Imagination is usually seen as something positive. But can there be too much of a good thing? That’s the question Australian filmmaker Melissa Brattoni explores in her prize-winning film “In My Mind.” As she did in “Meshes of an Autumn Afternoon,” the filmmaker plays the starring role, which earned her a “Best Actress” nomination at the Alternative Film Festival 2017.
In just under four minutes, Brattoni incorporates half a dozen classic thriller elements: starting with normalcy (TV + popcorn), incongruity (sitting in a tub without water), nervous eye movement, spooky music, a nightmarish montage, and the moment of relief before doom. The quick cutting leading to the climax is worth several viewings.
In the following interview, Brattoni talks about her journey as a filmmaker while also discussing the making of “In My Mind.”
MMM: How did you develop your moviemaking skills
Brattoni: In My Mind” is my second smartphone film. My skills for undertaking these projects came from a combination of things. First, there’s my love for film watching, something I’ve done throughout most of my life but more seriously in the past few years. A screenwriting unit during studying my Media and Communications degree taught me the correct formatting for writing screenplays. Also during this degree program there was a Visual Storytelling unit, which went through the basics of framing the image you’re shooting. Undergoing acting training and learning about the industry in general and continuing with a course regarding self-taping for acting auditions. The rest was made up of ideas I wanted to play around with and formulate within a short film. So basically it was all experimentation built upon some base industry knowledge.
MMM: What led to the idea for “In My Mind?”
Brattoni: The story is loosely based off a childhood experience of mine. After watching horror films at a young age, I would then proceed to go back to my room and have a fear for all that wasn’t there. I would imagine all sorts of terrifying things lurking in the darkness waiting for me to come closer to them, but of course they never revealed themselves. It was all in my mind.
MMM: What led to your shooting the movie with an iPhone rather than a traditional camera?
Brattoni: For starters I don’t know how to use traditional filming cameras. I do have access to a DSLR, which I could use at any time, but I chose to use my phone. Shooting on my iPhone 6 enabled me to shoot on the go, whenever I wanted. There were numerous occasions where I’d be in a place that seemed to suit what I wanted to capture and so I would record footage on the fly. Much of the footage captured during the black and white sequence was filmed over a couple of years at very random intervals. Like driving along a dark winding road, walking through dense bushland and lightning during a thunderstorm. I knew all these visuals would be used with my main idea. The overarching story was planned and shot like you would any normal film. I wanted to continue the theme of my previous film also shot on a smartphone, and I wanted to use the same medium again.
MMM: Did you use any special gear during the production?
Brattoni: All the footage recorded was done using the normal video recording option. No extra apps or any sort of assisting phone software was used during the filming process. The footage was alternated between hand held and on a stationary tripod, which held the phone in place with a tripod mount. The film was edited with Adobe Premiere.
MMM: What challenges did you encounter while making “In My Mind”?
Brattoni: The main issue was not having the technical know how for the post production phase. I enlisted my creative partner from my first film—Michael Koorey—to work on putting it together and giving it the treatment I was after. His biggest challenges were clean up jobs like removing the tripod from the footage in the last scene, which I shot directly into the bathroom mirror.
MMM: You not only wrote and directed “In My Mind,” but you also star in it. Could you discuss what’s involved in directing yourself?
Brattoni: The first thing I think about is; What do I want captured in the frame? I think about the space itself, the objects and then myself or other people. After I know what I want it to look like I set up the area and the phone accordingly. I position myself in the set up and perform the scene. After it has been recorded I would view each take and make adjustments if needed. I had my partner operating the phone set up, but in both this film and my previous there were a couple of occasions where the phone was recording us both in the frame at the same time.
MMM: Is that him playing the Dark Being near the end of the movie?
Brattoni: Yes. And it felt almost like setting up a group photo with a countdown timer. When working with other people it’s important to be able to communicate your ideas clearly so they can understand your vision.
MMM: What advice do you have for people just starting out as mobile moviemakers?
Brattoni: If you have an idea that you want to share through film, then using a smartphone is a great way to make that idea come to life. Planning is a large aspect. Knowing what you want to film will save you a lot of time. There’s a lot of resources online to help out with the various aspects of smartphone filmmaking and smartphone film festivals to provide a platform to show your work to an audience, which is a really cool experience! There is a growing community of smartphone filmmakers out there and it’s great to see the work people create with an everyday item such as your smartphone. It’s one of the best things I ever did!
MMM: What’s the best way for readers to follow your work?
“In My Mind” was chosen as a “Mobile Movie of the Week” by the editors of MobileMovieMaking.com