I have spent the past few days shooting a
film. For me, the most memorable – and odd – part of the experience was
spending Sunday, through to Monday at 11 am, shooting in an abandoned house far
from Kuala Lumpur.
It is a horror film cliché, that a house is
somehow “haunted” – well this house was haunting, for anyone who stepped within
it. It had been abandoned since 1998, according to the last revealed page of a
calendar on the wall. It was heaped with dust and decaying junk. Books and
papers had rotted away, to become powdery ghosts of themselves. It has a
strange smell, that was not quite comforting – a musty malodour on entry that
one couldn’t quite define. Even more perturbingly, it had seemingly been
squatted in, in the past fourteen years, since one room had a mattress free
bed, heaped with clothes, that seemed rather newer than the house – and, in an
unnerving detail, a baby’s nappies. Who on Earth would try to look after a baby
in such surroundings? It should be noted, further, that the electricity had
been put back on for the filming. So, whoever had been squatting there, had
done so in a house without electricity. It couldn’t have been much fun, living
in a rotting shell, in the dark, at night. As for us, filming, it was spooky
enough, even with a whole film crew present, throughout.
In a darkly humorous gesture, nature
provided an augmentation to the general spookiness. At several points
throughout the night, a very loud dull thump was heard, as of a human body
falling from a great height. It turned out to be from some kind of fruit tree
outside, with very large fruits about twelve to fifteen inches long. God knows
what it was, but it certainly added an element of surprise to the ill lit
For me, acting is often about experiencing
the unusual. It has placed me in very unusual circumstances which have given me
memories I could never have expected to have. This last weekend is prime among
It was a long night. By the time I got
home, after the shoot, I had been awake for over 32 hours. Yet, it had been
worth it. The director, Ignas Versinskas came up to me at one point in the
night and remarked: “You have really created a character...I can feel it.” That
was a cheering compliment and one that lightened the burden of the hours. Thank
So, despite the hours and the consequent
tiredness, despite the darkness and general spookiness, I had succeeded in
creating an interesting character, on screen – and no-one watching would have a
clue about how long I had been awake or what hour it was during filming! I actually rather like the character: a detective who has seen it all and come to terms with the worst of life, but still managing to care, when people come to harm.
I look forward to further filming
experiences, though I doubt that any will ever be as haunting as this one. I
will write of some of them, in future.
Posted by Valentine Cawley
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Labels: acting, actor, detective work, film and tv, how film-making works, Valentine Cawley