Thu | Jul 29, 2021

That’s a Wrap - Origins’ pilot is ‘straight-up horror’

Published:Sunday | April 7, 2019 | 12:00 AMKimberley Small - Staff Reporter

Origins, one of five in the first JAFTA PROPELLA cohort, caused a stir in the local industry following its premiere screening in 2016. Though it has only been screened locally a few times since, the short film has a following that will be excited to hear that last week the film’s principals, Kurt Wright (creator) and Noelle Kerr, wrapped 14 days of shooting the Origins’ pilot episode – a feat Wright said is leaps and bounds above the short film.

Those familiar with the short film will recall an ensemble of mythical Jamaican characters: The White Witch of Rosehall, Annie Palmer; Three Fingered Jack; The Mad Doctor of Edinburgh, Lewis Hutchinson (Jamaica’s first recorded serial killer) and Quashie – a list that has expanded.

“We knew the end goal was a pilot, but things have changed since the original incarnation. The script for the short film was 15 pages long. The pilot is 60 plus. I couldn’t be happier with it. We ended up filming version 14 of the original script. Call it 15,” Wright told The Sunday Gleaner. One thing he is very excited about is the introduction of three Junkanoo characters – framed in a modern world.

“It’s not just about when you see them, but why they’re there and who’s controlling them. It’s straight up horror movie stuff,” he said, (keeping the identities under wrap for it to be a surprise).

Grants and Investments

Wright explained that on the first go-round, “we wanted to make the short film look like we hadn’t tried hard enough, so now we’re polishing what’s already there. We pushed what we could do - with the same camera, slightly better equipment and more money.”

After winning the Viewer’s Choice Award and the Best Local Film (Lennie Little-White) Award at last year’s GATFFEST Film Festival, they were approached by Branson Centre of Entrepreneurship. “Even though we’re not a typical business, their suggestion was to apply for this grant from the Development Bank of Jamaica, and we ended up winning it.”

They pooled funds from the DBJ grant, along with another grant valued at $J2.7 million from the Ministry of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport. “Between those two things and dipping a bit into our own pockets, we pulled it together. When it’s finished, we want to get the attention of people behind projects like Stranger Things – we have to get the quality as close to that as possible. We pushed it as far as we could. I’m really curious to see it come together.”

Series Bible

Following the short film’s initial screenings, the creators went back to the drawing board with the intention of attracting international distributors. Wright and Kerr put pen to paper to develop a product that could stand with other successful supernatural series. To make sure that they can answer any questions that potential producers and distributors may throw at them, Kerr and Wright developed a ‘series bible’.

“It has from the first episode script to the breakdown of the rest of the season,” Wright explained. In developing this ‘bible’, the creators should be able to speak to a character’s behaviour – like why they reacted a particular way in episode one, is perhaps because of something to be seen in episode three. They even have promotional shots of the characters. “We used them as part of the series bible – it’s stylised showing the characters and telling the stories.”

He estimates that it took three months, starting October 2018, before the bible had enough content to carry a season.

Version 15

The actors were given the 14th version to study. Still, Wright asserts that it was a 15th version that was captured. “By the time you sit down and do a read-through, an actor would say, ‘I like this, but would it be better if I said XYZ’?” he explained.

After wrap, the footage was delivered to the first point of post-production – the film editor. This will be followed by the sound engineer. More than correcting audio, the sound team will be responsible for noises often take for granted, like footsteps, creaking and rustling leaves. Wright has already secured a colourist for the following step, which will be followed by the pilot’s music composition. He projects a post-production period spanning approximately three months.

He noted that pre-production activities, including rehearsals, took place in February. “When we ended up on set, everybody knew their lines and were in character, and I’m so proud of it. Even though we shot the pilot, the script is still going to move on. The reality is that it needs to be strong. It needs to leave you wanting more,” Wright continued.

And if the pilot doesn’t get picked up, Wright is grateful for the experience gained – for himself and the rest of the talent and crew. He estimates they will have a product ready for viewing “after summer”.