Written and Directed by Stephen Frost
Music and Sound Design by Stephen Frost
Joy, a woman with Alzheimer’s disease, is haunted by the memory of her deceased husband. Meanwhile her daughter, psychic-researcher Ali, is on the trail of a ghostly figure caught on film at a séance. As she closes in, Ali begins to suspect a connection between her ailing mother and the ghost on the tape. Someone is trying to get through. But who?
“Is Anybody There?” is my first film. It was filmed between September 2007 and July 2008 using only the minimal equipment available to me – a mini DV camcorder, a portable digital “walkman” style audio recorder and some halogen builders’ lights from my local DIY store.
I had long been interested in the relationship between pictures and music and needed a project that would allow me to explore this further. At the time I could find no external projects with which to develop my ideas and so decided to make my own film – or at least find out if I could.
It was certainly a steep learning curve! I tried to shoot each scene in ascending order of complexity in order to keep mistakes to a minimum and learn from those I did make without too many damaging consequences on the way. I was incredibly fortunate to have three main actors, Baz Russell, Tracy Russell and Amanda Russell, who were endlessly patient and helpful. Having learnt from the audio recording side of my career that, generally speaking, too much material is better than too little, I was often heard to ask for one more take without giving a reason why (or indeed having one!) and I’m extremely grateful to my cast for never questioning it. It is not an ideal working method but it does confirm my feeling that you only really learn to do something by actually doing it. Hopefully the next project will benefit and be directed a little more coherently!
The script itself started off as a straightforward ghost story but quickly developed into something that was, for me, much more interesting – what is the nature of the soul? What was at first a relatively minor character began to take over and became a conduit for that question. The film does not attempt to unravel the contradiction that it offers up; the most interesting questions are the ones for which we have no answer!
Video editing was done using Sony Vegas and audio post-production was done using the Pyramix digital audio workstation. The music was composed using the ubiquitous Cubase software. Dialogue (both on set and replacement) and sound effects were recorded using the Edirol R-09. Video was shot using a JVC GR-DV2000. This camera is at least 10 years old and in some respects leaves a lot to be desired, technically speaking. However, its great strength for me was its ability to record in Progressive Scanning mode, which gives the footage a somewhat filmic quality – something that was very important to me, as, in my opinion, and for whatever reason, video seems to be in the present and film in the past, the latter being more appropriate and effective for telling the story I wanted to tell.