Shivers Down Your Spine – Episode 1: Deadbolt

Merry Christmas everyone! Take a gander at the first episode of our free webseries, Shivers Down Your Spine, and when you’re done, check out my thoughts on the film after the jump.

Deadbolt Credits

  • Director: Mathew Kister
  • Writer: Mathew Kister
  • Story: Mathew Kister
  • Starring: Jenny Chambers, Genevieve Schmidt, and Tina Schmidt
  • Editor: Mathew Kister
  • Sound and Foley: Deejay Scharton
  • Music: Kevin McCloud @ Incompetech and additional audio from

First off, apologies for the two month delay! Deadbolt was supposed to premiere on Halloween (hence the subject matter) but due to a variety of things (a death in the family, European vacations, business, etc.) we were just unable to get it out on our target date. The good news is that now we’ve got a few in the bank, so you’ll be seeing a new episode each month for the foreseeable future (Next Month: Sleep Tight).

But this is my chance to explain a little bit about how Deadbolt came about, the good things about it, and the not so good things.

These Shivers segments, in addition to being fun things for us to do on the weekends, are actually designed to help us learn to be better filmmakers. We’ve made a couple of crappy feature lengths, but one of the main reasons behind doing these shorts is to sort of hone our craft. To find out what works and what doesn’t. Ultimately, to be better and more prepared for the feature length we are starting early next year. Because of this, we’re sort of learning as we go with these and using a lot of brand new gear (cameras, sliders, mics, etc.) that we’ve never had much experience with. So we anticipated, and what you will see as the months go on (we shot all of these out of order), a certain amount of roughness in the finished product.  I’m fine with that.

I was super stoked to shoot this one. So far, this is the only installment of Shivers  that I conceived of myself. I remember coming up with the concept while sitting on my couch one night. My girlfriend is always harassing me to “make sure the deadbolt is locked”. It comes, obviously, from an inherent fear that somebody will get in and do bad things to you. It was one of these nights that I had forgotten to lock the bolt, and the subsequent yelling at I received, that I thought to myself “Huh, wonder what it would be like to be alone and the deadbolt just unlocks itself?” That was a deeply unsettling thought to me and from there I ran with it, eventually coming up with the idea that a ghost is trying to get in. I banged out the script one afternoon while at work and from there, we secured our actress and set about that task at hand.

Originally, the main character was supposed to be a bitch. She was supposed to hate Halloween. In the script, she flips through the channels and laments the fact that all of the channels are showing monster movies and ends up watching a ridiculous melodrama that was intended to be the lost Mirror, rorriM footage that nobody has seen. The ghost was then gonna flip back to a horror show, which would lead into episode two and thus our framing device would be born. Then I rewatched Trick ‘r Treat and realized “Goddamit, that’s what the chick at the beginning is like; a bitch who hates Halloween and gets what’s coming to her”, so I scrapped that. Instead I went with making her sort of sympathetic and funny, who enjoyed monster movies, and who just so happened to have this ghost fuck with her for no reason. It works better, I think. I like that there is no rhyme or reason as to why this ghost kills her. Bad things happen to perfectly pleasant people.

The film itself was done in 10 hours over the course of one night. I storyboarded the entire thing and there were roughly 160 shot setups that we got through. Deejay, Steve, Jenny, and I basically marathoned it in a late night cram session. Other than a few minor alterations, we basically got every thing I had in mind, shot wise. This was the first time we really got to try a slider so we were excited for that. You see a bit of it in this but not much because there’s mic muff in the shots (Did you notice?) and we didn’t quite master the art of  “smoothness” , but I am in love with sliding and look forward to practicing more with it, so look for us to dutch slide the shit out of our feature length next year (Shoots in April).

The shoot went really well for about the first seven hours. We were zipping right along and then we crashed. Not in terms of anything went wrong technically, just that we got super tired and, of course, rushed the ending. This will be my main criticism of all the Shivers shorts I’ve shot so far. We shoot everything in a single night and always end up too drained to really put the focus we need into our endings. Maybe we should shoot the endings first from now on! Other than a few wonky shots here and there, and some pacing issues (gotta figure out the art of holding and extending shots) I’m actually very happy with how Deadbolt turned out. I experimented with different editing styles, doing some stuff that was outside my normal comfort zone. Even putting in some intentional comedy! I do have a bad habit of forcing in shots just because I think they look cool. That can throw the pacing off and it does here in a few spots. But overall I think it looks real good, especially for being shot in one marathon session. I’d say this is probably the best looking thing we’ve done so far. And Deejay did a great job with the foley work and fx. I have never, ever been satisfied with the music in anything I’ve done. I can just never find what I’m looking for. Here is no different. The music is by Kevin McCloud  and the folks at who put up great royalty free public libraries for filmmakers. But ultimately, it’s me trying to pigeonhole music I’m not enamored with into the film. Same thing here. Though I don’t think it’s as bad as I probably fear it is. When these are released on DVD we will have music written by us on them. So for now, the creative commons stuff is placeholder. But if I didn’t do that, you’d never see these shorts, so deal with it 🙂

Like I said, the ending is not what I would have preferred. One major flaw is that you never actually get a sense at the very end that the ghost is getting closer to her on the couch. She looks terrified, but the audience never “sees” her point of view. That will be fixed for the DVD release down the road. There was also a moment where we tried to rig up some papers blowing off of the table to give that ghostly effect. It failed, but that’ll also be added down the road. I also want to cut down a couple of those late reaction shots of Jenny on the couch. They go on longer than they need to. It was around 5 am when we shot the last ghost FX sequences. We were tired and rushed to just get it over with so the whole ghost thing does not come off as cool as I wanted it to. But that’s alright. We’ll redo all those shots for the DVD release. For now, I think it gets the point across and Deejay did a good job of trying to hide our sloppiness as best he could. Anyway, I like this first attempt by us. Gotta tighten up some stuff, but I think we can only get better.

Check back next month for Sleep Tight, a film starring Randy of Drunken Zombie. It’s about a couple guys at a horror convention who get more than they bargained for in the hotel room….

Note: Deadbolt was compressed from its original source file in order for Deejay and I to feasibly e-mail it back and forth to make changes. We’ll upload the original source file at some point.



12 Responses

  1. Thanks, Bryan. Steve and I rushed those shots. I wish it were tightened up a bit more, but it’ll be an easy fix.

  2. Not bad. I actually kinda liked it. The fx were pretty good too. Good job on the ghost sitting on the cushion.
    Let me know if you ever need help.

  3. I like the look of this short, but was distracted by the acting (especially the screaming was unconvincing) and the mediocre music near the end. Nice work with the effect of the ghost sitting on the cushion.

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