Our host Giles Alderson recorded a really special episode this week. He had a chat with the cast and crew of his latest film The Dare, which is out now in the UK.
Giles started The Filmmakers Podcast around the time that he started directing The Dare, so The Filmmakers Podcast community has been on a journey with him from concept to release.
In this podcast episode, Giles speaks to three different groups of cast and crew about their experiences creating and working on the film, with great advice from writing to producing, and cinematography to acting in a horror film.
Jonny Grant, co-writer of The Dare received a four-page pitch from Giles “the very basic story of what he wanted and it was called, at the time, Welcome to the Last Day of your Life. And he read it and thought that he’d “love to make it and gave it the thumbs up.”
Giles, who also co-wrote the script enjoys collaborative writing and wanted someone who could work with him “because I like to work that way. I prefer it. I don’t like being on my own.”
“I wanted to share the love because Jonny is a brilliant writer and he could develop the project with me in the right way.”
“I remember we had to do another rewrite because there was an exec that gave us some notes. Whenever someone gives you notes on a script, you’re just going to make it better. Every time I watched The Dare I’d think, well I could’ve written that differently.”
Jonny learned so much of how to write on set, and he enjoyed watching the guys work “Once you go on set and see the logistics of how things actually work, you go ‘Oh, I can’t write that and that doesn’t make sense’.”
Producing and Getting Greenlit
Julian, the producer, and Giles had worked together on a commercial and had discussed producing and directing a film together one day.
Julian was doing “a lot of work in Nu Boyana Studios. Organising acting classes, bringing them from LA to Bulgaria.” He had “co-directed a movie there and had been working closely with Yariv Lerner, who is the exec producer” and who invested in making the film. Yariv was looking for horror films and Julian put Giles’s project The Dare forward.
Giles was in Bulgaria for three months prepping, without a green light. “We had already cast the movie at that point, Andy was on board, but we hadn’t got the official green light because the studio was so busy.”
The first pitch meeting with Yariv in Bulgaria seemed to go well, but then they had to pitch to him and Alex Kenanov in London again. They “pitched and pitched and pitched and pitched. I just feel like I didn’t stop pitching. I feel like I never got the green light until we were on set on that first day filming.”
Julian added that when a studio is financing a film and “giving a lot of soft money, studio equipment, lots and stages” they need to prioritise their big movies. They need to “make a buck out of having a studio”.
And although he found the process tough, Julian thought that “Overall the experience has been tremendously positive.”
“I learned a lot about how the whole process works. And it’s certainly not an easy one, but absolutely worth it in the end.”
DOP Andy and Giles spent a long time discussing how filming would work. They planned how to “make the movie in terms of the look, the colour” and how they were going to shoot it.
Because a lot of the action takes place in the basement, they had “different staging and different camera angle” for each time that they were in that basement.
One of Andy’s worries was that because the basement featured so heavily in the film, the shots could be “boring – looking at the same four walls.”
“Giles and I talked about an approach where each scene would have its own kind of staging and its own way of shooting.”
They used long shot lenses, scenes where everything moved, shooting through holes from outside the set “and one of them has this big thing where we come from outside, and this big black liminal space and then come inside the room and then the fourth wall shuts”
“It was important for us to make it visually interesting and for it to have its own voice because it would be so easy just to cover it in a very boring way.”
Farmhouse Cast – Richard Brake, Mitchell Norman and Harry Jarvis
Harry Jarvis didn’t get the audition at first, due to his agent not passing on the script. But fortunately, Giles knew Harry’s parents and reached out to him personally. He thought that the script was amazing and was so glad he “didn’t miss the opportunity” to work on The Dare.
Richard Brake, who is very well-known in horror films read the script and really “dug the relationship between the Credence character and his (sort of) son.” He also liked “the backstory that was alluded to”.
Richard who is not a fan of blood and gore in horror films, just for the sake of it, liked Jonny and Giles’ approach to the story. “it was clear that both guys wanted to make something better. To take this to another level, which is why I thought it was great.”
“It was a cut above and that’s what I loved about it.”
Rob Maaser had already been cast as Dominic, and Giles was looking for someone who not only looked like Rob but also had a similar essence.
“Looking through Instagram, I saw Craig Conway’s Instagram and I saw this picture of (Mitch Norman) and I went ‘Oh my God, he looks just like Rob Maaser’.”
Giles then called Craig and asked if he could put Mitch on film. Mitch was perfectly cast in the role of young Dominic.
Acting Together in the Studio
“We shot in this amazing farmhouse. And I think it was crumbling and falling down and it was really authentic and real. And I think that was one thing that was really key in our storyline – making sure that it felt quite claustrophobic and real. There was no way out of this place.”
