Writer-director Michael Beets plans to stage horror movie In the Shadow It Waits as a live performance with the actors in their own homes in different states across Australia.
In another twist, the filmmaker and his cast have never met: All their interaction, from auditions to rehearsals and technical preparations, has been online.
The highly topical plot follows five twenty-something co-workers who are bored with their day jobs and sick of being locked up in isolation.
Looking for escapism, they play an online game, Billybillybilly.net, which unwittingly proves the truth of an urban legend.
The five will be played by Vessela Karadjova, Eddie Orton, Robert Pham, Nalani Wakita and SC Wilson, while Naomi Plucke has a supporting role.
Most are fresh faces. Pham has had guests roles in Neighbours, Hungry Ghosts, It’s a Date, The Time of Our Lives and Kinne .
A National Theatre Drama School graduate, Orton’s stage credits include If We Got Some More Cocaine I Could Show You How I Love You (KXT/ Green Door Theatre), Extinction of the Learned Response (Belvoir/ Glitterbomb), Jurassica (Red Stitch Actors Theatre) and The Players 2017 (Bell Shakespeare).
Beets scouted for actors via friends, family and Starnow.com. He approached no more than three people per role and had relatively few knockbacks.
Robert Pham and Naomi Plucke.
Cinematographer Viktor Wallmark has been advising the actors on how to set up their cameras and lighting.
“Performing in front of a live audience is such a thrill. Now we are bringing all the excitement and energy of live performance with the techniques and skills of filmaking,” Beets said.
The 40-minute film will premiere on June 4 at 8.30 pm, followed by performances at the same time on June 5, 6, 11, 12 and 13.
Tickets cost $10 per person or $20 per household, with all proceeds shared by the director, cast and technical crew.
The audience is invited to meet the artists through a virtual Q&A and drink after each performance.
Beets is hoping to draw a total of 1,000 viewers on the first weekend and to attract the attention of virtual film festivals. He will record the film to get further exposure.
In 2018, The Unknown Patient, his real-time interactive VR based on the true story of a soldier in a Sydney mental institution whose identity was unknown for 12 years, premiered at the Venice Film Festival and won the VR Award at the Adelaide Film Festival.
Tickets can be purchased here.