“Black Spot” – a new short thriller from Luther Bhogal-Jones – IN 3D!

 Black Spot3d poster image

The Sussex based film maker Luther Bhogal-Jones invites you to 6 minutes of mayhem, delirium and violence in the short roadside thriller “Black Spot.”

Paul is stranded on a lonely country road when his car fails to start. He walks through a melancholic landscape of missing person posters and floral tributes to roadside deaths, before chancing upon another car, but one which ironically is also broken down. Not only will this car provide Paul with salvation and suffering, but force him to face his own recent past actions and provide him with a potential chance to redeem himself…

Shot on a miniscule budget, with a £28 3D camcorder a little larger than a Blackberry, Black Spot is another short, sharp shocking ride following the success of “Creak”, Bhogal-Jones’ previous horror short from 2012.

Black Spot was shot in one day in June at the bottom of the South Downs against an increasingly temperamental short lived camera battery life whilst also rallying against constant stop/ start rain showers. Additional shooting was done several months later at a flat in Brighton for the pivotal flashback sequence.

“I’ve always had a love of 3D films even though they’re tarnished with being gimmicky” explains writer/ director Bhogal-Jones. “The red/ cyan 3d imagery is such an iconic image from cinema’s history – as well as related so closely with the world of horror and sci-fi – and I’ve always wanted to make a film with that classic look.”

With a relentless soundtrack from Brighton composer Mikolaj Holowko, Black Spot is a 6 minute aural and visual assault with an extra dimension which is sure to stand out from the horror short film crowd.

Praise for previous short horror film “Creak”

 “Hollywood should take some notes on how to make a horror film from Mr. Bhogal-Jones.” – The Wizard Of Vestron

 “Channeling Carpenter, Bava and Argento, Bhogal-Jones’ CREAK can be viewed as an exercise in precision film-making.” – The Horror Hotel

 “This five-minute short is great all the way around. Concise, effective, and old school creepy.” – Lefthand Horror

 “This is no-frills filmmaking at its best.” – Dread Central

 “Creak is a cool one off short that definitely has that slasher feel to it.” – Horrorsmorgasbord

 “It’s a very well made short, excellently shot, superbly edited and accompanied with an interesting electronic score.” – Horror Movie Diary

 “A brand new horror short that is not lacking in chills despite its length! Seriously!” – Scare Me On Fridays

10 Frequently Asked Questions about “Black Spot”

 1.            Where did you get the 3D camera?

             The camera was a Christmas present for writer/ director Luther Bhogal-Jones from his brother after Luther spotted it online Despite the negative reviews denouncing the camcorder as “little more than a toy” Luther was still curious to see how effective the camera could be in conveying the 3D effect. The size and capability of the camera has been a source of much bemusement from people involved in the film, being that it is only a little bigger than a Blackberry phone.

Jason Rhodes as Junior in Black Spot2.            What was the inspiration for the story?

             Luther was looking for a scenario that would let him test the device out against landscapes, but also a compact interior. He didn’t want to film something entirely set in a house, as it felt somewhat limiting on scope.  Luther isn’t too sure where the actual inspiration for setting the film around a broken down car came from – possibly as a result of his day job travelling around as an account manager – but also it references back to his previous short film “Stranded” which involved a broken down car in one of the three storylines.

There was definitely a desire to give the film a 1970s horror feel – not necessarily the now clichéd grindhouse style but something that felt relentless, grim, trashy…

3.            How was the film cast?

             As the film was originally planned to be shot in late January of 2013 all casting of the film was done via the internet, with Luther posting in various actors groups on Facebook. Knowing that the budget would have to be kept small, the film was deliberately cast using actors local to Brighton in order to keep transport expenses down. From showreel footage Raine MacKenzie was cast in this manner in the lead role of “Paul”, Brighton performance artist Alexa B was cast in the role of “Mummy MacKenzie” and “Jason Rhodes” was cast in the role of “Junior MacKenzie.”

“Daddy MacKenzie”, played by Andrew Calverley, was cast after Luther appeared as an extra in the Worthing short film “House Trafalgar”, in which Calverley featured and Helen Ball, who features in Black Spot in the emotional role of “Linda”, is a friend of Luther’s, but as a member of the successful Brighton improv comedy troupe “The Twitnits” has proved her performing credentials.

