Thursday, 14 March 2019

Props

On a side note the severed hand prop was our only prop for quite a while, until I saw a sculpture of a zombie my friend Sam Weller had made from a mannequin for his A-Level art project. On completion of our A-Levels we managed to acquire the mannequin and use that for several important scenes.


Editing

Once the filming was complete I loaded it all on to my computer at the time and saved it to CD to back it up. It took a long time to edit and piece together all the footage as it would often get shot out of order due to time constraints or budgetary concerns. This was extremely frustrating, however once the main cut of the film was finished I was more or less happy with the output.

Fully bringing the movie into the digital age with a free to view YouTube release however has been one of the best movie making experiences of my life. Re-visiting what was such a large part of our lives for so long has been a real treat. Not only this but I have been able to add in deleted scenes, revamped audio, music and a whole host of little tweaks simply not available more than 10 years ago.

The Actors

The lead actor would be my friend Tom Furber, who plays Pike in the movie, well known for his love of Star Trek and student of the great William Shatner. Indeed, his acting style certainly channels the very essence of Shatner in many of his key scenes. Other than being of manly vigour Tom was a big horror movie nut, we would watch many horror movies in our group of friends, mostly of the zombie kind.

Tom was assisted in his endeavours by our mutual compatriot and Kung Fu genius Josh Warren. Not only a stand-up chap but also a fantastic actor Josh provided the key character of Leo. He saves Pike in his time of need. Josh was an essential component of the film but he was also our wheels on the ground, having been the only one of us to pass his driving test at the time.

Now we had our protagonists we needed an antagonist, being a zombie movie we needed zombies, my good friend Max Humber would be there to provide that which we needed most. Having provided him with a curly wig to supplement his already Sampsonesque locks we had our lead zombie. Tom provided a plastic severed hand prop from an old Halloween costume and the costume was complete.

Another key player in the making of the movie was Sam Poole whose dad had a camera he allowed us to use for the filming. At the time, digital cameras in earnest were still in development it actually had 2 inch cassettes. I bought an analogue to digital conversion box and we could then transfer the raw analogue footage onto computer. Not only did Sam have access to the technology but he was pretty handy on both sides of the camera too, he played Slasher the wise man who advises them to seek out Whistler his brother for guidance. Sam would often provide us with innovative and interesting shots for many scenes. I understand that James Cameron actually approached him years later to help develop new techniques in filming for the movie Avatar.

A late comer to the project Phillip Rutter provided a lynch pin in the story and some much-needed big name appeal. Having been in several big budget movies and being related to Sir Anthony Hopkins, Phil gave us the last piece of the puzzle.

Jon Wright would play Whistler, Slasher's dead brother. Although saying that during shooting Sam was unavailable so Jon actually stood in as Slasher, it was very confusing however it definitely seemed to work on tape.

Others that provided some great cameos were William MacIntosh, Matt Urry, Kevin Hall and Sam Cutbush. Big thanks go out to all of them. Sam Poole and I would later work closely with Sam Cutbush on the hit thriller Photographer, an exciting project that actually inspired the movie One Hour Photo which would come out the following year after a rushed production to beat us to release. Photographer still stands as one of my proudest achievements in film, having had substantially more script and characterisation than anything before it in cinema.

We now had a competent cast and crew, now we needed a story to match.

Story

I worked on the story for weeks, on and off. Inspiration being gleaned from the most unlikely sources. I watched many movies and kept coming up with new ideas over those hazy summer days. I certainly was a hot pot of creativity. Once the story had been written I broke it down into manageable scenes to ease the filming process and then broke the scenes down further into script for each of the actors.

One evening whilst filming I handed my hard work to Tom, turned around and directed a short scene. Josh was to throw his keys into a graveyard in frustration and thus set up the next scene. I went back to Tom who had managed to drop the entire script on the floor and scuff it up, essentially destroying it. To this day, I have no idea how he did it but it was amazing.


Cutscenes

Misc Cutscenes
Various scenes cut from the final release due to differing levels of content approval. As usual the BBFC ended up cutting about 15 minutes of footage, before allowing a UK release, citing 'gratuitous violent content' as reason enough to cut all the best bits. In fact the UK release is cut so badly that it makes the story almost unintelligible from a mess of random encounters...

A real shame as some of those ball busting scenes were real movie horror gold! Probably would have been talked about to this day 15 years on!

Car Cutscenes
Josh's car like the hand prop was one of our few props that we could interact with. We ended up making copious use of both in nearly every shot (except the various running through the forest scenes).

During filming is seemed like the car almost had a mind of its own, having run me over a couple of times, it hit Sam whilst he was filming when Tom hadn't put the handbrake on properly. It really had some character... maybe we should have made a film about a rogue car instead!

House Cutscenes
A series of cutscenes in and around what would become Slasher's House. Unfortunately due to technology constraints the brightness of the sun bleached out many good shots that would otherwise have been used in the finished movie.

Location, Location, Location

Filming locations included several churches in the local area, Max's house, Tom's house and a small forest just outside the college we went to. The forest would play a big part of the movie simply because it was a free outdoors location that we could all get to easily. Most days would be filled with us either planning or filming short skits in preparation for the final shoot of the day, often in the evening.

Many scenes included Tom reacting to things for no other reason than we had very little in the way of make up. This meant that it was easier for us to film him doing things rather than having to make someone up as a zombie to actually attack him. I'll give his due though he really found his lungs often screaming “FUCK” at the top of his lungs whilst the smallest of children were playing only metres away. Indeed, about half way through the movie you actually hear a child playing in the back ground when Tom finds Slasher's dead brother Whistler. It certainly was a good time.


Dead as a Doornail

So what is this all about? What I want to do is provide an informative and amusing look back at the movie making process we went through to make the movie 'Dead as a Doornail'. A process that has stretched across multiple decades to build what is essentially one of the best movies of all time (citation needed).

'Dead as a Doornail' as a film project, started in earnest in 2001. As nubile young teenagers, we were full of spunk, and wanted to light the movie world on fire with our innovative story and incredible special effects. We wanted to make our mark on the world of cinema.

Inspired by such greats as 'Evil Dead', 'Night of the Living Dead' and 'Night of the Creeps' we set about creating a story, props and recruiting a team of highly professional actors.

To that end I am going to bring this to a close, I hope you enjoyed the ride and please enjoy the movie.