New Zealand, 2009. 2:38 mins.
Team: Samuel James Sharpe and Kin Pong Siu
The Tale of “Beneath”
“Beneath” is a short documentary looking into the urban legend that is the Leith River Monster. The urban legend has never been taken seriously, until a student living near the river uploaded to the net, footage of something attacking his dog, which he believed was the Leith River Monster. In seeing this footage, a group (Me & Kin) decided to have a go at tracking down the monster and proving that it was real.
The ‘hunters’ set out to track down the creature at night, when the thing is normally encountered. but find nothing for the longest time. They do begin to uncover evidence of the creature’s movements. A dropped scale, a scavenged rubbish bin, and even better a blood trail leading from a sewer pipe into the Leith. Which considering the footage of the dog attack makes one wonder at how many other missing pets there are.
Emboldened by these indicators of the creatures habits, the hunters continue their search in an area where the creature was witnessed the previous evening. Finally the hunters manage to find the creature. Which then precedes to attack. At which point the hunters wisely flee.
One of the most critical features of this film was the monster. Even though it wasn’t seen much, ‘Wormsy’ had to look good enough to pass muster under night filming conditions. With the monster, there was no film.
Wormsy was intended to be a giant tape worm, something that is quite flat and segmented. But by developing Wormsy we realized that it wouldn’t provide an expressive range of movement for our puppet monster. Wormsy went through a few versions before ventilation pipe was used to provide a flexible base to build Wormsy around. After cutting, painting, hot gluing (especially our fingers. Ouch!) Wormsy was complete and ready for its close-up.
The design of Wormsy perhaps took a little too long, leaving us less time to film the footage. Most of the filming happened at night which meant staying up very late for filming our tracking of the creature. Man did it get creepy in the dark. Some filming occurred during the day. these were simply views of the Leith River, up close or wide angled. The blood that was seen in the doumentary in the opening/closing sequences and during the tracking was simple to make and hard to find. It took forever to find the Corn Syrup at the supermarket! Mixing the syrup with red colouring provided the group with nice thick blood. Which we then proceeded to pour into the Leith River. This stuff stained Sam’s hands for about a week. With all our raw footage we began to work on refining it down into the documentary “Beneath”.
Behind the scenes
Who knew the raw footage would consume so much memory? 60GB of filming later stored on a shared drive and backed up on an iPod Editing commenced. Many sleepless nights followed. Energy drinks were consumed. Frustration mounted. Computers were almost thrown out windows when something went wrong. When shown to the judges as a rough cut we were told to cut the time down and remove most of Wormsy from the video. Some of it was hazardous to shoot dammit! But the feelings and ideas that we wanted to convey were received and acknowledged, so we edited the video shorter and cleaner.
We had a great deal of fun making “Beneath”. Although it was a pity to not show more of Wormsy, we were proud that when it popped out at Scruffy the dog, the audience at the festival jumped in shock. Just that little thing made the night for us. Even though we didn’t win any awards. If we ever did something like this again, we would make sure that we had sufficient memory space to contain the raw footage. Also to spend less on the monster creation, because that was a money sinkhole until the final design was confirmed. But all in all we enjoyed ourselves.