The Lateness Of The Hour (2015 British Short Horror Film)

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The Lateness Of The Hour (2015 British Short Horror Film)

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Hi all, I've just completed a short British zombie horror film called 'The Lateness Of The Hour', which you can view on YouTube below. If you're interested, please watch the film before reading the below text as it gives away most of the plot. I also created a trailer. I wanted something around 60secs long, which used some of the footage shot which wasn't used in the film, along with some footage shot specifically for the trailer, and also didn't give away any of the plot.

The Lateness Of The Hour - Final Edit

The Lateness Of The Hour - Trailer Final Edit

Just to explain things a little, when I was younger (between 15-19) I made and worked on a number of short films with a school friend (and would rope in other school friends to play the parts), nothing major, just a collection of friends filling in various roles with no real talent or aptitude for them. I always wanted to do Evil Dead style rip-off horror films, and he would want to do though provoking dramas. Not a match made in heaven, but we worked together over a few years. Anyway once I moved to London to pursue a career in film & TV special effects, I moved away from making my own films and have toyed with going back to it ever since. I've shot my own little bits and pieces in the last 10 years (mostly special effects test footage/sequences of FX gags I've created myself), but I shot my first proper short film last year (called 'Who Is This Who Is Coming...'). A little simple ghost story, and the first film I've created from start to finish since I came to London; coming up with an idea, writing it up, storyboarding it, shooting it, editing it, and ending up with the finished film.

The film also served another purpose; to allow me to get to grips with my new camcorder; a Sony Handycam NEX-VG10 1080p camcorder. It combines the best elements of a digital SLR camera, and a camcorder. It has interchangeable lenses (and you can get adaptors to take many types of old style 35mm camera lenses, I opted for a set of Canon FD lenses; 28mm, 50mm & 35-105mm zoom), and it has a large CCD which gives a shallow depth of field. On many cheap to mid range camcorders, you have a small CCD which means everything in the frame is in focus, things up close and things behind off in the distance, which makes the footage look cheap and nasty. You can solve this with a costly Depth-Of-Field/DOF adaptor, but this camera does it out of the box. This camera has a large CCD much like a regular SLR camera meaning you can change what's in focus. However, unlike a digital SLR, it has many camcorder functions too making it the best of both worlds. I've been really happy with it, and it cost me £850 second-hand, plus around another £300-ish on various bits including lenses, a case, and a camera rig.

Anyway 'Who Is This Who Is Coming...' served as a test, which is why there are a few poor shots in there, especially some over-exposed material. It's far from brilliant, but it is short. Some of it's a little clunky but the point was to film a range on indoor & outdoor locations, with long to extreme close-up shots with different depth-of-fields, get to grips with the camera. It's okay for what it is. One big thing I learned while filming that it's hard work to shoot without any decent film lights. if you have for instance, a bright outside window and a dim inside in the same frame, You can't get the exposure right, by that I mean something that approaches what you'd see with your own eye, either the inside is obviously too dark but the outside is right, or the inside is right but the outside window is totally over exposed to white and both look obviously wrong. To combat this I'd have needed to increase the amount of light on the inside (or reduce the light from the outside which is much harder if using natural available light, rather than a lit set). This film was a little more professional than my last, having gained some experience with the camera, as well as having a set of four 800w red-head lights (my only lighting source in the last film was a table lamp with a 100w bulb!). With these I could use filters & gels for various effects which would not have been possible previously.

My newest & latest film called 'The Lateness Of The Hour', is a special effects driven zombie horror short film. Coming up with a decent premise of a zombie film, which can be believably shot with just a few people isn't the easiest thing, I wrote a full blown zombie feature film script in 2004 but I'd have needed lots of people to make it work which was never going to happen. This script is far more humble, just needing two protagonists, and the rest were just bit parts with no speaking or acting ability required. Getting together a group of people to make a film is no easy thing, especially when you don't personally know any actors yourself. Getting people to even turn up on the day can be a task when you are unable to pay them. The two lead actors I finally got (through various intermediate people) are Toby Osmond (an actor with the Richmond Shakespeare Society), and Manveer Sahota (an actor with the Kenton Light Operatic Society). The remaining roles were filled with members of the Upton Grey Drama Society (who also voiced the car-radio skit), and the odd crewmember stand-in too. The crew consisted of myself directing & shooting, and a guy called John who was general crew/lighting/sound and some camera-work.

