#OnEdge20 is a series of posts commemorating 20 years since I rolled cameras on my first short film.
There’s an old filmmaking saying, which goes, “You make three movies.”
It’s very true. The movie you write is the first, and even that is subject to rewrites and last minute revisions (yesterday’s blog entry showed how the opening sequence of On Edge was modified to allow for the film’s completion when we were up against time constraints).
Secondly, there’s the movie you shoot. And this can seem quite alien to you as you look at it on the little monitor screen of the video-assist, or from beside the camera as you direct Charley Boorman to “Gurgle a bit more, make it sound like you’re really choking on the blood.”
NB: He really was choking on the blood.
Then there’s Doug Bradley, sneaking up behind you to whisper, “Tick… tock… tick… tock,” into your ear as a constant reminder that time (and your sanity) is escaping you. Ahh, such sweet memories.
On Edge in Covent Garden, July 1998: Christopher Fowler, Doug Bradley — and some long-haired young idiot — discuss dental hygiene.
And finally, there’s the movie you edit. Looking through the archives for this series of blog posts, I was reminded how things have changed in movie production — and how little they have really changed. The technology is different, but the creative process from script to screen remains the same.
Here are some pictures that show (don’t tell)…
Yes, those really are floppy discs.
I mean, look above at how many DAT (digital audio tapes) were required to create the sound for the film. The impact of a short horror film like On Edge relies very much on its sound. Because I couldn’t do the ‘big reveal’ until the last available moment, the whirring of drills and the snagging of flesh was super important in creating a sense of unease in the viewer about what was happening to poor Peter Thurlow’s gob. You might be able to spy the soundtrack masters in there too. ‘Cycles of Abuse’ was a song by my metal band Self Destructive Nature, co-written with guitar legend Paulo Turin (Gangland, Paul DiAnno’s Battlezone) which rocks out over the opening/closing fetish club framing device. ’Sweets From On Edge’ was incidental music composed by Dooj (The Jazz Butcher), and I have such happy memories of working with him on that in his flat, and referencing the scores to several John Carpenter films and Don Coscarelli’s Phantasm, all of which became strong influences on the finished score. Sadly, Dooj passed away recently. He was a brilliantly inventive musician with a lovely, energetic personality to match his vivid pink hair.
These pictures also illustrate the different formats used, from the raw 35mm film footage (the rushes, or dailies) to the TK Master (a telecine’d digi-beta tape copy of all the film footage, used in editing, which was prepared at The Moving Picture Company), to the locked edit (again on digi tape) then the assembled 35mm with its associated sound mix. The optical effects (the vision blurs, whiteouts and dissolves, titles etc.) were created at Capital FX, and these were incorporated into the film edit by Vaughn Mullady at Tru Cuts.
The film we ended up with was a glorious 35mm cinemascope film print, with the sound running alongside it on an audio track. When the film was picked up by Columbia TriStar to screen in London cinemas with the feature film ‘I Still Know What You Did Last Summer’; there was a slight catch. We could screen at as many cinemas screens as we liked — but we had to pay for the prints. The prints were around £750 each, so we could afford a grand total of… two. With the master print out on tour at film festivals, our 2 new prints were screened at Odeon Leicester Square and The Warner Bros. West End (now the Vue). 8,000 paying cinemagoers saw our film, which also played a ton of festivals and bagged some prestigious awards.
Youtube was just about to take off (!), but in the early days, bandwidth restrictions meant that a maximum of 10 minutes footage was upload able to Youtube. So the first online screenings of the film (something we take for granted now) saw the film split into 2 parts as it was 15mins long!
I lost count the number of VHS screening tapes we had copied, including costly NTSC versions for the USA and other territories where PAL was not standard. Nowadays, you can pop your film onto Vimeo and have it selected (or rejected) by film festivals without the need to send costly tapes (the weight of which made shipping expensive too). Which brings us, rather neatly, to the present.
Twenty years later.
Would I have done anything differently, knowing what I know now? Yes, lots. But that’s not the point, really. Making On Edge taught me so much, and I am forever grateful to everyone who worked on the film, and/or supported it in any way.
Maybe someday (with the time & funds necessary to do such a thing) there could be a 4K-ultra HD remaster of the film, created from all the original elements?
For now, I hope these blog posts have provided an insight into a creative journey that I embarked on twenty years ago, and one that I still cherish to this day.
Thanks for reading. And for watching.
Oh, and don’t forget to floss.
Dr Matthews – what’s the worst that could happen?
Watch On Edge
on Amazon VOD
Check out the On Edge
screening history & list of awards