Vampire mythology is a hard subject to tackle these days, given the popularity of the fanged icon it’s tricky to provide a new take which feels fresh. Phillip Brown’s short romantic drama Love in Vein, however, manages to take the sensibility of the traditional vampire and bring it into the modern age. Brown’s vampire attracts her victims via the means of dating app, a simple conceit but one which cleverly reverses the gendered dynamic prevalent on so many dating platforms. Twelve Cabins had a conversation with Brown below who describes his take on the vampiric mythology, the challenges he faced when shooting in central Brighton, and the moralistic influence of Park Chan Wook’s Thirst.
How did you come up with the idea of a vampire finding her prey through a dating app?
I wanted to make a darkly comic satire on the nature of online dating with a genre twist, and I felt that it lent itself quite well to a vampire character. Vampires are often associated with lust and desire in both cinema and literature, so it seemed like an obvious fit.
Did you draw from any particular representations of vampires? How were you looking to set your version apart?
I decided to lean in towards more traditional vampire iconography like the teeth and lack of reflection in the opening scene so the audience could dial into the concept quickly. I was quite conscious of the short running time, and I felt creating new rules and mythology would overstuff the narrative. One film that was a big influence on me though was Park Chan Wook’s Thirst. It’s about a priest that gets turned into a vampire. I really enjoyed the idea of a vampire with a conflicted moral compass so some of that made it into the film. I also thought the idea of living day to day as a vampire being a painful and stressful ordeal would help the audience empathise with Evelyn a bit more.
How was production? What were the challenges of shooting in the middle of Brighton?
Despite a four day shoot, it was quite a tight schedule. We shot all the restaurant scenes in the function room of The Grand Central. They only gave us a four to five hour window a day to rig, shoot and get out of there. They needed the room for evening bookings so my poor Production Designer Lauren had to redress the room every morning. Both bathroom scenes were shot in the boys and girls toilets of Screen and Film School, mainly because they were considerably larger than the ones at The Grand Central. This proved to be a blessing in disguise as we could shoot around The Grand Central with these scenes. The street scene also proved easier than expected. Brighton and Hove council were really good with getting us a street permit in time for the shoot, and we didn’t receive too much bother from the general public.
A large part of the narrative is the conversation Evelyn and Josh have over dinner, there’s lots of subtle unspoken moments where the dynamic between them shifts, how did you find writing that into a screenplay and working with your actors in realising it?
To be perfectly honest, many of those non-verbal moments blossomed in the edit. Originally what we shot was much more dialogue heavy. I realised as I was cutting that there were some key moments that could be played with a look or reaction instead. This heightened the tension between them too. While the crew were setting up each morning, I’d sit Sam and Ellie down and just chat to them about the headspace of both characters. It was less of a rehearsal and more of the three of us seeing what the thoughts and feelings were of these characters throughout the film.
Love in Vein was made as part of your course at the Screen and Film School in Brighton, what filmmaking lessons did you learn in making it?
Coming from a more DIY point-and-shoot background, I learned the importance of having a great crew. I laid out the broad strokes, but the level of nuance that everyone brought with their own creative skillset enriched the film so much more. We really were like a little family on that shoot, and I hope to work with them again in the future!
What projects are you working on at the moment?
I’m currently writing a screenplay for a feature version of Love In Vein that myself and my producer Johanna are looking to get into early development at some point this year.