Extrasensory Perception is the first in a trilogy of short films I wanted to make in a particular psychedelic style. I wanted to make 3 psychedelic short films in the genres of Horror, Science Fiction and then Fantasy that would be full of surrealism, expressionism, vivid colors, bizarre costume and make-up, strange and highly stylized sets and no-dialogue. Oh, and a dance routine in each one… Amongst my influences were Antonin Artaud, Dario Argento, Tim Burton and David Lynch (my favorite filmmaker). Extrasensory Perception is the Fantasy film in the trilogy and sort-of came from the idea of doing an Alice in Wonderland type story.
I shot the film in a big black drama studio where I had about 50 theatre lights around that I could use to create the wild visual look I wanted. As always I borrowed as much as I could (eg. a dog cage) recycled as many old props as I could and set almost the entire film within one small simple set which I simply redecorated for each setting of the film. Joel Henderson was my lead actor finally, after being in Scarlet Inferno 1&2 and In Vitro, and was also the first time I’d had a lead male character since my film Red Ribbons. We had four days to shoot, but we went over schedule and shot for about five or six. We were left alone to film in the drama studio and could only shoot from 4pm until 7pm but would stay for many hours longer each night, only ever being disturbed by the cleaners.
Overall the film was extremely fun to shoot. I built every set in the film by myself, usually during the day before shooting it in the evening (we were shooting consecutive days). The most difficult was the room full of playing cards, firstly for the obvious reason of that I had to stick a million playing cards to the walls (which I’d just cover in PVA glue before sticking the cards on) and also that it had to be rebuilt upside-down for the arms to perform a tarot-card reading on the ceiling. For each scene the set had a different ceiling (or no ceiling at all) one with arm holes in it and another with strawberries hanging from little holes in it (actually I didn’t hang any strawberries, I made other people do that whilst I filmed). I made the decision to not actually screw the set together to make it sturdy. Instead the set is simply leaning against chairs and tables, which is why in the behind-the-scenes photos the set has fallen down and almost crushed Joel (this happened regularly…). This is also why the set wobbles about and is a bit wonky in the final film, but I think it was for the best as I was able to pull out walls so easily and get any shot from any angle I wanted.
The film is mostly lit with sound-sensitive LED lights with which we never worked how to disable the sound sensitivity, so we’d have to tap them until they were the desired color and then stay very quiet until I yelled “Action!” which I eventually had to start whispering in order to not ruin the lighting. If there was a single sound, the lights would all change color…
This is why, when there is shouting and screaming during a scene, all the lights are flickering and changing color, an effect that I actually really liked.
I don’t know where all the ideas for the film came from, I just wanted to create a bizarre, surreal and fun journey that’d give me the opportunity to push the visual look of my films, especially in terms of lighting and production design. I just went wherever my imagination took me… I’m happy with the final film, I think its good fun.