by Bri Castellini
In November 2016, after a conversation I can’t fully recall, my friend Colin Hinckley and I decided to write a horror short film together. He’d just finished a stint as Carl in season 2 of Brains and as Kevin in Ace and Anxious and we knew we enjoyed working together and that we were both writers. He was a big fan of horror and I’d been wanting to try my own hand at it, so it was decided: a short film in the horror genre with an idea of our production restrictions in mind as we developed the script.
We knew we wanted to keep the cast small, the location singular, and the horror psychological, and within a month we’d written the first draft of what would become Buy In, following a charming young salesman and a strange, lonely traveler who find themselves locked in a struggle for control over their own destinies.
Colin and I wrote and produced the script together, with him starring as Roger (the “strange, lonely traveler”) and me directing. This is my thank you blog to everyone involved in making our most involved project to date come to life.
First, to Colin, my co-writer and fellow executive producer. I could not have asked for a better partner in this absolutely insane endeavor. We’re the perfect balance, you clear-headed and genre smart, me insane and hyper paranoid. I’ve learned so much from working with you this past year, about writing, about horror, and about teamwork, and I can’t wait to show the world the amazing thing we made together.
This project straight up would not even be a spark in my brain without you, let alone this phenomenal series of clips in my hard drive. Plus, as an actor, you know I love working with you. Your ability to go from sweet to sinister in a millisecond is both impressive and terrifying.
Next, to my ever-patient DP Brandon Smalls, who has been my DP in every directing endeavor I’ve attempted. Your eye for frame and your ability to communicate camera ideas to me in spite of my complete ignorance about terminology is truly next level. Your job is hard enough, with how physically demanding hoisting that massive camera rig can be, and yet you’re always quick with a smile and a joke to diffuse the pain and general stresses of being on set. You make my vague visions into something concrete and beautiful, and our first dramatic project together is going to look great almost entirely because of you.
Tai Collins is a sound magician, and a major contributor to our wrapping production so early in 2018. You pushed us to make this project in this timeline, and I’m glad you did, because holy crap it looks and sounds awesome. Thank you for somehow holding that massive boom pole steady, helping us gaff and grip that tiny, insane hotel room, and literally always having a solution when our wheels are spinning out of control. Even though I had very little to do with it, I’m really honored to have been your first film set as a sound technician (on Ace and Anxious) and I’m so glad we got to work together again.
Marshall Taylor Thurman, I don’t think I’ll ever be done saying nice things about you. You’re one of the most captivating actors to watch, and I can’t believe this is my third time having the honor to direct one of your performances. One of my favorite things about working with you is how you challenge me- you don’t just let me say things, you ask questions, and force me to justify my tweaks as they integrate with your character’s overall motivations. I can’t get away with being lazy around you, and your attention to character detail makes me a better director. Thank you.
Mae Mitchell and I didn’t meet until our first Buy In table read, but I’d seen her in a play a few weeks prior and fell immediately in love. It’s no secret I have a tendency to craft a very particular kind of female character, and Mae captures that sensibility perfectly. Not only were you perfect in your part, Mae, but you were an absolute joy to work with. You were always able to tweak performance and blocking to fit the needs of the film without missing a beat, and without losing the core of your character’s needs and motivations. You also don’t take anyone’s shit, which worked on a performance level and a general level, due to our kind of bro-y set. This was the first time we’ve gotten to work together, but I sincerely hope it won’t be the last.
Tai e-introduced me to Kelly Robinson, because we knew we needed a gaffer (lighting person) for our first dramatic project, especially since it was horror and horror has very particular lighting needs. Kelly was only on set on Friday, to help us test and set the looks we’d use the rest of the weekend, and her help was absolutely invaluable. Lighting is one of those things that seems like it’d be simple- point lights at actor, film scene, done- but it never, ever is.
With Kelly’s help, we managed to make a tiny, weird hotel room into a perfect, dramatic staging area, letting the light play off the characters in subtle and visually fascinating ways, making it almost a fourth character. Plus, I’ve never seen someone on any of our sets pin up a blackout curtain so effectively and efficiently. Ours always fall down at least five or six times a day, and yours fell only once, after staying up for 36 hours straight. Are you a sorcerer?? We’ll revisit that later, because I hope our professional and artistic paths cross again soon.
A few shout outs are definitely in order for Aidan Wallace, Jonathan Kaplan, and Garrett Brown, who each donated a bit of money to help offset some of the costs of production (in this case, tape, snacks, and extension cords). You three, all from different parts of my life, are some of my most supportive artistic champions, and I love you all.
Finally, thank you to Quinn Ramsay, my partner, who let me mooch off his office printing privileges to get hard copies of my shot lists and scripts and who made me food after set each night after I collapsed on the couch, to Lauren Wells and Chris Cherry and Rebecca McDonald who all contributed thoughts and love early on in the development of this film, and to Hotel RL in Bed-Stuy, who had no idea we were filming a movie in one of their rooms and whose cleaning crew was weirdly loud sometimes but whose space allowed us to make this little film without completely going broke.
This is my first truly dramatic piece of film, the most challenging project I’ve ever completed, and I honestly can not think of a better way to start 2018. I hope to have something to show you all soon.
Bri Castellini is an indie filmmaker and Community Liaison at Stareable, our favorite web series hub. This article was originally published on Bri’s most excellent blog, the eponymous Bri’sOwnWorld. (Complete with the pics we left out in our oh-so-clever attempt to encourage you to click over to Bri’s world. Oh, and while you’re surfing, watch Bri’s award-winning web series, Brains, HERE