If there’s one thing I’ve found out while running this website, it’s that I don’t have a career as a blogger considering how I criminally ignore updates here as compared to my own Facebook profile. I guess I enjoy micro-blogging a lot more. Anyway, new promise to update here a lot more.
To catch up, I’ve been quite busy since last November. I took part in Samsung’s Short Film Competition and it led to my short film Clownish which was a far-cry from the horror films I’ve been doing since 2012 and a refreshing change of pace that I enjoyed. It screened at Dubai International Film Festival last year and I’m proud of how it turned out. But right after that, it was time to go back to the genre my heart belongs to – the supernatural thriller. And that’s how Sleight was born.
The idea for Sleight came from my intent to shoot a short film set entirely in a radio station and with a radio host. Anyone who has seen my previous work knows that I’m a huge fan of contained films that take place in one location and I think a short film is the best medium to explore that challenge in. But unlike a house where there’s a lot of room to move around, a radio broadcast room setting meant that the character will be on a chair in front of a microphone for almost the entire film. Which meant that the film would have to be entirely dialogue driven as well as very strong on story. At the same time, I didn’t want to do a ‘ghost’ story. I’ve seen a bunch of short films online where it’s all about a ghost who ends up haunting the radio station or is a caller. I had to find a more interesting take for this setting that hadn’t been done before. And that’s when magic came to mind. I’ve always been so fascinated by the idea of magic that it seemed to be a perfect fit to make a film about a pessimistic radio host who rants on his midnight show about how much he hates magicians and believes that they’re scam artists. But that’s just the set-up. What would be the best situation to put a character like that in? Have a man call on air who claims to be a magician. It’s a setup ripe with conflict and potential for twists and turns and while I’m not going to spoil it for you, I wrote the script to mine that potential thoroughly.
The moment I was done with the screenplay, I was hellbent on casting a real life radio host playing a fictional radio host instead of an actor pretending to be one. And keeping that in mind, there was no other actor in my head better than the very talented Brent Black. I have been listening to his show The Ride Home on Virgin Radio 104.4 for years now and he had the right type of charisma and delivery that I needed for the character of Tom Bower. I was incredibly lucky that he signed on to act in the film after he read the script and enjoyed it. After that, I cannot stress enough how much a great cast and crew came together to make this film possible. We shot the film in one long day and I’m very proud that it’s my best looking and sounding film yet.
Sleight had its world premiere at Middle East Film and Comic Con in April to a very excited crowd. Lots of great questions and it’s clearly a film that plays well in a room. Since then, it had two more screenings in Dubai – one at BITS Pilani and one at Classic Rock Cafe. Both times, the audience loved the film and told me how much the film keeps you guessing. Which, for a writer/director, is the best compliment.
So what’s next? Well, we made a couple of tweaks to the film to really perfect it and I sent it out to a few international film festivals that I respect. Festivals that program genre films like Sleight is and festivals that I’d do my best to attend if the film makes it there. But that also means the film can’t be released online till the later part of the year. But there will always be more local screenings over the summer that I’ll keep all of you updated about.