Welcome to my new series where I share the short horror films I made for Just Scare Me (more on that below) and the behind-the-scenes stories of each shoot. First up is our inaugural short, Sir Stirs.
Firstly, Just Scare Me is a group where filmmakers can sign up to make a short horror film of their own within a two-month deadline. If you sign up, you’re on the hook to either make a short or pay the rest of the group a $100 total fine. Then, after the deadline, two months later, they host a screening to showcase the collection of projects. Most importantly, it’s a gym to exercise your filmmaking muscles, and NOT a competition. Through it, we’ve been fortunate enough to see some killer shorts… pun intended.
I attended my first Just Scare Me (Just Scare Me #8) as a guest, and after a lifetime of loving horror (since age five, way before I should have been allowed), I knew I needed to be a part of this collective. The only problem was that I had never written anything that resembled the hallowed genre, mainly sticking to drama or comedy. And yet, I also missed the years when my friends and I made short films and skits, so this was a part of myself I yearned to reinvigorate.
As we sat there at JSM #8 watching the collection of shorts, my mind’s horror cork popped and I conjured up a handful of ideas. The first of which: Sir Stirs.
I wanted to ease into the competition with something with which I was familiar: comedy. I figured a horror comedy would be the path of least resistance and a great way for me to get my feet wet.
The idea came from me spending the past several months living with my fiancé (then-girlfriend), Erica, and her cat, Buddy. This large black dude was extremely vocal, and I recorded him as often as I could. At first, these videos were going to be used to dub his cries with different sounds like Owen Wilson’s “Wow” (so glad I didn’t).
By the time Just Scare Me came into my life, I had dozens of real cries from our vocal Buddy. Some angry, some scared, and others loud or unique.
I wrote the script (a parody of Child’s Play, but with a cat instead of a doll) with me & Erica in mind as the leads, along with Mr. Man, of course.
I asked my friend Celeste to shoot the short but wanted her to use my iPhone to keep the footage quality consistent with the already shot footage of Budster. [ Which as you can see is a disservice to her amazing work as a Cinematographer!]
Like many other pet owners, Buddy’s nicknames constantly evolved over the years, but it was part of his life from the beginning. When Erica first got him, his name was “Sal.” Then she called him “Kitty,” then “Buddy,” and sometimes, “Monster.” When I came along, I called him “Budster,” which led to the titular “Sir Stirs” because he was a “Man of Multiple ‘Sters.’ As of press time, he’s now “Big Kitty Kat Face.”
I bought a wireless lavalier mic from Amazon that plugged directly into my iPhone (via an adapter). The issue was the 3.5mm headphone jack to lightning cable adapter that Apple forced upon us, as it made the connection unreliable. As we shot, some of the audio was glitched and we couldn’t the issue over our close proximity during shooting. If we reviewed a take while shooting and heard the issue, we recorded other takes to attempt to compensate. Nevertheless, I still needed to do a lot of ADR (automated dialogue replacement) to make the short work. We painstakingly re-recorded every line of dialogue needed (about 80%) in the same location of our shoot, which we thankfully owned. It’s important to try to match the sound of the location in which you shoot (living room vs cave, for example) as close as possible so you can keep the audio consistent and prevent extra work in post-production.
I didn’t know if I had enough footage to make this short work. The script was crafted with the available footage in mind, but ultimately, I did need a few pick-up shots as I edited the piece. So I did what I often loved and sat in front of Buddy with my iPhone for a few hours getting him to do various movements or glances on the same carpet he was on for the shoot (again, this was only possible because I could return to the “set” at any time). I recorded nat sound, created some minor foley. and added some classic tracks I once used for my comedy skits over ten years ago from Kevin Macleod over at Incompetech.com, and voila! Sir Stirs was finished. I came VERY close to the deadline on this one as I didn’t build in the time for the calamitous audio post-production, but it got done, and I’m super proud of it.
The premiere on September 19th was amazing. We showed it at Tiger Lab Studios (where JSM #8 was held) and had the whole crowd laughing hysterically. Buddy became a star that day. So much so, that you just might see Sir Stirs and Jamie pop up again someday…
Finally, without further ado, I present to you: Sir Stirs.
Synopsis: All Jamie wanted to do was to make a little money caring for other people’s pets. All Buddy wanted was Jamie’s body.
“Sir Stirs” – Just Scare Me #9 (09/19/21)
Starring: Erica Vitullo, Jamie Gagnon, & Buddy
Written, Edited, & Directed by: Jamie Gagnon
Cinematographer & Color: Celeste Cassidy
Music: “Giant Wyrm” by Kevin MacLeod Link: https://incompetech.filmmusic.io/song/3807-giant-wyrm License: https://filmmusic.io/standard-license
“Windswept” by Kevin MacLeod Link: https://incompetech.filmmusic.io/song/4629-windswept License: https://filmmusic.io/standard-license
“Drone Desolate” by Thomas Hirschmann, Baxter Poe, & Stan Hope Killer Tracks
“Sci-fi Anthology” by Rhodes Sinclair Killer Tracks
*No Animals Were Harmed in the Making of This Video. I just spent months recording our cat, Buddy, and sometimes he gets these little temper tantrums.
Special Thanks to Buz Wallick & Just Scare Me
Copyright: GuyOnAWire Productions 2021