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Tips & advice for filming horror

Updated: Dec 10, 2022

Hey guys and welcome back to the Another World Media Blog.

Since we are still in the midst of spooky season, I wanted to stay in the spirit of all things spooky!

Today we will be discussing filming horror and my advice and tips on making/filming anything horror. Horror is not for everyone. A lot of people don't actually watch or seek our horror films but despite that fact, there is a huge community or horror junkies consuming this type of media. One reason as to why an audience consume horror is to experience stimulation. Exposure to terrifying acts, or even the anticipation of those acts, can stimulate us — both mentally and physically — in opposing ways: negatively (in the form of fear or anxiety) or positively (in the form of excitement or joy).


Now we know why people want to watch horror, let's dive into my tips and tricks on how to make and film a horror.


Use and almost exploit the imagination and suspense of your audience -

Set up the film’s suspense and horror whilst letting your audience piece together themselves what is happening or what could happen during the most horrific moments. Don’t talk down to them, leave the subtle hints on film, what they imagine or think will happen will always be far worse than what you can show.


Tell a Realistic Story -

With casting your horror characters, be realistic and decide whether you will be following conventional horror tropes or not. Don’t cast teenagers as seasoned adults or parents. Don’t set the story in a government facility when it’s really being filmed in a house. Figure out what you have access to and make the setting, characters, and story coherent and make it realistically and seamlessly work.

Make sure you are planned and well prepared-

For every 5 minutes longer you plan, the project will go 5 times faster, smoother, and better overall. Have a clear idea what you’re making and why you want to make it before you get everyone together to film.

Lighting in horror is used to create a creepy atmosphere, characters and distort reality in some way. There are 8 different lighting techniques that are commonly used in horror, but you get to find out how one technique in particular, uplighting, affects audiences psychologically.

  • Uplighting

  • Silhouette

  • Spotlighting

  • Underexposure

  • Harsh light (hard light)

  • Prominent and projected shadows

  • Shooting through objects (internal frames)

  • Shooting through elements

Spotlighting, underexposing, hard light, and shooting through objects and elements don't distort or hide subjects in your image, they obscure or conceal them creating mystery, tension, and

suspense.

Uplighting, silhouette, and prominent shadows take it a step further and produce a complete distortion of the real world. Silhouettes add a bit more to this distortion, because they don't give us enough of the information we're looking for, like facial features, attire, etc. This distortion is even more intense when it comes to casting prominent shadows, because it plays upon the human fear of the unknown.

(information from- https://nofilmschool.com/2016/10/8-spooky-lighting-techniques-you-can-use-your-horror-film)


Avoid overused horror tropes-

If you want to make an original horror film, I suggest you avoid the overused cliches such as cars not starting, people splitting up, a character constantly tripping over absolutely nothing. This can make audiences take your serious horror as a joke. Another overused horror trope is multiple and loud jump scares. A powerful soundtrack or eerie quiet will create that tense atmosphere without the sudden crashing when your protagonist first encounters the antagonist. Sometimes it’s in that double take that our fear kicks in. More specifically- don’t have that obvious build up.

Have audience downtown-

In horror, it should be a continuous pattern of downtime, build-up, and the scare. Downtime is where you give the characters (and the audience) a breath. Let them think about what's happening. Develop your characters based on what they share and how they react. But then start building tension, gradually, until you land on the scare and hopefully take your audience by surprise.


The Cinematography-

Cinematography in horror films often incorporates perspective shots to mimic the experience of the character by putting the audience in their point of view. This can be a slow dolly, Steadicam, or gimbal shot from any level, including eye level, over the shoulder, and at ground level. Tracking shots to make the audience feel they are in the film, wide shots to equate to vulnerability, and extreme close-ups to capture emotion and detail. Filmmakers also use distorted shots shooting through objects, hand-held camera shots to suggest shaky subjectivity, and foggy texture to give unworldly suspense.

So that’s it for my tips and advice for creating horror films and the cinematography to get the horror feeling.

If you are looking for someone to film some horror in the East Midlands- Another World Media is the business to call. Or email. We understand phone calls aren’t for everyone.

Until next time,

-J



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