A film which keeps you guessing from beginning to end, Writer/Director Patrick Mason’s Ayuda plays with the concept of blind trust between strangers as a pair of day labourers ponder the contents of a mysterious box they’ve been asked to bury in the woods by their tight-lipped employer. DN invited Patrick to share how his mystery box thriller became a horror and how he got to grips with the subtle art of foreshadowing.

The initial concept for the film wasn’t actually horror. From the beginning, I viewed the film as a suspense film. It was basically what you see in the final film, except I didn’t know what was in the box. I thought the idea of getting into a car with a stranger and having them pay you to do a job while you knew almost nothing about them and they knew nothing about you was really interesting. There’s a certain form of trust that has to be there and if that trust erodes interesting things can happen – I just didn’t know what. I was on a long car ride with my wife and I told her the entire concept leading up to Leo opening the crate and I really didn’t know what was going to be inside so I said the most obvious thing. “There’s a woman in the crate” feeling the beat was missing something I threw out “But she’s a vampire”. She turned to me and to my surprise said I had to make the film.

I wrote an initial draft of the script that was entirely in English which I then sent off to my co-writer Raul Serpas. We were working on another script at the time so it was a pretty natural shift over. We worked together to translate the ideas of my English dialogue to Spanish. From there we put it in front of David LaMorte (Tomas) and Caleb Vasquez (Leo) and really let them make the dialogue their own. The main idea was to make sure that we kept an authenticity to the dialects.

Production was on a really limited budget so it all became a chess game to see what we could and couldn’t achieve and how we could best unfold the story. The initial script had a much longer beginning and ending. It’s something I’d love to go back and tell as I think there’s a lot of interesting ground to be covered before and after the short.

I wanted to make a film that was all about the little details and clues.

We shot over 2.5 days in freezing cold temperatures and super limited sunlight. The film doesn’t look very cold because we weren’t in full winter yet but it was brutal! It’s really a testament to our crew and actors for bringing their A-game despite the weather.

Post production was really just a process of finessing how much we shared with the audience and when. I wanted to make a film that was all about the little details and clues. If you show too much of one you give the game away and if you show too little no one notices. The opening shot is of a crucifix and a wooden stake – I still think most people are surprised by the vampire because we showed it just the right amount.

It’s also a testament to our amazing Production Designer Alli Nielsen – we talked about wanting the film to feel like everything could’ve have been bought at a Home Depot. The ‘coffin’ the 2018 ‘stakes’, etc. were all things you could walk into a Home Depot and grab. I think there’s an element of realism which that brings. So many times vampires are put into creepy old coffins and fended off with massive crucifixes and real life just isn’t that over the top.

Ayuda is one of the many great projects shared with the Directors Notes Programmers through our submissions process. If you’d like to join them submit your film.

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