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I recently had the opportunity to interview Clara Gallagher, a teenager whose short film ‘A Wolf at the Door’ took home a Best Cinematography award in the Rod Serling Video Festival earlier this year.

a-wolf-at-the-door-clara-gallagher-2‘A Wolf at the Door’ is the sort of film that stays with you, thanks to its creative use of music, color, lighting and stark winter background. Read on for Clara’s thoughts on all that and more.

Why did you decide to use Little Red Riding Hood as your theme?

I have always been entranced and intrigued by fairy tales (how they came to be and their moral and ethical dilemmas), but this one seemed like one you could “mess” with the most — I really wanted to tweak it to put my own spin on it.

I love the stark winter background with the falling snow against her red cape and outfit. Did you wait for a snowy day to film, or did it just work out that way?

Luckily, it just turned out that way. I knew I wanted some deep contrast, so I was going to make everything in it black and white, with red as the only color showing. However, while editing, I noticed that it wasn’t necessary to do so because it was already so contrasting.

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What can we surmise from the ending? I just want to come out and ask you – What’s it all mean?! Did the stranger kill Red?! Why did he or she leave her cape on the doorstep?

Originally, there was dialogue I had written that was exchanged between Little Red Riding Hood and the Stranger which explained a lot of things. However, while editing, I thought it would have a better dramatic effect if there was no dialogue and it was simply left up to the viewer’s interpretation.

When I wrote it, I had a vision of a girl just going to grandmother’s house and bumping into a stranger along the way. They exchange pleasantries and go on their merry ways. While walking, it is starting to get dark and Little Red Riding Hood decides to take a shortcut through the woods. All is well until she starts hearing things and gets more and more scared until she finally loses it and starts running.

Suddenly, in the distance she sees a figure, so she stops with fear. She, now frozen with fear, tries to figure out who this person might be. When she realizes it is the stranger who she exchanged pleasantries with earlier, she runs to safety … or so she thought. It turns out that the stranger, who was following her the whole time, had devised this whole plan to lure the child into her grasp! The end shot is supposed to be her grandmother’s house and the stranger leaving the only thing left of Little Red Riding Hood on the doorstep.

Love the music, and it fits perfectly. Can you name the specific song titles and why you chose them?

I have always loved Radiohead — I view their music as very powerful and awe-inspiring stuff. At first, when I was dreaming this idea up, I had just seen the music video for their song ‘A Wolf at the Door,’ after which this movie is named, and it had images of wolves treating humans like pets and putting them in cages. So, of course, I was going to use this song as the song in the background.

However, I couldn’t get it to feel right in my head, so I changed it to another Radiohead song, ‘All I Need.’ Actually, while filming the footsteps, I had the beat in my head and I would count off the steps, further linking the audio with the video.

For the ending credits, I was looking for a song that kept the same intensity as ‘All I Need’; however, I was in the shower when I heard the Jack Johnson song and it clicked for me right away. The song is called ‘The News,’ and it talks about all of the sad things you hear on the news and how no one seems to care anymore because bad things happen all of the time.

It would have worked perfectly with an alternate ending I had dreamed up in which, instead of putting the cape on the grandmother’s steps, the stranger was sitting at the table for breakfast and poured milk into a bowl of cereal and, while doing this, notices that there is one of those missing person photos on the milk carton.

It was Little Red Riding Hood. So, the stranger looks at it for a minute, then smiles and looks up at the camera.

Your cinematography is really top notch – from the shot of the road at the beginning, the walking feet, and panicked Red running down the snowy road and meeting the stranger/wolf. How much time went into the process from the beginning idea to the finished film?

Well, I storyboarded it, however, ideas pop into my head all the time, so we didn’t follow that at all. I think we shot for four hours and we had to keep going inside because Anna Forsythe, the girl who played Little Red Riding Hood, was freezing to death. I edited it a lot, because, while shooting, Anna couldn’t keep a straight face, so I will have three seconds of good footage and then her laughing.

Also, I edit the music a lot in my films, so I spent a lot of time editing that song to make it fit the video. For my video production class, everyone had to edit their own version, so it was interesting to see what people did in terms of using dialogue, after effects, songs in the background, and even the title of the piece.

And my film buffs will want to know what camera equipment you used.

For filming purposes, we used a Panasonic 3CCD, which was supplied to us by the school. We also attempted to use a microphone, however, after shooting, we realized that we plugged it into the headphone jack — in my defense, I wasn’t the one who plugged it in.

We had two of those cameras and one tripod, so we always had someone holding one while we shot. Heidi Stairs and Kelsey Foote, who helped with shooting the film, would actually volunteer to go climb trees and go through knee-deep snow to get the shots they wanted. So, pretty much everyone used the equipment, because it was a class project and everyone had to be involved, so I can’t take all the credit here.

‘A Wolf at the Door’ by Clara Gallagher:

Images: Clara Gallagher

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