02nd Feb2018

Horror-On-Sea 2018 Interview: Richard Elson talks ‘Baby Monitor’

by Philip Rogers
Photo courtesy of J. Douglas Imagery

Photo courtesy of J. Douglas Imagery

What can we expect from your short film Baby Monitor?

A film that’s short, sharp and scary. The team behind Grime (pictured above) have always made films around the 5 minute mark as we want to concentrate on key jumps or atmospheres, we don’t like to drag things out beyond their welcome.

What were your inspirations for writing the film?

I wanted to create something unsettling and scary in an everyday environment. The noise of a baby crying sandwiched between the eerie silence of a house in the countryside offered a great canvas for this.

How long did the film to complete and did you experience any difficulties during filming?

From the outset of Grime we set ourselves rules about filming, the shoot had to be done in a day and had to be completed within a month of writing the idea. Often short films can drag as everyone has to juggle it with paid projects, so we aimed to combat that. On this one the edit took a little longer but we otherwise hit our deadlines. The main trouble we had was with lighting – blacking out a huge country house in the day then losing light while we filmed the exterior scenes.

What were your influences for the look and the style of the film?

For the exterior scenes it was 80s slasher films such as Halloween (1978) so we used a steadicam feel to the movement and gave it an old VHS look. For inside the house I wanted a warm, very dark look, more like Rec or Hush. There are also a few well known horror tropes, such as the spooky doll under the bed and the scratching noises in the bedroom, and even a little Luton bus as the husband comes back to surprise his wife.

What was one of your favourite scenes in the film?

It’s the second bedroom scene. Everything works so well to build a scare there, the alarmed concentration from Rik as he tries to work out what the sounds are and Silvana’s voice through the monitor. The pace of the edit when he dives down under the bed and the sound design, combined with the shadowy lighting and low wide angles make it all come together.

What are the key elements to making a good short horror?

Characters you believe in, pace and sound design. If you care about the characters and see the fear in their eyes that goes a long way. Then there’s the pace, you need to play with the audience so sometimes they’re on edge, waiting for something to happen and sometimes you give them a sudden jump. Then there’s the sound, it adds so much, you can transform a cosy nursery into an ominous threat with just a few key scratches at the window.

Baby Monitor is a release from Grime Horror of which you are a co-creator. How did the company come about and where did the name Grime Horror originate from?

A few years ago John Foxen and I met up to talk about an idea I wanted to explore within horror, I was interested to see if you could make a series of scares with short durations. Within that we’ve tried various experiments from live audience interaction, creating a film from scratch within a day seeing how few people you can make a film with (we managed with one and zero, both of which premiered at Horror-on-Sea) We bounced about various names for the project that evoked a sense of unsettling and nasty shocks without being gorno or camp. It was called Grunge for a bit but we soon settled on Grime as it felt sharper than Grunge.

As well as releasing several films at Horror-on-Sea you have a tradition of the cast all wearing masks at the festival. How did tradition start, and do you have a theme with the masks?

Our first ever film features a little girl in a sheep mask and it was scary as hell just being there on set with her, I think that’s always stayed with us. We’ve since built up an array of masks that work their way into the films or festivals such as Horror-on-Sea. There’s something about a mask that’s scary, you can’t read a person’s face and feel unsettled, you don’t know what they’re thinking or who they are. It’s fun to play around with that.

Do you have any new projects which you are working on?

We have a feature in development that we’re preparing a short concept film for and have something special in the pipeline for next year’s Horror-on-Sea – watch this space!

If someone is looking to make their first film, what advice would you give them?

Plan ahead. Start by identifying what you’re making and what the message or tone is, once you come up with a strong concept you can build that into all your departments: lighting, composition, music, acting, everything can be informed by the themes and influences you work out at this stage. Then work on the script till it’s tight and the best you can make it and then plan the shoot as much as possible. The more you put into preparation the smoother things will go on set, you don’t want to be wasting time making decisions on the day when you’ve got a limited time with the location, cast, crew and equipment.

You have some of your previous films now available to view on http://www.grimehorror.com. Will Baby monitor be made available to view on the website?

Yes, now that it’s had its premiere at Horror-on-Sea we’ll be updating the website soon.

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