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May 12, 2023

"Fear is earned through character; you might hear someone say that you're only as scared as the characters on the screen."

Welcome to the Nick Taylor Horror Show!

As always, each episode of The Nick Taylor Horror Show explores how today's horror filmmakers are getting their movies made while deconstructing their methods and career strategies into practical insights that you can use on your own horror filmmaking journey. This includes their creative processes, funding resources, favorite books & tools, key life lessons, and much much more.

Judaic demonology has carved out its niche as a legitimate horror sub-genre with entries like 2019's The Vigil, Sam Raimi's The Possession, 2022's Lullaby, and most recently, The Offering. Set in a Brooklyn Hasidic enclave, the film draws its plot from the Jewish folktale of Abyzou, a female demon blamed for miscarriages and infant mortality. Shot on a relatively low budget, The Offering is a riveting horror drama that showcases indelible character-building, great performances, and stunning cinematography, ultimately marking an undeniably impressive debut for our guest today, Oliver Park.

Oliver Park is a British horror writer and director best known for his short films Vicious and Still, which have been praised by fans and critics alike. The Offering is his first feature and is now streaming on Hulu.

In this conversation, we delve into Oliver's directorial origin story, the making of The Offering, and an exploration of what it means to be a scholar of fear.

Here are some key takeaways from this conversation with Oliver Park.

 

Build fear through character and story.

The Offering excels at character development, with each character displaying a significant amount of depth and well-crafted backstory. This aspect contributes greatly to the film's effectiveness, as understanding the characters leads to caring for them. When you care for the characters, you empathize with their struggles, and that empathy ultimately transforms into fear for their well-being, which is ultimately what can make your movie genuinely scary.

 

Be flexible and foster a secure atmosphere for actors.

The acting in The Offering is impressive, especially considering it's Oliver's first feature film. He emphasized the importance of creating a secure environment for actors, which primarily involves giving them the space and time they require and protecting them from on-set chaos. This is achieved by briefing the crew beforehand and closely collaborating with your AD regarding set pacing while also advocating for more time when necessary. Particularly in low-budget films, there's often pressure to move at a rapid clip, but the subtle details that can make or break a movie, such as performance nuances, require time and are ultimately worth the investment. Learn to create the space needed for actors to deliver their best work, even when working at a fast pace.

 

Stay closely connected with the story to make adjustments during production.

Oliver mentioned that several unexpected events occurred while making The Offering, but instead of panicking, he managed to bounce back because of his deep understanding of the story. Relying too heavily on specific scenes, dialogue, or set pieces can make your movie vulnerable to collapse if things don't go as planned. To build resilience, become so intimately familiar with the story that you can quickly devise alternative solutions that still remain true to the story's core. This will give you the adaptability to turn on a dime and rewrite scenes, dialogue, etc., when things inevitably go wrong.

 

Scares, Story, Character; the magic short solution. 

Oliver offered an extremely powerful distillation of principles for producing a powerful short; this is a nugget of pure gold. He stated that people will take you seriously if you can create fear and build great characters with a solid story underneath it all. This may sound simple, but it's very difficult and the main challenge for horror filmmakers. Watch Oliver's short Vicious as well as the short of Parker Finn and David Sandberg for examples of this. 

 

Show Notes:

 

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