The new film Midnighters takes place on New Year’s Eve when a young married couple hits a man with their car. When they try to cover up the accident, the problems of their strained marriage rise to the surface and chaos follows. Before he made this indie thriller, director Julius Ramsay worked on The Walking Dead as an editor and director.
“The episode I directed in Season 4, which is where Daryl and Beth go and burn down the cabin at the end of the episode…” began director Julius Ramsay on the “Creative Principles Podcast.” “We actually did burn down a real building, which is quite rare to get to do on a television show…” Most movies use CGI or burn a small-scale building.
“The flames were so hot that the makeup artist had the actors both wear sunblock, because if they didn’t wear sunblock, they could have actually gotten a suntan from the flames of the building. They were that hot.” In the episode, fans started to think there might be love between Daryl Dixon and Beth Greene.
Unfortunately, Beth didn’t make it much further than this episode. However, her actions did help Daryl grow as a character. This scene was actually a metaphor for the burning of his past. Ramsay later teamed up with brother for a new thriller on IFC.
From The Walking Dead To Midnighters
The inspiration for the film came from a news headline and Danny Boyle’s Shallow Grave. The movie is a “contained film with a limited group of people. But the action is very propulsive. The film is moving forward very quickly the whole time. That’s something we were going for with the pacing of this movie. The look of it is a cool, dark noir look and feel.”
The director said it’s very different to make a movie versus a television show. With The Walking Dead, Outcast (also from Robert Kirkman), and Battlestar Galactica, the characters have already been set up and certain aspects can pay off in the future. With a movie, everything needs to happen in about 90 minutes, which makes it more of a challenge.
“It’s very different because you have to allow an audience to get to know the characters and establish some things about who these people are in a very short period of time,” he said. Plus, you still need to factor in enough time to tell an engaging story that is the movie. A pilot episode is the most comparable to a movie, but it’s still allowed to be open-ended.
Finding A Satisfying Resolution In 90 Minutes
“You have to have a satisfying resolution and you’re not just doing that with one character, you’re doing it with all of the characters,” said the director. “I think you have to be a lot more efficient and a lot more selective.” This means focusing the time available to building characters. Basically, every scene has to count. The movie has to be the origin, premiere, and finale wrapped into one.
“In a TV show, you can just have the characters do things. Then, they can act out the scenes and go on tangents,” he added, “both in their dialogue and their actions.” This is why long-form drama has become so popular. There’s more room to explore the ins and the outs of a character. Not everything needs to be character building, or at least it can be done in a much slower way. But, this is also why some fans complained about the slow-moving Season 7 of The Walking Dead.
The original script for Midnighters revolved around a modest home and a married couple. But while scouting locations, they found a “visually striking house” that could add more to the story. In addition, they also altered the storyline to make the characters live in a bigger house that was more run-down, so there could be a new look for the movie.
This way, simple tools around the house could turn into weapons. “In the inside, we created areas that were under renovation. We thought that it added a cool aesthetic look to the house.” Since the house had a renovated look, it also signified the openness to the outside world and the lack of completion for the characters.
Changing The Story For Real-Life Circumstances
In addition to the look of the house, they also overshot the violence so they could edit extra materials out in post. This way, they made sure they got what they needed but could also judge the level of blood-splatter or painful scenes of the film (surprisingly, this was also done during Glenn’s death from Lucille on TWD). “You want to change the story to take advantage of those realities,” added the writer.
“Go into with your eyes open about how long and how difficult the journey will be,” said the screenwriter. “Everyone says that making independent films is a challenge and it really is… There’s always going to be a lot more work than hands to do it all,” he said for first-time filmmakers. “You won’t be able to control everything.”
In addition, the screenwriter advised for novice filmmakers to set boundaries. They had a handful of ideas at the time but both really enjoyed an idea sparked from a newspaper articles they both coincidentally read years earlier. “We knew that we wanted to have a contained story that would primarily be on one location.”
Most first-time horror stories are shot in a minimal amount of locations with only a handful of actors. The Ramsay brothers wanted to write a movie that satisfied these demands, but they also wanted to write something realistic, unlike a ghost movie or some sort of monster. Instead, they made the people the monsters of the story.
This meant researching other films to see how many characters would work and a few other threads for the film.
What did you think of this trailer for the new film from The Walking Dead director Julius Ramsay and writer Alston Ramsay?