Tiago Teixeira Interview: Wrong Number, Short Filmmaking and Real Horror

How did Wrong Number get started? What was the inspiration there?

It’s funny, because it was based on something that happened with me. At one time years ago, I woke up with this idea that someone was going to call me and give me some bad news and I couldn’t go back to sleep. I was talking about it with my girlfriend and the phone rang. This was around 3:00 A.M, and it wasn’t anyone. The line was dead, so I thought this was super weird. I always had this idea to make a story about it, and I just kept adding some other things to it, but that was the origin of it.

I love the eeriness of that. You’ve got the idea, how do you go about getting a short horror film like this made?

I always thought the idea wasn’t enough to make a film because it was like– The main thing I wanted to capture was this tension. This moment between- you having this feeling that something’s going to happen and it actually happen. I was wondering if I could do a short film that you could stretch this feeling through the whole duration of it. I started thinking about the idea and I started thinking about– I tried to– What I did was I tried to adapt the idea that something would actually happen. What would have happened?

How would something like that manifest, and that’s why you would get something, I’d say, supernatural that happens or– The main- the whole idea about developing this was– I was constantly feeling like, “How can I make this feeling worse?”

What is the worst place that we can go from here?

There’s a great feeling of helplessness in it as well when she had this call and you have to wait on another day before anything happens. It’s like there’s nothing she can really do about it except wait and see.

Yes. That was the idea. […] Ellie and Nicholas, the story got so much better and so much more interesting when they got involved in it. We discussed a lot about it. That’s the best way to work with extras. I had a script, and we develop a little bit over the script, but the way that the characters were reacting to it and to what was happening, and this whole bit, especially the whole time in which Ellie stays there just doing nothing and wondering what is going to happen.

That was totally Ellie […] in most parts. That was the drive of the film. That was the meat of the film for me. That bit where nothing happened.

I thought it was the most important part for me, because I don’t like jump scares that much. I’m much more interested in the creepiness.

I think so. Yes. I think that’s better and the more interesting part of a horror film.

Yes. I think so. When you have something that happens in the end of the film, and I thought there’s not really a point of making this as a jump scare. No, this is just a progression of something weird that was going on, and I tried to keep on the same feeling. I tried to make it more organic. When you think about what has gone on before the film.

That sequence, the climatic sequence, it’s a really great study in creepiness in as much as the audience knows that something is wrong, just from the way you sort of framed how the situation is. The character in it doesn’t seem to have any idea, when it’s just letting the threat get closer and closer. It’s a really great sort of study of tension.

Thank you. That was the idea, to try to make– It’s almost like the reasoning behind that was almost like, “She can ran away from the house, but she can’t. She has to see what’s going on. She has to see what’s going on with the living room because this has been happening for this whole day.” She had to get this through.

It’s a very menacing horror film. I noticed on the Indiegogo page for the film you describe yourself as a collective, as makers of unsettling films. Is that the kind of goal that you guys like to have is to unsettle?

Yes. I think so. This is the second film that we did in the UK. The first film was called A Quiet Room in Walthamstow. It’s the same feeling. This one is- it was a better– We could capture this whole creepy thing better on this one, but I really like A Quiet Room in Walthamstow too. Our focus is into do this kind of [chuckles] creepy, weird, little horror films.

You talked there about- moving to the UK. You do have credits on other films before that. Is there something that’s different about making these kinds of films in the UK for you?

Yes. I had a big break between my last film that I did at Brazil. It was on 2008. At the time I was doing– The films are more like- not crime, it’s weird too, but less weird, it’s more like down to earth. During this break I tried to– I worked as a screenwriter too, but move here. I just had this feeling that– I kept thinking about this small stories that I really wanted to tell, so I just decided to go back to it again. It was much easier filming here than filming in Brazil. Maybe because I’m older.

More experienced.

In theory, wiser. Yes. It was a great experience. I got very lucky when I chose the team. My friend Henrique, the producer, and my friend Korsshan, the cinematographer. Korsshan is a genius. The whole team, everyone was so nice and supportive. We had really great experience filming both films. I hope the same thing happens with the next one.

Speaking of the people involved, Ellie Woodruff-Bryant is really excellent in lead, the recipient of this sinister phone call. How did she get involved?

Yes, she’s amazing. I worked with Ellie on my previous film, A Quiet Room in Walthamstow. She wasn’t a main character in that film, but I love her acting so much that I wanted to do a film just for her. In the first version of this shot, the main character was a guy, and then when Ellie got involved, I just thought it would make sense if her was the main character. It completely worked. The script changed a lot because of that but I think it’s so much better.

The idea was to give her the lead in a film. She got involved– When I did A Quiet Room in Walthamstow, I didn’t really have a crew here, and everyone that I knew that worked in cinema was back in Brazil. I found most people online. I did some interviews and I got to know a lot of people, and I got really lucky. It was a really great experience. I found Nicholas online as well, and Lilly Smith who plays the lead on the other film. They are all super professional and amazing, and it was a giant work of them.

You mentioned earlier that the story developed as you’re filming. That you had a script for it but then things changed. Is that a way you like to work? Is to sort of let it become organic as you’re working?

