In 2012 I was working in Philadelphia, and one evening I was lying in my hotel bed trying to get to sleep. I was drifting off nicely, until some particular sounds became audible from the room next door. A man and his lady were getting utterly funky. For the next half an hour I put my headphones in and listened to something on my phone, periodically checking whether the noises had stopped. They didn’t abate. The pair of them had stamina, to my distress. Luckily, instead of just fuming about it, an idea for a short film occurred to me, and that idea later became Out With A Bang. I reasoned that many, many people must be able to relate to this kind of thing - think about all the times housemates and neighbours have had to endure a soundtrack like this when trying to get to sleep!
I had other things to be getting on with for the time being, so I didn’t get around to shooting it until mid 2014, but by then the idea featured an elaborate plan for revenge against a sexually unstoppable neighbour, who happened to be American (inspired by the chap I’d heard ‘giving it his all’ in Philadelphia).
The great thing about this idea was that it could be done in one location, and I had a great one available: my parents’ flat in Bournemouth. So I went for breakfast with my mum one morning and casually mentioned that I had an idea for a film in which the ceiling collapses, a paint-bomb goes off in the bedroom, and could I please use their flat? It took some convincing, but once I explained that most of it would be done via visual and special effects, I was hesitantly given permission...
I didn’t audition anyone for the film – I have two great actor mates who I knew would nail the parts, so I simply asked them if they wanted to do it, and they both did (luckily). So, one Friday evening in August 2014, the two of them, myself and one of my best friends Sam - who’s helped me out on almost every film I’ve ever made since uni – bundled all our gear into a transit van and set off for Bournemouth, which is where we’d gone to university coincidentally. Sam had literally come straight from work, and after an intense weekend would end up going straight back to work on the Monday morning without a break. What a trooper.
We started with Anthony’s bedroom scenes (he plays the landlord) involving invisible string, stunt picture frames and falling drops of spunk. After that baptism of fire, we’d pretty much found the tone of the shoot and progressed to more trickier things, such as gunpowder-making, tracking shots along the hall, and most critically, the shots through the broken ceiling. I’d spent quite a lot of time in B&Q before the shoot, working out how best to build the ceiling prop. In the end, I’d taken a piece of plasterboard, knocked a hole through it, and paired it to a crude frame made of thin strips of wood, also with a hole knocked through them. With a little insulation stuffed into the cavity between them, we had a fake ceiling! We shot very low to the ground when shooting up into the neighbour’s apartment, with a little Dedo light bounced onto the floor to provide some foreground light, and the next night we filmed down onto the landlord, from a very high position with the frame mounted on C-stands. That was the last shot Anthony filmed, as he had to be covered in paint for it. Like a complete trooper he doused himself in paint from a container, and after he’d finished the shot he carefully tiptoed to the shower to scrub it off.
After dropping the boys back in London on the Monday morning (all of us on four hours sleep) I had to return the next day to clean the flat - It was either that or face crucifixion from my mum. Easy choice. During shooting, Sam and I had tried to film some plasterboard and wood elements against a roll-out green screen, suspended by invisible string. It was hoped that this technique could achieve the falling debris shots we needed for when the ceiling collapses. Alas, it just didn’t work. It became very apparent that filming the debris elements statically just wouldn’t look authentic. Since the shot in which they’re seen falling was supposed to be slow-motion, I’d have to bite the bullet and fork out for a high speed camera. So, in March of this year, I took a Sony FS700, the bomb-car prop and the debris elements to Tower Bridge Studios near Wapping, and filmed them falling against their green screen at 240fps. That did the trick, although it rinsed my bank account.
After hiring in a professional tenor to sing the ‘Vendetta Song’ I’d written for the score, everything was in place except for the special effects. The crack shots were the hardest thing about this project, in that I’m no effects wizard and had to rely on genuine effects artists to accomplish them. It took a LOT more dosh, but it was worth it, and the two artists I used (Monty Burgess and Duncan Tune) did a great job, given the restrictions of time, my inability to pay vast amounts and the lack of any metadata that I’d given them with the blank shots, due to the fact that we were knocking them off at 100mph on the shoot days. There just wasn’t time to log lens info and measure distances to the floor!
Perhaps in the future I’ll try to make films with fewer effects shots in them! Either that or I should learn After Effects...
I take the opportunity anywhere I can to thank the guys involved with making the film. Everyone worked so hard, and it’s really humbling to have that kind of support and dedication on your team. Thanks boys.
Written by Toryn Westcott, Director of Out With A Bang