Dark and dusty, claustrophobic and ominous; from Flowers in the Attic to Sinister, lofts and crawlspaces have always been staple part of Horror and Thriller canon, so when the short film Pieces was written – a tale centred around a young woman in her deceased Grandmother’s house it will probably come as no surprise that an attic scene would feature.
From a production perspective, using an actual loft space (instead of constructing one inside a set) is ideal for a film with a small budget. It’s already halfway there in terms of looks, but the small space becomes a challenge when you need cast members to move around and a film crew work to inside it for an entire day.
It took three days to completely empty the 5ft by 20ft crawl space, then re-dress it to create the visuals Director Dan Sunley had in mind for the scene:
“Creating the attic scene to look and feel the part of Isabella’s grandmother’s house was a fairly straightforward process, but it took longer than I excepted. The irony is you have to clear a loft full of items and then re-fill it again to make it look full, only now it has to fulfil a plethora of other conditions. The set had to convey a close, tense atmosphere, the items placed within had to relate to the story and it all had to be decorated in an eye-catching way to help provide the shots with visual depth.”
The whole scene also has to be lit effectively for filming. Cinematographer Mike Staniforth rose to the challenge:
“When I first saw the loft I thought it was going to be a tight fit. Once the attic had been cleared it was much easier to work, but we still had a height restriction, there were one or two shots where I wished we had another foot or two to play with, but you have to work with these restrictions and do the best with what you have. With there being no windows or any source of light, creating a light source was a fun challenge. I decided to use a dedolight through a gobo to create a window effect on the back wall. Giving the viewer a sense that there was a window in the attic and light was shining through.”
All of the filming was done over eight hours through a two foot square hatch in a ceiling, only accessible via a ladder!