complete with a large ram’s skull. One actor had a prosthetic eye wound. Another actor had to bang the door to the garage down whilst screaming hysterically and holding a gun. He did this 4-5 times. Whilst we were filming, the police turned up after receiving a call about some suspicious behaviour and a possible domestic situation. We were a small cast and crew, and it took a while before they were totally convinced not to shut us down for the night to avoid further calls. I think the police and us were pretty scared, but for entirely different reasons!”
Caroline Testa, production design technician, Screen and Film School Brighton
“I have a scary filming story that started with filming in an abandoned warehouse. During the shoot, all our equipment stopped working when we got in. However, when we came out of the building our phones started working but our batteries on the cameras were totally dead. We had caught some orbs on camera in that building when we look back at the footage!”
Luca Hill, first year student, Screen and Film School Manchester
“I was midway through a rewrite of one of my scripts and there were a lot of cooks involved in the broth, so to speak (producers, execs, the director). Everyone wanted to change something crucial to the story – by which I mean slice it up with a butcher’s knife – and I knew it wasn’t going to work, but I was the only one (and the only woman) amongst a number of people. I was terrified to speak up, but I had to. I made my point. Everyone listened. To my amazement they agreed. And they backed down, allowing me to keep my opening scene intact. It was scary but finding that fire in my belly and sticking to my guns like that – for the first time – gave me a huge boost in confidence.”
Sarah Drew, lecturer, Screen and Film School Birmingham
“The weather was a huge obstacle on one of my films. Originally, I’d pitched this film as a colourful 80s road trip. The first time the audience see father and son on their journey together is via montage. I had envisioned sunny, blue skies, where father and son are having the time of their lives, Erasure’s A Little Respect is booming. Everything was supposed to be glorious but suddenly we were faced with a torrential downpour and 90 mph winds on the back of a low loader. As a result, the tone suddenly shifted in that whole sequence. So, I thought, let’s lean into it and reconfigure how we’re going to shoot this. We could use whatever we’ve got of the bright sunny montage and then hard cut to this rainy, bleak, miserable day and hopefully that will have a comedic effect but also help the narrative. So, we rigged the camera to the hood of the car to get that jump cut, loaded the car onto the low loader, pulled out onto the road and then the sun came out and I thought ‘are you taking the mick?’ That was day two. Total chaos.”
Theo James Krekis, lecturer, Screen and Film School Birmingham
Some close calls, shocks and out and out catastrophes there from students and staff of the Film School. It goes to show, sometimes it may appear that supernatural forces are working against you on a film set, but there is always a solution to the problem if you have a team of Ghostbusters around you.
Thank you to everybody who contributed to our horror tales, and happy Halloween once more from everyone at Screen and Film School.
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