Rob Kennedy talks to Film Ireland about his new short set in a haunted cinema.
Sit Beside Me is about an usher who becomes trapped in a haunted cinema after hours. One moment she’s sweeping popcorn, the next she’s battling a mischievous ghost. The inspiration for the film came from an old Ambrose Bierce short story: ‘The Suitable Surroundings’. It’s about how our surroundings alter how we perceive a story. I thought it would be interesting to make a horror film set in the environment in which they’re traditionally seen. I love going to the cinema. But at the same time, I’ve always found it a little bit creepy. Sitting in the dark with a group of strangers? Or alone? Sometimes the seats creak. Sometimes you hear some odd noises from your neighbours – particularly those behind you. Horror is often about feeling stranded, isolated. A cinema auditorium felt like the perfect untapped location for a scary movie. It has this palpable atmosphere of anticipation. And suspense. So I wrote the script.
My last film, a feature, Midnight Man, ended up being remade in Hollywood, a bizarre and exciting process but also a lengthy one. The negotiations and contracts took years. I was determined to go back to making a film on my own terms, relatively quickly, with a small crew. The biggest challenge was securing the location – a big thanks to Paul Ward of IMC Cinemas – arranging insurance, and working out the right time to shoot, which ended up being in the early hours of the morning before showtimes, when the cleaning crew were the only other people in the building. This definitely added to the creepy vibe I was chasing.
I operate camera on all my films, but Andrew Mahon, a longtime collaborator, figures out the lighting for me. He also built a nifty dolly track, which came in handy for the opening shot as we follow our doomed usher climbing the stairs with brush in hand. Billy Keane recorded sound.
I cast Lorena Weldon as the usher after seeing her in the TV show ‘Vikings’. She was able to convey fear with no dialogue in a way that really draws you in, which was exactly what I needed. Lorena is an exciting up-and-coming Venezuelan actress who has lived in Ireland for several years. Not only was she perfect for the usher, but she was also a breath of fresh air to work with.
This film was a proper indie effort. My girlfriend, Vicki Walsh, helped with scheduling and persuaded her multitalented family to get involved: Her mother, Susan, did makeup; her aunt Debby helped with costumes; and her sister, Sophie, had a big role to play. But I don’t want to give away too much…
Watch Sir Beside Me
Follow Rob on instagram @robkennedyfilm