November 1-3, 2019
Upcoming Aussie horror On Halloween, as writer, producer, director AND photographer Timothy Boyle describes, is “a super fun, fast-paced creepy clown movie that introduces audiences to two brand new villains”.
Those two characters are ‘The Whaa’ and ‘Boo’, demonic-style entities that have been posing as clowns for over a hundred years, attacking people on Halloween in order to prolong their ‘unnatural lives’.
Before Boyle and select cast members appear at Supanova Sydney (21–23 June) and Perth (29–30 June) for a special behind-the-scenes look at On Halloween, the local filmmaking powerhouse gave us some insight into its production.
The film follows three groups of characters as they hunt for these mysterious figures. A group of college kids who go ‘clown hunting’, a group of detectives who have just joined the cast of a new reality TV cop show, and a TV journalist who is searching for the truth behind why so many people in her local area disappearing on and around Halloween.
Finding the right cast to play the roles of the clowns was imperative. Telen Rodwell, a friend of mine for many years and a super talented actor (he actually played the lead role in my first ever feature film some 20 years ago) put down one of the creepiest clown auditions I have ever seen and nailed the lead role of Boo. Whaa was written specifically for Terry Serio, who, without doubt, is one of Australia’s greatest actors. It was like a perfect match. I couldn’t be happier. The rest of the cast was both newcomers, and actors I had previously worked with.
The inspiration for the film came after seeing news reports in 2016 on evil clown sightings across the globe. I was in post-production hell with another film that I was trying to get finished, when all these clown sightings started taking place. I thought, ‘That would make a great movie and that’s something I could do on the side and if I did it as a found footage film, I wouldn’t need a large cast and crew on the project.’
I put out the call and tried to put my crew together.
None of my usual crew was interested in making this type of film. Nobody wanted in. Even though I was left alone on this, something was still calling me to this project. Throughout my career, I have always sought out my own opportunities. I was frustrated that my other film was not yet finished and yearning to create something else – so I figured, I own the camera, I have some lights and some sound equipment, let’s just jump in.
My close friend and associate producer, Jeremy Cook, decided to help me make the film and the two of us set out to shoot it.
We had some casting issues, with two of the actors pulling out of the production very late on the Friday afternoon before the Monday that we were scheduled to begin principal photography. This, to say the least, was a NIGHTMARE.
Fortunately, with the help of amazing talent agent David Smith, we rallied and ended up with some of Australia’s most up and coming talent.
We locked in Giselle van der Wiel as our lead actor as well as Aaron March, Patch May, Brandon Paterson, Conor Fogarty, Robert Harrell, Anna Bauert, James Pratt, Ivan Topic, Daniel Musial, Daniel Cummings, Barbara Hastings along with Ava Caryofyllis and her dad, my longtime friend Andy Caryofyllis.
Everything was looking great, but we still hadn’t cast the actor who was going to play the character holding the camera and shooting the story. As it was a found footage movie, that actor would be heard, but never seen – and NOBODY wanted that job!
The day before we started shooting I met the ‘college kids’ cast for a lunch at Fox Studios. With lots of phone calls and back and forth the whole weekend prior, I finally had cast the role of Chuck, the camera holding actor, and it was to be played by Ezekiel Simat.
Ekekiel was the last actor to arrive at the restaurant and it was the first time I was actually meeting him in person. As soon as he walked in the door, I thought that this guy is gonna be a SUPERSTAR. I pride myself on working with actors who are the ’next big thing’ in my films and this situation was no different. I had a potential next big thing walk through the door and he would never physically appear on camera.
At that moment, I changed my mind. I would move the story out of the found footage sub-genre. There is no way I’m NOT putting this guy in my movie. So with less than 24 hours to go, the challenge was to make a film, with the highest production value we can, with NO CREW. I am always up for a challenge.
We set out making On Halloween and without a doubt, it’s been the best experience of my life. If you had ever asked me if I would do a no budget, comedy horror, I would have laughed and told you I was a serious filmmaker. Now I honestly can say, one of the best choices I’ve ever made was calling action two years ago, just me with Jeremy by my side and my right hand wrapped in bandages… but that’s a whole other story!
The question was asked, what makes clowns so creepy? My answer is simple… have you ever seen a clown? They are terrifying. Especially if you look back at old photos of creepy clowns from centuries ago. Do it.. Google it. Then burn your computer!
Writing and producing films isn’t new to me. By trade, I’m a writer, producer, editor, actor and director. I’m a bit of a ‘do it yourself’ type of guy. Being a cinematographer though, well that was a whole new thing. On Halloween was the most hands-on experience I’ve ever had making a movie.
I had to be creative about how I might fulfil my roles, in particular directing. Usually, I am a very hands-on director when it comes to performance. I like to hone in on the nuances of the characters with the actors to really make the scenes pop. Knowing that I would have a camera in my hands and the impact that this would have on my usual style I needed other avenues to work with my actors.
In this film, I spent most of my ‘honing’ time in the pre and post-production processes. In pre-production, I met with the actors and spent time directing in rehearsals. In post-production, I worked strongly on the performances in the Additional Dialogue Recording (ADR), where we re-recorded all of the dialogue for the film.
There are many benefits to micro-budget filmmaking. What speaks most to me is the sense of freedom. We can try things and if they work, great, and if they don’t, well, we gave it a go, what next?
That being said, micro-budget film making is hard. The main challenge is the lack of resources. However, this does allow for enhanced creativity – how do you tell your story on the resources that you have without compromising your vision?
On set, the crew was my close friend Jeremy, who helped out as many days as he could. The days that we were unable were alternated by whoever was free, usually, my other friend Nez or Jack Kelly who is also an executive producer on the film. At times, when no one was available, it was just me. In fact, there are a number of scenes in the film where there literally was no crew. Just me, the actors and my equipment.
Lighting the set was also a challenge. There is a scene in the movie where the background was so dark that I asked every person on set to manoeuvre their cars and put their high beams on; just to light up the trees in the background. I had actors stand just outside of shot with the iPhone torches on, shining it onto the other actors face.
The real help came in the form of post-production. My go-to editor, Brad Hurt, came on board after I completed the assembly cut of the film. He did a great job in getting the movie to the standard that it is today, as well as Johan Earl on the grade. John Hresc brought his experience and creative style not only to the mix but to the entire sound design with Aldergrove Studios in Brisbane completing some of the sound design and foley. This movie has had a lot of love put into it and I’m very excited to see how the public reacts to it.
As the movie is now completed we are looking at screening at festivals around the world over the next 12 months, then we are looking at releasing the movie next Halloween (2020). In saying that, we’re hoping that it will play in some festivals around Australia later this year. So keep a look out for it in the coming months. We will be showing a teaser trailer at both Sydney and Perth Supanova, then we will release the trailer publicly soon after that.
As far as sequels go, that’s up to you. If people want more from these characters, there’s certainly room for that. All I know is that I’m very proud to have made this film, it’s a lot of fun and certainly scary. It’s a hard line to walk just getting it right, but I think we’ve nailed it.’