Not Alone

The Story Behind the Story

Not Alone was originally conceived as a story by Daniel Hickey and discussed in a local filmmaker forum that I’m part of. The story of Not Alone immediately stood out as something I wanted to create because I suffer from claustrophobia and it felt like the horror of being trapped alive in a box would be an interesting story to tell.

I spoke with Dan about using his story from the pitch document and he agreed to let me make the project. I immediately began setting up crew and rewriting the 1 paragraph story pitch as a script. Not only did I plan to make this film as a microshort, Dan also suggested a 15 second festival that I could target the film for.

Challenge accepted. I feel that limitations breed creativity, and telling a story in 15 seconds is a massive undertaking. The project then branched into the 15 second version and a longer version for multiple festival submission possibility.

Since this story came from a pitch document that contained multiple others, I spoke with more than a few people about the various projects. One person in particular, Joe Jacobs, told me to stick to my guns in terms of the 15 second project.

The 15 Second Edition

As of the writing of this post, the 15 Second Edition of Not Alone has been submitted to the aforementioned festival and I’m waiting for a response. I must say that writing a storyboard with clip timings was super helpful. When we shot the full production, I was able to make conscious decisions that would allow footage for both the 15 second version and the longer version.

The most difficult challenge I felt like we faced was getting the character to be sympathetic and believable in such a short time. In media res is the only option here, and I believe the storytelling holds up as we followed my “no exposition” mantra. We were immensely benefitted by having very talented people working with us in addition to an actor who threw herself deep into the character–embodying the panic of waking up in a wooden box.

Of course, the longer version isn’t much longer–with right around a 2.5 minute runtime.

Call and Response

Early on I decided that since Not Alone was basically a one trick story, I needed something that would help sustain and allow me to create something that would stretch this one trick into a film longer than a minute. To do this, I wrote 2 scripts and called two different actors to play different parts in the same situation. It was interesting to me to see the character portrayal and how that would develop in the two different scripts.

We were also very intentional with the lighting and color as we shot this thing. Huge props to Stephen and Xander for handling all that. I did the smartest thing I could do and get the hell out of their way as they set the room for shooting. It looked so much better than I initially imagined and presented to them as concept.

Anyway, I developed Not Alone as a call/response two part kind of story that I felt, at the very least, interested me and I enjoy that. It seemed to show well in that format when it was screened at the theater. I’m hoping for good things with this project as it takes a trip through the festivals and into full publication.

The Fantastic People Involved

Ed Castañeda of SubliminalEd Films and I have partnered on multiple projects and I knew he was someone I could rely on to be my right hand, so I asked him to be my producer and 1AD. He did the bulk of the work rounding up the cast and crew of the project while I worked out the details of the story, the look, and built the storyboards to get an idea as to how we would be able to pull off something in 15 seconds.

My only regret with this project is that we completed production in one day. I would have loved to work longer with the team and the actors because everyone was fantastic.

*Photos in gallery by Erik Vision / Phenix Films