A couple of unexpected things I learned while directing The Skin
July 26, 2015
I’m a big fan of road trip style horror movies. I love the setup of taking characters and forcing them into a different world where everything they know is gone. That was a big part of the idea behind The Skin – to set it up as a standard road trip horror flick, using lots of old tropes and really make the viewer think they think they know exactly what’s going on and then at the last minute everything changes.
While writing the script for The Skin we were heavily influenced by two films in particular, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Resolution. Our film is crawling with The Texas Chainsaw Massacre influences and I loved the way that Resolution just worked as a horror film while never even showing the monster. Since our resources were limited it made sense to conceal the danger in a similar way with the exception of a brief moment at the very end.
I learned a lot while directing The Skin but here are a couple of unexpected things I learned.
Write for your budget.
You’re most likely not going to get a big name actor. You won’t get your ideal location. It sucks but you need to write within your means. The first draft of The Skin would have been far too expensive so we revised and revised and revised and if I could go back I’d still work on simplifying the story.
Trust your instincts.
Sure, you will have to make compromises based on budget and logistics but don’t do it until you’ve exhausted every other opportunity to get what you want. It’s your vision so go out there and get it done the way you want and don’t settle. We couldn’t afford to rent the ideal vehicle I wanted for the character Otis to drive. I originally wanted an old, dark colored, beat-up tow/pick-up truck. We arrived at our location and for the first time I saw our vehicle, an electric blue pick-up truck. I thought “there’s no way Otis would drive an electric blue truck”, but I remembered there was a junkyard down the road so the first morning of filming I made sure to check it out just for one last shot in the dark hoping that they’d have what I was looking for.
It’s OK to compromise.
Here’s the end of that junkyard story – well, none of their vehicles even ran! So we were left with no choice but to use the electric blue pick-up truck for Otis. Guess what? The truck looks amazing in the film. It Really couldn’t have worked out any better. So my point is don’t worry about things you can’t control and focus on what you can.
Don’t be afraid to push your actors.
Your actors will be willing to take things up a notch. Don’t be afraid to push them just a little bit further to get what you need. You’ll both be much happier when you finally get to see the finished film. Being an actor is incredibly tough, you’re putting yourself out there and showing your emotions while there’s a grip standing on a ladder eating a chicken wing about 15 feet away. But they want their performance to be good just as much as you, so collaborate with them and try new things, you’ll both be surprised.
Trust your crew.
I assembled my team and when you go to war with them there’s no time for second guessing. Filmmaking is a fluid art form and it’s the ultimate collaboration. Luckily our crew (and cast) were fantastic and obviously I couldn’t have done it without them.