The effects I created for the short consisted of a retractable chef's knife, a retractable tyre iron, a recipricating machete, and various compressed-air bullet hit effects, all 100% physical effects. Both the interior and exterior shooting was done in a village called Upton Grey not far from Basingstoke, and around 45mins from London. It's completely in the countryside so was a great location, and I lived there for 7 years so I know my way around it. To really cut down the script, I used a lot of 'zombie film shorthand'. To someone who's never seen one before, some of the events will not make sense, but this is the way I wanted to go. I first wrote the script & storyboarded it back in August of 2014. It then took a few months to get all the effects & whatnot made, before I started on finding actors, crew & locations, all of which had come together by the end of January 2015. The film took eight days to shoot, as per the below diary;

January 17th 2015 (Sat) - First village visit & test shoot around exterior house location; alone
February 7th 2015 (Sat) - Exterior misc footage & scenic shots around the area of the village; alone
February 21st 2015 (Sat) - Exterior & car driving shots; Manveer/John/Myself
March 14th 2015 (Sun) - Exterior & car driving shots, including exterior house location; Toby/Manveer/John/Myself
March 15th 2015 (Sat) - Interior establishing shots around interior house location; Toby/Manveer/John/Myself
March 28th 2015 (Sat) - Interior shots around interior house location including zombie actors; Toby/Manveer/Paul/Alison/John/Myself
April 4th 2015 (Sat) - Interior misc insert shots & re-shoots filmed at house in London; Manveer/Myself/Lisa
May 3rd 2015 (Sun) - Exterior & Interior Misc insert shots & re-shoots filmed around village & interior house; Paul/Alison/John/Myself

Along with a number of days endlessly filming little insert & close-up shots in my own at home. I started editing the same day as the first batch of footage was shot back in January, and it's been progressing until the final edit was completed on May 18th, 2015. I've come along way in the last few months, I wanted this to be all physical effects with no CGI, but I found as good as I could make the physical effects on the set, I could always tweak & improve them with CGI. Filming an effect perfectly; getting the shooting angle right so the effect looks it's best, having the actor use the effect in just the right way so it looks real, getting the blood to go where you want it to, is all very easy if you have hours and infinite re-takes to work with, but if you have one or two chances to get it right before the actors start getting frustrated, the result on screen might not be all you know the effect is capable of. Case in point was the trick machete. I knew the effect could look good, but while I might be perfectly happy to saw back and fourth hard on my own face for 10mins so I can get the perfect 5-second shot, neither the actor nor the 'victim' would wear that, plus I was against the clock, so you do your best to set it up right, call action, and end up with what you end up with. Oh, also I spent years tweaking my own fake blood recipe, but for this short I decided to go with Dick Smiths blood recipe for the first time, and I can't recommend it highly enough. It's cheap to make and looks so good. I wouldn't use anything else now.

Machete Gag FX Test Shots (2007)

So, I found I could 'fix' and augment some of the effects to improve on them. Another example was the gunshots at the end. That whole sequence was filmed around 5pm right at the end of the last main shooting day, it was getting dark, just starting to rain, and quite windy. I set up the compressed-air squibs, blew them, and the result on screen is basically nothing. Between the wind blowing the blood spray, dim light, and the rush to get it shot without a re-take, the effect I had in the can was just about imperceptible. I needed something much bigger and more obvious, so I did the squibs in post production. While not perfect, the result is much better than the physical effect I would have been stuck with. Once I started on this route, I actually did some CGI that I'd never intended on doing originally, like adding the nuclear bomb mushroom cloud, or removing Manveer's eye after having been shot, among other bits & pieces.

In case anyone is interested, I used three main pieces of pre-existing music across the film which are listed below, along with a number of ambient tracks, music pieces & stings from the excellent PC horror game; Outlast (as well as it's follow-up Outlast: Whistleblower).

In The Bedroom OST (Track 14) North On 73
What Lies Beneath OST (Track 01) main title
Pirates Of The Caribbean OST (Track 10) On Stranger Tides

The eagle eared will also notice that the radio-skit was basically a mish-mash of lines, entirely lifted from Dawn Of The Dead '78.

Well there you go. I might have a go at another film towards the end of the year, or the start of the next, but right now I got the bug out of my system!
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