Scare Vent was one of the most difficult films of mine to make. It’d been so fun and so easy shooting The National Depopulation program because I was shooting in a very small set with only one actor and I was looking for an idea that I’d be able to shoot in a similar way.
On new years eve at the end of 2010, literally as the clock struck midnight, I blacked-out and dreamt up the whole of Scare Vent, every little detail. When I re-awoke I had sketched out storyboards of key scenes and drawn out rough designs for a set that would resemble an air duct that would be able to split in half, have any wall removed for camera access and also be able to rotate 360 degrees.
I wrote the script and cast my actors; Charlotte Roest-Ellis who had worked on one of my earlier films ‘Kondemnation’, Sam Lane (my frequent monster/corpse actor) and Francesca Lyons who I’d later write the lead role for in ‘Scarlet Inferno’.
The plan was to shoot, once again, in my garage. As always, a trip to B&Q ensued and I brought all the pieces I’d need to make the set, which was about £100 more expensive than my previous set for N.D.P. I also brought the best mask I could find online for the creature as it needed to look terrifying. The mask came from America and cost about £60. The rest of the budget, which was a grant from The John James Foundation, went almost entirely on fake blood. We used so much blood that the neighbors commented on the huge red puddles that were in the street for about a week afterwards.
It was my most expensive film at the time, at roughly 4 times my usual budget.
As per usual the schedule was very tight: we had to get 185 shots over one weekend, the 5th and 6th of February. As per usual, we went over schedule… We shot an additional evening on the following friday. It was complex to shoot as we had only one long air duct tunnel that needed to look like multiple tunnels. We built a corner piece so that Charlotte could crawl around corners and then would be able to cut to a new arrangement of the set where it’d look like she was entering another tunnel instead of just crawling through the sam one.
At times we also raised the set about two feet off the ground and instead of having the corner lead left or right it could lead up or down. This meant I had to pay very close attention when shooting, to make sure that Charlotte was always facing the right direction and that the camera was always at the right angle and the set was arranged in the correct way. Part of why we went over schedule was that every 5-10 shots we would have to break the set apart and rebuild it to how we needed. We’d also have to remove the walls of the set -which was fairly easy as we’d built the set so that the walls would just slot in and be held in place by wooden arms- for almost every shot, to get the different angles we needed. The film also had to be shot very out of sequence as the scene in which blood pours down the air duct (near the middle of the film) had to be shot last because it would ruin the set. Other moments, such as the claw scratches on the wall at the start of the film meant I had to cover the wall in an additional sheet of shiny metallic card (which the whole set is coated in as we were able to get it for free) which had scratch marks which could then be removed for the other tunnels. This is why, in the film, the apparently ‘metal’ wall appears to bend when Charlotte touches the claw marks…
The shoot began with us going to a car park in Bristol. Nobody knew we were there and I’d chosen that particular car park as it was always empty (even on a saturday morning) so we had the car park floor to ourselves. The vent cover on the car park wall is made from a Wilkinson’s picture frame and some wire stuff. I stuck it on the wall with blue tack and later turned it back into a picture frame and framed still from the film as a gift to Charlotte for acting in it.
Once we began filming in the garage the place turned into a disaster zone. As it was February the garage was freezing cold, the only source of heat being the Zippo lighter. The cold made everyone very uncomfortable, especially when actors are being covered in blood. This is why, when the blood pours through the air duct, it’s all steamy because the water is very hot so that Charlotte didn’t freeze.
It also started to rain very heavily and the rain (as my garage was on a slope) began to run through the gap under the garage door and through the set. There was a wide stream of water constantly running through the set all weekend, which got everything wet and meant all the electrical equipment such as the lights, and the wires, had to be raised on chairs, which soon cluttered the small space. When we set Charlotte’s top on fire for one scene the set filled with smoke, which also lingered in the air for the rest of the day, making the shooting space overall very uncomfortable. Not much of the original fire shots are actually in the film: I later returned and set the top on fire without the actors on set. It was quite dangerous and melted some of the ceiling of the set. Apart from the set being so difficult physically, it was also very hard to light as its surfaces were shiny and reflective. Therefore, the lighting is one of the film’s weakest points.
An interesting shot in the film is when Charlotte appears to roll onto the ceiling. For this I built a wooden arm that could hold the camera and nailed it to the set. I then, with the help of my Mum actually, rolled the set upside-down with Charlotte inside, sending the camera upside-down with the set to create the illusion of Charlotte sticking to the ceiling. In the film this shot wasn’t as well executed as I’d hoped, but we’d all expected the set to fall apart during the roll, which it didn’t at least.
The final film was immediately the most popular of my work and still is more popular than a majority of my short films. It was the first of a series of ten minute shorts that I’d aimed to upload in full to the internet rather than the trailers for longer films I’d previously been uploading. The simplicity of a cat-and-mouse chase between a girl and monster inside a confined space is what I think makes people enjoy it.
The set had to be taken out of my garage in order for the my film ‘In Vitro’ to be shot there and was moved temporarily to my auntie’s garage near by. It is still there today…