With Christmas and New Year “getting in the way” casting was done almost blind, with Luther only meeting 3 of the cast for the first time on the day of the shoot, an experience which could have resulted in some serious miscasting, but luckily all of the cast proved themselves admirably, throwing themselves into their roles.

 4.            Where and when was the film shot?

              Shooting took place in late June, several months later than the originally planned late January shooting date!

Using knowledge and experience of shooting his short film “Stranded”, Luther knew of an almost deserted layby around Fulking, at the bottom of the South Downs. However, it wasn’t quite as isolated as he wanted, with a house being nearby and the size of the layby potentially opening it up to other cars parking up during the shoot. Luckily Luther found another smaller layby a little bit further back along the road – it also had a house nearby but was thankfully obscured by foliage. All of Paul’s walk to discover the car was shot either side of the layby, with his broken down car simply parked in the same layby but at the front!

Several of the end credit shots were filmed over the Devil’s Dyke area, one shot at the bottom of Cisbury Ring in Worthing and the end pub shots at the Dog and Dog in Fulking around the corner from where the majority of the film was shot.

The flashback with Paul and Linda was shot in a basement flat on Brighton seafront several months after the initial shoot due to various scheduling issues.

 5.            What problems did you face during the shoot?

              Although Luther was aware from the reviews that the camera battery life was not that long, he wasn’t quite prepared for how problematic this would be. As the camera could be charged from the USB port in Luther’s car, the plan was to shoot the exterior scenes, then shoot the interiors with the camera plugged in while it charged. However, when plugged into the in car USB port, the camera read this as being connected to a PC and would not switch on for any filming, making this initial plan impossible.

The battery problems immediately reared their head after having only completed the first few opening shots of Paul’s walk to discover the broken down car, resulting in a forced retreat to the car to wait at least 20 minutes for the camera to charge enough to continue filming. This would then result in another sprint of shooting, working against the rapidly decreasing battery which would often switch off while in the middle of a take, then cast and crew would have to sit around for yet another 20 minutes to charge enough energy to continue shooting again.

In tandem with this the weather on the day was dreary and wet, which suited the mood of the film perfectly , but the occasional heavy rain shower would also force shooting to stop until it had passed.

As a result of this there was a forced immediacy on the actors to get their performance right before the camera was switched on and shooting could commence.

It’s a cliché that the majority of film making is sitting around and waiting, but on this particular shoot that was a very accurate The road gets darker from here for Raine McCormack as Paul in Black Spotdescription.

Luther did learn on this film that the easiest way to get away with murder would be to wear a high-viz vest. Aware that cars passing by may misinterpret what they saw happening in the layby, Luther ensured that himself and fellow crew member Mark Tew wore high viz vests during the shoot. This  seemed to do the job in avoiding any disturbances or enquiries as to why there were several people covered in blood around the roadside or why there was a knife wielding maniac jumping up and down on the bonnet of a car.

Shooting the final homemade road signs for the end titles proved to be a long winded affair, waiting for suitable weather conditions across the bleak wet and windy winter that the UK has endured.

6.            How was the film edited?

              All editing was done by Luther at home on his aging Mac tower. As there were plans to submit the film to a particular horror festival it was cut mercilessly down to a 5 minute running time which resulted in a fast paced but barely comprehensible film, even to those who knew the script! As a result the film was re-edited, adding footage and breathing space back in to create the finished 6 minute edit.

Grading of the footage and assistance with the conversion to red/ cyan 3D was completed by Darren Berry, who Luther has worked with on several other films.

 7.            Where did the soundtrack come from?

              Brighton film making comrade and friend Terence Drew recommended Mikolaj Holowko having worked with him in the past and having seen a recent sci-fi short that he had created the sound design for. Luther’s initial idea for the soundtrack was for it to be created entirely using samples taken from a car – almost like a horror version of The Art Of Noise’s pop song soundscape “(Close) To The Edit.” After recording various aspects of Luther’s car (the very same car that lead character Paul finds himself trapped in) Mikolaj went away and used them as the backbone for his intense industrial inspired score, moving away from the Art Of Noise starting point to something much more vivid. Ever the professional, having done the sound design Mik then decided the old score wasn’t quite right and produced another score!

Luther’s intention that the score could stand alone from the visuals, with a view that it can take a listener on a trip without seeing the film, has borne fruit, with a score that is as much as a journey as the film itself.

