Filmmaker Feature and Interview by Amaliah S. Marmon-Halm
Hushy Bye – The Springhead Film Company
Photos by Poppaea Bicknell
In a seemingly quiet house in the middle of a sleepy street in Twickenham, you wouldn't think that a horror short was being made. That’s if you forget to notice the crew dragging tons of camera equipment. Written by Mark Brennan (‘Tea For Two’) and directed by James Webber (‘Soror’, ‘The Prey’) these two indie filmmakers were working on what could be the next horror short hit!
‘Hushy Bye’ tells the story of new father Daniel, as he awakes in the middle of the night to his baby crying and his wife Laura missing. As he consoles his son, he ventures downstairs to find Laura and makes a terrifying discovery.
The Springhead team have been enjoying a massive wave of success after the release of their most recent short ‘The Prey’, which leans on the more comical side of horror, so it’s fair to assume that some of that success could spill on to this next horror production. The make-up and design teams do a frightful job of transforming the actors and the house from happy cheery fellows, into something much more sinister.
So with the camera and lighting crew setting up along the upside of the house, producers keeping everyone entertained, and the house cats in their own little room, with added ‘Beware of the cats’ sign, it was time to get down to business and make a horror! (No cats were harmed in the making of ‘Hushy Bye’. They were just a little annoyed).
Wanting to take advantage of the nighttime setting, this was going to be a very intense shoot, not only for the type of film being made but as this was the only night that the film could be shot. The pressure was on to make sure every scene was perfect! The atmosphere on set was an electric combination of hectic and crazy, with a touch of familiarity between the crew that resulted in a comfortable level of organised chaos. As bringing someone else's script to life was a first for Webber, it was important that the crew was filled with those he had worked with before.
In-between takes, everyone would congregate for some much needed banter to help push away any tiredness or to take advantage of the treasured coffee machine. Apart from the odd cat trying to escape for freedom, it was a faultless setup.
Usually, as a film reviewer, all that we get to enjoy is the finished product but this was a very interesting opportunity to really get to know what happens behind the scenes during indie filmmaking. For this film and it’s much more concentrated setting, there was a lot to learn and absorb. From setup to Webber yelling ‘that's a wrap’ at 6am the following morning, you really see how much passion, hard work and effort goes into the films that we tend to review and enjoy.
James and Mark kindly to let me pick their brains and gave a more in depth look into the story of ‘Hushy Bye’, their growing success and future projects that we can all look forward to.
As the writer of 'Hushy Bye', how does it feel to have your script directed by someone else?
Mark - It actually feels very liberating. Usually when I've written a script I either go on to produce or direct it too, so to be able to just write something without that part of the brain firing during the process was actually a great experience. Of course, letting go was made all the easier knowing the cast and crew that would be putting it together.
James, looking at your Springhead back catalogue, this seems to be the first time you've taken on a film that doesn't use your own script. What made you decide to take on someone else's story for a change?
I guess it comes down to wanting to try something different and to challenge myself as a director. Mark Brennan who wrote the script is a hugely talented writer and it was nice to focus completely on direction for once! Although I'm primarily a writer/director, I'd certainly never pass up the opportunity to direct someone else's script if it really spoke to me as a filmmaker.
'Hushy Bye' is quite a dark little horror. What was it about this script that attracted you in the first place?
James - After making 'The Prey' last year which was a horror/comedy, I really wanted to do something else in the same genre but this time more serious in tone. I'm a big J-horror fan in particular and the script felt very much in this same vein. The script was also only 3 pages long so I thought it would be an interesting challenge to introduce characters and build a sense of terror in such a short space of time.
Your other films, with the exception of Addict, seem to be a bit more lighthearted. What was the inspiration for this horror short?
Mark - The idea for ‘Hushy Bye’ came late one night when my baby daughter was absolutely inconsolable. She was less than a year old, it was gone midnight, the house was dark and I was walking her around the kitchen trying to comfort her as best I could. There was a moment I looked from the kitchen into the darkness of the living room and I remember feeling terrified by the thought of my daughter ONLY having me to look after her. My wife, even now (and I suspect always), just seems to know what to do with our daughter and can decipher what it is she needs in an instant. I'm a bit crap in that regard, hence the near-paralysing fear of being left alone with that responsibility. As 'Hushy Bye' reaches the post-production stage, do have any more projects lined up?
Mark - I have several other collaborative and solo writing projects on the go. Except for a short, short I produced in July the festival has all but eclipsed all my other projects so far this year so after September I'll be able to roll my sleeves up and get stuck into to new projects too.
James - I've got a couple of things I'm working on at the moment including my first feature film 'Solitude Country' which is currently in pre-production. It's been a long journey to this point so it's really exciting to be pushing forward and getting it made!
You've been doing very well indeed in the independent film festival circuit. What do you link your success to?
James - I think it comes down to a numbers game to be honest! For every festival acceptance a short film gets, it's probably been turned down at another 3! I do think it is important to do your research and make sure that your film is seen in the right places, in front of good sized audiences. The genre festival scene seems to have exploded in the last few years and there are countless screening opportunities that can be pursued so you need to make sure you have a good plan in place.
As your latest release was also a horror, how does 'Hushy Bye' compare to 'The Prey' or are they in a league of their own?
James - I think both films are completely different! ‘The Prey’ is slightly on the silly side (which is certainly no bad thing) and is hopefully fun to watch, whilst ‘Hushy Bye’ is more serious and atmospheric, with a sense of tension that builds until the ending. As a viewer these are the kinds of horror films I prefer to watch. Although there is a lot visually in common with both ‘The Prey’ and ‘Hushy Bye’, on a technical level especially sound design and music, both move in completely opposite directions. I'm really interested to see how the 2 films are compared to each other.
When can we expect to see 'Hushy Bye' to make its grand debut?
James - I'd love to have it ready for Halloween but we'll see. The edit is pretty much locked so it's really just the sound, music and grade that needs to be completed.
As a lot of budding filmmakers who are trying to make their way in the industry follow our website, what advice can you give them?
James - Be ambitious in everything you do and push yourself as a filmmaker. If I don't feel a degree of nerves going into a project then I know it isn't the right project for me!
Mark - The best advice I would give to any new filmmaker is to get out of your bubble/circle and meet as many other filmmakers as you can. Go to festivals, help out on other people's films, grow your network and use what you learn when working on your own projects.
Be sure to keep an eye out for ‘Hushy Bye’ which will be making it’s debut very soon.