About this time last Friday I had just woken up and was straight onto the task of list making to double and triple check the props for that evening's shooting. Believe it or not it isn't every day I get to play with sealing wax, creepify photos and curate a little collection of eerie oddments so I was excited at seeing everything in situ after all the sourcing and making that had gone on.
I'll start by saying that Tristan, my boyfriend (feel so juvenile calling him that) of 6 years, is a video editor and corporate wizard by day and independent film maker by night. One of the things that drew me to him was his passion for film and photography, he gave me the picture-taking bug and for that I am very grateful. The only annoying part of it all is his unshakeable belief that I can write scripts. I can't. Story ideas? Come on down, I'm full of them! But script-writing seems to be an art I'm too daunted, or incapable, to master. This project though was a little different - it is a short film in which a policeman is called out to a tenanted farmhouse - the occupant hasn't been seen for a couple of days, there is mail piling up on the doorstep and his landlord begins to suspect something untoward going on. There was no way I wasn't getting a piece of the spooky action so I volunteered pretty sharpish to help dress the set!
Our friend Alistair is a cinematographer and T's partner in crime, the boy can paint pictures with light, it just so happens that he lives 15 minutes from us onto the Peaks and his grandma owns a beautiful period guesthouse. Look and location both sorted in one. Alistair's lady - my lovely Lulu - is a bad ass makeup artist, T's schoolfriend Matt is a charismatic actor, T's Dad kindly consented to be aged and corpsified as 'the body' - the crew seemed to come together pretty quick! Throw in talented lighting and sound volunteers in the form of Alistair's friends, Alex the rain maker, a home-cooked Thai feast courtesy of T's stepmother, and there you have a short film shoot.
My job was to seek out some of the costume details (thank you Salvation Army!) and gather/make the props needed to evoke a forbidding aura of superstition and religion combined. In reality the brilliant location did the bulk of the work on that score, I just put the finishing touches to the room in which the corpse is found. This was where I could indulge my tendency to create backstories for everyone and everything! T had decided that the corpse was Polish, most of his family had been killed during the war by the Nazis, but he clung to the idea that there were fates worse than death and more to folktales than most would believe.
Little details like this roughly cut picture, the cluttered dressing table, faded and stained pictures with religious iconography seemed the best bet to be a realistic fit for the possessions of an elderly, superstitious man living alone.
Some things - like the card index drawer full of aged index cards covered in script and symbols - I just wanted to include purely for the creep-factor and to add layers to the table. Letters in 1947 generally weren't sealed with wax but it seemed logical that such an old man would have similarly old friends - possibly back in rural Poland - who shared his paranoia, perhaps an order of sorts which had a seal. Jars and apothecary bottles full of consecrated earth (coffee grounds), sand from the holy land (unrefined sugar), holy water and embalming (olive) oil also fit the bill. Where would any self-respecting creepy film be without crucifixes, rosaries and images of the Virgin Mary?
See what I mean about some of the work being done for me? I couldn't stop ogling the intricate lock and key to a huge walnut wardrobe in the corner of the room we were using.
Any excuse to cut and stick! The old book was one I picked up a while ago, I actually posted about it here last summer, it got a bit of a visual makeover and I think - depending on the final cut - it makes an appearance as being in the hands or lap of the corpse.
The policeman (Matt) in full costume talking to the landlord (Tristan! Directing and acting isn't easy!) who is decked out spectacularly in tweed. Matt found the period police gear in a London costume hire shop and it looked fantastic on. The shot above is a bit awful actually and doesn't do them justice - here they were rehearsing and hadn't yet been utterly drenched by the improvised rain machine, I've no idea how neither of them ended up hypothermic given the hours they spent in sodden clothes. Total troopers the pair of them!
Lastly a still from the footage courtesy of T, I can't wait to see how the finished product plays! Bit of a departure from my usual posts but I hope you've enjoyed a rambly glimpse into the maiden adventure of a novice props mistress!