 8.            What was the budget of the film?

              Removing the “cost” of the camera from the film’s budget, Black Spot was made for less than one hundred and fifty pounds, with all cast and crew working for travel and food expenses only. Specific props and clothing were required for the film which was where the majority of the expenditure went.

 9.            Where can people see the film?

              The film is available online at at www.vimeo.com/fasterproductions with 3 formats available to view – in 3D with red/ cyan glasses as Luther intended the film to be seen, in stereoscopic 3D for those with 3D TVs at home and, lastly, in a 2D version for those who cannot view the 3D versions.

The film will also be submitted to various horror festivals around the world over the year.

 10.         What’s next for Faster Productions and Sincerely, Psychopath?

              “Black Spot” comes under the umbrella name of Sincerely, Psychopath which is used by Faster Productions for the films of a more horror/ fantastical nature. The next film to come under that brand will be “Knock Knock”, which is a short horror showing the mental breakdown of a woman terrorized by a knocking at her door.

The next offering from Faster Productions will be “Pick-Ups”, which is currently in post-production, and is a short drama with a comedic sting in the tale about a man gives up everything and travels to Eastern Europe to be with the woman who he thinks is “the one.”

Luther is also developing several low budget horror feature films, including a feature film showing more of the MacKenzies from “Black Spot” – if anyone is seriously interested in these from a financing point of view then please get in touch.


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Kennen from League of Legends, a.k.a. the author's son

Kennen from League of Legends, a.k.a. the author’s son

My fifteen-year-old son cosplayed at Supanova in Melbourne this weekend. Looking at all the photos and vicariously feeling the excitement, I got a bit envious. When I was a teen in small-town New Zealand in the 1980’s, cosplay wasn’t even a thing (“back in my day”, we had something called “fancy dress”), but I would have been all over it if it was.

I got to thinking – if I decided to take up cosplay at the ripe old age of 46, what are my options? I know that the correct answer to that is, “Anything you damn well like.” But I’ve seen those vicious memes ridiculing plus-size cosplaying women, and I’ve no desire to become the age-discriminatory equivalent (plus I’m no size zero, so I run the risk of a double whammy – old AND fat.) Even Google thinks it’s a dodgy idea; I get as far as “Women over 40 cos” and the auto complete goes, “Nope, I’ve got nothing.” (Type in “too old to cosplay”, and it’s a different story. To the 23-year-olds who are questioning whether they’re too old to cosplay – stop it. You’re making me cry.)

So – let’s think about the middle-aged women in speculative fiction and popular culture. “Generic steampunk woman” seems to be a popular choice for cosplaying grandmas, probably because it demands a certain modesty (no thigh-high hem lengths or bare midriffs there) and allows for lots of intricate and aesthetically pleasing detail. “Generic zombie” is another easy option (easy, that is, if you have the skills for convincing special effects makeup). For a series primarily aimed at the young ‘uns, the world of Harry Potter abounds with distinctive older women – Professors McGonagall and Trelawny, Mrs Weasley, Belatrix Lestrange, Olympe Maxime (if you’re old and tall) – both heroes and villains. Star Trek gives us Captain Janeway. Doctor Who has River Song. George R.R. Martin’s Game of Thrones includes Cersei Baratheon, Catelyn Stark and Olenna Tyrell, although making a decent representation of these costumes would be challenging due to their famously detailed design.

Proto-cosplay, circa 1984

Proto-cosplay, circa 1984

Throwing the question open to the Facebook Hive Mind, I got several suggestions from the hitherto-unconsidered realm of horror movies – Ellen Ripley from Aliens, Dahlia Gillespie from Silent Hill, and Lila Crane from Psycho 2. Other ideas were Cruella de Ville, Oracle from The Matrix, and a significant rumble of approval from the menfolk for James Bond’s M.

Crossplay – cross gender cosplay – is becoming increasingly popular, so if I look to the world of male characters, my horizons expand considerably. Or I could always choose a costume that requires a mask (Planet of the Apes, anyone?) and voluminous robes, thus making my age and gender irrelevant.

When I first started thinking about it, my options seemed woefully limited. But now, it seems, I have little excuse for not cosplaying. Front-running ideas so far are River Song (I already have the hair), Professor Trelawny (put a brush through my curls, and I’ll have the hair), and Belatrix Lestrange (the hair is only a wig away, and the look appeals to my closet goth. Plus I’m a big fan of Helena Bonham Carter).

