What begins as a promising at-home date quickly turns into something much more sinister for the lovers in Anisha Savan’s Ghost Me. Savan’s short takes a look at a budding romance between Kat and Joe. When Joe experiences the presence of a ghostly entity during their date, Kat reassures him that all the ghosts in her house are friendly. It’s a classic tale of warning and protection as what may be safe for Kat, isn’t so much for Joe. Savan weaves her story with a strong use of practical effects and confident direction, allowing her characters to flourish amidst the supernatural tension at hand. Twelve Cabins spoke with the filmmaker about working with her actors to develop their chemistry, the process of visualising the presence of a ghost practically, and the challenges of balancing the roles of screenwriter, producer and director.
Where did Ghost Me begin for you?
It began last summer. My first horror short He Comes From a Good Family was just released and it was a bit unconventional. I wanted to try my hand at a more straightforward, “traditional” horror, so I sat down and started writing a draft of Ghost Me. When I did, I got one of those rare writing bursts where everything flowed out seamlessly in just one sitting. I had found myself with a first draft that I was actually very pleased with. I took that as a sign to keep going. I sent the script, accompanied by a shotlist, to my Cinematographer Brad Reeb, who was super into it. We found ourselves shooting it at my apartment just a few weeks later.
I really enjoyed how you visualised the ghost’s presence with the box but also through editing, how did you find executing that on a practical level?
Thank you! That was absolutely the trickiest part of the entire thing. The lid of the box was attached to a fishing line string, which later had to be masked out in post, shout out to Pekky Savan for opening the box in each take, and Baptiste Carrara for hours of VFX work in making the string disappear! Since some of the coverage shots, which were filmed in single, continuous takes of the whole sequence, of Harry reading the letters didn’t contain actual notes from the ghosts, I had my AD Peter Mamontoff read them aloud as Harry interacted with each letter, giving him a scene partner. I’m really proud of Harry’s stellar performance in that sequence of the film.
What was your approach to working with your actors to establish their chemistry? What were you looking for when you were initially casting?
I knew I wanted Meghan Boyle in the role of Kat. I directed her earlier that year in a music video and she was easily one of the strongest performers I’ve ever worked with. She is also everything Kat needed to be, hyper confident with a contagious smile. I wanted the audience to immediately be drawn to her. In contrast, it was difficult finding the right actor for Joe. I had to sort through a great number of actors before I found Harry Seabrook. When casting, it’s hard to describe the feeling of knowing whether or not an actor is the right fit but I’m able to trust my instincts well – they haven’t let me down yet! When I saw Harry’s audition tape, every part of me knew we had our guy. In terms of establishing their chemistry, we had a table read over zoom, where luckily, they both instantly clicked and naturally bounced off each other. Our blocking rehearsal was also great in helping them feel more comfortable and confident in their performances before the cameras started rolling the next day.
How do you find balancing the hats of writing, directing and producing? What did you learn from the experience?
When I’m writing, I already have a sense of how I’d like to guide production, that’s the great part of being able to direct original work, you already know exactly what you want and what the story entails for execution. Also, creating a detailed shot list, accompanied by an endless amount of bullet pointed notes, was my lifeline on set. Being over-prepared always helps.
As for producing, I tried to organise myself as best as I could to prevent stress. Monitoring the budget, scheduling, and all of the nitty gritty details was definitely a bit frazzling, not to mention shooting a film in the middle of a pandemic, pre-vaccine, but thankfully it all came together very smoothly and safely! I learned that when I viewed any overwhelming moments from the lens of “making movies is really fun”, or “how lucky am I to be able to do this?”, it really took the pressure off and allowed me to be present and enjoy the process.
Can you see yourself returning to horror? If so, why?
I really do love the horror genre. It allows the viewer to really experience something, to stay present in it, to even be a part of it… and that’s what makes it so fun! I absolutely would return, just to see how else I can challenge myself. There are many subcategories of the genre I want to explore – I’d love to make a zombie film next! It’s really up to which stories come to me on the page and how they end up coming to life.
Speaking of, what are you working on next?
I’m set to write/direct a horror themed episode of a Hindi anthology series, produced by Fragic Films. Suraj Sharma (Life Of Pi, Million Dollar Arm) is in negotiations to star in the leading role. Due to the ongoing Covid crisis in India, production has been put on hold for the time being. Other than that, I’ve directed a contemporary dance film titled Sid & Nancy, produced by Peter Mamontoff, and a music video for my sister Pekky Savan for her latest single Glad I Found You. Both will be released later this summer!
Ghost Me was programmed by the Twelve Cabins team. If you’d like to see your film on our pages, submit here.