The best part of making a film is to mix all these people together. Then you get to something that different from what you’re planning on but still has the same essence. The most difficult thing is to keep this essence, in a way to control it.

What is more interesting to me is to get people involved as much as they can, and when you can manage to get everyone on the same vibe, when everyone is clear about what you’re trying to do and it works, and it’s amazing.

With this film I had a script and, as I said, the lead was man, it changes a lot. The main plot was always the same but it change a lot, especially when dealing with the actors and Korsshan, the cinematographer. When you have a story written down, it’s one thing, but when you going to have to put it on images, it’s something else, and you have to adapt to it. There’s a lot of stuff, of bits of script that were feeling a bit too literal and we created some visuals solutions to that.

I’m really happy with the results and I’m really happy that it screened at Frightfest festival that I like very much. I was a bit worried about the reception for this film because I don’t think it’s a classic film that you can see on a horror festival

As much as it’s not sort of big jump scares and such.

Yes, am still a bit worried but let’s see. It’s just that Frighfest was the first screening, I hope that we can show it around because I’m really proud of it.

From my perspective and the audience, it seems like it went down very well indeed.

That’s great man. Thank you very much.

You mentioned there are things being a little too literal and that you had to dial that back. That’s interesting. Did you take steps to make sure that it was a certain level of ambivalent or mysterious, you didn’t want it to be too clear cut.

As you can tell from the film, I don’t like things to be too clear. I love ambiguity. The films that I really love are films where I can have my theory for what’s going on and it’s not necessarily what is going on. I like to leave some dark areas where people can fill it up or do what they want. The script was a bit less ambiguous than that. In the process of filming it, we took out a lot of clues that would make the story more easy to follow but I didn’t felt that it was needed.

For me, all the elements are there and more important the feeling is there and the feeling is great part of the film. That was really the priority, this atmosphere, this mood to create it.

Absolutely. IMDB describes the budget of the film as being £5000 pounds but the production quality is outstanding.

Thank you.

How is it working at that kind of production level? Is it frustrating or sort of opportunity to be inventive?

We try to keep everything very– It’s very controlled, everything takes place on the same location. We try to optimize where we shot it to do it as quick as possible. Of course, we had some help with the equipment as well. They, especially Mica from Fava rental, they managed to get us some amazing equipment […]. I think it looks amazing. Production design and mostly Korsshan, the cinematographer, they did an outstanding job. It really looks much more expensive than it was.

Absolutely, that’s definitely a virtue of it.

Again with the help of the team and Fava Rental. When we’re working here with short films, everyone knows that usually don’t have a lot of money. Everyone was really helping to cutting corners and to keep budget as low as it was. It looks pretty good, I love the way it looks. We managed to hide the budget pretty well.

Absolutely, you did that with some really beautiful lighting effects as well, great cinematography.

Thank you.

What’s next? Are you hoping to eventually move into features? You mentioned briefly a next short film.

Yes. I’m starting a Kickstarter campaign this week for the next short film. It’s called Dark Skin, it’s going to be weirder than both previous ones. That’s the idea, just keep getting weirder and weirder with each film.

Good stuff, push the boundary.

I have a project to make A Quiet Room in Walthamstow into a feature. I already have a script and I’m talking to some producers and I’m trying to get the financing but you know how it goes. It’s a long process and things move really slowly but while I’m waiting, let’s just keep doing short films if I can.

If you can make things of this quality with the resources that you have, then it seems like a fabulous thing to carry on doing.

I love doing it. If I could, I would keep doing it forever. The idea for the feature, I really like it and I really think it could make a great film but just waiting for the right funding.

What it is about the short form, making short films that appeals to you?

It’s because on literature I always loved short stories and I wrote some in the past. I think you have to reduce the idea to the minimum with a short film and that’s really hard for me, I have a tendency to put a lot of stuff in my stories. I love the process of cutting it down just to the bare essentials. That’s funny because– I have a lot of fun doing that actually. I know there’s a lot of people that suffer doing that but I really like to pick something up and leave just the essence of it.

Yes, really forces you to kill your darlings.

Yes, but it’s good, I love killing my darlings. Which is a weird thing to say, I know. I always feel like it’s progress. It always feels to me like you’re doing something, you’re making it better because you’re focusing on what matter.

Sort of purifying it down to its distilled form. Horror is a genre that you mentioned wanting to go weirder. If you find that horror is a genre that allows for that more?

Yes, I think so. I’m not much into the jump scare thing. I like- I love the creepiness. For now I’m just focusing on horror. I have some sci-fi projects as well but even the sci-fi idea is- there’s a bit of horror in it

Those two go together really well.

Yes, I think so.

Finally, how can people go about seeing Wrong Number?

We just started the festival round. I hope there are more like– Frightfest was our first festival. It’s going to be screened at Serbia this month as well. […] I certainly won’t be able to go but it’s seems like a nice one. It’s called Hrizantema International Fantasy and Horror Films Festival. This is the second one that we got to. As I said, we just started sending it around.

After we do the festival round, I’m sure there will be a way to see it online, but for now, we expect to eventually get screened again

Wrong Number will be playing at the Hrizantema International Fantasy and Horror Film Festival and will be available online soon! 

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