KEEN-wah played at Film4 Frightfest in Glasgow a fortnight ago. Sadly, I couldn’t be there, dammit! I was MIA following a minor operation, if you call having a blade in your head minor. It was like being trapped in my own real-life horror short. I should have at least filmed it for stock footage…

SO, I had to sit at home in great antciiiiiii…..PATION to hear from someone in Glasgow, anyone, that the screening of the film had either gone badly, averagely, or who knows, even better. However, my kitten mind couldn’t comprehend the loveliness that was to follow from those who were present at the Glasgow Film Theatre. Tweets, messages and even nice mentions by SciFiNow and Shock Street Horror were more than I could ever have expected for my little short film.

I was expecting nothing. An awkward silence. But, instead, I was delighted by the fact that the wonderful cine-literate FrightFest audience had taken the time to tweet, message and talk about KEEN-wah. Thank you so much! I thanked you all from my sofa by raising a toast and watching my favourite film from FrightFest last year…

Nina Forever pic
Nina Forever (Ben Blaine & Chris Blaine, 2015)

One of the biggest blows about not being there for the screening was missing the Q&A. So, in short… here’s a little Q&A…

Where did the idea come from?

KEEN-wah evolved following a chat I had with my partner about all the implausibly awful dates I’d been on and boyfriends I’d had over the years before we met, and the scale of the flaws I’d previously been willing to overlook. I used to be a magnet for crazies. BUT it had been a great source of comedy and stories. As a friend once put it, if my life was a screenplay, it’d be tossed out for being too fantastical. Looking back, I joked that I probably could’ve even looked past someone actually being dead. I briefly dated someone who had a very strict diet and looked rather gaunt. He literally ate spinach, quinoa and vitamin tablets every day. I put two and two together and Gary was born!

Suzanne’s motto… Pic: Cat Davies

Suzanne quickly followed as a warm, optimistic but desperately sad woman hunting for love online. Her motto is ‘the love is out there.’ She’s on every dating website and just wants to believe the best in people. In her head, being alone is worse than being with the wrong person. She’s in love with being in love. And she clearly hasn’t seen the news that day or ever seen a Romero movie…

She’s more into the Disney princess fantasy (see below).

Full-bodied Suzanne in pursuit of love Pic: Cat Davies

What were you trying to achieve?

Make people laugh, pure and simple. Entertain. I’m big on characters and their journey. Though the film is just under six minutes long, I know who they are as people (and creatures). I could write both of their online dating profiles and describe to you every aspect of their lives before and after the snapshot that you see in KEEN-wah. I liked them and wanted to tell their story. Watch the end credits!

What were your influences?

I grew up watching the zombie delights Dawn of the Dead, Day of the Dead, Zombie Flesh Eaters, and Return of the Living Dead.Yes, curled up on the sofa with my blanky as a kid, I saw movies that my classmates didn’t see until a decade later. I loved horror more than I loved children’s films – The Evil Dead, The Stuff, Hellraiser, Phantasm, Nightmare on Elm Street… They seemed so much more imaginative. I was an advanced reader and probably a bit grown up for my age, so these kinds of films were great escapism for me from the trappings of a really small town with a small town mentality.

On the other hand, I also watched a lot of Woody Allen movies. KEEN-wah is my cocktail of these influences. I can’t imagine how well adjusted I’d have been without these films. Thank god for my amazing,  irresponsible parents. I owe them a lot. They also introduced me to the great work of David Bowie and Kate Bush, and great visual artists.

mums birthday illustration
My bloke, my ma, myself and my pa. Illustration by Louise Boulter

How/when was it shot?

I wrote the script in a day or two and we shot it two months later over one long day in south London last August. We had the tiniest kitchen in the world to work with. You have to breathe in to walk through it. It was very humid and the peak of summer. Fuelled on passion and enthusiasm, my small team of production buddies were melting, but the quinoa was still standing seven hours later. It was a labour of love for everyone. It was shot on a Panasonic GH4 by Stu (below) and edited on Final Cut Pro 7 (coincidentally, during FrightFest last August. It was finished at 4am).

On set with camera operator Stuart Dye, looking rather intense Pic: Cat Davies

KEEN-wah was a super micro budget production, costing £300 in total to shoot and edit, excluding the DCP. Hilariously, more than half was spent on Suzanne’s dress. It was so twee and Snow White-like – perfect for the poor woman about to have her dreams dashed once again.

But, unsurprisingly, the money spent since on festival entries and promo has far outweighed the production budget. Even with a targeted festival strategy, you still shed the pennies. Aiming to enter all the awards-approved ones, even if your genre doesn’t fit what they’re looking for, becomes unfeasible unless you have cash to burn. It’s more important to find the right audience.

The making of a monster… and all that Quinoa…

David Puckridge, who plays Gary, was subjected to several hours of incredible, intricate make-up and prosthetics by Jessica Taylor. He’s an incredible actor, trained at Rose Bruford, and a very professional and polite chap. He didn’t moan once, even when his eyes and ears were filled with quinoa. He was finding it in unsightly places well after the shoot… He says he will *never* eat quinoa again…

The other star of KEEN-wah… Pic: Cat Davies

Do you eat quinoa?

I’m a veggie but I don’t eat it. I like the name though. However, this rather nifty quinoa product on Firebox did catch my eye.  Is quinoa the new sambuca?

Where is the music from?

There are some nice little ditties in the film. With a really limited production budget, I’ve found the best source for royalty-free music is Kevin MacLeod. There’s so much to choose from, different styles, tempos and genres.  You can download his music from his website. Pay it forward.

What’s next?

I’ve two more shorts to be shot over the next couple of months. Both could be considered comedy horror to varying degrees. I can’t wait to get back in the saddle and on set.

I also have another short, a drama set in the 1980s, but there’s a lot of cash needed to pull it off, so I’m currently wading through funding applications…and there’ll likely a crowdfunding campaign at some point. It’s quite ambitious, but has been in development for more than a year now.

KEEN-wah will be screened at more festivals and events over the next year, before settling in to its home on Vimeo to reach a wider audience.

So, I salute you, fellow FrightFesters. See you in August.

And thank you to everyone who’s read this. Many thanks all round!

KEEN-wah-Poster 07.03.2016