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On the sets of DRUDGE by Kheireddine El-Helou

I thoroughly enjoyed watching Drudge because the short has a new Big Bad whocould go on to terrorise millions when he pops up on movie screens worldwide. The storytelling followed the traditional arc of a “hot girl alone at home” but the filmmaker did enough cool things with his runtime to make this a character I would like to see again.

If you haven’t seen Drudge yet–why not?!–you can watch it below and read my interview with Kheireddine El-Helou, the director, immediately after.
NOTE: We discuss elements from the film in the interview so it would really be a good idea to watch the film before you read on.

How did the idea for Drudge come about?
I created Drudge as my personal Frankenstein. The character was inspired by elements of my favorite villains and superheroes with the goal of creating the ultimate slasher.

What is your process when you’re writing a horror film: do you plot it out as a series of beats, are you more story-driven, or was it always your intention to just try and design a new cool Bogeyman? 
With the Drudge short, the script was designed to tease the Drudge character and get people excited. But the process when typically writing is to dive deep into the characters and try to envision what they would naturally do or say in the given scenario. I’ll typically already have a series of intriguing or cool plots points that I want to happen, but the real art is in making the characters genuine and palpable on screen.

How long did it take to design the look of Drudge?
Creating Drudge first began with a series of sketches. I then began construction with no previous experience in metal crafting or mask design. It was really a trial and error phase where I had to learn a lot through mistakes and slowly get better. It took me about 2 months to finish Drudge’s mechanical arm, mask, and costume.

Does Drudge’s gauntlet actually work as advertised, or was that movie magic?
It works! It actually has a lot of practical moving parts that aren’t featured in the film but the goal was to make Drudge’s arm both look and feel very real. Our only large visual effect is the spear that transforms into a claw, but even those were real elements;. [We] built metal models and shot them on green screen.

Whose idea was it to put those fins on the nails? 
That was my idea. I tried to make all of Drudge’s arsenal look as unique and custom-made as possible. Also, I thought it would look vicious to have fins on the nails because if you were hit, not only would it pierce through you, but the fins would cut and shred as it travels. A little sick when you think about it, but I really wanted Drudge to be as ruthless and bad-ass as possible.

That hydraulic hiss and steam release, super cool touch. Was that CGI or does the device actually do that?
The steam effect was all practical. We did bump the hiss with post sound design but the arm does shoot carbon dioxide.

This is one of those elite horror shorts in which the acting is as good as the scares and the effects work. How did you go about casting your actors?
All the actors were auditioned. The casting process is definitely one of my favorite parts going into a project. It’s a chance to finally see your characters brought to life through fresh eyes and we got very lucky.

How long did it take to get this movie to look as good as it does?
The house was shot in 3 days, then we spent half a day shooting the opening montage and some visual effect elements. For post production we spent maybe 4 months.

I notice you had two other people on the edit team, apart from yourself. According to IMDB, you’ve had experience on the edit teams of some major movies, so why did you decide to let someone else edit your film? 
Sean and Anthony were also producers on Drudge and they too come from an editing background: in cutting movie trailers. The idea was to let them take a first crack and see their vision for the material. Going into production I already had the film edited in my head, so to have the fresh point of view was a huge help. After their first cut we had an editing project we would bounce back and fourth to finish.

Would you define this as a low (or ‘no’) budget effort, or would you say that you were well-funded enough to be able to achieve the look and feel you wanted for your directorial debut? 
I think the short did its job as a teaser and in no way was this a big budget project. With the low budget formula it forced us to get creative with our Drudge attack and I think it worked out great.

How has the industry reacted to the film? Are you getting any studio calls yet?
Haven’t gotten large studio calls but have been able to meet a lot of great producers and production companies that I’m currently collaborating with on other projects. We premiered Drudge at a number of festivals and the overall reaction from the industry and audiences has been nothing but positive. There’s a large demand for original ideas in the horror genre and I think Drudge piqued the interest of a lot of people.

How close are you to making Drudge the feature film?
There is a Drudge feature script making the rounds and there is a lot of interest. I am pretty certain a Drudge feature will be made one day. Whether it’s my next project or in a couple years from now I’m not certain, but the goal is to make sure I can properly bring the story to life and deliver a thrilling ride.

Is there a tip or trick you’d like to share about making an effective horror short?
I’m a huge horror fan, but as a horror fan it’s frustrating when I stumble across a film that has great characters and an interesting plot but is overshadowed by low production value. Every original creation needs the proper stage to shine and I think it’s the role of the filmmakers to make that happen, whether its through optimizing set design, special effects, costumes or anything else.