The average person can hang upside-down by their feet, motionless, for approximately 90 seconds before it gets so painful that they shout for help.
Seemingly useless bits of trivia like this can suddenly become very relevant when shooting a film. Despite the safety equipment, the pressure builds up in your head as your blood flows the wrong way and your joints start to hyperextend. I learned this painful lesson first hand after naively declaring “I'd never ask an actor to do anything I wasn’t prepared to do myself”. It meant that the opening scene of ‘Shift’, where our main character wakes up upside-down, had to be shot in maximum 90-second windows before Ollie, our fearless lead, needed to recover on a mobile platform that allowed him to sit upright. Finding solutions to real-world problems has always been part of the thrill of filmmaking for me, two sides of a coin where storytelling and creativity have to meet practicality. Science-fiction projects tend to be particularly challenging and rewarding in that respect.
We wanted to make a sci-fi film that had a sense of mystery and was open to interpretation. Although I'm likely not brave enough to ever attempt going 'full Lynch' with a narrative, we wanted to pose some questions and leave the audience to connect a few of the dots themselves. Just a 'pinch of Lynch'.
One idea I'd like to point out though is how we often react when we see a bad photo of ourselves. We recognise it, but at the same time emotionally distance ourselves from it and question its accuracy. We might think that the facial expression we are pulling has never happened before or that the lighting made us look unusual. Vanity takes over and if we have a choice this photo will almost certainly be deleted. It’s a funny duality of both recognising ourselves and yet not acknowledging it as a faithful representation. Our main character has this very experience.
‘Shift’ was a very rewarding shoot and I feel incredibly fortunate to have worked with a dedicated and talented cast and crew who were all on the same page and knew exactly what film we were making. I hope the film finds an audience who enjoy it and love science-fiction as much as we do.
Finally, I have to give credit to Ollie again for whom this was our first project together and who put his faith in our team of filmmakers in what really was a baptism by fire. Hanging upside-down by your feet, motionless, really does feel awful.