I’ll leave the penultimate word to Carol Holaday, a 56-year-old cosplayer from California. She writes on her blog Senior Cosplay:

“Okay, so maybe this year I was the oldest and saggiest Harley Quinn at the Con, but that was only on the outside. Underneath the lukewarm grandma exterior was a smokin’ hot 19-year-old playing a fabulous comic book character. As unrealistic as that may seem, it is how many of us internally think of ourselves as we get older.”

Well, if unrealistic thoughts are the key to senior cosplay, then this should be a cinch, because they’re my stock in trade.


IcySedgwickAbout the author:

Icy Sedgwick was born in the North East of England, and lives and works in Newcastle. She has been writing with a view to doing so professionally for over ten years, and has had several stories included in anthologies, including Short Stack and Bloody Parchment: The Root Cellar & Other Stories.
She spends her non-writing time working on a PhD in Film Studies, considering the use of set design in contemporary horror. Icy had her first book, a pulp Western named The Guns of Retribution, published in 2011, and her horror fantasy, The Necromancer’s Apprentice, was released in March 2014.

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What goes into a villain?

For any story to really work, there has to be conflict – humans are a naturally combative species, so it stands to reason that this conflict would happen between your characters. One character wants to achieve something, another doesn’t want them to achieve it…how do both of them act to get what they want? In other words, your antagonist needs to be just as strong as your protagonist.

Trouble is, some villains are completely one-dimensional. Take Sauron – apparently all he wants to do is take over Middle Earth. Why? Explanations are given at various points but it essentially boils down to “He’s evil”. So? So is Voldemort, but at least he was creative with it, and JK Rowling gave us enough backstory to see Voldemort before he became He Who Must Not Be Named. She didn’t give us this backstory for us to necessarily sympathise with Voldemort, but she at least wanted us to understand his motivations. Writers are cautioned that their heroes cannot be perfect, and that readers will better sympathise with them if they have flaws, so why can’t villains be equally multi-faceted?

Some of my favourite characters are villains. Maleficent, Darth Vader, Hannibal Lecter, Captain Barbossa, Voldemort, General Zod – in some cases, they’re more interesting than the heroes. Maleficent is a case in point – she is Mistress of All Evil, while Aurora gets just sixteen lines of dialogue. Things happen to her, but Maleficent gets things done. She’s an active agent of her own destiny, rather than the passive object of the will of others. Will Turner is the epitome of all things dull, but Captain Barbossa gets an epic outfit and cool lines. The villains are either equal or superior to the hero, which naturally renders the hero’s victory all the greater.

In good stories, the villains become catalysts for the hero’s transformation into someone worthy of the final battle (except Aurora, who sleeps through it). Hannibal Lecter is a particularly interesting villain; it is he, and not Buffalo Bill, who actually murders people during the course of Silence of the Lambs, and could therefore be seen as the real monster, but his status as mentor of, and aide to, Clarice allows him to be a villain and a helper at the same time. Clarice can only defeat one villain with the help of another. General Zod is a particular favourite of mine; Superman usually saves the day through brute force, and physical superiority over others (or by ignoring his father’s decree and reversing time itself just to save the woman he loves), but Zod levels the playing field by having the same abilities. Superman can no longer rely on being bigger or stronger, and is forced to outwit him instead, making Superman into a far more interesting character as a result.Apprentice_eBook_small

What about those stories in which the hero is his own worst enemy? Give him an antagonist anyway, one who will bring the worst out in him, and push him to exploit his own weaknesses instead of his strengths. This was the approach I took in The Necromancer’s Apprentice; the eponymous apprentice, Jyx, is too impatient to learn everything as fast as he can that he doesn’t take into account his own immaturity or limitations. Eufame Delsenza, the eponymous necromancer, appears to be the villain of the piece, but at the same time she’s also got her own things to deal with and her own conflicts to resolve, and her villainy rests upon her willingness to use others to further her own ends.

Good villains need a strong presence (which is probably why they work so well when played by the likes of Terence Stamp or Geoffrey Rush) but they also need a set of motivations of their own. You might not like them, or agree with them, but you need to be able to see exactly why it’s so imperative for them to achieve their own goals, as much as the hero needs to achieve theirs. Otherwise why else are they fighting the hero to begin with?

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