Ghosthunter | Press | Kodak

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    FEATURE FILMS July 2000

    A Short Feature is clearly a Feat

    © 2000 Zoë Norfolk

     Charlie (Frank Finlay) and Sarah (Alison Reddihough) examine the mysterious symbol on the wall of the church.

    Having jointly accrued 20 years of stage experience as actors, writers, and producers with diversions into TV commercials and drama, Simon Corris and Alison Reddihough made serious approaches to the film world. Predictably their CVs were dismissed as 'having no film experience'. Not for them the resigned shoulder-shrug. With long ambitions to get into film and now reborn as Amulet Films this entrepreneurial lateral-thinking husband-and-wife team is outsmarting catch-22 and doing so with style, imagination and drive.

    Having made (and enjoyed editing) family camcorder tapes, they decided to try exposing film. The standard entrée, they knew, is via short films. Was there a 'How to . . . ' book on making one's first short film? Their search was unavailing, although bookshelves were ablaze with help on making first grossly under funded features. This was not their aim - that market was already over-full.

    © 2000 Zoë Norfolk

     Frank Finlay (left) with consultant D.O.P Freddie Francis.

    They rented a couple of lights and a 16mm camera -with Simon asking to be shown how to use it! Alison wrote the 5-minute script, and then starred in (and clapper-loaded for) their aptly-named The Essay. Simon, having downloaded instructions from the Arri website, directed, operated and lit. They were encouraged by the result. "As actors we'd seen filmmaking 'from the front' but this was our first experience of DIY filmmaking. Don't knock it. That hands-on experience was invaluable. It really makes you appreciate the work which everybody does on a film set."

    Anyone can recognise a niche in the market. Entrepreneurs exploit it. Amulet evolved The Great Idea. They would make, from scratch, a properly funded, short feature film; keep a detailed record of everything they did and learned throughout - admin, catering, legal, you-name-it - in order later to produce a self-teaching aid for oncoming learners and as a stepping stone into feature films.

    © 2000 Zoë Norfolk
     Setting up for an effects shot of the 'ghosts' in the main body of the church

    Then they got on with it. Now, several months later, the 15-minute short film called Ghosthunter has been scripted, cast and shot and is currently in post-production. A book "How To Make Great Short Feature Films, The Making of Ghosthunter" is commissioned and will be published by Focal Press in September 2000. And there's more. They commissioned a documentary of their activities and are hoping to provide the book with an accompanying DVD so that any future student with access to a reasonable PC will be able to get a complete audio-visual kit on a great learning experience.

    One may safely assume that this ingenious plan, doubtless presented with charm and panache, and authenticated by Amulet's own hard-saved funds, was the key to assembling one of the most prestigious groupings that has ever backed a first film. Freddie Francis BSC and Peter Lamont (both Oscar winners) together with Mark Auguste were consultants, Barrington Pheloung will compose the music and the stars were Frank Finlay and June Watson. Success begets success and generous sponsorship was forthcoming from Pinewood, VFG, Panavision, Kodak and Quantel. Meanwhile, caught up in the excitement, FilmFour sought, and won, permission to make their own "The Making of . . . " documentary.

    The story is of two searchers. The widowed Charlie, the Ghosthunter, (Frank Finlay) is exploring spiritualism to try to contact his late wife, Emily (Josie Kidd). Sarah (Alison Reddihough) is investigating the history of a small village. Between them they discover more than they expected. Starting in the present in an abandoned chapel, the film flashes back to the past when the church was alive.

    It was a seven-day shoot, six on location in Sussex, one day at Pinewood. The DP was Gavin Struthers, now in his last year at NFTS and first holder of the Freddie Francis BCS Scholarship. Freddie having suggested an approach to Amulet; Gavin wrote, they interviewed, the job was his. His first experience of 35mm. "We had a Panaflex GII with, to my delight, a full set of Primos and a zoom, plus an old Mitchell for lock-off shots for the ghost FX to free-up the main camera. Choosing the lighting detail, planning camera moves and angles with Simon, and working with top operators like Rodrigo and Trevor, gaffer Michael Vincent and with Maurice Gillett (Freddie's regular gaffer) consulting in the background, it really was a tremendous learning experience."

    "Simon wanted present-day scenes to be in muted colours with the flashbacks rich and vibrant. For the present day I was keen to use ENR bleach-bypass to take the colour saturation down, but this has the downside of clogging the blacks and deeper shadows. To counteract this I tried flashing with a Varicon for the muted scenes only. The idea tested well. For budget reasons I decided to use older stocks -5293 and 5298- which Roger Deakins praised at CamerImage last year as being excellent for seeing into blacks - and they were sufficiently budget-friendly to help with the additional ENR (bleach-bypass) costs. That, plus help in colour-testing with sample props and costumes from Luke, our production designer, we produced comparison samples which convinced Simon that, despite the extra cost, a 30% ENR was the way to go. There was no quibble. He was very supportive like that. But then everybody was." Amulet Films is now developing and looking for funding for its first feature film.

    Production Team
    Producer Alison Reddihough
    Director / Producer Simon Corris
    DoP Gavin Struthers
    Consultant DoP Freddie Francis BSC
    Stills Photographer Zoë Norfolk
    Composer Barrington Pheloung
    Editor Simon Cozens
    Camera Operator Rodrigo Gutierrez
    Camera Operator (Pinewood) Trevor Coop
    Focus-Puller Dean Thompson
    Clapper-Loader Jason Coop
    Camera Assistant Adam White
    Key Grip Luke Chisholm
    Grip Phil Aylewood
    Film Data
    Gavin Struthers
    Gavin Struthers is currently studying on the Cinematography course until December 2000 at The National Film and Television School, Beaconsfield, Bucks, UK sponsored by the Freddie Francis BCS Scholarship. Gavin's experience lies primarily in lighting camera-work and he has crewed a number of independent projects on both film and video as Director of Photography. His substantial creative background in graphics, fine art, stills photography, computer graphics and film gives him a wide range of input on all aspects of production concepts and techniques.

    Published July 2000