Plagued by the incessant sounds of a railway station, relentless and a neighbour whose every move could be heard through the paper-thin walls of her tiny flat, writer/director Zara Waldeback’s frustration grew into the script for her short, Ssssh! Ssssh! tells the story of Lawrence, who enters a battle of wills with a world intent on keeping him awake. When he finally snaps and fights back, he’s horrified as even his body turns against him; that is until he discovers a new way of hearing.

Funded by a £6,000 research grant from the London College of Music and Media where Waldeback teaches, Ssssh! took three days to shoot in Digibeta on a purpose-built set. Set designer Tim Dickel and DP Nemone Mercer collaborated with Waldeback on the visuals bouncing ideas around until the look of the single room location was established. With John Donnelly being the sole actor in Ssssh!, Waldeback found herself lying on the floor, bubbling, creaking and squeaking to give Donnelly something to react to, as all sounds were added in post. Waldeback’s previous working relationship with Donnelly helped to facilitate the off kilter approach as both actor and director had an established level of trust in the other’s capabilities.

Editor Keith Wright suggested Ssssh! be cut mute with a guide track added later. This allowed the final days of editing to be devoted to experimenting with the possibilities of using sound as the primary storytelling tool.

After premiering at last year’s Edinburgh Film Festival and screening at various festivals world-wide, Ssssh! has recently been picked up by Britshorts for worldwide distribution.

– Originally published in Showreel, Issue 4 (Summer 2004)

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