For our narrative, we worked to creative a comedic horror film with minimal dialogue. Minimal dialogue meant minimal opportunities for actors to mishandle the scenes. Neither actor had much experience with acting. Mac (our “murderer”) had acted in one short before (where he ironically also played a serial killer.) Pat (our victim) had done a small amount of Elon Tonight work, but had never really stretched himself. Over the years, my directing had pretty much been limited to focusing on technical aspects, and letting my actors wing it. Here, I tried to stretch myself a little bit as far as directing goes. I worked with Mac on a variety of blank stares and soulless expressions to create maximum ‘serial killer’ appeal. For the most part, he knew how to play that character, though. Creepy is not that difficult to play. The main area I had to coach him on is the speed with which he speaks. The scene in the bathroom and the scene on the couch were entirely incoherent in early takes, because all of his words bled into one another. Aside from speaking to quickly, however, he worked fairly well. Working with Pat was a different story. Pat was…stiff. And I wasn’t really sure how to get him to loosen up. It wasn’t that he wasn’t comfortable around the director. He’s a close friend, but short of giving him a line reading (and then even after doing so), I just could not, for the life of me, get him to seem a little more…natural with the lines. In the end, I tried to cut his scenes as best I could to give his deliveries a more natural exchange. But also, I didn’t really have a motivation for him. I joked around a bit with motivation (you want to make some kickass eggs or you need to take an explosive dump), but really, in a film like this, those WERE the extent of his motivations, which weren’t much to play with. Another area I had to deal with was keeping the actors motivated on set. The only way I could get Pat on set was to deliberately withhold the length of time I thought the shoot would take to get him on set. He imagined he would be in and out in two or three hours. I did not comment on this notion. I instead plied him with free food to keep him going. It was difficult keeping both actors going as the night got late. I had to keep joking about, keeping them comfortable, lowering the thermostat, etc so as to make them feel as at home and not uncomfortable as possible. Finally, this shoot forced me (to an extent) to focus on blocking. Pat had to bend down in certain ways to make the next shot work (like when Mac appears behind him the first time). Mac had to stand in the exact right place in the doorway, and hit his marks for focus on scenes where he entered into frame.
In short, this was an all around informative experience, even if it didn’t involve directing particularly complex parts.
See the full film here.