If you plan to make an independent, gory horror film, here are 10 things to be prepared for — whether you’re in front of or behind the camera (or both).
Recently, the Psychic Celluloid Signals crew began production on their second short horror film. The short is titled Connective Tissues and was extremely challenging and rewarding. As of this writing, the short is in post-production. Below you will find some behind-the-scenes photos from the short and a list of five corresponding things you should expect when acting in and shooting a gory horror film (of any length).
Five Things to Expect for Horror Actors
1. Expect to get Sticky
After wrapping filming for Connective Tissues, I was a bloody mess. The Karo syrup-based blood that we used, as well as the prosthetics that we crafted, clung to my skin, my hair, and to everything else that I touched. It was the greatest feeling in the world. I can’t wait to feel that gross again.
2. Expect to Sit Around…A Lot
This is something that you should expect from any film regardless of genre or content. After shooting our first five scenes in a single location, we switched locations for the final scene. I was left with nothing to do for a little under an hour. I didn’t mind this because it allowed me to rest. Sitting around might sound boring, but in the midst of a busy shoot it’s a godsend. Cherish it.
3. Expect to Throw Yourself Around
This, too, is something you should expect from a lot of films (especially gory horror films, action films and comedies). When shooting Connective Tissues, I stumbled around, fell down repeatedly and generally did my darndest to make it seem like I was not okay. Blood loss is a serious thing, especially in a gory horror film. If you want to seem like you’re fading fast, then you have to fade fast. A lot. I enjoyed this aspect of my role immensely!
4. Expect to Taste Blood
More often than not in a horror film, if there’s gore, it’s coming from the mouth. We’ve all seen this. Someone gets fatally injured in some fashion and they start to spit up the red stuff. Watching this, I always thought it looked like it would be fun if a little disgusting. It was both. Some scenes in Connective Tissues had a lot of takes. In between those takes, Nate Enright, who played my stoic co-star (among many other things), would feed me blood. I would then spit it up and drool it out once the cameras rolled. The blood we used tasted a lot like chocolate, which helped somewhat, but overall it was pretty awful. I can’t wait to taste it again.
5. Expect to Have a Blast
I enjoyed everything about shooting Connective Tissues. Sure it was demanding, and at times and stressful. But the stress was a good kind of stress, and I wouldn’t want to be in a film that wasn’t at least somewhat demanding. Demanding films are interesting films. Demanding films are fun. Demanding films force you as a creative individual to be even more creative. They force you to take your art to the next level.
Five Things to Expect for Horror Filmmakers
If you’re the one behind the camera during the making of a gory horror film, here are five things you might expect while filming. While nothing on this list is a guarantee, the likelihood of some or all of these things occurring is high.
1. The Practical Effects Might Take Time to Execute — A Lot of Time
Practical effects tend to take time to create, but can be pretty quick to apply or execute once created. This isn’t always the case. About half the time that I spent on set shooting Connective Tissues, I spent with our director Josh Blodgett, who created the practical effects for the film. So many times we had what we wanted, but it wasn’t perfect. And in trying to make it perfect, we screwed it up. Still, it was exhilarating working with practical effects. Remember, if someone asks you “Would you prefer CGI blood and scars?” just say no.
2. You Might Have to Work with (Actual) Meat
The Psychic Celluloid Signals crew spent a lot of time trying to figure out how to execute a specific effect practically, cheaply and safely. Then someone recommended we go to the meat market at a local grocery store and graph our effect on the meat. We did it, and it turned out great. We don’t endorse cruelty to animals. But if the animal has already died, we do endorse putting its flesh to good use if budget and safety concerns apply.
3. You Might Get a Little Hurt…for Real (If You’re Not Careful)
Even with some of the extra precautions we took, I did manage to shed a few real drops of blood while shooting Connective Tissues. We used a real razor, which in one scene I had to fumble with a little. I was shown how to eject the razor and where to pick it up, but I still managed to cut myself a few times. Both times when I cut myself I barely felt it. It was only when I looked down and noticed that some of the blood looked more real than the rest that I realized what had happened. Since we were shooting in a bathroom, I quickly cleaned the cuts and went back to work. I was lucky I had water and soap right there.
4. You Might Make Unexpected Additional Art
The piece we made (that utilized real meat) to simulate a specific effect practically and safely, ended up resembling something you might see in a gallery. We were surprised and excited by this (so much so that we spent half an hour trying to get a good picture of it after the shoot).
5. You Might Get to Work With Your Best Friends
When shooting Connective Tissues, I got to work with Nate Enright and Josh Blodgett, two of my best friends. If you have an idea for a gory horror film, pick up your cell phone and ask a few of your friends if they are down with spending a day (or days) getting bloody and having fun. Then get to work. Don’t just sit back down and rewatch Lost for the 50th time.
In the immortal words of Psychic Celluloid Signals’ spiritual icon Lloyd Kaufman, “Make your own damn movie!”