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Green Light in the City

Dead Quiet is a New Short Film That’s a Different Viewing Experience Because of Lockdown

6 March 21 words: Jamie Morris

Screen section co-editor Jamie Morris talks to filmmaker Alex Withers about how the pandemic has changed the way people will experience Dead Quiet, his new short film...

An unpredictable, microscopic threat is lurking our streets, and national lockdowns are now a regular occurrence. Life truly has become stranger than fiction. Our uncanny new reality becomes that much more unbelievable when you look at the almost prophetic pieces of popular culture that preceded the pandemic, such as 1995’s Outbreak and 2011’s Contagion. Nottingham-based filmmaker Alex Withers is among the latest to contribute to the canon of unintentional Covid parallels, with a brand new short film that explores the consequences of a world where interpersonal communication has been taken away. 

Alex Withers’ work on Dead Quiet dates back to 2015, when screenwriter Dan McGrath shared with the director a script about a world where even the slightest noise attracts an unseen predator that’s constantly listening out for new prey. “Obviously, we could never have anticipated that something like this would ever be happening,” Alex says. “But now that we’re living under COVID-19 lockdowns, it’s interesting to see the film in a new light. It brings it a little bit closer to home, in a way.”

Dead Quiet’s story unfolds close to home in a literal sense, too. Each scene in the film was shot in and around Nottingham, with familiar sights including Coco Tang, Radford’s Studio Factory and the disused Bennerley Viaduct, where the protagonist’s caravan is pitched. “Our location manager Dan Hodgett is another Nottingham guy and it’s really close to where he grew up,” Alex explains. "Originally, we were going to put the caravan on a bit of disused land in the city, but the viaduct was really cool and we had to go with it when we saw it.”

It was a really great experience working with the local talent and I think it shows you can make good work without having to leave the Midlands

The film’s cast and crew are also mostly from the local area. “A lot of us have worked together before,” said the director. “It was a really great experience working with the local talent and I think it shows you can make good work without having to leave the Midlands.” These local connections are important to Alex, who says that finding like-minded collaborators is the key to developing your own embryonic ideas into something more fully-formed.

Dead Quiet is already a success, having been screened at both Nottingham’s own Mayhem Film Festival in 2019, and later the online edition of the Sacramento Horror Film Festival in 2020. “We actually noticed a few of the same films that were at Mayhem screened alongside us at Sacramento as well,” Alex recalls. “It’s obviously different not having the audience reaction right in front of you, but it was really nice to have another opportunity to get it seen elsewhere.”

“There’s positives and negatives to the ways things are at the moment, in terms of there being a lot more of an online presence for films,” he continues. With sound being the crux of the film’s storytelling, the crew had their concerns about whether audiences watching at home would get the full experience, and Alex urges viewers to turn their volume up before watching. “Dead Quiet was certainly designed primarily for the cinema. Its sound design is created to be loud and to surround the audience to pull you into the world.”

Over lockdown, Alex has been looking towards the future and dedicating his time to developing ideas for a number of different upcoming short films: “There’s some that I’m writing myself and some that I’ve got an outline to work with other writers to develop, but just in general I’m trying to use the time that we’ve got at the moment to balance a bunch of projects that’ll be ready to go as soon as it’s possible.”

Dead Quiet is available to watch now on Vimeo
Dead Quiet Facebook page

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