Rupert Green’s Twitter profile says ‘I like to laugh and cook and draw, and I don’t like ironing’. He doesn’t say where he stands on scaring people, but that’s what his new film is set to do.
Rupert’s film the Nightmare of Garbhlach is based on a true story. And even sitting in the cool, modern surroundings of the editing suite at the Exeter Phoenix, his retelling of the tale that inspired it sent shivers down my spine.
You only have to watch the nerve-tingling teaser to get a taste of what’s to come.
Shared ghost stories over a cup of tea during during promo filming for a puppet company led to the unearthing of ‘the mother of all ghost stories’. Puppeteer James Richardson of Angel Heart Theatre shared some stories, and then mentioned that of a friend of his, Marcus Gladstone.
With a bit more digging, it turns out the story happened to Marcus’ father, and here it is:
‘His father and then girlfriend had left the Edinburgh festival and travelled up to a westerly point where they intended to spend a weekend on the clifftops camping, with the beach and the sea down below.
‘On the first night the girlfriend had terrible nightmares. He wakes up and she’s scared and she tells him about her nightmare of Pictish warriors on the beach. She had been taken down there and tied to a rock and was about to be sacrificed, and they were all dancing and shouting around. He looked at her and went white and shivery himself because although he didn’t tell her, he’d had exactly the same dream.
‘The next day they did their thing and forgot about it.
‘The second night that they were there, he had the dream again. When he woke up, he found that she wasn’t next to him. He charged out of the tent looking for her and yelling her name and noticed that she was naked on a rock down on the beach. She was completely delirious and hysterical. He revived her, took her back to the tent and they spent the night shivering.
‘At first light, they packed up and left. And on the way to the road they met the lighthouse keeper who said it was a bad place and bad things had happened there -apparently the Pictish people who had lived there had been attacked by Vikings and slaughtered, wiped out.’
Rupert transferred that story to a 200 word precis and submitted it to the Exeter Phoenix bursary team. A few days later he got a phone call asking him in for an interview.
That’s when the work began. He has a big black book contain images, research, storyboards and ideas about how the film would develop. To the initial interview he also took one of James’ puppets, which was really scary.
‘A few days later they said, yes we’d like you to do a three-minute micro-film for the bursary for this year,’ said Rupert.
‘With the £500 you get for that, the first thing I did was buy a 50mm lens. We were going to do it lo-fi, and I filmed it all in my garage with four LED lights, with black cloths all around and lit it purposefully with half-faces in greens, and reds, and blues.’
With script workshops with other bursary filmmakers at the Phoenix, Rupert was able to address some of the issues he was facing.
‘I had a nagging feeling that I had to change it because it’s a massive story to fit into three minutes,’ he said.
‘Then I hit upon the idea of rather than a bloke and a girl, why not have two blokes. Then I did some research and I found out that homosexual acts were not decriminalised in Scotland until 1980, whereas in England and Wales it was 1967. And that got me thinking about the jigsaw puzzle and processes of the story and how to distill it down.’
During this process the big black book of ideas was modified: there was a crow, that went; there was a monster’s eye-view, that went; there was a fire, and that also went.
‘Part of the bid was to make it like Tim Burton meets Jan Å vankmajer,’ said Rupert, who was making the models out of clay and bits of cardboard, and including long exposure shots for the animation.
Rupert was also learning how best to work with the actors and collaborating on all aspects of film-making with QuackProductions editor Jack Oliver.
‘I soon realised to get the best out of people you’ve got to create a safe space that can always be left set up. So the garage became the studio. And then they got used to it, and we got them back three, four, five or six times and kept shooting them,’ said Rupert.
As the film was coming together they decided to see how it would look on the big screen.
‘We took it into Studio 74 and we blasted it through the big projector. We set it going and sat and watched it and we got a whole different view about what it was like,’ said Rupert.
‘It was at that point I suddenly grew up,’ he said. ‘I thought to myself hang on, we’ve spent four months doing this, and really we’ve only just started.
‘It’s been a fantastic, interesting journey. You learn about yourself as well as other people -and how to get the best out of people and empower them to do something that is better than they expected.
‘I’ve also discovered that sound is as important, if not more important, than what the visuals do.’
The bursary award has certainly pushed Rupert into new directions, and the £500?
‘We’ve spent it already many times over,’ he said. ‘Which is why I kept it lo-fi. I quite doggedly said, we’re going to use the cameras we’ve got, we’re going to use the spaces we’ve got and we’re going to be as experimental and creative as we can be with it.
‘Jack Oliver and I entered the 48-Hour Film Challenge last year, I highly recommend everyone have a go at, at least once in their life. You have 48 hours to make a three minute film.
‘But when you’ve got six months and £500 to make a film, it all becomes different: a different feel, different edges, different pressures.
‘You suddenly feel you’ve got to be a bit more serious. Because December 2 is the night that all the bursary films will be shown, and people will pay money to see my film -I want them to hold their breath for three minutes.’
I left Rupert in the editing suite working out how best to inspire blood-curdling screams from the actors for sound recording later that day.
Unsurprisingly, Rupert’s Twitter profile also says ‘I love making short films’.
â€¢ The Nightmare of Garbhlach will be screened during the Two Short Nights film festival at the Exeter Phoenix, on December 2
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