Scoping work: Night of the Living Haunted House Attractions
After my honours year, armed with a lot of theoretical and conceptual knowledge that was yet to be activated through practice, I decided to create my own interactive film: Night of the Living Haunted House Attractions. This film brings together a lot of the ideas that excited me throughout the honours year, with my favourite genres: comedy and horror.
As an interactive film, I was aware that the writing would be challenging. I've studied branching narratives before, and wrote an 8,000w interactive text-game in undergrad, so I'm aware of the complexities... or so I thought.
Writing for comedy ended up being incredibly complicated - the order of events could impact the timing or knowledge needed for a joke. Choices needed to have impact, but not too much, as to keep it absurd. Players needed to want to explore, they needed to be rewarded for revisiting spaces with new jokes (a valuable, but yet-more complicated, contribution from my script consultant and respected comedy writer Sam Lingham).
Whiteboards and sticky notes were the only way I could work through the narrative:
My final choice tree:
Story boards were also complicated - they needed to exist for each variation of choice in the script, and it made the shot-list a complicated affair - we might have the same 'shot' or scene filmed multiple times, because of a slight variation (for example - does the train conductor already know you? If yes, were you mean to him? - each would spark the same dialogue, but performed in a different way). The goal with writing become to create something that felt satisfying to navigate, without every becoming serious or tedious. So pacing was important - as it always is in comedy - but again, this is difficult to maintain through an interactive medium. And so lots of play-testers were invited to play through the text version of this film, and provide feedback.
Similar issues were present during filming - making sure actors had contextual information for their characters that might shift and change with each new take was a difficult obstacle to face, and one I'm not 100% sure I was able to nail with the tone of the piece as a whole. While some actors understood the format and were more than happy to do improvised takes, film easter-eggs and riff in the 'in-between' that was generated after the scripted dialogue, while waiting for audience choice, others were confused. This seems to be a consequence of filming in an unconventional medium, and
something that could have been fixed with production meetings and rehearsals.
As a director, the in-between after dialogue or action while waiting for player choice became my favourite space. It was strange not calling cut after a scene, but allowing for time, it felt almost rebellious. There were times where I could feel the anxiety of the actor, and would need to plan an action for them to perform in this space for them to feel comfortable. There were others, however - namely, Jack and George - who reveled in it, who took it to new places each time, viewed the in-between as valuable yet freeing for their performance - this is a section that might be skipped! But tonally, is very important, and golden comedy moments can be 'hidden' here.
Editing has been difficult. The usual green screen fiasco aside (see my node layout below!), I am editing a 'feature film' as 85 smaller parts. I have 85 sequences in Premiere! And when it comes to uploading them, there will be even more than this to account for the re-ordering of information and links, to allow for jokes to be hidden when 'revisiting' certain avenues (ie. in order to not repeat scenes when rooms are re-visited, I need to upload, link and account for every possible order of navigation!).
I filmed some production blogs during the editing process (so far) which you can find below. I also have an easter egg video, of George improvising a dance to 'don't stop me now' for the Shaun of the Dead sequence, which I later found out through the Always Sunny podcast, is the same song Charlie improvises a dance to in the show - I've always through George looked like Charlie Day, so I made a little edit to compare the pair! Lastly, see the behind the scenes video released after production wrapped.