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The making of Where the Guilt Lies

To BIAFF 2016 results| To Full Making Of Index

Howard-Smith won 5 stars at BIAFF2016

Still from 'Where the Guilt Lies'.

The Beginning

Along with my old friend Vaughan Williams (not the composer), I devised a quite complex thriller story involving friendship and blackmail. I'm not going to mention much about the plot as there are several twists and turns for which I don't want to give spoilers. One of the final twists came to me suddenly one day as what I call a 'eureka moment', an ingenious development in the story which hopefully takes everyone by surprise.

I will just mention that there are two married couples involved... oh, and the police are involved as a murder takes place. All this becomes clear within the first couple of minutes of the film.

Having worked out the complete story scene by scene, I handed it over to a multi-talented actor/writer/stage director named Chris Davies from Alvechurch, Worcestershire. This is his second screenplay for me - he previously wrote Face/Book, a 4-star film which got shown on the Sunday at BIAFF 2014. Chris makes a brief appearance in Where The Guilt Lies as a police officer who stays silent. Chris came up with a delightful and clever script with many witty lines.

Casting

With regard to casting, I employed five very talented and reliable amateur dramatics players, four of whom have appeared in previous Howard-Smith productions, along with an actor who has appeared in hundreds of films including a Star Wars film! More about him later.

Filming

The audience's attention is grabbed from the start with the revelation that the main character has killed someone and therefore there's a visit from the police. Then we flash back to how it all started, with two married couples meeting up for a meal. There's a memorable shot during this scene, an overhead shot from the ceiling. I simply attached a bracket to the ceiling, then clamped the camcorder onto it, with an ultra-wide angle lens attached.

Still from 'Where the Guilt Lies'.
Still from 'Where the Guilt Lies'.
Still from 'Where the Guilt Lies'.

I always use two camcorders simultaneously and film each scene several times from multiple camera angles. This leads to my favourite part of the whole film-making process - editing. I don't do what Hitchcock used to do and that is plan out the exact sequence of shots in advance. I look through all the footage and instinctively choose what shots to cut together and keep cutting and re-cutting until I think it flows as smoothly as I can make it. I hate seeing films which 'cross the line', where characters who are conversing appear to be facing in the same direction as each other, so I always endeavour to avoid this cinematic sin. I like to cut fairly rapidly, using a mixture of close-ups, over-the-shoulder shots and 'two-shots' from the side.

Locations

Much of the filming took place in my own house which I've used in several previous films as it's so convenient. Let's face it, if it had been in someone else's house they wouldn't have allowed me to drill into their dining room ceiling to fix the bracket for that overhead shot!

Other locations include a café, a hotel lobby and a cemetery. I've filmed at Caffè Nero in Kidderminster a couple of times previously and permission was once again kindly granted. That scene was one of a small number of scenes that I re-dubbed as the original sound was unusable due to extraneous noise.

I approached several local hotels with a view to filming at a quiet time in their lobby, but the people I saw were very unhelpful. The general line they took was, "The manager is too busy to see you. Leave your name and number and I'll get him to call you." No phone call was ever forthcoming.

Eventually I found a very run-down hotel a few miles away run by a friendly Asian gentleman and he gladly gave permission. (Footnote: the hotel in question has subsequently been forced to close down by the local council!) I didn't use the real name of the hotel in the film.

The cemetery scene is supposed to take place in the evening. We filmed it during the daytime one Sunday, without permission (!), and I put a slight night-time effect on the scene in post production. This was a long, long shoot, four hours in fact. Surprisingly the original sound was good enough to use throughout this scene in the final edit. The actor who plays the blackmailer, Simon Hawkins, accidentally cut his finger with the retractable knife that he was using as a prop, and filming had to be suspended briefly while he drove himself to a pharmacy to buy some plasters! When I came to edit this scene I couldn't get the violent section to work successfully so we had to return a couple of weeks later for a partial re-shoot.

Still from 'Where the Guilt Lies'.
Still from 'Where the Guilt Lies'.
Still from 'Where the Guilt Lies'.

That Actor

The main police officer is played by Humphrey Bogart lookalike Danny Darcy, who lives in Reading. He's retired now but was a film extra in countless hundreds of films and television shows... and he was even a storm-trooper in The Empire Strikes Back! Some people have commented that he's more like a policeman from a 1950s production, with his trench-coat and hat, but that's the way Danny wanted to play it and I was happy for him to do so.

Music

At BIAFF 2015 my thriller Dark Horse also gained a 5-star award, and in addition I was awarded the EMI Music Production Sponsors' award of ten CDs of library music. One of these is called 'Quirky Underscores' and it was from this CD that I chose all the music for Where The Guilt Lies. What I like about it is that it gives quite a light touch to the suspense and drama.

The Result

There are some quite lengthy passages of dialogue towards the end of the film, but I hope that viewers are kept interested and engrossed throughout. Everyone enjoyed making it and I was delighted to be awarded 5 stars. To be honest this is the first time ever that I've been given a higher award than I'd anticipated as I'd expected 4 stars.
It's always difficult to predict what the judges are going to think.

Howard-Smith

  Link to Howard-Smith's obsession with film making