There was a scene with Credence and Dom, where the performance was incredible and really emotional. It was “such a beautiful scene, with the two of you. Really intimate. And I remember I had to walk away because I was shedding a tear.”
Working with Directors
Giles feels that it is really important when working with actors, especially in something like this, to play and to “work together to see what can come out of a scene to make it feel real.”
Although Giles set up a crane shot, to impress Rich. Rich admitted that he “doesn’t really think of the shots” but focuses more on what’s going on in his head. He likes working with directors who give him space to do his own work. “They’re not too didactic. And they don’t say: ‘stand there, say it like this’.”
He also really enjoyed Giles’ “enthusiasm and joy for the project”. The “love and joy for the project and the enthusiasm, you can’t help become infected with it. That’s brilliant with a director.”
Harry agreed that creativity is great. He thinks that it is important “when you have a director who wants to share that with you and see what you can add to that vision.” He also mentioned that “there’s nothing worse than having a director who has that vision and then decides that only they can see what it is.”
Mitch made sure that he enjoyed himself on set but remained professional. He said “being on set is such an amazing thing, working with amazing people and our tight-knit group, trying to achieve the same goal at the end of the day.”
“It’s really important to enjoy yourself, but I think you’ve got to carry yourself professionally as well, to try and achieve that goal.”
Giles added some vital information for actors: “the more you can be professional on set, the more you work, the better you’ll be, the more you learn because people want to work with you.”
Basement Story – Bart Edwards, Richard Shaw, Alexandra Evans and Devra Wilde
Horror Film Making
The cast in the basement was living the world of the film; often chained for hours and limited in their movements. Richard Short felt like it was “a testament to the people that built the sets”. He felt that the cast bond was so strong “because it was so oppressive in the space that we had to spend most of our days in. It really had an effect on my brain and my soul.”
Alexandra Evans liked the restrictions on her movement because she had to really think within her limitations.
“We knew what every shot was going to be like, you could only move this side. You can only go to that distance and you could stand up or sit down. How’s that going to be different from the next shot.” She felt like it made her constantly consider how to make her acting more interesting.
“It was very, very depressing though. It was so cold. It made it miserable, I guess, in a way, it really helps the performance a lot. We were supposed to be miserable.”
“There was a very definite sense of the stage. You went in, the walls were literally closed in around us, they were locked in, and it was actually very helpful for acting because you were in there and that was go time. And then once we left there, it was a totally separate world.”
“It’s a really interesting psychological test to act with the same props or lack of props.”
Working Together in the Basement
There were moments where the cast were exclusively in the basement, with Andy (Andrew Rodger, DoP) shooting from outside. “Those moments were spectacular. That was like, just doing a play, like being on stage.”
Giles who has an acting background likes to work his films as plays. He likes staying “in the moment, and not having to stop for a re-light”. Andy would light it all in one go and they’d place the cameras and “do the whole scene.” The actors would “be in the moment.” The cast agreed that working like that, and not in a bitty way was invaluable for them to stay in character.
For Bart Edwards “it was like a weird drug.” There was only a “slim amount of time to film a very intense movie.” Moving from a small office space, used for rehearsals, into the basement “became this weird mental race to work out how much pain you’re in.”
Thinking “how do I make this essence of emptiness seem interesting and then just go for it?”
Experience of the Film, As an Actor
Bart also mentioned that in the beginning, he tried to make every take “the most energetic take in the world. I don’t think at that point, I knew how to pace myself. So at the end of every day, it really did feel like you’ve run a tiny mental and physical marathon.”
Another technique that was used was shooting in chronological order. The actors liked the fact that “it started off not so bad. And then it got worse and worse and worse and worse.”
Alex thought that it was easier working with a director who had been an actor because “sometimes you work with directors, who’ve never done it and they’re very removed but that’s where you (Giles) could really talk to us in a way that we were like ‘Oh yeah, he gets it’ and that was really lovely.”
Richard’s advice: “read the script when there’s a table read on offer because if you can look at each other briefly before you go to camera if you can hear each other’s voice – that gets rid of some of the anxiety, which is 50% of the battle for us (as actors). I think to be present for the rehearsals and for the table read. It’s absolutely invaluable for me.”
The cast also enjoyed Giles’ approach to playing in the space and becoming comfortable. They felt safe and that they had free reign to develop their characters.
Richard “felt like there was a really nice balance of everything, feeling very controlled.” But also enjoyed a Maverick-style approach of “ I’ve just had this idea. Do you fancy doing this?”
The last bit of advice on acting in a horror film? ”Everybody has to live in the same world. Just jump in and do it.”
Click below to hear the full podcast with the cast and crew of The Dare: