TIME TO EAT played to rave reviews at the WILDsound Best of Horror/Thriller Festival in February 2016.
Interview with the director Luke Guidici:
1. What motivated you to make this film?
When I was a kid, the basement was a scary place. It was dark and foreboding and there was something just plain scary about it. And to make matters worse, my own bedroom was in the basement! I had a pretty active imagination, so it was easy for me to envision the horrors that lay hidden in the shadows just out of sight… With TIME TO EAT I wanted to explore the question “What if the monster in the basement wasn’t imaginary and there really WAS something down there?” Even though I wanted to make a creepy and intense horror film, I wanted to stay true to my filmmaking goals. One of which is that the protagonists in my films aren’t victims… I wanted them (and the audience) to recognize the strength they have, and use that power to succeed. And of course, I hoped the audience would get a scare and a laugh out of the film.
2. From the idea to the finished product, how long did it take for you to make this film?
With independent film, especially shorts – the timetable on completing projects can be a little misleading. In the case of TIME TO EAT, if you go from when I wrote the script, to when I finished the color correction it was over a year and a half. But did the film really take that long to make the film? Not really… for example, we only shot for one day. The edit took a couple of days. Color correction was done in an afternoon. Each part of the process wasn’t very long – but when you are working on a low budget, you have to wait for people to become available.
There’s an old saying “Better, faster, cheaper – pick two.” Well, for this film – I didn’t have a lot of money, and I wanted the quality to be amazing, so that meant I had to sacrifice the speed of the film. The crew that helped make this film were all working professionals. They make their living as cinematographers, composers, sound mixers, producers, etc. and they have bills to pay, so when they agree to work on a lower budget project like this – there’s an understanding that the full playing work will take precedent. Working with professionals in the manner means you get a film of amazing quality… but you have to be patient and understanding of people’s schedules.
3. How would you describe your short film in two words!?
4. What was the biggest obstacle you faced in completing this film?
There were two main stumbling blocks. First, we needed a house with a basement, a rare thing in Los Angeles. Second, we needed a tentacle puppet, an even rarer item in Los Angeles.
Could we fake a basement by shooting on a sound stage? Would it work to build stairs and combine with VFX to create a staircase where none existed? could the story be changed from a basement to an empty room in a one level home? There were a lot of potential solutions, each problematic in their own way. But we didn’t have to decide yet, because we didn’t have a tentacle.
If you’re making a monster movie, the monster is kind of an important element. So without it, there was no rush to decide our location question. Part of the complication of this was that I wanted the tentacle to be a practical effect. That is to say, I didn’t want to create it entirely in a computer. the Initial drafts of script had the tentacle interacting with the protagonist. It brushed his foot, loomed over his shoulders, and so on. Because the boy was going to be acting “with” it, I wanted something physical on set. Through a friend we talked to a model builder that might be able to build a tentacle puppet for us. I was pretty excited. Then we got the quote. the price for the tentacle was more than the entire budget of the film.
We were going to have to find another way to make the film. John asked around and found a friend who had shot a movie that had a similar monster. the design wasn’t exactly what I’d envisioned, but the prop already existed. I decided it was better to be flexible then to never make the film – so I told John we should go for it.
While we wait for the tentacle to arrive from England (yes, England) I continued the search for a location. As if by a twist of fate, the producer of the animated film I was editing had a house with a large basement. Honestly, I was a little hesitant to ask my boss if I could use her home for my short film. The idea of having a film crew in your home sounds like “fun” yet rarely is. Plus, I was nervous that we could break something expensive or worse, sentimental.
But, I really wanted to make this film. so after work one day, my producer, John Wynn and I went and looked at the space and what can I say… it was pretty much perfect. not only did it have a great basement, but it also had a kitchen and living room that were amazing. Being able to shoot the entire film at one location would save a ton of time and money.
Now that we had the tentacle and the location we could start coordinating everyone’s schedule to actually shoot the film, which was its own struggle in itself!
5. What were your initial reactions when watching the Toronto audience talking about your film in the feedback video?
It was so very cool to see! One of the most rewarding aspects of filmmaking is getting to sit in a theatre and experience an audience react to your work. Since I wasn’t able to be in Toronto for the screening, getting to hear the audience talk about it was the next best thing.
6. How did you come up with the idea for this short film?
It had been several years since my last film CERTIFIED (www.certifiedtheshort.com) finished up its festival run and I was itching to make a new project. I wasn’t sure exactly what sort of film I wanted to make, but I knew I wanted to push my boundaries as a filmmaker.
I’m fascinated by unlikely heroes, strong dilemmas, and altered realities – so whatever story I came up with, the film needed to have those themes. Additionally, in order to expand my skills, it needed a strong visual effects component. Since my budget wasn’t unlimited, I’d have to be crafty about how the story incorporated those. Lastly, I wanted to make a short that didn’t need dialogue. My last two films, CERTIFIED and SKYDANCERS were very much dependent on the audience understanding English and I wanted this one to be free of that constraint.
With those three criteria in mind, I brainstormed a few different concepts. Out of those, two had the most promise so I pitched them both to John. After discussing we both agreed that TIME TO EAT was the most produceable. It had a small cast, one location, and just a few key visual effects shots.
Now, as to how I came up with the actual idea that became TIME TO EAT… well, that’s a bit of the mystery of creativity. I can’t exactly say how I come up with any of my ideas exactly. I try and create a space for my mind, then I just let it wander. A bit of inspiration will lead to a character or a setting, then that will lead me to the a plot moment or a twist, and then as the idea continues to bounce around the space it picks up more and more details. Eventually there’s enough there that I can turn on the more analytic side of my brain and start pounding out the mechanics of the story.
Specifically with TIME TO EAT the room I created to wander in was made up of the criteria listed above. From there I started to think about the people I knew, locations I might have access to, and stories I’d always wanted to tell. One element that jumped out to me was my friends’ five year old son. I’ve been amazed by his imagination and creativity and I’ve often thought about what sort of story I could tell with him as the lead character. Plus they had a dark and creepy basement…
7. What film have you seen the most in your life?
It’s a tossup between “The Maltese Falcon”, “The Empire Strikes Back”, and “Dumb & Dumber.”
8. What is next for you? A new film?
I just released my first animated short, HAWKWARD (https://vimeo.com/151551810). It was a lot of fun to direct a cartoon and I’m looking forward to doing more. I’m also in the process of developing the feature length version and TV series versions of TIME TO EAT. I talk about current project fairly often on my blog http://www.lukeasa.com/scruffy-nerf-filmmaker/ and on twitter, https://twitter.com/lukeguidici/.
TIME TO EAT, 4min, USA, Horror/Comedy
Directed by Luke Guidici
After being sent to timeout, a mischievous boy’s trip to the basement leads to a monstrous revelation.
Interviewer Matthew Toffolo is currently the CEO of the WILDsound FEEDBACK Film & Writing Festival. The festival that showcases 10-20 screenplay and story readings performed by professional actors every month. And the FEEDBACK Monthly Fesival held in downtown Toronto on the last Thursday of every single month. Go to www.wildsound.ca for more information and to submit your work to the festival.