The Gourdening – Another Year, Another Halloween Movie

If you’ve been following Ordinary Decent Gamer or Newforge Studios for a few years, you’ll be familiar with our annual release schedule. Every year (barring the time of a stressful house move) we make at least one Halloween film. These are usually light-hearted comedy horror movies, anywhere from two to six minutes in length, and often made under ridiculous time constraints. Think anywhere from a weekend to a week from script writing to release. Some have been one to two night jobs including original music composition (see The Asylum). Fundamentally, their production relies on the goodwill of a number of kind individuals who have co-written scripts, filmed, recorded audio, composed music and acted. The cast and crew swell and shrink year to year, depending on geographic and pandemic-related conditions, but the aim to produce a film persists. That brings us up to October 2021.

The rough script and shot list

The idea for the film is often sculpted by our available locations and persons. This year, we wanted to build the film around our baby daughter. My wife suggested dressing Evie up as a pumpkin and an idea was born. A couple unable to conceive somehow end up finding a baby in their pumpkin patch. This would become the garden in general due to time and baby constraints, but it was a beginning. Connecting the dots and throwing in some Halloween flair, we decided that the couple should dabble in witchcraft in order to get a baby. The script came together fairly quickly after that with a generally irreverant tone. It wasn’t high concept writing but would hopefully get a few laughs.

Once the script was written I could hash out a quick shot list. If you take away just one thing from this post, make a shot list. In many of the early years we finished principle photography to realise there were not enough shots to achieve the effect we wanted, or provided very limited scope for editing. The end result was a jumpy or compromised film. Save yourself a headache and write down how you see the film in your head and translate that to a series of shots, preferably grouped by setups. The last thing you want is to move the camera, lights and sound person only to realise you missed a shot and have to redo it again.

The rig on “The Gourdening”. Blackmagic Cinema Camera 2.5K with a Tascam sound recorder. The Galaxy Tab was doubling as a clapperboard.

There were some particular challenges this year from an equipment standpoint. I opted to use the Blackmagic Cinema Camera 2.5K which is a fantastic camera but with finicky controls and an unforgiving display. The onboard sound recording is less than ideal additionally, so I was recording external sound with a Tascam linear recorded and Rode VideoMic. We’ve had good results with the VideoMic in the past, but predominantly used on the boom with a willing soundperson. There was no such luxury this year so I had to accept cranking up the gain in order to get usable dialogue at the cost of plenty of additional noise.

All of the film production took place in the week prior to Halloween so we were able to reshoot a few outdoor scenes where the lighting was suboptimal, although it was tight between getting home from work and losing the light completely.

The Gourdening timeline on Adobe Premiere Pro 2020

As usual, the film was entirely edited on Adobe Premiere Pro. By Thursday night, a rough draft was together and ready to send to the composer. Calum has been a steadfast friend of Newforge Studios/Ordinary Decent Gamer, producing fantastic music at virtually no notice (you can find Calum’s Soundcloud here). This year was no different. The next few evenings were spent tightening up the editing, colour grading, and filming the opening. Again we were going for simple, and in the spirit of Halloween, we borrowed from none other than Halloween (1978 version). We carved a pumpkin purchased in Tavistock market, set it on the doorstop, lit a candle and filmed. If I was doing it again, I would’ve set up a light to bring out some of the more subtle features, but as it was I opened up the lens and recorded. The flickering of the candle in the wind only added to the effect.

After all that, you should probably watch the film! Here’s the 2021 Newforge Studios Halloween production, “The Gourdening”.

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