The creativity and tension of found footage experimental horror inspired Zack Pike to create Beyond the Green. He describes the passion and ambition the helped fuel the film
Beyond the Green is your debut short film. How did you decide on and develop the story?
I first had the idea for Beyond The Green whilst still in attendance at Exmouth College in 2022. I was so adamant about creating a short film the following year and began brainstorming. I decided a found-footage film would be a great direction to go in, seeing as I was without a budget and found footage cinema relies on pure creativity and tension.
The initial idea was to create a 10-minute short of a group of friends being hunted by a monster in the woods and was titled The Rake. After some consideration, I eventually decided that it may be akin to The Blair Witch Project. But it was definitely a step in the right direction.
Soon after, I was properly introduced to the world of experimental cinema through films such as Bait and by filmmakers such as David Lynch. I became obsessed with this puzzling and odd style, also loving the fact the films end so abruptly, leaving the audience with so many questions.
The idea of a plot the audience has to decipher intrigued me beyond measure. Beyond The Green then evolved into this confusing and puzzling storyline in which the audience has to work out upon re-watches. I developed this idea of two friends memorialising their deceased friend in the woods, but odd occurrences and visions lead them to believe there was more to their friend’s death than they had first presumed. Then I focused on linking in certain experimental techniques, such as indirect timelines and loops, as well as an unsatisfactory finale. The main goal was to make a film that was unbelievably naturalistic, but also the complete opposite.
There’s a big emotional hook of the two friends going to the woods to memorialise their dead friend – how important was that for the film?
It was hugely important to me that their characters’ grief represented their personalities. Both characters experience small emotional flips throughout, enhanced depictions, humour, nostalgia and recreational drugs to cope with their emotions. These emotions become more and more passionate as their situation progresses. The fact that both of these characters are emotionally unfit resonates with those who have also experienced grief as they watch these characters suffer similar emotional consequences throughout.
It’s great using your local environment as the setting for the film, but what are the pros and cons you experienced during the filmmaking?
It was definitely a struggle, but it was also really rewarding to give it a natural feel. Having to work around the environment and creating natural light with minimal equipment was strenuous and led to me and Sam (D.O.P) having to rehearse lighting movement just as much as the scenes themselves. Working to light up these characters and set the action in the pitch black (whilst in the middle of the woods!) was definitely our biggest hurdle. But we overcame it with trial and error – as well as practice.
This film as a whole was a huge learning curve for all of us on set and these hurdles were anticipated, so we managed to stay level headed and respectful throughout. One of my favourite things about the shoot was how passionate we all were. We all had huge trust in the script, meaning everyone was invested to get the best shot possible.
On set, I allowed as much input as possible from everyone, allowing a wider array of knowledge and opinion to be heard. This could vary from dialogue, lighting and camera movement. This created a friendly and encouraging work environment where everyone understood the approach I was going for, which was creatively welcoming.
What sort of films do you enjoy watching and what inspired the look and feel for Beyond the Green?
Obviously, I’ve had a soft spot for the genre of horror for many years. I was first introduced to it through The Woman in Black. Whilst watching, I developed this totally encapsulated feeling where no matter how hard I wanted to look away, I was so glued to it. It was one of the first films that ever gave me butterflies and shook me to the bone.
As I grew up, I almost became obsessed with that feeling and expanded my knowledge to more niche films such as Lake Mungo and Inland Empire. That tense and uncomfortable feel was something I most definitely wanted to replicate. Visually, I wanted Beyond The Green to look realistic. Found footage films such as REC and The Blair Witch Project have this vintage and rustic look, representing the time they were released. I feel as though many modern found footage films attempt to replicate these visuals which, to me personally, eliminates the escapism.
Technology has come so far since these films were made and these characters simply wouldn’t use dated equipment. The feel and theme was very much about feeling trapped in such an open area. The characters roam frequently, but seem to never escape the wilderness, no matter what modern technology they have access too.
How did you find your cast and crew?
I was lucky enough to have friends that are just as passionate about filmmaking as myself. Four of us worked on this film and each of us wanted to create a piece of work we could be exceptionally proud of. I pitched the idea towards the end of our college years and they were quickly on board. We have all been close friends growing up and it was so easy to work together, due to us knowing each other so well.
What surprised you during the making of Beyond the Green?
A lot surprised me with Beyond The Green. Going into the shoot, there were a lot of “maybe” shots (shots we thought had potential to work but had a backup). Thankfully we discovered that the few shots this applied to not only worked, but were improved. We had big worries about lighting and the plot itself. Were we being too ambitious? Did the lighting look artificial? And most importantly, were our intentions understandable?
When in post, I frequently showed drafts of the film to my family and close friends and my worries were quickly dissipated. I received some extremely helpful feedback and the final product is something I am so proud to call my own. The audiences that watched it thoroughly enjoyed what we went for and the film was heavily praised for its complex plot.
What’s next for you?
I am working on another short film, which I am currently writing a script for. Its aim is to be extremely surreal and a deep dive into the mind of a mentally ill man. I am looking to shoot this around March and am hoping for it to be a larger scale and very artistic. I am also planning on relocating to London to pursue film so I can create short films that will be shown to a larger audience.
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