‘The Inspector’ was inspired by one of my favourite films The Silence of the Lambs directed by Jonathan Demme. I particularly love psychological thrillers, how they build tension, and how they often leave the viewer satisfied by the ending. I wanted to experiment with this short film by creating as much tension as possible, and then subverting expectations by switching genres from a thriller to dark comedy at the end of the film.
As I wrote the screenplay, I was conscious of what might be achievable during production. I decided early that the short would be filmed in my own home, and I wrote each scene with my house in mind.
In retrospect, the script isn’t as descriptive as it could’ve been. It doesn’t ‘set the scene’ effectively, but it did have a three act structure, something that I hadn’t explored in my other films before. In that respect, writing the screenplay for the Inspector was great practice for storytelling in general.
Have a look at my Screenplay for The Inspector
This was my first ‘thriller-comedy’ short, and it allowed me to explore the filmmaking process with a certain kind of freedom I didn’t have before. I wanted the film to be a challenge artistically, and I put a lot of effort into planning scenes ahead of time. As there were only four locations (outside, hallway, kitchen, sitting room) I would go to each location when drawing the storyboards, to visualise the most effective shots.
I wanted to make the film quite stylised when possible. As the film goes on, the less realistic it becomes – visually and literally. I wanted the lighting and the colour in the film to get more absurd – without taking the audience out of the film.
I had an idea of what colour schemes each room was going to have, and other elements like a fog machine were used. The fire alarm did go off a few times but I think it was worth it! This, along with the props, are why I’m very proud of this film.
I have never been in control of a set as much as I was on this film, I understand and appreciate the importance of set design, and how integral it is to the atmosphere. In this respect I think I achieved something original and creative with this film.
Props List and Crew Roles
Storyboard, scene 1
Shot List, by room
I believe this film really challenged my role as a director, and made me think more deeply about how I managed the crew.
For pre-production, I first made a comprehensive list of every prop needed, and whether they would need to be bought or made or borrowed. At first, I assigned a few of the crew to be the Art Department and create the props. Unfortunately, they did not attempt to make anything, and I ended up making all the props, which put a lot of pressure on me as I had exams at the time.
On set, it was challenging to have so many people in my small house at the same time. For some indoor scenes I had to ask everyone to leave the room, so I could have give the actors one-on-one directions without interruptions. Setting boundaries with the crew was very difficult! I felt like I had no break, sometimes people would interrupt me while I was doing something extremely important. When everyone had gone home for the day I was preparing for what came next, or tidying up after someone else.
I am always conscious of my attitude while I am directing, and I try to be as approachable and communicative as possible. This is usually a good thing but I now realise it can be taken advantage of, if I’m not careful, and in future I will not resort to doing other people’s jobs for them! I will delegate their jobs to someone else, and make sure the crew views me solely as the ‘director’.
Like most of my short films, I edited the Inspector entirely by myself. It takes me a lot of time to edit the films to achieve the effect that I have in my imagination for the final cut. Unfortunately there wasn’t enough B footage for the kitchen scene, but I managed to edit together something with the shots I had.
I found the audio of this film in particular a challenge to edit, and I’m still not entirely satisfied with it – certain points of dialogue are not seamless and I found that very frustrating. Finding the music for the film was also a particular challenge, but a fun one! I wanted to find something that would progressively get more intense as the film went on, and eventually found a score that I could get the rights to. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find a song for the twist ending that was copyright free.
When it comes to art in general, it is difficult to know when your art is completely ‘finished’ and I definitely struggle with that. I think this short film helped me overcome that problem, because I was able to detach myself and move on, and not obsess over it.
I think filmmakers should make entertaining films, and I hope the Inspector achieved this. I made the film for the cinema screen, and I wish I could have seen a live audience’s reaction to it at a film festival, however, the pandemic ended that possibility.
I learned not to take the filmmaking process too seriously. Yes, its important to be organised and vigilant as a director, but it is also important to be comfortable enough to try new things on the day, and see what kind of discoveries you can make with your cast and crew.