Before Kentis and Lau began shooting, they had to address one concern. The
script came in shorter than the length of a feature film. The industry rough
rule of thumb is one page of a script amounts to a minute of screen time.
According to Lau, her screenplay for SILENT HOUSE was an estimated 60 pages.
"We knew there was no coverage and no cutting, so literally every nanosecond of
the film had to be accounted for in the script" Lau explains. "The short script
made everyone really nervous. We actually signed a document that ensured we were
going to turn in a movie that was paced out to feature length. We signed it, but
we didn't really know. We wrote what felt right. Whether it was going to work or
not, we had no clue."
The duo took preparation to new heights to confirm they had a feature-length
film on their hands. "What Laura and I did was we went out to the location and
Laura acted out the whole movie," Kentis says. "We did it over and over, in
character, the whole script. Once we got the house, we were camping out there
constantly, working out choreography and shots. We had a pretty strong idea -
before we brought the crew on - what we wanted to do." "On our budget and
schedule, we knew we had to be really prepared," adds Lau.
Another piece of the production puzzle that needed to be solved was finding the
right director of photography. After all, he would have the arduous task of
following Olsen throughout the shoot with a camera. Through previous meetings,
Kentis and Lau chose Igor Martinovic, known for his work on the documentaries
MAN ON WIRE and THE TILLMAN STORY as well as the RED RIDING trilogy. His
instincts would ultimately prove to be a major asset on SILENT HOUSE.
"We love the way he lights," says Kentis. "Obviously, the documentary and
handheld background was an absolute necessity for something like this. There is
a certain intuition he had that was perfect for this film."
Through principle photography, the working dynamic between Olsen and Martinovic
would prove to be essential. Lau says, "What was really amazing about Lizzie was
not only did she remember where her character needed to be emotionally and hold
her performance, but she had to remember to hit numerous cues in a carefully
choreographed ballet with Igor. Her movements justified the camera's movements."
This "ballet" was compounded by the fact that Kentis, Lau and Martinovic felt
they needed to orchestrate camera moves - sometimes 360-degree shots - that were
more complex than what was seen in the original film, thus intensifying the
demands put upon Olsen and Martinovic.
"We looked at what they did in LA CASA MUDA and guessed how they did it," Kentis
says, "and then Igor spoke with the cinematographer of that film, and our
guesses were all correct. They pretty much executed it the way we had planned
going about it. Also, because we had the benefit of having seen the original, we
could see some issues with the pacing and where we could amp it up a little bit.
But mostly we felt we had to go a step further by going, without cutting, from
inside to outside the house and different floors of the house and even getting a
crane shot in and push things a bit more."
Communication during filming was essential, especially for a crew unfamiliar
with meticulous, sometimes 20-minute-long, takes in which marks, lighting cues
and various other actions needed to be executed with fine precision.
"There are moments during the shooting when you would just hear Igor saying
'Walk slower, raise your head higher, walk faster'," Olsen says. "We created the
momentum and we had people hidden in corners to close doors or make noises for
cues. It was a quiet dialogue within movement and space. He and his team were so
"Often I was in video village as Laura prepared the actors, just running the
scene and running it more," Kentis adds. "For Lizzie, it's challenging because
we'll be 20 minutes into a shot and the prop guy would accidentally get his hand
in there or there'd be a focus or lighting cue missed and we would have to cut
and go back to square one. Amazingly, the more we went the better she would get
That may have been true, but for Olsen, she says it was tricky to get into the
rhythm of the powerful emotional state she needed to bring to Sarah when the
film's story intensified. "The goal was always thirteen takes and we shot for 15
days," says Olsen, "and sometimes took two days to do one take or shot. We would
run through the scene and be recording, but I felt I was learning as we went
while giving 100% to every shot. But sometimes I just couldn't do it anymore. I
could not produce any more snot or fluids to run down my face. It was draining."
The actress says she would often retreat to the house's staircase to collect her
thoughts and mentally prepare before complicated, extended sequences. For
moments in which Sarah is being stalked, Olsen relied on "my weird imagination,
I play games with myself at the drop of a hat," she says. "That was beneficial.
I started having weird nightmares that didn't have much to do with the actual
story of the script, but it had to do with a child's sexual abuse by a parent at
a weird age and that was really disturbing. It became everything my mind went
through while we were shooting and it that was exhausting."
"What was difficult for me, the main goal the entire film, was to try and figure
out how fear changes within an hour and half," Olsen continues. "Because there
was not much dialogue, the only arc to create was the journey of fear. I didn't
want moments to repeat themselves. If you end up filming a scene that's supposed
to be emotional and difficult at the beginning of the shooting schedule and
you're doing it over and over, you look a little bit more tired than maybe you
should for a scene at the beginning of the movie that you have to shoot later.
It was difficult to carve that type of performance when you're trying to do
these actions for a very long period of time."
One sequence that proved particularly stressful, not just for Olsen but for
Martinovic and his team, found Sarah running through the basement, out into the
woods, then get into a car, then leave the car and go back into the house.
Kentis explains, "Two camera operators were involved in that scene and the
choreography was all about preparation. They were running with the camera and
passing the camera in and out of the car and from the front of the car to back
and our A.D. crew had to be totally on the ball with cues because everything had
to happen at exact moments."
"With our crew, you can imagine the excitement and the tension," says Lau.
"Every take it was like, 'You almost have the shot, you almost have the shot...'
And the whole crew would erupt into cheers when we completed a take because it
was so difficult to do any given sequence."
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