Horror Film 'Darkest Night' BTS: Getting Started in the Philippine Farmlands


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Some of the most interesting behind-the-scenes events during the filming of the Inernational Psychological Horror Film 'Darkest Night', as told by the writer, executive producer and a professed innocent bystander, Russ Williams. Think of it as useful advice on how to make an indie horror film on the fly, with a limited budget and in the Philippines


Early in a morning in late April, all of the crew and I set out from Manila, heading for the beautiful, two-story house in Floridablanca where most of the shoot was going to take place. We kept driving on and on, farther and farther into the country. Just when I didn't think things could get any more rural, we finally arrived. We turned into a long driveway and stopped at the location, bounding out of the car. Everyone immediately went to work preparing the house for making the film.

One thing was a given. During our time shooting there, most of the actors and crew would be living in the house, communal style. So, our location was also our temporary residence. This arrangement led to a great spirit of camaraderie. It also created huge inconveniences. Fortunately, our director, Noel Tan, was there to help make order out of primordial chaos. He valiantly and partially succeeded. I was there to bark out an occasional order, hope it would be obeyed (sometimes it was!), and generally keep out of the way.

Our cooks made excellent meals for us. Basic creature comforts (and often we felt like uncomfortable creatures) did more or less come our way. The majority of the people had to sleep dormitory fashion, mostly on the floor. Folks discovered others' night-time habits never dreamed of before in wildest fantasy. There were also informal lines at the showers and bathrooms (people didn't queue; they just went to a locked door and gave up till, hopefully, later). That was, of course, when the plumbing was working.

The actors had dormitories upstairs more or less with air conditioning. The crew slept wherever and whenever they could, mostly downstairs on the tile underfoot, with nothing but fans, a few pads and occasional covers. On every day but one, the heat was scorching, so they deserve credit for putting up with the most hardships.
We also had a pool but not enough chlorine. After two days, using it became like swimming in a farm pond. The pool and back patio are beautiful and well designed, but become like a ceramic-firing oven during days unless you jumped into the so-called water. Even that was like lukewarm soup after a day or so, green-pea soup to be exact. Still, it was cooler than the afternoon air, and all of us went swimming most afternoons, just to help survive the heat.

During these prolog days, the crew spent time getting ready for the shoot while our support staff got the house in working order (kind of). Since the place wasn't inhabited, there was a lot of work that needed to be done on the plumbing and some on the electrical wiring. After everything was "fixed," we still had to flush the toilets by pouring a bucket of water into the bowl from a lofty height. Most of our showers were tubes (in Tagalog) that is, washing up out of a bucket and rinsing by pouring water over our heads.

DJ Perry arrived late Wednesday night (or early Thursday morning; I forget when) at Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Manila. They call it NAIA, and after an hour there, I was convinced the letters really stood for "N-sanity Arises Instantly Anywhere." Of course, it was great finally meeting DJ, and we enjoyed talking and getting to know each other. Noel managed to meet him without "getting a nosebleed" (his words), and they also became well acquainted.

Later on, we all developed an excellent working relationships. This was a great advantage when moments of total confusion and true terror (the real thing, not movie stuff) sometimes swirled around us. I was soon to discover that Filipino indie film-making is sort of a controlled catastrophe about to happen any time, but, if you're strong and possess intestines of chrome-plated steel, the very worst doesn't happen. You just feel like it's happened.

Justin Chan arrived from Malaysia that Friday, and we picked him up at the Clark Airport, closer than Manila. Indeed, everyone was happy to meet our actor friend from Malaysia who plays a vital role in the cast, Jeffrey Espino. Justin's sense of humor and wild, crazy behavior was a delight to us all.

As you can tell, being used to American film-making, I was quite unprepared for the Filipino way of doing things cinematic. At any rate, this rambling preamble gives you a good idea of what our first few days at "the house" were like. Of course, after the other actors arrived things really started to get interesting.


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