Visit the Unsettled website here: Unsettled (2015): A horror short

It’s currently only available via on-demand streaming for a small fee. We will put it out on YouTube in the future, but we intend to submit it to festivals first.

How it came to be

A few years ago, a friend told me he wanted to direct a horror short. The protagonist would be the usual horror cliché: a babysitter.

It took an hour or so to finally come up with a rough idea that we both liked. I tended to prefer creepy suspense, while my friend tended to prefer jumpy scares. “A rollercoaster” was my friend’s description of what he wanted it to feel like. I also like to ensure that there are motives and reasons behind plots and decisions, even in short films. I hate seeing other shorts with plot holes. So, we tossed suggestions back and forth, some serious, most not so. Reconciling ideas until we finally hit on a twist that we both liked the sound of.

The initial screenplay didn’t take too long to write after that. It had questions and red herrings. It had subtle elements that the watcher might only realise the significance of upon a second watch. The sort of writing I enjoy.

Then, due to budget, location and time constraints, it went through a few drafts before it reached a final shooting script. In most cases, a screenwriter wouldn’t have much more input after that, but in this case, I was much more involved.

While we already had a few actors in mind for the roles, there were auditions for a few of the main roles. I wasn’t able to attend the auditions, but I saw the “audition tapes.” It was great knowing that we all agreed exactly who our first choices were.

Filming begin in the summer of 2013, with the cast and crew spending five weekends on location. Not everything went according to plan, but with preparation and good editing, we got the footage we needed.

Editing and post production took much longer than expected. Crew changes and external influences delayed things. There were many late night post production discussions. Lots of rough cut edits. One or two possible final cuts. Even a late plot change that sidestepped one long-standing elephant in the room.

The original was due to be 18 minutes long, but the final cut comes in at just over 14 minutes. It shaves off a lot of the early scenes that introduced the parents and the circumstances which brought Kayleigh to the house.

In hindsight, the early red herrings distract the casual short film watcher, who would just want to get straight to the action. The director was right to decide on a simpler story for the final cut. The other elements might be better suited to a feature length script. But they live on in the prologue we released last year.

We had also planned a side project in the form of vlogs released on YouTube and a website, with the aim of filling in more of the back story. Maybe we’ll revisit the whole thing one day and the mythology of it in the future.

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