Thursday, February 17, 2011

Brett Anstey on “Damned By Dawn”

What was your filmmaking background before making Damned by Dawn?

BRETT: I had been working in television since the early 90's, initially shooting commercials, drama and music videos.

During this period a group of friends and I would make quite elaborate short films on weekends. We'd borrow the equipment from work and shoot these really ambitious films, some of them took years to complete due to the extensive visual FX and stunts.

It was a great way to learn how to cut corners and to achieve maximum production values for very little money.

Where did the idea for Damned By Dawn come from? What was the writing process like?

BRETT: Originally I wanted to make my own little Hammer horror film. The type of film I grew up watching on late night TV - the sort of film that relies heavily on atmosphere, mood and classic "horror" imagery.

So we were kicking ideas around trying desperately to find a slightly original antagonist. And I remembered that scene in Darby O'Gill and the Little People that featured a Banshee, which scared the crap out of me when I was kid. So I was scratching my head trying to think of another film that featured a traditional Banshee. And I couldn't think of any. Then it become a case of figuring out what parts of the mythology suited our story best.

After the first draft was completed, it soon became apparent that we couldn't afford to make a period horror like the Hammer films - horse drawn carriages, period wardrobe & stately manors were beyond our paltry budget. So in the next draft I moved the story forward one hundred years and off we went!

What type of camera did you use to shoot the film and what did you like about it .... and hate about it?

BRETT: We shot the film on the Panasonic HVX 202 which uses the P2 cards. Before principle photography we shot some tests and the P2 camera seemed to tick all the boxes. The one negative was the lens. It just wasn't long enough. But overall it was a great little camera at the time.

How did you achieve such great production design on a low budget?

BRETT: By the time we made the film, I'd already spent 15 years shooting stuff so I knew how to cut corners, save money but not compromise the final result.

And the other guys - David Jackson the Production Designer, Justin Dix doing the Make Up FX and also Dave Redman the editor - we've all been collaborating for years and our mantra is every cent spent must be visible on screen!

What was the smartest thing you did during production? The dumbest?

BRETT: I'll start with the dumbest, which was making the film with no money! That was really tough trying to overcome a different obstacle and challenge every day. It really was a battle.

I'd have to say that shooting those scenes with Evil Nana attacking Claire close to suburbia was easily the smartest thing we did. Dawn Klingburg who played Nana was over 70 years old & the prosthetics took 3 or so hours to apply - so it was a challenge making sure she was comfortable & warm as she crawled across the forest floor in the dead of night.

And for those scenes we decided to shoot in a small section of woods that was only a 5 minute drive away from Make Up artist Justin Dix's home, which made the whole process so much easier on Dawn. I should point out the rest of the film was shot at a location that was a 3 hour drive away.

And, finally, what did you learn from making the film that you can take to other projects?

BRETT: Never ever work with roaches, because surprisingly they have a mind of their own and never do what you want! In future I vow to only work with human actors!

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