Emerging director Craig D. Foster has given insights into the making of his new horror/comedy, Overtime, which is set to open the St Kilda Film Festival.
The eight-minute short film, which stars Aaron Glenane, Adam Dunn, Arka Das and Anslie Clouston, is about a meek accountant, Ralph, who is forced to work overtime on the night of a full moon – which poses him a rather significant problem, given that he is also a werewolf.
Foster (writer/director/producer) tells IF he wrote the film with his wife, Emma McKenna (producer/writer/editor), which was then taken through Metro Screen's Raw Nerve initiative.
Raw Nerve is an initiative funded by Screen Australia aimed at emerging filmmakers, enabling them to make a short film (5-7 mins) on digital video.
Every year, Raw Nerve gives three filmmaking teams, who have never previously produced or directed a film with full or partial financing from a government film financing agency, the chance to move from no-budget filmmaking to a more professional approach.
Foster said the film’s $30,000 budget was mostly self-funded.
“It helps to have the seal of approval and to be able say that Screen Australia and Metro Screen were involved.
“I think it turned it from something good to something great.”
Overtime was one of the final films supported by the NSW screen resource centre Metro Screen before the organisation was forced to close due to funding cuts late in 2015.
The film had a strong cast and the help of Odd Studio, led by industry veterans Damian Martin and Adam Johansen, who designed and executed Glenane's stunning gradual transformation into a wolf beast.
“Most challenges were mitigated by virtue of having such a great team,” he said.
“They (Odd Studio) were really fun to work with. Those guys are like kids, they love making monsters. One of the first conversations we had, which was a serious discussion was: is it a werewolf or a wolfman? A werewolf turns into a dog, whereas a wolfman still looks like a man and has fangs and stuff. A werewolf sounds better, but if you’re going to be technical we have got a wolfman.
“Our DP Kieran Fowler was amazing also. Visually the film was quite challenging and required multiple camera systems. We shot RED / DSLR and GoPro. We also had to use special macro lenses for certain sequences. All of this required lots of testing and pre-planning. We also had a number of 2nd unit days with Kieran shooting time-lapses and pick-ups in addition to the 5 days of principal photography."
In terms of the cast, Foster said, Glenane was always the first choice.
“He has an amazing range – he can be meek and unassuming and then suddenly threatening and dangerous really easily – he also has this great sense of mystery about him that’s quite magnetic. He also just looks to me like a werewolf,” he said.
“Adam, who plays Ralph’s boss, just cracks me up. He can give his characters this amazing sense of unbridled enthusiasm and self-confidence that makes for such a perfect comedic antagonist.
“Ainslie is whip smart, cheeky and playful. Her character only has one main scene, which becomes sexual, but the subtext of the scene is that her character Megan and Ralph have this history of frustration and unrealised potential.
“They clearly like each other but Ralph just can’t go there. It’s quite a challenge to communicate all of that with such a small amount of screen time, but Ainslie nailed it."
The movie's main character Ralph is constantly on the move in line with the plot. This presented challenges for the production.
“In general locations were difficult just because there were so many. Ralph is aways on the move so we were in a new location pretty much everyday. Which makes things a little harder logistically. We also had a really complex scene in an elevator – and we realised early on that there was just no way to do it without building a set, which is a huge challenge on a small budget.
“Post production was intense because we had to delay the shoot for Aaron. It was close to around the clock for six weeks. We handed over the film at the last possible second.”
Foster said the main creative challenge was staying true to the vision in the face of budget and time constraints.
“I suppose that's always going to be the case and the only way to combat that is to be super-prepared,” he said.
“In the end, I was quite blessed by the extra pre-production time we got when we delayed the shoot for Aaron. I spent every second of it making sure the boards were perfect and that every problem I could foresee I had a solution for. So on the day, I spent very little time thinking about what to do next. I just had to execute the plan.
“It was also important to give the film a distinctive look and to meet genre expectations. That meant that we needed to give a horror vibe to scenes set in an accountancy office! We came up with the idea of turning Ralph's work into a massacre scene by focusing on staple removers, bloody red pens and his paper shredder. And that opened up a whole set of challenges around macro photography. For the entire opening scene the lens is on average less than an inch away from the subject of the shot."
The edit also proved challenging.
“We had to deliver the film to a certain (very short) length and we had a lot of story to get through,” Foster said.
“Some of the early cuts we're so fast that you could barely keep up. It's very rare to have someone watch a cut of a film and tell you that it's too short. But that happened with us. In the end, we negotiated to have our film a little longer and we also pulled a few tricks to make certain sequences feel longer.
“The music was something we didn't crack until late. I knew it was crucial but just wasn't sure how it would work. We experimented endlessly and, in the end, found the solution was so simple. It's about a guy desperately trying to get home, but he keeps getting held up. So whenever he's on the move, the music is going and we get this sense of incredible urgency and dread, and then when something gets in his way the music just stops and you really feel the frustration.”
Foster, whose credits include Slingshot, My Mother’s Letter, Parrot and Before the Rain, said they were looking to take the film to festivals including Palm Springs, Fantasia (Montreal, Canada) and Fantastic Fest (Austin, Texas).
“We are definitely focusing on doing well at festivals. Our main goal is to open up doors and a pathway to making a feature films,” he said.
“We are working on a handful of ideas. We will see which one solidifies. I have found with writing you get what comes out. You spend a long time trying to find what you're passionate about and when that passion hits, that’s what you are going to write. It really just depends on where that passion kicks.”