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Indie Film Sprites

Short film The Naked Screaming Man is currently crowdfunding on Indiegogo. This short film about love, destiny, time-travel and drugs is a multi-layered comedy featuring new and seasoned British talent from stage and screen. The film already has 80% in the can and requires funds for post-production, rewards and festival fees.

The Naked Screaming Man was written and directed by Alain Kramer, whose first short film Jehovah’s Witness won Best Short at the Red Rock Film Festival and a completion award from the BFI New Cinema Fund. Alain took time out from the campaign to chat about his films.

Your first film Jehovah’s Witness was tremendously powerful and engaging despite being less than 15 minutes long. What prompted you to write and direct a short film as opposed to a feature-length one?

Alain: Every aspiring film-maker wants to hurry up and shoot that first feature film especially when hitting a certain age, and in the years between Jehovah’s Witness and The Naked Screaming Man I spent a lot of time in the writing process with that objective in mind. I don’t regard myself as a born writer, so it does take a long time for me to get it right. Over the years you learn that there will never be that moment. You just have to get to a certain stage where the script hits a lot of buttons for you and other people and then you just have to start the ball rolling and make the damn film. Easy to say when as an unknown you can’t raise the finance. So after realizing six years had just rolled by it was time to stop writing and start making again.

Although Jehovah’s Witness was relatively successful with a few awards on the festival circuit, one short alone with limited exposure was probably not going to be enough to give confidence to possible investors for a bigger project. I also needed more filmmaking practice before I myself became confident enough to do the bigger projects. A longer short or feature pilot with more locations and time for character development would have been my choice, but like Jehovah’s Witness my limited budget again dictated that I had to keep it simple.

I also was about to move from my small garden flat and wanted a memento of the garden and what better way than to make a movie there. So instead of one interior house location, it was going to be one exterior garden location. What could be simpler and cost effective? In the end I ended up shooting in someone else’s garden, and the length and cost of the film escalated. But of course it will be a better film for it. Did I move in the end? Of course not! I had a film to make. But a few shots of bees in our garden have made a cameo appearance.

Still from Jehovah's Witness
Still from Jehovah's Witness

What did you learn from making Jehovah’s Witness that you carried through to making The Naked Screaming Man?

Alain: Working on a very low budget for Jehovah’s Witness, I knew that dialogue was quick and cheap to shoot and that the real cinematic, dramatic moments needed more time, care and attention. Did I learn from this? Yes and no. The Naked Screaming Man was so fun to write it just kept growing and what planned to be a 1 day shoot for a 10 page script ended up a 22 page script shot in 2 continuous days and very much dependent on the weather. I was breaking all the rules of common-sense filmmaking. The only thing I could do was swallow that magic pill that lets you see clearly what you can cut. But I didn’t have one and the time needed to shoot those big climactic moments disappeared.

Where did the inspiration for The Naked Screaming Man come from?

Alain: I have been developing a kind of sci-fi feature and wanted to maybe link it somehow to the short I was going to make. In the end the story had very little in common with it, except for some elements of ambiguous sci-fi and mental health issues.

Then I remembered in my last flat, also with a garden, that we often heard on summer nights the sound of distant male screaming. It was told to us (although never confirmed) that there was a small ‘institution’ up the road. Sometimes it was hard to know if the screams were getting nearer or if it was just a trick of the wind. And so that was the starting point and inspiration for the story. Mixed in with a bit of drug taking, unrequited love, and possible, sci-fi.

Still from The Naked Screaming Man
Still from The Naked Screaming Man

You wrote and directed The Naked Screaming Man. Do you prefer one over the other? If so, why?

Alain: I regard writing and directing as part of the same process. But the directing side you get more help, depending at what level you’re working at. And due to cost, you get less times to practice. For writing, you have all the time in the world if unpaid, and it’s usually alone. I’m sure ‘as a director’ the bigger the films you make, the easier it becomes, especially with that team of talented creative collaborators to support you. Doesn’t it?

Writing The Naked Screaming Man was done relatively quickly, a week or so at the most, so that was fun and painless. The making and completing however is 9 months still counting. Hopefully this trend will reverse for the features. Years to write and less than 6 months to complete. That would be the dream.

How did you become a film-maker?

Alain: I didn’t make super 8 movies from the age of 3 like those other director geniuses. But I did watch a lot of movies from year zero. The making didn’t start until I found a 16mm bolex camera in the cupboard of Liverpool Art College where I graduated. After a few experimental movies I got the film bug, dumped the music career, went to NYU Film School although had to leave due to lack of funds, but I crewed on a lot of films in New York, came back to the UK and the rest is…well the rest is still following the dream, with a few digressions and interruptions along the way.

You shot The Naked Screaming Man in 4K. What prompted you to do this?

Alain: I wasn’t really obsessed by 4k. I still have nostalgia for that VHS look. But I wanted the garden at the height of summer to look good. The subject also demanded a sense of hyper realism. My D.O.P John Hoare told me about the Sony F55 and what it could do. And after a few test it did look amazing. Like a lot of digital cameras now you can shoot on 4k without really cost you anything more than a little extra storage space on a hard drive. Nothing lost for having the 4k option later. As for the final mastering, I didn’t really know how costly it might be and how mastering in 4K is still quite rare in the industry. Shooting on 4K though is common practice due to the extra quality one gets when dropping down to 2K and other formats, but it would still be great and a rarity to have a short 4K master for the festival circuit.

Any advice for aspiring film-makers?

Alain: For shorts, budget for the whole film, not just the shooting. Any kind of effects will cost you more later on so either think if you really need them or make sure you can do them later, guaranteed, with people ready to do them and you knowing exactly how much it will cost. You can go the ‘wing-and-a-prayer favours’ route, but unless you’re working regularly with professionals in this area (which I wasn’t) they’re going to be harder to find unless they know your work. A lot depends on the kind of film you’re doing. I’ve seen brilliant shorts which are simple, cost a few hundred and shot edited and shown in the space of a few months. So it can be done.

This rule probably also applies at the feature film level, although I have had limited experience so far. I do know others that have put all their efforts and money into filming and two and three years later they’re still in post. And then they have to distribute the film, which is another story. But to contradict that I do hear inspiring stories of film-makers who have taken that road and come out at the end achieving their objectives, so if you’ve got the time and energy, go for it. A lot of it is probably breaking that psychological barrier. Oh and if you want to make a cinematic, visually poetic masterpiece, give yourself plenty of time to shoot it. I’m sure it will be worth it in the end.

You can see the teaser trailer and the pitch video and contribute to the campaign here:

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