All Hallow Tide is a supernatural comedy from award-winning director Tia Salisbury, starring actor Ewan Black as Dan Wilson. An irresponsible young rugby fan is taught a lesson in responsibility by his unusual housemate during the course of the evening. Animator turned film writer/director Tia Salisbury gets talking about her first proper short film currently doing the rounds on the festival circuit, how she reacted when she didn’t get iShorts funding, and why she turned her back on animation.
Salisbury’s inspiration for All Hallow Tide started when she had gone for funding, and at the final interview stage didn’t make it to the money: being the second year running, it was a real disappointment. “I had about £1,500 of my own money (which came from commercial film jobs) so decided to make something in my house, something to shoot in the evenings so I had the free time. At the same time my daughter Bella was diagnosed with coeliac disease so she was very pale. This inspired me to write a short tale about a girl in a haunted house." Feeling very inspired, she wrote the film in 4-5 weeks.
The film was funded by Salisbury herself (so she did the directing and managed all the production) and paid a small amount to the key roles to acknowledge their efforts. The Director of Photography is a friend who exchanges their services on each others' projects. The people she did use were all professionals for sound, editing and acting, but saved money by shooting in her house, doing the catering and make-up. Her editor Erline O’Donovan had worked on a lot of feature films as an assistant editor, and is also a filmmaker in her own right, bringing a great deal to the film: she’d worked on The Woman in Black, The Legend of Tarzan, Ex Machina, and Kick-Ass 2. Salisbury loved working with her: “I would always try and work with a good editor.”
The most challenging aspect of the film was that it was her first full short! “I hadn’t made anything of that length before. I had done music videos, a 90-second narrative piece, but it was vastly more complicated in terms of scheduling, technically, timing-keeping and working with a child (working with my own child!): it was a huge learning curve. On a positive note, coming out of having done it, I made so many mistakes. It was such a painful learning curve that I will never have to do a lot of that again, but it is a really good thing to do because it’s a brutal exercise in filmmaking. You just have to jump off the cliff and know that you are going to have to learn a lot in the process. But you should never have to re-learn that, some of those mistakes will be forever etched in your brain matter. I hadn’t fully prepared myself as to how difficult it would be to make it.”
Working with children in general can be challenging, and they could only work with Bella for a couple of hours each night as her attention span was really limited. “There was one night when we had to use two other local girls and we did about 22 takes! All they had to do was walk across the drive and wait. It was like a throwaway scene but it was by far the hardest thing to shoot. So I learnt that with children the less you direct them, and the less times you do it, the better. Know what you want and try and orchestrate it on the first or second take – otherwise it’s just diminishing returns from there on in.”
All Hallow Tide got into the BAFTA-qualifying festivals Aesthetica Film Festival and Encounters Film Festival among many others. It’s done very well in America, getting into about nine festivals there. This tells us something about the market in the U.S.: American festival-goers quite like quirky British films!
“I’ve just shot a film on my iphone in my house that got into the local comedy festival, which is going to be shown at BFI Southbank; it’s about my cat becoming murderous!” Anyone can make great films now with their phones and it‘s really exciting: it’s a game-changer for all those aspiring filmmakers with great ideas but no money to splash around.
The Salisbury plan? “To make more short films...build on my voice, get better as a writer. Two years ago I would have said a feature film but there’s so much interesting stuff with TV and online. Now I’m writing and making a web series, to get more content out, and get better.” She’s also writing a horror feature at the moment and just trying to make it authentically British and grounded, something real to here.