Sometimes I make crappy short films. I should note that the films aren’t crap on purpose; they just turn out that way, despite my efforts.
The last one I made, Fóbia, was for a film festival in Girona called Just For Flowers. I didn’t win but they gave me a runner-up prize of a bottle of wine, perhaps out of pity.
A week ago I found out about another film festival in Girona: a horror film festival called Acocollona’t. Part of the festival is a short film contest called Acocoexprés.
So I pulled out all the stops and made a film for it. My idea was a film called Shit Snake Toilet Terror. I stole the name from a reddit thread where people were discussing their ideas for horror movies. One guy suggested “Toilet Snake Terror” and someone replied “that sounds awesome” so I decided to turn it into reality.
But you wouldn’t believe the trials I went through. It felt like the film was cursed. First I had to buy a rubber snake. I spent an hour looking around shops in Girona for one. You would think a rubber snake would be easy to find, but boy oh boy, you would be wrong. I looked in five or six shops – toy shops, Chinese wholesale shops – before I called it a day. i was going to buy one on Amazon but then Kasturi recommended a local party shop. So I went there. There had loads of Halloween stuff, plus a snake, and it wasnt the type I wanted. It was made of paper instead of rubber, and it had cheesy light-up eyes. Also, it was also king cobra whereas I just wanted a generic snake. But I bought the snake anyway as it was the only thing I had found so far.
The problems with the snake didn’t end there. I wanted the snake to have black eyes, not red, so I bought a tin of black paint and tried to paint them. But it didn’t work; the wet paint wouldn’t stick to the plastic. Next I tried cutting eyes out of black paper and sticking them on with sellotape, but that didn’t look good either. So in the end I just went with the cheesy red eyes.
One scene needed me to swing the snake against the wall. But when I did this, it damaged the snake. It turned out that there were lots of tiny polystyrene inside the snake, some of which were now scattered across the floor. I swept them up and threw them down the toilet but there they floated instead of going down the toilet. (They eventually sank.)
I had another problem finding red food dye to make fake blood. You would think that would be even easier to find – can’t you find red food dye in any supermarket? The answer is no. I went to three different supermarkets in Girona, including Lidl and Aldi, and none sold food dye, let alone red food dye. So in the end, I just bought some packets of fake blood from a Chinese wholesale shop. The packet said “Not safe for human consumption”, which I ignored because there was a scene where I needed to cough up the fake blood.
The problems continued. In one of the scenes, I had to open the toilet to reveal a CGI snake inside. I did at least ten takes of this scene because I kept making mistakes. Sometimes I forgot to put the toilet seat back down after shooting, sometimes I was in front of the camera, sometimes I forgot to turn the light switch off, and I even have one take where I’m wearing the wrong clothes.
And then, after I got the perfect take, I realised I had to shoot the scene again because I should have done it with a green screen. So I walked fifteen minutes to a shop to buy a large sheet of green card that I could use as a green screen.
I reshot the scene with the the green screen (keep in mind I went through all this effort just for a brief moment in the film). Then, while editing again, the green screen effect didn’t work properly because there were shadows on the green screen, making the green different shades. In the end, I discarded the green screen and found a way with Photoshop to solve the problem. Thanks to Photoshop, the effect actually looked quite good:
I should state that I had no help during the film – not even my girlfriend wanted to lend a hand – so I had to do everything myself. I was the cameraman, actor and lighting technician, often at the same time. For example, There was one scene where I had to throw the snake into the bathtub. I had the snake in one hand, the camera in the other, and a lamp positioned under my armpit. I had to ensure the lamp and camera were pointing towards the bath as I threw the snake into it.
The camera part wasn’t too difficult as I used the front-facing camera on my iPhone to shoot the film. This meant I could see the screen while I was acting in front of the camera. The quality of the front-facing camera wasn’t as good as the back-facing camera though, but it was still worth it.
For lighting, I used two lamps from my girlfriend’s parents’ house. But both lamps were missing their bases for some reason. So during filming, I had to rest them against whatever was handy: the toilet, the bidette and even a suitcase. And then one of the bulbs blew near the end of filming so I had to make do with just one lamp. This makes some scenes look darker than others.
I spent €37 on the film, which breaks down as:
- Voiceover from Fiverr.com – €16
- Snake prop – €8.5
- Five packets of fake blood – €5
- Lightbulb – €3.5
- Tin of black paint – €2.5
- Sheet of green card (for a green screen) – €1
- Two sausages (used as fake penises for a scene I eventually cut for being too graphic.) – €0.50
Here’s my tools and props at the end of the shoot. As you can see in the photo, the snake’s head is detached from its body. That’s because I had to cut it off for a scene where the snake appears to be coming out of my mouth.
And here’s the finished film: