Behind The Screams With AK From Spitfire Films

‘3 Victims. 1 Night. Unlimited Terror.’ When Gloo@Ogilvy decided to create a live Facebook feed following 3 willing victims locked in an abandoned hospital for a night, they knew there was one man with all the guts and gory for the job. AK from Spitfire Films would direct the carnage throughout the evening of Halloween until daybreak, when the victims (and AK) would finally be released. But sleep did not come easy. The victims were made to watch horror films while viewers could pick emojis to vote up ways to terrify them, George Orwell, eat your heart out…We found out how, why and did anyone die?

‘It was a frikkin hellavu experience’ – Director AK

Here’s a little teaser of #DStvHalloween. Feel like never sleeping again? Then watch the full feed here.

The DStv Facebook audience could pick emojis to vote up different ways to terrify the 3 victims in the abandoned hospital.

After creating a call to action on the DStv Facebook page, 3 real horror fans were chosen to spend Halloween in the abandoned Selby Hospital in Joburg. They were each placed in different areas of the hospital, watching horror movies and basically waiting to be terrified. ‘Where do we sign up?’- said no sane person ever. It was up to AK to orchestrate the scares, execute the pranks and terrify the bejesus out of the willing victims. He knew it was going to be complicated; a live outside broadcast, controlling and cutting between 12 hidden cameras from an OB van, cueing pranks and playing mechanical scare effects from 20 different concealed speakers, directing 4 improvisers tasked to frighten, and an entire crew…in short, this wasn’t going to be some washing powder ad.

‘I think everyone is fascinated by watching people get scared. I can’t tell you how many YouTube clips I’ve watched of people getting frights. I think we’re all inherently fascinated by the macabre world of horror.’

Hospital back entrance: This was used to process the victims upon arrival. The morgue walkthrough set the mood for what was to come.

Hospital corridor and beds: The corridors led up to the ward. These beds were used by the victims to watch the horror films or ‘sleep in’.

Abandoned children’s ward: The trap door into the ward was used for the Ghost’s entry. Cameras and speakers were hidden in the room. (Bottom Left) The Evil Mirror was made in this blocked up doorway.

Even The Ghost Quit

AK: ‘We cast 4 people to play the roles of psychologist, caretaker, nurse and ghost and they had to enter and exit scenes at different points to scare the victims. We had to time all of this to the duration of the movies they were watching, which was The Visit, The Conjuring 2 and Boy.’ But for some, it was all too much. One of the willing victims ended up calling it quits in the middle of the night and requested to leave the hospital and opt out of the challenge. After spending most of his time hiding in the toilet of the morgue, he said he just couldn’t stomach the terror any longer. No shame in that brother!

Another victim was asked to fill out a registration form just underneath a mirror in the interview room. Hiding behind the mirror and ready to terrify was the pale ghost girl dressed in a creepy old nightgown…all our fears wrapped up in one reflection!

AK: ‘In order to scare her victims, the ghost girl had to crawl through a trap door in the ward, close it behind her, then there was a person waiting for her inside. It was completely pitch black, no light sneaking in. Then she had to know that the door was going to be opened, take four steps forward, stop and wait and when the lights come on, scream. Then the lights go off again, then she retreats four steps behind the closed door and then gets out of there. So it was pretty stressful.’ This kind of precise rehearsed choreography was continuously happening throughout the evening, creating a well-oiled machine of fear.

After hours of scaring, the ghost girl threw in the blood-drenched towel, after almost being attacked by a victim in the morgue, who literally charged her with two pillows.

Do Not Disturb AK…He Already Is

AK controlled the whole operation from an outside OB van. Following the floorplan and the outside feed he had to not only direct the pranks, the actors, the movement of the technical team but also the art department who had to run and reset all the pranks while the actors swapped position. There were four locations including an interview room, while the makeup, art department and agency could watch the VT in a central hub where the sound operator was stationed to play sound effects through all the 20 something speakers that were hidden around the hospital.

The beds which the victims clung to for dear life were positioned to make the whole experience even more uncomfortable. AK passionately explains one of the setups: ‘In the morgue there were two rooms. The back room had all the fridges, and the one fridge was still working, even though there were no actual dead bodies in there anymore (good to know guys). And it led into another room. In this room, instead of having the victim face the fridges, we turned his back to the fridges, which our actors could access, and the TV in front of him. Thus creating a constant feeling that something was behind him. And it was the same with the passage. We positioned the victim with an open dark ward behind them and then to their right there was this long dark passage.’

If you’re still not sure how crazy this night was, listen to this snippet of AK demonstrating what directing from the OB van was like.

Executive Producer and founder of Spitfire Films, Liesl Karpinski, explains why AK was the best director for the job: ‘AK is a true creative and he’s very versatile without having to sacrifice the creative and I think that’s his gift. He problem-solves and can see through all the bullshit. He’s got a bit of a producer mind really and is technically savvy but is also able to get performances and go with the flow. And well, we like shitting ourselves…’

Not His First Rodeo

Although this kind of activation is a first for DStv, AK has dipped his toes in similar choppy waters before, bringing the audience into the activation and breaking the fourth wall. KFC Shakin Shakin picked up tons of metal. The interactive mobile app had users shaking their phones to add more flavour to the video.

AK: ‘I love this kind of project because it’s not as explored as the regular TVC. When you’re participating in an activation or anything where you break the fourth wall – there’s always a way of doing it a little differently because it’s slightly uncharted territory. And although hardly anything is unique anymore, this kind of content work has so much more original potential than regular 2D, TV work.

AK: We had to be involved in the setup and activation in the actual cinema because the UV light had to literally follow the exact path of the detective’s torch on the screen, in real time. It’s just wonderful to be a part of that and watch it unfold in front of us. These projects won loads of local and international awards and we’re very grateful for that.’

‘The hard part was convincingly shaking a whole scene. To do this we had to build a special stage that we could drop over and over. Additionally, we had to use a combination of dummies and those kung fu wires to give the illusion of people being shaken around.’ – Agency Ogilvy and Mather

Quickfire Round

1. What’s the first scary movie you remember watching?

AK: “Ruby. Which is an obscure movie from the late 70s about a mafia hitman’s wife that gets killed by the mob and she comes back to haunt them all and kills them one at a time.”

2. If you could be any killer from a scary movie, who would you be?

AK: “Jack Nicholson in the Shining”
iDidTht: Okay, show us what you’ve got…

3. What’s the best Halloween costume you’ve ever worn?

AK: “I dressed up like Beetlejuice and nobody knew it was me!”
Liesl: “What about that one of you in the Kiss outfit.”
AK: “Yes I have one of me in a white painted face and a mohawk.”

iDidTht: “Okay that is terrifying, but now we dare you to say Beetlejuice three times.”

4. What’s one thing that Spitfire Films doesn’t know about you?

AK: “I don’t know if there is such a thing. What an unusual question. I love the movie Grease?”

5. Complete the sentence: The most awesome thing about directing is?

AK: “…directing”

6. What advice would you give little AK now?

Liesl: “I’ll answer this one! You don’t always need to be paid to be creative and sometimes be more of a hardass, don’t be such a nice guy.”

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Producer: Liesl Karpinski

Produced by the iDidTht Content Studio
Credits: Writer – Anne Hirsch / Art Director – Julie Maunder

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