There is something about deserts and tundra that scares the bejesus out of me. I think it’s the emptiness. The vast, barren emptiness of it all… I’m also not a fan of the cold, so films set in the icy nothingness of Antarctica, really flick my shudder switches.
Obviously, The Thing is the benchmark by with all chilly thrillers are measured, however, film-maker Kirk Watson is throwing his hat into the ring with his sub-zero slasher film, South of Sanity, a film which proudly proclaims to be “the first ever fictional feature film made in Antarctica“.
The story behind the making of the film is an interesting story in itself, given that the entire production was crewed by the real-life friends living and working on a fully functional science station in Antarctica.
Written by Matt Edwards and shot and edited by Watson, the synopsis is as follows,
South of Sanity follows life on an Antarctic Station when all goes wrong.
Cut off from the outside world, the small community gradually becomes increasingly fractured and antagonistic. From out of this dark crucible of malcontent, a killer emerges. In the isolated and disparate group, members are picked off one by one. Paranoia ensues and no one is safe.
While films like The Thing and Aliens Vs Predator had their stories based in Antarctica, however, South of Sanity is the only film which was actually made there and during an Antarctic winter, when only around 1000 people live on the entire continent.
We caught up with Kirk to find out a little more about how South of Sanity came into being…
Q – Pardon the pun, but this is all very “cool”. How did this come about?
A – Antarctic summers are incredibly busy as everyone makes the most of the 24 hour daylight, often working long hours and sometimes seven days a week. The scientists cram in as much work as possible. There would be no time to make a film during a summer season.
When winter arrives the numbers on station drop dramatically to only scientists carrying out essential long term projects, and some winter projects, as well as the core staff. The daylight drops and we return to a normal work rota of 9-5 Monday to Friday, with occasional weekends.
So come the winter we have some free time and a project like this is perfect to give people a bit of entertainment and some aims outside day to day work. Unlike after your job each day in the UK where you have to commute home, go shopping for groceries, mow the lawn, chop wood for your fire, visit your accountant, visit your family, organise social occasions, attend weddings, etc etc, there is none of this in Antarctica so once you finish work you actually have real free time and we filled some of it making this film.
We filmed a couple of day scenes on a weekend and the rest was shot in the dark just to make the film darker. So our actors suffered a bit in the cold as we had people sitting outside for ages or dead people lying in the snow. It became a bit tricky with the dead people as they shivered, so they were carefully edited to get rid of the movement.
Q – How was it shooting a narrative feature film under those conditions?
The cold helped us film sometimes as often the actors were acting annoyed, angry and tired in a scene. So if they were moaning to myself or Matt about the cold we usually began to see the acting ability get better as they were actually annoyed and angry at me and tired and mildly hypothermic themselves. We had several actors with mild hypothermia during the filming. The good thing was they had lived there for a year, so were pretty used to it.
Q – Where did the budget come from? I’m guessing everything was all scavenged on location?
Our budget was pretty low apart from the kit I had brought with me. So a bit of adapting was required to film different scenes. We only had one camera so we filmed scenes one angle at a time. Fortunately this gave our slack actors the time to learn their lines! They did a great job really.
We had no make-up department, that was Matt Edwards job (his mother is a make up artist) with a child’s face paint set from Mothercare and items from the kitchen. I think his blood recipe was red food colouring, white flour, golden syrup, and possibly a little blue food colouring. As Matt was also our station doctor, he had a pretty good idea if it looked real or not. He added chopped bacon for brains too. We were chuffed last week to get an 18 rating from the BBFC citing “strong gory violence”. Job well done for a horror.
Our mechanics helped with making some of our special effects out of old metal from the skip. We had someone moving around with an ice axe sticking out of them so we had to make metal plates to wear under their jumpers then bolt the ice axe onto it so it was rigid on them.
So we ended up with a pretty good looking film and we learned a huge amount about making films. The reason we now have a release date for here and the states is because an Executive Producer Joel Plue from New York came on board who has made several films including ‘Mineville’ and is distributing and advertising it throughout the states and else where. We are also working on our next film with Joel called Terra Incognito next year another film set in Antarctica.
South of Sanity is scheduled for release on Halloween 2012, with a premiere scheduled to take place in Aviemore, Scotland.