I made an Award-Winning Horror Film with my Family
The Okanagan Society of Independent Filmmaking recently hosted their 13th Annual HorrorFest in Kelowna, BC. This SOLD OUT film festival showcased 10 short films produced by local filmmakers. As we wound down the celebrations a woman walked up to me and said, “I didn’t know my yoga teacher made horror movies!”. Many of you reading this know me as the guy who hosts yoga retreats in Costa Rica or who created the inspirational film ‘Out of the Darkness’. Some of you know me as the musician who produced uplifting Rock ‘n Roll or the teacher of resilience. So why would someone who has been working to create positive change on the planet want to create something dark and scary? There are a couple of layers to this…
Many of the classic horror films we know today were created in the 1980’s. Smaller budget films like Halloween and Friday the 13th became instant cult classics and opened the door for the success of larger productions such as Nightmare on Elm Street and Child’s Play. All of these films have birthed sequels and franchises that produce films to this day. I grew up in the 80’s. I hung out with my cousin as often as I could: she is the exact same age as me. Starting at 12 years old, and deep into our teenage years, we would scrape up enough money on the weekends for a handful of rental movies, gummy candies, and a bag of chips. We would walk a few blocks to our local Mom & Pop Video Store and select three horror movies on VHS tapes. She had a dark basement with no windows and a large TV. Wrapped up in individual blankets, lying on the floor with the lights out, we would begin our movie marathon hoping we chose scary films. We loved to be scared: it was exciting, thrilling, and fun! These are special memories for me.
When I began my own career as a cinematographer, our children loved visiting the film set. They both appear in my music video for ‘Life is Good’ and as background extras in my film ‘Out of the Darkness’. Isaac produced his first film ‘Perfect Landing’ when he was just 8 years old and has created 49 short films since that time. His sister Sarah has appeared in nearly all those films including that first one when she was only 5 years old. Their first few films were recorded on a cell phone. They have since evolved into technical productions utilizing lighting techniques, audio recordings, and editing software: they’ve even taken videography courses at school.
A conversation around collaborating as a family on a film project began. We knew it would be fun to make something together but didn’t have any story ideas or even know what genre we wanted to create in. We live on the edge of a forest and often hike the beautiful surroundings. We discovered a large tipi-like structure built in the forest. It didn’t have a tent or canvas: it was made of deadfall trees, giving it an eerie presence. Isaac used it in a Star Wars inspired film a few years ago. I was thinking about the horror movies I loved as a teenager and how this tipi would be terrifying to see on screen with a scary musical score accompanying it. I really don’t watch many horror movies anymore and our children don’t watch them at all. Still, we thought the idea of creating illusions and surprise would be a fun challenge as filmmakers. I began drafting a script.
As a teenage boy and as a counsellor, retreat host, musician, and filmmaker, I have been fascinated with the shadow-self. The darkness that resides inside each of us. How is it created? How does it show itself? And how can we heal it? I have explored these concepts in all my artistic creations. Expressing it through the visual medium of film in the horror genre has been an incredible experience.
Sarah, who was 13 last year when we began filming, would be our lead character. A teenage girl haunted by memories. As the shadows of her past merge with the supernatural, she cannot awaken from the nightmare.
Isaac was 16 when we began shooting this film and was the Director of Photography. I wrote and directed the film. My partner Rhonda played just about every other role needed to ensure a successful production. Pre-production, production, and post-production took a full year to complete this 15-minute short film. As a family we were fortunate to travel to Maui and Drumheller for our holidays. We wrote those locations into our script and have beautiful cinematography of the island and hoodoos.
When I was 13, I was going into foster care. When I was 16, I was living on my own. Now at 47 I am making films with the family I had always hoped for. I am so grateful to be doing what I love with the people that I love.
Our film is called ‘WAKE’ and received the awards of ‘Best Editing’ and ‘Best Death Scene’ at the HorrorFest Award Ceremonies. Best Death Scene is a pretty high honor in the horror genre, lol.
For a very limited time (until October 31st) you can watch our film for free through the OSIF YouTube channel. It will be offline and only available in selected film festivals after Halloween. Click on the YouTube icon below to watch the film but please read the disclaimer.
WARNING! WARNING! WARNING! This film is not suitable for children and may upset some adults. It contains graphic violence. Viewer discretion is strongly advised! If horror movies are not your thing, please don’t watch this film. If you enjoy a good thriller during this season where the veil between this world and the spirit world is at its thinnest, please enjoy.
In the spirit of Halloween, here is a playlist of my favorite Halloween cover songs. CLICK HERE to listen