Darren Lynch is a very driven young filmmaker. When he talks about his forthcoming movie, Ouija, he says “It will be in cinemas next year”. Note the definite stance; not “may be”, not “hope it will be”, it will be. Meeting Darren for the first time, he’s as you’d expect any 25-year old to be, but this Derby-born director has been bitten by the film bug. After securing minor roles in Brit prison flick Screwed and the forthcoming 23rd Bond film Skyfall, it’s had a profound effect on his life. He gave up his main income from a cleaning business and is now concentrating on getting his film finished and in front of paying audiences.
After Darren got in touch with HorrorTalk about his movie, it seemed a waste not to take a spin up to his hometown and check out the goings on in the woods near his house. So a damp Friday afternoon sees me pull into an unassuming housing estate to meet the man behind Ouija.
“It’s been stressful,” he tells me. “We’ve been shooting for four weeks now, and hopefully we’ll be finished by Sunday”. While four weeks is barely enough time to get the catering sorted for a Bond movie, it actually overran the schedule Darren had set out. “We had a few problems with people turning up late, but a lot of the cast and crew haven’t worked on films before so it’s understandable”. He’s remarkably relaxed about the situation. While some directors, even first-time ones, might be doing their nuts over the lack of punctuality, Darren appreciates the fact his people are at least staying committed. I broach the subject of whether it’s wise to use friends as actors and if it might sway his opinion of their performances. “I’ve been blown away”, he says, “considering few of the cast have much, if any, acting experience they’ve all done really well”.
Kids camping in the woods isn’t a new concept for horror movies and I’m curious to know if Ouija will be going for the ghostly Paranormal Activity-style jump scares or the more traditional Evil Dead demons-in-the-woods scenario. Seems I’m wrong on both counts. “It’s more like [British horror] Long Time Dead. I wanted to make a movie that revolves around a Ouija-board, as there aren’t that many of them”. He also tells me how he started out wanting it to be a found-footage movie, but thought it may be too similar to The Blair Witch Project for comfort.
“The locals have been quite supportive”, he says, when I ask about local interest. “Quite a few people have said it’s a good thing we’re doing something creative, although there are ones that have complained about things we haven’t even done. We were accused of firing shotguns in the woods, which just isn’t true – there are shotguns being used somewhere nearby, but it’s not us”. Despite this minor resistance, Darren and his team have ploughed on and today they’ll be shooting some pick-ups of some of the dialogue scenes. Lighting problems have forced them to shoot in daylight and make it look like night in post-production.
We’ve been chatting for almost an hour and I realise that we’re still missing the bulk of people needed for today. Darren, as ever, is so laid back he’s practically horizontal. When the rest of the crew finally arrives, we head off to the woods to start shooting. Ouija is being filmed in movie mode on a Canon 550D still camera, like so many other independent movies are choosing to do these days.
“I used to camp here as a kid,” says Darren of his location, “it used to scare me back then, and even when we first turned up for a night shoot, none of us wanted to go into the woods because it was so spooky”. I suddenly think to myself that this could all be an elaborate set-up to kill internet reviewers, and I’ve fallen right into their trap: A remote location, a group of strangers, a video camera and me as the star of this Derby-based snuff film. They didn’t kill me of course, otherwise I wouldn’t be writing this, so I’m glad I didn’t run screaming when the thought occurred.
Darren gets his cast to run through their lines while cameraman Martin Fogg and sound technician Anges Dobruka set up the equipment. The scene sees Duane (Conner Lynch), Eric (Mark Heap), Rebecca (Jessica Gaucher-Thompson) and Katie (Ekua Ghansah) reacting to a sound that they take to be their missing friend. Even in the trial runs of the scene the performances are pretty good. If none of these people have done much (or any) acting before, it doesn’t show.
With time pressing on, I have to duck out and get back on the road home. I leave the group to their movie-making and head back to my car. They’ll be shooting into the night, and as the light starts to fade I keep my fingers crossed that the Ouija board they’ll be playing with doesn’t actually summon any real demons. Now that would be irony.
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