2012 – Steve began writing elements of The Flats several years before the idea was conceived. Through developing indie horror techniques, he attempted homages to Stephen King’s The Shining and William Blatty’s The Exorcist, but was unable to complete them due to location set backs and the non-existent budget of that of an amateur filmmaker. However, footage from one of these failed ventures (The Black Eye) serves as the “film within the film”, and eventually, will evolve into major thread in the narrative.
2016 – To avoid these constraints in the future, he decided that the best solution was to film his next project at a fully controlled environment, the home: a place where we are the most secure, while yet, most vulnerable. This control allowed for the ability to fix mistakes that sometimes would only surface when brought onto the editing timeline. The control of the environment also allowed for a division of production labour (i.e. access to record foley sound in the natural environment after an initial edit was constructed). Steve realized that the film could be produced without a crew, and strategized the narrative around it.
2017/2018 – A Little Bird Told Me (I) was shot on a Canon 5D Mark II with a variety of Canon L-Series lenses. Shook Ones (II) was shot on a Canon 5D Mark IV. Audio was captured to a Tascam DR-60 field recorder with the use of a dynamic and lapel mics. Three softboxes (500 watt) were used in the lighting set up.
The first episode wasn’t written completely with the intent to allow for new ideas and threads to develop organically. This ultimately was a detriment and benefit to the process. The detriment was that scenes were independently strong, but when connected to the larger frame, were long, and lacked depth in their “shot economies”.
As a result, the production time for A Little Bird Told Me (I) was roughly two years of writing/shooting/cutting/reshooting (feeling like Michael Scott’s Threat Level Midnight). The delayed benefit to this, was that we had a solid foundation for a narrative that allowed for many directions, characters and interpretations to develop in the later episodes. In comparison, Shook Ones (II) took one month to write, and six months of production/post-production work to complete. At times, the story seemed to be writing itself, with only technical intervention to steer the narrative towards certain “checkpoints”.
Production had one rule, well two. One being that we kept the equipment set-up light and flexible, so that we could focus on other elements (we sacrificed high-tech/quality for a “run-and-gun” approach), and two: for Steve not to be “an idiot” (as put very delicately by Matt) in regards to minor things like the lens cap, or not having the phantom power turned on for the mic. Despite the short-comings of the film, we were able to capture some moments that would take considerable time, cost and energy to recreate if we were to stage them with a crew.
Although the majority of the film was shot/edited by Steve, there are a couple exceptions to this claim (no film is ever a solo project!). Brian Chambers (Brian Chambers Films) assisted with our second OTS shot (over-the-shoulder) in the flashback scene set in Archies Fish & Chips (I), Brandon Chang and Allan Heffernan shot the dream sequence in the church (II), while Mark Duffield created the rich sound design in the final fight scene (II). Matt Stefan also assisted with some of the direction and dialogue phrasing, while Lina Camarinha offered logistical support. And of course, all the help/support from our local musicians and businesses that lent us their talents and spaces.
Each episode has roughly 1,200 video/audio/graphic/text assets within the Premiere Pro (CC) project files. Many of these files were audio assets as the majority of the SFX was created via foley/wild-tracking with some additional ADR to fill in any gaps in dialogue (the benefit of shooting from behind, or in a casted shadow).