Making of ‘Something Doesn’t Feel Right’
Going from ‘This will never get funded!’ to ‘Wow, people are really laughing!’ at the premiere.
So the past year I was working nights on finishing my new short film with Screen Ireland, comedy-horror ‘Something Doesn’t Feel Right’. Below is the making-of as best as I can remember it. I’ve broken it up into three stages. Hope you enjoy!
STAGE ONE - Pitching and Pre-Production.
In March of last year, my good mate and great writer buddy Ged Murray, asked me to read his short film script ‘Something Doesn’t Feel Right’, about a serial killer offing kids at a Camp Crystal Lake-ish holiday camp while having serious doubts about what he’s doing with himself. I immediately thought it was hilarious and awesome and I really wanted to do it, but me being an anxiety ridden panic-man, I thought ‘This will never get funded!’
At this time I was going through a bit of a personal crisis with the old self-esteem, had worked on a few projects that didn’t really gain any traction despite loads of work being put into them, so that was grim. I thought totally investing myself in a project would be a good thing to do. It was.
We prepped a pitch for Screen Ireland, and I really really really wanted to get it so I threw everything I could into the pitch to get the vibe across. My main focus was that the film never come across as mean-spirited or dark, despite the murders. I wanted it to be vibrant, colorful, energetic and fun. I created this sizzle reel below that the great folks at Screen Ireland responded super well to. Check it out!
The pitch was about 20 minutes, I don’t remember much, but I remember Screen Ireland laughing a lot which was sick. I felt great coming out of it, thinking that we just might get it, and we did! Then, the real work began.
I don’t really get auditions. I think if you know what you want, and look for good showreels then you’re good to go. Ali Hardiman was literally a ‘one-minute into the showreel, there she is!’ casting, same with Clinton Liberty for the Jock character.
Amy Hughes and John Doran were perfect for the couple in the bed scene, easiest casting ever, I’ve worked with them loads and know they’re ballers that show-up.
My main man Ian McEvoy, played the most convincing/shredded corpse ever.
From day one I wanted Tony Cantwell on-board as the killer Zipface, we had to put him on tape for Screen Ireland, and it was hilarious. Check it out!
Screen Ireland signed off on all casting and we were in bizniss. I was getting super pumped at this stage, aware that these type of shorts don’t get funded that often so I really wanted to nail it. I started to think about what I wanted the movie to feel like.
Influences on the movie:
Thor: Ragnarok (The music and tonality)
Father Ted (The total embracing of silliness)
Halloween (Form and shape of Zipface)
Friday the 13th (Part IV in particular, Jason’s walk, body language etc)
Freddy vs. Jason (We copied the lighting. I love that film, strong film-making decisions and it’s really fun)
This is around the time when Philip Blake, the GOAT, came on-board as Director of Photography. We’ve worked together on everything the past three years. The last thing we did before we shot this was our short ‘Lost and Found’, where he made my uncles dusty garage look like a Hollywood set. Dig it!
My main notes to him for ‘Something Doesn’t Feel Right’ were ‘Make it blue and orange like Freddy vs. Jason’s opening scene!’
He took it from there, elevating it beyond measure as he always does.
Production Design -
The immeasurably talented Alice Vignoles Russell (Coolest name ever?) was on production design duties and not only immediately GOT it, but NAILED it. Old-school, early 1980’s slasher film aesthetic, turning a regular old cabin in the middle of Wicklow into this:
Costume Design and Makeup -
The dream-team of Gwen Jeffares Hourie and Hannah Sullivan were on costume and makeup duties, it was all fun references like Michael Myers, Jason and lame-ass ‘Summer of 1984’ clothes. My main reference for what would become Zipface was this photoshop that took 3 seconds, taking Scott Snyder’s Joker from the Batman comics and putting it over a pic of Michael Myers.
Super rough, but was a good road-map. How sick does Joker look there? Love the brace-wires in his jaw.
PHASE TWO - SHOOTING! - ‘Wow! This is going really well!’
Two nights in Wicklow. Best shooting experience of my life. Everyone thoroughly prepared and grinding hard. Smooth sailing. I ate a lot of Rocky Road and did breathing exercises on-set behind a door to prevent a panic-attack that was coming out of nowhere. But other than that, all great.
PHASE THREE - POST-PRODUCTION - From ‘Oh fuck this film sucks major balls’ to ‘Boy! They’re really laughing!’
‘Why isn’t this funny?’, was the major refrain we had for the first two months of post. Steve Staunton edited the piece and did an amazing job. We were stuck in an edit suite for months trying to figure out why the film wasn’t working. All the gags were shot, the cast were awesome, but something about the film felt really aggressive and nasty and unfunny. What was the deal? I was going through a black-hole of ‘I’ve fucked up my one shot and I’m going to become a cobbler now.’
Sound. It literally all came down to sound design. In the edit, our temp sound was all super grim and horrible, from Zipface’s movements to the kills, it was all too violent. I took us in the entirely wrong direction at the start of post that me and Steve thought we blew it for a minute.
Sound was so crucial to the piece I can’t tell you, and it was the incredible work of Mark Murphy that made the film what it was. As he was coming onboard to do the music I was referencing all the wrong movies, saying I wanted an orchestral score like Roque Banos’ work on the remake of Evil Dead. Mark could see the wood for the trees and said that’s not what I wanted, what I really wanted was low-fi synth to establish a tone of satire and fun early on.
He was so right it hurt. Our main reference here:
Also, the name of our camp was a direct reference to ‘Sleepaway Camp’, we called our ‘Camp Sleep Forever’ for god sake. But whatever.
Mark’s one of the crucial authors of the film. For as long as I live I’ll never ever have ‘A film by Fergal Costello’ at the top of one of my movies, it just doesn’t make sense. A film isn’t by someone. It’s a team effort with many authors and when the movies work it’s a result of the sum being more than the parts.
Screen Ireland during editorial were amazing, their main notes were ‘This is not as good as it can be yet’, at the start, then as we were finishing their notes were ‘Great!’
Check out the final timeline by Steve.
We had our premiere at the Galway Film Fleadh. The morning of, I went for a 5km run along the coast while listening to Conan O’ Brien talk about magical thinking. Then me and Steve went for breakfast and just talked shop about movies for an hour, mainly ranking Tarantino’s movies. I’m a tie between Basterds and Pulp Fiction as his number 1.
There was a really nice vibe of ‘job done and let’s just enjoy the process now’, despite the nerves.
I wasn’t sure how people would react to the film as it’s not your typical Galway film. It was a goddang rock concert. Every gag worked and the laughs were long and loud. I was really happy that my parents were there to see the reaction. It meant a lot to me.
Halfway through the movie I started crying, was so weird. I guess Something Did Feel Right!!!! HAHAHAHAHA!!!!!!!! Sorry. Here’s a picture of some of the crew.
I love filmmaking, it truly makes me happy, collaborating with like-minded people to make something interesting and dynamic, I want to spend my life doing it and hope I will.
A feature film next please movie-gods. I feel we’re ready.