The Dangerous Game was all set to begin production in April 2011 with my frequent lead actor Chloe Wilde set to play the lead and some of the scenes to be filmed in her house. I’d wanted to make a film about a Ouija Board as it fascinated me, so I brought one.
Then Chloe had to pull out, not only from this project but from potential future projects as well. From that point on, having worked with me in 7 films, we didn’t work together again. The script joined the others that had never managed to get made. However, I kept the shoot dates and instead shot a script I’d been saving for summer, ‘Scarlet Inferno’, which otherwise would probably have never been made.
Four films later I revisited The Dangerous Game script as I still felt I wanted to tell the story. It was actually great for the film as I re-read through the script and could see very clearly the old problems and brought many new ideas to it. I rewrote and restructured it, mostly changing the entire second half of the film which shifts the story into a different direction in that the film was no longer a ghost story (it was now purely psychological) and [spoiler alert] it kills off the protagonist in the middle and becomes the story of another character. These changes were exciting to me and re-sparked my passion to tell the story. The weakest scene in the film is in the very middle and is weak because it is the transition from the old script to the new script. The way the scene is written is almost like two variations of the same event written back to back and is therefore twice as long as it should have been, which I regret. I eventually shot the film exactly one year after I’d originally wanted to shoot it.
Running at almost 50 minutes, The Dangerous Game is the longest of my films and presented many challenges which resulted in a film that I was initially unhappy with (a year later I would watch it again and be proud of my work). The film is quite different to my other work, which I set up intentionally to challenge myself. I wanted to make a dramatic story without using my usual fantasy elements; no fantasy world, no monsters, no guns, etc. This is largely why I cut out the ghostly elements that were strong in the original script. I’d now set out to construct a realistic story of four characters where the drama would come from their actions and relationships rather than from a fantasy event. At the time of making the film I had come to the end of the funding I had previously been awarded, so there was no money to make the film. I had four actors eager to be involved with another project. I had permission to shoot in one actor’s house, that would be the only setting for the film (the sequence in the woods is just behind the garden fence of the house). Before the funds ran out I had brought the original William Fuld Ouija Board from America on Ebay which was my only prop (except for an £11.99 mirror for the final scene). That was the challenge: a 60 page script, four characters, one house, set in reality (for a change) with only a Oujia Board to create drama.
The shooting style I had planned for the film was also different from what I’d usually aimed for. I knew I had no money for the film so I couldn’t make something like the film that’d come before, Extrasensory Perception, and I was actually quite tired of putting in effort to create visually interesting fantasy sets, which I also felt I had already proved to myself I could do (with Extrasensory). The challenge now was to make a engaging film without the aid of visual spectacle. Just a story. I wanted the film to feel real, gloomy and ugly. I barely used any extra lighting for the film and just let practical light do the job for me. I even filmed at a lower picture quality than I’d done previously, which I probably regret now, but it completed the dull look I was going for. I shot everything handheld too. So yeah, its real ugly to watch…
The shoot was quite long, it seemed to go on and on. However, some moments of the film were shot incredibly tightly due the fact that one actor had to travel a very long distance to get to the location and we could only have her on two occasions. This resulted in 4 key scenes of the film -the oujia board in the attic sequence, both bloody bathroom sequences and the kitchen argument in which the character Fran reveals her lie- being filmed on one single evening! From about 6pm until 2am we shot those scenes and its undoubtedly the fastest I have ever worked, so its surprising that those scenes are the best in the whole film.
I can’t remember how many days we filmed for, maybe 7 or 8. I also shot scenes that I cut out of the film during editing to give it a faster pace and included only one shot of the ‘ghost’ despite having many (when we filmed, the ghost actually entered the room, but as my approach was that the ghost wasn’t actually real or even central to the story I just used one shot in which the ghost is barely visible, it just hints that something might be there).
The final shot is my favorite final shot out of all of my films because it just ends, right in the middle of the action it just cuts to black and leaves the viewer hanging there. There were other choices that I was experimenting with, such as jump cutting (for example, cutting from characters crying hysterically to them sitting in silence later) and shots that last for a long time (one lasts for a minute and eight seconds, which is long in comparison to my usual shots).
When the film was complete, and it was a complicated editing process due to its length (and the scenes I cut for the pace to work effectively), I was quite underwhelmed and unfortunately didn’t even have a screening of it. I thought it was ugly (I usually go for stylized rather than realism) and I thought it was a bit uneven, despite being very proud of some moments. When the film reaches 30 minutes, I feel it really kicks into how I’d wanted it to be, but 30 minutes is as long as most of my previous films. I’ve never been a fan of slow pace, though I knew this film would be much slower than usual.
Looking back on it however, it took longer to escalate to a level of drama that I enjoy because I’d purposely given myself very little to work with. Where a film such as ‘In Vitro’ begins with cannibal creatures chasing the protagonist through a post-apocalyptic world, The Dangerous Game starts in an everyday situation (a girls sleep-over) that has to escalate to the level of violence, death and chaos!
I now look back and am particularly proud of the film, especially the script, and realize the accomplishment of making the film I made with so little.