Behind the Scenes of Little Evil with Alex Campbell

October 31, 2017

Alex Campbell on monster truck

Alex poses with a monster truck used for a stunt in Little Evil. Photo courtesy of Alex Campbell. 

Filmmaker Alex Campbell has developed an impressive international career that spans film, television, commercials, theater, and photography. Based in London, the young writer and director was awarded the inaugural Sundance Ignite fellowship after his film Journey Home won the Sundance Ignite “What’s Next” challenge in 2016. Alex’s most recent short film HUSH premiered at the British Film Institute and has since gone on to win awards at film festivals in North Africa and Europe. His films Journey Home, The Trench, and HUSH have also been screened at a number of prestigious International Festivals around the world, including the Africa International Film Festival, the Encounters Film Festival, and the Aesthetica Film Festival.

Last year, Alex participated in IA&A’s J-1 Exchange Visitor Program and spent five months as a film production trainee on the set of Little Evil, an American horror-comedy film that was recently released on Netflix. In the movie, a recently married man named Gary (played by Adam Scott) wants to bond with his stepson, who seems to be a bit unusual. Soon, Gary begins to fear that the boy might be the anti-Christ and chaos (naturally!) ensues. As a trainee, Alex spent his days with the film’s production team, shadowing the director and learning the in-and-outs of post-production.

To get in the spirit of Halloween, we caught up with Alex to hear more about his experience working on the set of Little Evil and how his exchange helped advance his filmmaking career back in London.

Alex Campbell in front of American flag

Photo courtesy of Alex Campbell. 

What was it like to work on the movie’s set?

I started my traineeship in the film’s “prep week”. During this first week, I had the opportunity to take part in table reads, assist during storyboard review sessions, and sit in on major production meetings between the director, director of photography, and other heads of department. This was a great opportunity to really meet and get to know the crew, and allowed me to get great time shadowing and interacting with key members of the production team as they ran test shoots and made final preparations for the start of the production.

My responsibilities and duties changed and adapted over the duration of the traineeship due to the ever-changing nature of a film production. As we moved into production, I received mentorship on how to make the frame surrounding the main action feel alive and natural for when directing background and extras. I also had the chance to shadow the director and production team during shooting and assist them with day-to-day tasks of all kinds whilst receiving on-the-job training and guidance.

The duration of my traineeship was spent deeply integrated in the Assistant Director’s (AD) department. The AD department works with all members of the production team and was the ideal place to gain an overview of the entire production as they work and liaise daily with the camera, lighting, grip, electric, hair, and makeup departments. There is never a dull day on set, with so many locations and set ups, from monster truck stunts to household interiors. Every day was energetic and different with each posing its own challenges and rewards!

Alex Campbell with crew

Alex with other members of the Little Evil crew after filming wrapped. Photo courtesy of Alex Campbell. 

How has your on-set production training advanced your career as a filmmaker?

Since my traineeship, I have learnt so much through shadowing and working alongside numerous members of the production team for the entire shoot. The placement has given me a chance to gain an understanding of the style and process of the key creatives involved in bringing Little Evil to life. From their techniques and craft, to how they shoot a scene, and to an insight into how Eli, the film’s director, directs actors and his crew to achieve his vision.

I felt as though I had undertaken a complete crash course in the rules, rights, and wrongs of making a mid-budget feature and gained a greater understanding of how an independent film is made, both on- and off-set in the United States.

Since returning from the United States, I’ve continued working as a director back in the UK, most recently completing a documentary called Voices of Britain commissioned by the British Film Institute for broadcast by the BBC. I have also recently taken a position in the creative production department at the London School of Fashion where I work directing content for their internal and external clients.

Alex Campbell at Cleveland Indians game

Alex with the director’s assistant Jack Martin and the base camp production assistant Kendra Bates at a Cleveland Indians baseball game. Photo courtesy of Alex Campbell. 

What does cultural exchange mean to you?

Having spent time in Cleveland, OH, and Los Angeles, CA, I’ve experienced different ways of life, different cultures, and the different interests, passions, and work that creatives in America are exploring today. I gained a greater understanding, empathy, and interest in the American film and arts culture, along with a set of friends, teachers, and mentors who I hope to spend time with and collaborate with for a very long time to come.

From visiting LACMA and The Broad, to roller skating and big sporting events, to seeing film premieres and being invited into artist’s personal studios, to meeting with filmmakers at the Sundance Film Festival, this opportunity has given me the best insight I could have imagined into the “American Experience” and how that differs from what I grew up with in the UK.

I think the ability to share with those that I met along the way my experiences and perspectives from growing up in the UK, and to hear their stories, is at the heart of what cultural exchange really means to me.

To see more of Alex’s work, check out his website, connect with him on Twitter, or follow him on Instagram! You can also watch the trailer for Little Evil below and stream the movie this Halloween on Netflix.

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