One of the advantages of a night shoot is you have the whole day to prepare for it and in my case, I spent it sorting through the kit my Make-Up Designer friend Sammm Agnew had made for me.
As advised by Sammm I had soaked the linseed overnight so that I could mix in the green food dye to create a putred alien vomit. It was sweet to taste although the texture and consistency wasn’t pleasant upon the tongue.
Other special effects included making black goo, forming prosthetics (I had a bag full of pieces which Sammm had told me to play around with) for puppeteering, mixing excretions and other liquescent forms using paint, syrups, various silicone fluids and other products. In some cases it was trial and error, for example it was very difficult to find syrup or glucose so I had to use cornstarch which didn’t always work.
We had a small but great crew on board, Michelle our background photographer who studied film in London and knew a friend of mine, Gattino as the 2nd AD, Linh on Make-Up, Lam Quang Vinh on the smoke machine and Lewis was our sound man. I had met Lewis not long after I arrived, he had a strong understanding of what I was trying to achieve even from early on when I didn’t know how it would work out, especially when I knew certain parts of the concept script would have to be rewritten. Lewis remained dedicated and we were already talking through sound design the first time I met him and he said how he would probably foley most of the sound elements. Our team were truly international and regardless of some language barriers, we made it work.
Photography by Trinh Huynh
Knowing when to cut
Needless to say it was a very difficult shoot and this is because we were using mucky special/practical effects. There was no time to reshoot some of the important scenes like the kiss as they had to be done stage by stage and because of continuity, I had to ensure I stuck to the plan.
As the combat guys arrived early, to save time and limit the amount of people on set, we had to shoot their scenes first, yet in the story they arrive last.
This meant restricting what we saw of the main characters played by Patrick and Thảo at the end of the scene because at this point they weren’t covered in goo and muck. I couldn’t apply the SFX beforehand because of time and resources. We picked up their reaction shots at the end of the shoot once the combat soldiers had gone and they had finished their sticky kissing scene.
Then came the kiss also known as the ‘alien sex scene.’ There were many takes of the first part which was just saliva and sweat based, then the actual sucking attack where the alien girl doesn’t let go of the guy and then there was meant to be a transformational part where her face changes before she vomits into the guys mouth which poisons and disables him. I really wanted to get the vomiting kiss right but it was very unpleasant for the actors. I spooned as much of the alien vomit into each of their mouths as I felt was suitable. The idea was they would latch lips so you couldn’t see that there was evidence of vomit in their mouths, so it would continue from the saliva kiss, then suddenly she would project vomit mixture into his mouth. Kind of like when a Nemertea ribbon worm captures its prey with their proboscises/secretion which can appear to be quite sexual. Kissing is also very arousing, the shapes you can make with lips, how you can control them to your own erogenous pleasure and equally make them a very dangerous tool for your lover.
I could tell the actors weren’t too impressed by the end of the shoot and we went overtime. They were wet, covered in goo, vomit and exhausted. I just wanted to get the best out of the kiss under the very challenging circumstances. And we weren’t going to get another chance to do it again.
It mustn’t have been pleasant for the actors but their chemistry and fear on screen is exactly what I was looking for. Their resilience has paid off because we do have a strange and trippy scene.
After the kiss scene came the alien anatomy puppeteering.
Two days after the shoot Louis and I bumped into Patrick and we had a coffee. I thanked him and apologised for the scene. He simply said ‘The reason why we just wanted it over with is because at one point we were both gagging, like we were going to actually vomit.’ These are the kind of things dedicated and professional actors might not express if they’re just as committed as you to get through a scene. I’m forever thankful for their commitment and drive.
There are still a few things to complete before launching the crowd-funding campaign but I’m looking forward to the continuing journey. We also have music producer Nick Modern on board who’s currently composing an awesome score for the piece. You can check out his work here.