‘Daylight Hole’ dir. Matt Palmer
A soundman descends into a cave. Only when it may be too late does he begin to suspect that he might not be alone…
C8: ‘Daylight Hole’ is a great little short; unnerving and scary but disarmingly simple, where did the idea come from?
MP: As with ‘The Gas Man’ – my Collabor8te 2012 project – the idea came from a real life event. I’d managed to get access to a professional recording mic so I went around Cumbria looking for interesting places to grab sound recordings. Someone recommended a place called Daylight Hole which turned out to be an amazing place (and was the location we used in the film). I went down there alone and when I was recording sound at the mouth of the massive cave, the sound was incredibly creepy and intense. I looked back up that steep slope I’d climbed down to get there and got a horrible feeling of total isolation, thinking that I’d never get away if “something” was down there with me. Really that was the whole film in that one thought.
C8: Where does the film sit in your career? What had you done before it?
MP: Right at the start. Daylight Hole was my first short.
C8: Daylight hole led onto your Cinema Extreme film ‘Island’, which was also interested in the heard-but-not-seen approach horror. What did you learn when you stepped up to direct this much bigger project?
A lot! It was very challenging because ‘Daylight Hole’ was really low budget – shot on DV and essentially just myself, an actor, a DoP, a sound recordist and six production assistants down in the cave (with a crazy lack of concern for any kind of health and safety). ‘Island’ was a massive step up in terms of budget and a crew of around 35 people. When I got to the set there were people everywhere and at that point in my experience I had no idea what some of those crew positions even did.
So shooting ‘Island’ was a real baptism of fire and in many ways not an entirely enjoyable experience. It didn’t help that I got a death-like flu the day before we began shooting (this taught me the very important lesson of really looking after yourself in the lead-up to a shoot) but with Island I essentially felt like I was watching this huge machine at work with no real idea of whether it was functioning properly.
The experience was massively important and useful for me though as over the next couple of years I slowly ran over everything again and again in my mind until I started drawing some conclusions about how I’d work with a large crew in future. The crew number on ‘The Gas Man’ fell somewhere in the middle, around 20, but the lessons I learnt shooting ‘Island’ were incredibly useful in planning my approach to the filming.
C8: You’ve just shot your Collabor8te short ‘The Gas Man’ – how did it all go?
Amazingly! I built a real belief in the script, which had significantly improved during the development process, and the crew that Wellington Films put together was really excellent. Just a whole group of really dedicated and passionate people with no egos anywhere to be found.
We also managed to secure an amazing level of talent for some important positions – looking back on how we managed that still seems slightly surreal! We got the fantastic Danish actress Birgitte Hjort Sorensen (Katrine from Danish political drama ‘Borgen’) for our lead and the film was shot by the DoP of Peter Strickland’s Katalin Varga, one of the most beautiful films I’ve ever seen in a cinema. Working with those two was incredibly inspiring and their level of work was astonishing and exciting.
Stuart Gazzard (responsible for the great editing in Chris Smith’s excellent and definitely worth a watch ‘Triangle’) also came on board as editor which was a real coup. That was actually a pretty interesting process as the entire edit was done remotely (due to budgeting), with us only having contact via e-mail and by phone, as I was in Edinburgh and Stuart was down in London. It’s not the way either of us would choose to work but it actually turned out really well, we batted ideas back and forth largely over the internet and Stuart put together a final cut that I’m really excited about.
So, all in all it was really good! Good enough that I do wonder if I’ll ever have such a positive experience making a film again. And I’m proud of what we’ve achieved with the film. I’ve got a really good feeling about it. Hopefully it’ll work on audiences.
C8: What words of advice have you got for new filmmakers looking to crack into the industry?
MP: A few thoughts:
- Make a short. Short films are a great way to learn about filmmaking, hone your skills and a good way of getting yourself out there.
- Read script writing books. I used to avoid them, thinking they’d block my creativity but I found the opposite happened when I read them. Avoid Robert McKee and Sid Field because there’s too much stuff in them about Robert McKee and Sid Field. “Teach Yourself Scriptwriting” and “Writing Screenplays That Sell”, on the other hand, were both excellent.
- Read Judith Weston’s two unbelievable books on directing actors, “Directing Actors” and “The Film Director’s Intuition”. These did much more than give me a crash course on directing actors. As well as that they totally reprogrammed my brain. I came out from reading them a much better director. Honestly, they’re amazing, read them.
C8: What’s the essence of a good collaboration?
Feeling that a combination of your two ideas will be stronger than either individual one.
C8: What was your cinema highlight of 2012?
Shit, I guess I didn’t see much in 2012 that impressed me. I can’t think of anything. It’s cheating a bit but I like to watch loads of old movies and that year I saw this incredible Australian recently rediscovered 70s movie called “Wake In Fright”, about this school teacher who gets stranded in an outback town for the weekend and ends up going totally batshit crazy.
C8: What’s next on the horizon for you as a filmmaker?
I’m really excited to have got some Creative England and Creative Scotland funding for the final draft of a feature film, ‘Calibre’, that I’ve been working on with Wellington Films. It’s kind a Scottish Highlands-based riff on Deliverance. A bit dark. But people will probably expect that after seeing ‘The Gas Man’
Matt was selected for Collabor8te 2012 to direct his project ‘The Gas Man’