“Vile Affection” was in pretty much every way an experiment. It was created for an advanced Producing and Directing class at Ball State University entitled “Hands Across McKinley” in the summer of 2005. This class incorporated students from disciplines such as Acting, Writing, Video and Audio Production and brought them together to make numerous short films throughout the semester. This project was the only one of the semester shot entirely in HD as the reward for a previous project, “Goodwill,” receiving the highest grade in the class.
“Vile Affection” is based off of a brutally violent script entitled “Playing God” in which the protagonist has a “god-complex” leading him to stalk and in the end kill his victim by crucifying him to a wooden floor. I chose to work with this script because it was drastically different from any of the other selections and posed an entirely new set of challenges for the actors and myself.
The first challenge in the production of “Vile Affection” was to modify the script to make it more appealing to a college aged audience and allow for a greater connection with the main characters. The protagonist remained a confused, disturbed, schizophrenic whose actions eventually lead him to become violent and the “god-complex” was replaced with confusion over his sexual orientation. Whether or not this was all medically sound was irrelevant to the story because it gave the protagonist the needed internal struggle that leads him to become violent not only towards his initial victim but the victim’s girlfriend as well. This helped the story reach its intended audience but also became the next big challenge.
Although the script was modified, the violence was kept along with the addition of another violent scene ending with a sexual assault. We were warned early in the process by professors that film violence should not be taken lightly especially when it involves novice actors and directors. Thus, the proper steps were taken to choreograph the action with the help of a Ball State University professor, Darrel Rushton, who specialized in theater violence. Not only was the physical safety of the actors a high priority but also their mental well-being; especially surrounding the sexual assault. Both Sarah Haworth and Zack Florent were terrific in the planning, choreography and execution of this scene and even more importantly, understanding after the initial footage was taped over and the scene had to be re-shot. Which was completely my own fault.
The third major challenge was taking advantage of the technology that I was able to use for this project. Shooting the entire project in HD on a camera that no one was familiar with was a big challenge and would not have been possible without all of the help from my Director of Photography, Krystal Rizzo. She spent a lot of extra time acquainting herself with the camera so that we had one less thing to worry about while on set. Additionally, we were granted access to a Steadicam for two scenes of the film but no one was able to overcome the steep learning curve to proficiency. So our professor, Tim Pollard, stepped in to help us get exactly what I wanted.
The finished project was premiered to a large group of students along with other selections from the class at the newly constructed Sursa Hall on campus.