Producer Gillian Williams explains why Hosts was a challenging film to make, in almost every way.
The directors, Adam Leader and Richard Oakes, had set the bar high for the production value they wanted to achieve with the film Hosts. Fortunately, they have a strong background in making very creative music videos through their company Dark Fable Media, so there was no doubt they would be able to get their vision onto screen. The difficulty came with getting everything initially in place.
The first challenge was the budget. Raising funds for a first indie movie is no easy task, but Richard and Adam have a successful YouTube channel, so they appealed to their followers to invest into the film, which they did! This really was a production built out of a community. We brought in enough funds to pay the cast and cover expenses, but there was very little left for the art department.
This is where the team got very creative with the set we used. Richard kindly let us use his house for the principal photography. We redecorated nearly every room, basically gutting it to turn his family home into the backdrop for a shocking horror. Without making these kinds of sacrifices, there’s no way we would have gotten the film shot.
With the budget set, and the set decorated, we were two days out from shooting when disaster happened. One of our lead actresses who was playing one of the antagonists pulled out. It was going to be a nightmare to re-schedule at such short notice. Fortunately, we were able to cast Samantha Loxley, who arrived on set two days later into a dialogue-heavy shoot and nailed it. Totally off-book and professional.
With a small budget comes a tight schedule. We managed to squeeze the principal photography into two weeks, one weekend for pick-ups and another weekend for the exteriors. To work like this you need to have a dedicated and focused team, which we were fortunate to have. The crew worked well together, with little friction. The cast gave brilliant performances with very little roll-over, so we were pretty much able to keep to the schedule.
Of course there were some scheduling changes to be made, but that’s part of the game. Myself and Craig Hinde, who also produced and worked as 1st AD, had to be agile to get the job done.
Almost two weeks straight of night shoots brings interesting challenges. Everyone is sleep- deprived, and at 3.30am when the birds are starting to sing loudly and the crew are shooting in a tight spot in the attic, it takes some dedication to get it right. It might have seemed crazy to shoot during some of the shortest days of the year, but May 2019 was the time when everyone
was available, so we had to make the best of it. At times we were blacking out windows to get shots done without the sunlight!
The crew were suffering the tiredness, but the cast had the additional challenge of keeping their energy up throughout the night. From the inciting incident of the story, Hosts is a runaway train, which was really demanding of the cast. Fortunately Frank Jakeman, Neal Ward, Samantha Loxley, Nadia Lamin, Lee Hunter, Jennifer Preston and Buddy Skelton delivered.
The most difficult days were also my favourite. We shot the exteriors in January, in the woods, at night. It was so cold, equipment was freezing to the floor. The temperature killed a generator, a camera and a smoke machine. We had people standing by with blankets for the actresses who were unluckily wearing dresses. During tough shoots and cold nights, you simply must have good catering. Ours was provided by Jason Twigger of Inner Circle Catering, can’t recommend him enough. If you expect a production to give you their best on a couple of sandwiches and a chocolate bar, it’s going to show on screen. If you look after your crew, they look after you.
From a personal perspective, I had my own challenges. A couple of months prior to the shoot I was involved in a pretty serious motorcycle accident which left me with broken arms, shoulder and back. By the time we started shooting, I still had an arm in a sling. It was uncomfortable at times, but Hosts was also my first feature and I simply couldn’t the opportunity pass. A good production is a team effort. I was fortunate to work with a crew that were professional and required very little management.
Making a film is a series of problems that need solving quickly, requiring creative thinking on and off set, especially when there’s no budget left to throw at it. From make-up to sound, craft services to the camera department, everyone understood not only their job, but the roles of the people around them. They worked together to get the shot above all else.
While Covid arrived at the end of our production, we were very lucky. We had most of the editing done and were able to complete post-production remotely during lockdown. It was a shame that very few festivals went ahead, but with a lack of material being produced I do believe it opened some doors for us.
We found a good sales agent for Hosts with MPI media and achieved global distribution with great critical reviews (83% on Rotten Tomatoes). Not bad for a micro-budget indie horror…
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