It’s that time of the week again when we profile a new Australian short film. This week we take a look at P.O.V: Point of View, a Short Horror film directed by Benjamin Morton filmed from the killer’s perspective as he stalks, captures and kills his victims.
Starring Jenna Bridge and Ben-Jamin Newham
Written and Directed by Benjamin Morton
Produced by Monica Sullivan
Editor Mike Crick
Sound Design Ian Hughes
Make-up Jen Lawton
Benjamin Morton (Director):
I wanted to challenge the audience and the modern horror genre itself by posing the question, ‘do you really want to see more?’
Initially I was inspired by modern trends in horror to show more and more gratuitous violence in an attempt to continually shock and appal audiences with more and more elaborate and gory tortures, where I started to ask is this actually scary anymore? Is this actually horror and touching on the real primal fears of our audiences? Or are we really just creating stylised torture-porn.
Monica Sullivan (Producer):
As Ben said, this project was made to challenge our audience, and we had to be careful that we achieved that in the right way, which made producing this film a whole lot of fun!
POV was a big project, done on a small budget and with a dedicated crew. As we funded the project ourselves, we had to get creative on set and find some interesting ways to keep costs low. Scouring Bunnings for new more interesting props, raiding family tool sheds and driving for hours trying to get the best gear for the lowest possible price.
The make-up effects in the torture scenes, executed by make-up artist Jen Lawton, were made using anything we could get our hands on. I think we had a combination of professional make up products and make up from personal make up kits used across the various shoots. We had few shooting locations, but we used every inch of space in those locations to achieve the best results possible and we were really happy with how everything turned out. What crew we had on set worked hard each and every shoot day and I can’t explain enough just how much Ben and I appreciated their efforts.
Some days we were on set doing prep work until the early hours of the morning, prepping for the shoot the next day, we were all at our wits end. There were some hiccups, some scenes we planned and shot that couldn’t work because of the filming style that we had, and things that we couldn’t afford, being self-funded and working around various work schedules. But at the end of the day, when we all saw the film come together and watched the finished project, we were all smiles. It was a labour of love, and we are all so pleased with how it turned out.
Benjamin Morton (Director):
From the beginning I wanted the film to portray a few different ideas.
The main idea was to film the movie entirely from the killer’s perspective and to challenge the audience to actually be in the shoes of these ‘killers’ to experience what it was like to actually kill people in films rather than just safely watching as a bystander.
Another central idea I wanted to communicate was with the tension when the killer is stalking his prey, I wanted to draw the scenes out as long as possible and create a sense of tension and realism that made the audience uneasy and almost be begging for the victim to be caught and killed as we have become spoilt by fast editing techniques of modern films and you can simply look away for a second and the scene is over.
Another main point I wanted to make was in regards to the gore and violence we did include in the film, I wanted to show the horrible torture that happened to the victims, genital torture, toe nails being ripped off with pliers etc. but in a way that the scenes were brief enough to the shock the audiences that were going to be shocked but almost rob the fans of gore of an extended scene of torture, one of the ways we did this was with the sound, as good sound design is so crucial to a good horror film we deliberately extended the sound effects of a lot of the torture scenes whilst cutting the visual aspects short. I came upon this idea as I was observing an old girlfriend with me at the cinema as we watched a horror film and whenever she could pre-empt a gory scene she would close her eyes and I would explain to her that by closing her eyes she can still hear the ‘sounds’ and is in fact making it worse by leaving the visuals up to her ‘imagination’
Mike Crick (Editor):
The editing process for Point of View was quite unique. It was an interesting mix of finding the right pace while making as few actual edits as possible. Obviously it was key to keep the illusion that it was all one shot and to be fair mostly it was but you’d be surprised just how many alternate takes there were to try and blend together.
When you’re shooting long takes it’s rare to get everything perfect in every single take, so the process was mainly finding the takes which had the content necessary for telling the story then trying to find points where I could blend those shots together seamlessly. The production crew and I discussed how the edit would work before shooting, and they did a great job making sure to move and frame the camera in a way that would aid in this editing process, no small task when the camera is mounted to the operators head!
I found that the sound editing really tied it all together when it came to the edit. I used a lot of Foley to help tie to invisible cuts we had to use into each other. Something as simple as consistent footstep noises really helps build the illusion that it’s all one nice flowing shot. Quite a lot of the sound was actually captured from the camera. A clean sound mix wasn’t really the goal for this film and utilising the distorted and muffled audio from the on-set audio was crucial to keeping the illusion.
Like the editing process it was an odd mix of finding the right bits of audio from the day and blending them in with artificial room tone and sound effects added later in post. The greatest challenge was making sure not to ignore all the essential guidelines for a ‘good’ mix while keeping it honest to the realities of what was happening on screen.
