Shant Hamassian’s short film Night of the Slasher is a bona fide winner. Not only have the masses fortunate enough to see the film loved it, it’s also in the running for an Oscar. That’s what you call a homerun. Be it a short film or a feature length, when your picture is being considered for an Oscar, you’ve done something very, very right.
So, we’ve of course got to issue major respect to Hamassian for such an amazing accomplishment. We’ve also got to be a bit repetitive and remind you that Night of the Slasher is legitimately amazing. It’s one of the greatest shorts released in years and the cast and crew behind this treasure deserves an absurd wealth of praise.
If you get the chance to see this movie, make no hesitation – it is rewarding on a very grand scale.
Knowing this, you should probably make the assumption that we were eager to speak to the man whose future looks brighter than a quasar. Fortunately for us, Hamassian was more than happy to share some insight and break down Night of the Slasher!
Horror Freak News: Tell me about the challenges of shooting a film in one take?
Shant Hamassian: Shooting the film in the “one-take” style was quite easy… because it actually isn’t in one take. The film is comprised of 34 separate shots pieced together very carefully like Rope or Birdman. Even though it wasn’t legitimately one take without cuts, people still think this is difficult to achieve because it is as technical as it is an artistic approach. But because of the way my brain works, it wasn’t very challenging for me to figure out how to do the choreography. Instead, it was quite liberating because I didn’t have to do repetitive takes of doing coverage. I really hate coverage and deciding what shots to edit together in post. Choose the most important shots ahead of time and editing will be a breeze.
HFN: How many times did you film that before you knew you had it right?
SH: We had two days of shooting to get everything right. We lost half a day because the camera fell before our very first take, so we had to get everything done in a day and a half. We got our last take 30 seconds before the sun came up lighting up the whole house.
HFN: What made you want to shoot the film in one shot rather than a more traditional approach?
SH: Originally, I was planning on making the short with the traditional approach with wides, mediums, and close ups like any conventional film. When I interviewed a cinematographer who owned his own steady cam and offered to use it, it made me think about how incredible that would be and we wouldn’t need a dolly. And then I started to think about what kind of shots I can create with a steady cam, and started glueing the pieces together from shot-to-shot until I realized I could do it for the entire film, beginning to end! The cinematographer we interviewed decided to not work with us, but the idea of the “one-shot” style stayed. I think the reason he didn’t do the film was because I told him it would be easy to do it in one take, but he expressed heavy doubts about our ambitions and ability to execute the plan. We went on to win 3 Best Cinematography awards.
HFN: Where did the idea for the mask come from?
SH: It just popped into my head. I didn’t consider anything else.
HFN: There are a lot of plot possibilities with this film, any chance of returning to this story and fleshing it out, or creating a sequel or prequel?
SH: The short film is based on a fully fleshed out screenplay I wrote a couple years ago. I made the short film as a “proof-of-concept” in order to get interest for funding the feature film. It was always intended to be a bigger and deeper story. The short film only scratches the surface of what the film is about. You have the premise, but wait until you see the deeper theme of the film.
HFN: I thought Lily Berlina did an excellent job of carrying that story. Tell me a little bit about how you found your leading lady and what it was like working with her.
SH: We originally had a different lead before her. She dropped out of the project two weeks before shooting, leaving us to scramble and find another actress immediately. Lily lit up the room when she entered and my producers pushed me hard to cast her immediately before I had a chance to consider anyone else. You have a great team when they can make decision.
HFN: Any random but memorable stories from the shoot?
SH: There are too many memorable stories to count from the shoot. Most of the crew members would immediately mention the camera falling and breaking before our very first take. We lost half a day of shooting before we found another camera on a Sunday night from a personal RED owner. Also, we had to fight the sun from coming up and one of the challenges was dealing with the home owner’s pug diarrhea pooping all over the floor where we needed to get our shot. We were trapped a house for the rest of the shoot that smelled like dog shit.
HFN: What’s next for you?
SH: That’s a secret 😉