That House is seen from the perspective of a woman walking around her old family home, remembering her past and the dark things that happened there. It’s a twisted story about the relationship of a brother and sister. As always with Ben Gutteridge it’s pretty dark, but unusually it’s not meant to be funny.
Filmed in Hackney, East London the film cost the grand sum of £20 which they spent on coffee and gaffer tape. This was the smallest project Gutteridge has worked on since starting work as a director. It was an experiment so there was no pressure, and it took three short days in filming and a few in post-production. “We were going to make it and if it sucked, just never show it to anyone; but I ended up really liking it.”
As a Writer/Director, Gutteridge has worked on various commercials, TV drama and content and has made three short films, including That House. Originally, he aspired to become an actor until he wrote and directed a play at 17, had an epiphany and realised his true destiny. With big hair and a loud voice, he tends to go off on tangents. He says he is an undiagnosed ADHD and is seemingly quite a character, who apparently laughs himself awake at night sometimes!
The film was inspired by a friend who had just bought a house that hadn’t been touched since the ‘50s, so offered it up as a film location for free. Gutteridge and Phil Sharp (his photographer friend and co-creator) brainstormed the possibilities.
“I had always been interested in the idea of the history of spaces and liked the idea of telling the story of the history of what happened in the rooms (particularly well done in a performance I’d seen of Tom Stoppard’s Arcadia at the National a few years before, which was very different, but still). Phil tells me how this relates to his fascination with Psychogeography, and we start discussing the marks and holes in the wall, and with the idea of a space that is imbued with the life of the people who lived in it, we agreed on that as a jumping-off point.”
Gutteridge went home and, late that night, he woke up and wrote the script (which apparently often happens). “It stemmed from my feelings of the different rooms in the house, and particularly the marks and holes in the walls. Gradually, a story started to emerge of this woman walking around her old family home, remembering her past and the dark things that happened there.”
A couple of days later, they rocked up at the house with a Canon 5D, ready for what they thought would be a couple of hours of mucking around. “On any normal shoot we could have shot this simple film extremely quickly. However, because all we had was a 5D, a smoke machine and a clothes horse that we were using for tracking shots, it ended up taking us a few days longer than we thought.”
“I have always written poems and I’ve always wanted to do a series of Video Poems - This is one.” They aimed to spark a feeling from each room, and to tell the dark story in an abstract, emotional way. “At first you don’t know what you’re watching but then as the film starts to wash over you and you begin to feel the dark swelling underneath [best watched with headphones, advises Gutteridge], you begin to glean pieces of information; much like a memory, as if we are dipping into the narrator’s memory of growing up in the house. I have always loved fairytales, dark twisted stories and the work of people like Angela Carter, David Lynch etc. where dark/sexy things happen that are based in reality but induced by the imaginary/subconscious.”
The narrator, Valene Kane, is a successful actress (The Fall, Star Wars Rogue One) and dear friend of Gutteridge. It was her house they filmed in, with Benjamin Stefanski’s (aka Raffertie) talent as composer. She got stuck right into the voiceover, committing completely, regardless of how small their project was. “She totally got what we were trying to do.”
Gutteridge’s ‘thing’ is secrets. “I love ideas that explore obsession, sex, love, voyeurism, pressure, status, power; ideas that usually have a twisted smile and heart and that most of all, are suspenseful.”
Thriving at the hub of being director, Gutteridge is also content with writing, reading, or staring out of windows and thinking. “I would say that, professionally, I only started believing in myself as a writer a few years ago. I adapted a story by one of my favourite writers, Hanif Kureishi CBE and he liked my take on it (and subsequently, as did Working Title Films), which consequently gave me the confidence to throw myself headfirst into writing and I haven’t looked back since.”
Gutteridge is currently in pre-production with his script that won the Shore Scripts Short Fund 2017 called The Naked Man, which is based on his feature script, that he plans to make next.
CAST: Valene Kane CO-CREATORS: Ben Gutteridge and Phil Sharp