ONUS PRE-PRODUCTION: LOCATION
Through this series I’ll be discussing the process of making ONUS, from writing, pre-production, production and post-production. I’ll be touching on the hurdles we’ve had to overcome and the general experiences making this film.
Finding the locations for ONUS was really tricky. Which is ironic, given it was written to be easy to shoot. At least, that was the original intention, anyway. But the more we started looking into it the more we came to realise that, actually, it wasn’t going to be easy at all.
Firstly, the bulk of the film takes place at the Redferne family’s country manor, away from civilisation. The kind of manor house we get in Britain that’s hidden away in the countryside, difficult to find and even more difficult to escape from. The original idea when we were looking at the script was that, when compared to Follow the Crows which had dozens of locations and was set entirely outside, setting the film predominantly in one location, inside, would make for a far easier experience.
When shooting Follow the Crows we had to contend with wind, rain, being under a fight path, the sounds of traffic, the general public, animals and all other sorts of things. With ONUS the plan was, at least at first, the by setting it in one location and inside, that we’d remove a lot of those variables from the equation.
Turns out this brings a whole host of different issues.
Firstly, and perhaps most obviously, you’ve got to actually find the location. To be fair, we knew this was going to be a struggle from the start. We knew we were likely going to have to pay for the use of the kind of location we needed. I hate to relay everything back to Follow the Crows, but it’s as good a reference as any, and with Follow the Crows all the locations were free.
We shot in and around Wiltshire, with a big portion of the film taking place on the Ridgeway, and that meant that so long as we had permission we could just head up there and shoot whatever. It was great, but there was a long of issues (as mentioned above).
With ONUS taking place mostly inside a manor house obviously we needed a manor house. So, we started browsing the web for holiday homes. We decided we could afford the cost of a holiday home for a week or so, and that it could double as a place for the cast and crew to stay, which meant we could shoot more that we perhaps would be able to if we weren’t there.
This part was a lot of fun. There’s something weirdly enjoyable about looking at nice houses. Some of them were too nice, and some of them weren’t nice enough, of course. There was a lot that were just way out of our price range, but there were a few that fit the bill.
The thing was, we weren’t just looking for a non-descript manor house, we were looking for a specific thing. We knew it needed to be grand and impressive, but it also needed to be a little shabby. There are certain elements of the plot that, without giving too much away, call for a very specific thing in the house.
It may sound cliché but I wanted the house act almost as a character in the film. I wanted it to be the giant thing that trapped Anna inside. Homely and warm but somehow cold and uncomfortable. It needed to be an entity in its own right, so finding that was a little difficult.
We started heading out to locations to have a look around and we thought we’d settled on one when a spanner was thrown into the works.
I’m not going to go into detail about that, it doesn’t feel right, but we were left without a location again.
This, in my opinion at least, turned into a blessing. While it was a nightmare at the time, with us struggling in a mad dash to try to find a new location, it took us to a much better place in the end. The location we found as a result of this, the one that we are using in the film, is a hundred times better than the one we had a first.
It really does tick all the boxes, and it’s also incredibly beautiful. I really can’t wait for you guys to see it in the film, it’s such a brilliant place, and really helps sell the concept of the film.