The visual effects were quite minimal; I used a fair bit of artificial grain and digital artifacts to give it that gritty home movie feel. The footage shot was actually quite clean, I stressed the importance of this to the production crew and they definitely delivered. Most of the dirty visuals and noise were actually added in later, it’s quite hard to repair footage that has been shot this way so I felt it was much safer to start with a cleaner slate to give us as many options in post as we needed.
Ultimately most of what you see on screen is what was shot on the day, the visual effects and colour grading process was mostly about creating seamless transitions between cuts and enhancing the captured footage. We all felt that overdoing it would become too noticeable; we didn’t want people to focus on how impressive the visual effects were. We felt the focus should be on the overall experience of watching the film and I feel the minimalist approach we chose in regards to visual effects, and all the aspects of post for that matter, really helped people engage with the film the way we wanted.
Ian Hughes (Composer):
POV for me was one of those ideas where something was lurking, that feeling of presence of something in the shadows, something dangerous, something menacing. After reading the script and speaking with Ben I knew I wanted to be a part of this film. Its mystery gripped me as much as any classic film does, and in its history one of the scariest ideas the horror genre has offered us… the idea of not being able to reason with the perpetrator, the inhuman, alien, robotic. Whatever it is, it is simply unsympathetic to our cause as people.
Whether dealing with horror or not “The Entity” itself is a mystery in film, the revelation of this unknown thing. Inhuman. Distorted. Mysterious. When you marry that with Sci-Fi it is just FANTASTIC! And it’s exactly that level of mystery and horror which I try to convey in the music for the film. It was made using layers and layers of synths, then I put Violins and Cellos through various amps and distortion modules, it helped maintain the creepy sense of alien-ness (is that a word?). Of course I added in a piano at some point… because it isn’t all about murder, you need to keep that humanity, and the piano was a nice way to juxtapose that. Simple, elegant, nostalgic, and familiar. More importantly… human.
Monica Sullivan (Producer):
Casting our leading lady was a difficult process, but as soon as we sat down with Jenna, we knew it would be her. We had other girls audition for the role of Galatea, who had more experience and longer resumes but Jenna is someone special. We met her at a cafe for our initial chat and discussion on the project she had us hooked.
Up for anything and enthusiastic as all get out, Jenna even gave us a taste of her performance in the middle of a cafe over coffee in the middle of the city. It was great working with her, she helped us develop Galatea and her backstory and really helped make POV into the film it is today.
We had previously worked with Ben-jamin, and when we mentioned we had a part for him in this project he as happy to work with us. He is a complete professional and it was a pleasure working with him again.
Jenna Bridge (Actress):
Working on POV was such a fun filled hilarious & awesome film that I will never forget!
Ben is such a talented person who is always 5 steps ahead all the time. His ideas are fantastic which is why I auditioned for POV. It’s that kind of horror film that freaks you out in real life as I found out (after my 5th shower scene take) just how easy it is to be taken and/or overpowered… which is why I learnt martial arts so watch out.
It was amazing that we could create POV with such a small amount of people but we have proved how good a film by 6 or so people can be which is why we won audience choice award at Sydney a night of horror festival and are currently travelling with Trasharama around Australia and loving it!
My favourite part of POV was without a doubt when we cling wrapped me down to the table and masked my mouth, then everyone said “good bye” and turned the lights out and left me. I was more scared though of the chainsaw scene as we had just got straight into it and to see someone with a mask on standing above you with a chainsaw… then the random bits of oil and dirt are shot onto your face from 10cm from the chainsaw at 100km/h… now that’s horror! And if you like POV wait till you see what’s coming next.
Monica Sullivan (Producer):
We were all nervous at the release of the film, which premiered at Sydney’s A Night of Horror film festival in 2013. For some of the crew, it was their first time seeing the final cut of the film and all we could hope was that the audience would receive it well.
And they did!
It was such a thrill to watch their faces, hear their reactions and responses to it all I can say as that it was out of this world. The best part- they loved it so much that we won the People’s Choice Award for the festival! It gratifying to see all our hard work pay off and have others appreciate it.
The film has since been screened at Monsterfest in Melbourne and Perth, and is currently travelling with Trasharama-a-go-go. It’s incredible to see the film getting interest nationally and I’m excited to see how far it will go! For a self-funded, Australian short film, it’s really exciting for us to see it move so far. I mean, it’s not every day that something like happens. Especially with having such a small crew and so many odds against it, I couldn’t be more proud.
P.O.V is still currently screening nationally as part of the Trasharama-a-go-go festival with its next screening dates on the 28th May at the Gold Coast and 29th May in Brisbane