[National Depopulation Program]
The N.D.P marked a change in my work. My films that came before it clearly had a way to go in the quality of their stories and storytelling. When I held a screening of The N.DP, the film worked, which is quite an achievement. Finally, at my 6th film, I felt I had got a grip on the audience and could take them on the journey of the film. I feel it is still a solid piece of storytelling, perhaps because the concept is so simple, and though it obviously has its flaws it set a new standard for my work that the films that came after it had to follow. The way the film was shot, which was hugely different from how I’d made films before, is what allowed me to achieve a new standard, as you’ll readbelow.
I was no longer aloud to film in my own house, after my mess and fake blood stains had gone a step too far. I had my garage. I had the woods (which by this point I’d already used far too often). So I knew I needed to think up an idea that could be contained within a very small set that I could fit in my garage. Whilst I was on the bus I blacked-out and saw the whole idea for the film; the box, the buttons, the moving wall, the timer, etc. When I re-awoke from my trance I had sketched out plans for the design of the set and I knew how I would make the film.
About a year after making the film, whilst traveling the same bus route, a DPD van drove past (if you’ve ever seen one you’ll notice the logo is a 3D box shaped thing) and I now realize that subconsciously that’s where my idea came from. Passing the DPD van triggered my vision whilst I gazed out of the bus window (and perhaps inspired my title too). I wrote the script knowing that I’d be able to get three actors and would film them all in the exact same set separately and then cut it together to create the illusion of them talking and interacting with each other. I wasn’t sure this would actually work, but luckily it did.
In the script I had to color-code each line in either red, green or blue to know if I was in container 1,2 or 3. For example, Chloe may be delivering a line but we might be hearing the line inside Pheobe’s container, so I’d need to make sure I was filming Pheobe’s reaction rather than Chloe’s delivery of the line. If the script was black it meant I needed to have all three boxes on the screen at the same time and had to carefully time the actor’s performances to match what was happening.
The set was a very flimsy creation (it was my first time building a set) and it only cost £35. I had a TV from the kitchen pressed up against the box with a DVD player beneath it to play the images you see on the monitor throughout the film. Most difficult was the moving wall, which was difficult to slide back and forward but also (as it couldn’t be nailed to the other walls) made the set less sturdy. The ceiling was easily removable.
The speaker was simply a paper photocopy of my speaker that I’d stuck to the wall, with the actual front piece from my speak stuck over the top of it (so that I wouldn’t have to cut a hole and put the entire speaker there).
Filming was very simple. I first had to get my two actors Sadie and Hannah to shoot their reactions that would be playing on the monitors. I then edited these, put on some fuzzy TV effects and put them on a DVD. I’d scheduled one day of shooting with Chloe (it soon became 2 days of shooting…) and we played the DVD of Hannah on the monitor to make it look like it was live. The voice of Sadie coming through the speaker was added in post. It was an ideal scenario for directing and acting as it was simply me and the actor in a box, concentrating entirely on getting a dramatic performance. All three actors worked incredibly well to deliver such emotion when no other actor was ever there. It was a good directing exercise for me as I needed to have a very clear vision in order to keep the three performances at the right level so that when I cut the film together it would look like the characters were not only interacting but also experiencing an escalating emotional journey.
We were shooting in December, in my garage, so the actors were extremely cold (you’ll see from the film, they’re wearing very little) but I think this helped their performances. I had to [spoiler alert] shoot Pheobe’s death sequence last as it would cover the set in fake blood (and we had a lot of fake blood…). Every time a character gets crushed, it was me behind the wall, pushing it towards them, which I enjoyed and kept pushing until they were genuinely getting squished and had to scream for me to stop pushing. It was so cold that the fake blood had frozen by the end of the shoot.
The N.D.P was the first of my films that I held a screening of. It was on the 13th of January, 7pm-9pm in the Tobacco Factory. I had a good turn out, the room was pretty crammed with people and they seemed to enjoy the film. When it ended I began a Q&A which ended up lasting for about an hour. Some of the audience were offended by the violence, which was funny because I thought I’d held back on the violence.
It was interesting to hear people’s opinions and I realized that it was the most helpful lesson I could possibly learn about filmmaking; to simply show the film and then let the audience fire away at you. I had a great time and would continue to hold screenings in the future.