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Knight terrors

Posted on May 18, 2022 by Samara Husbands

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Intimidation, violence and menace – all in a day’s work for DOP Vince Knight as he creates the visceral short film, Tea

If you enjoy films that have you perched on the edge of your seat or cowering behind the sofa, you’ll get on famously with Vince Knight. A quick scan of his IMDB profile confirms his professional penchant for the horror genre, with cinematographic exploits including Madness in the Method (method actor slowly loses his mind), Midnight Peepshow (man discovers a darkly magical erotic show) and Override (female AI is hacked, forced to carry out an execution on live TV). Indeed, when we speak to him, he’s in-between night shoots for another nerve-shredder – Wolf Manor. Even his passion projects confront themes that many turn away from. 

“I’ve been a cinematographer since 2010, initially doing mostly commercials and motor sport, but have been pushing towards narrative since 2013, starting with short films, then features,” he tells us. “I’ve now shot 20 feature films, but still love to get involved in a short if the script is right.”

Recently, the script was right for Tea, a 15-minute thriller that grabs you by the throat in the opening 30 seconds and doesn’t relinquish its grip until the credits roll. Set in Bognor Regis, it tells the story of Amelia (Maja Laskowska), a young Polish woman living with her father (Bogdan Kominowski) on a run-down caravan park. There, she’s terrorised by two local youths, Donnie (Jamie Bacon) and Steve (Craige Middleburg). With an uneasy post-Brexit dynamic running through the narrative, Tea sets out to encapsulate the turmoil and internal anger that currently blights our shores. It was, in fact, shot over three intense days that coincided with the UK’s official departure from the EU. 

“I got behind Tea as I really liked the script and director Sam Walker’s vision,” he admits. “I had worked previously with Sam and producer Margit Sauk on a fashion film for Rankin, so they reached out to me.”

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You can run, but you can’t hide Chase scenes are integral to Tea’s narrative and intensity – proving quite the challenge for Knight and the crew

Thrill of the chase

“I wanted to achieve a very rough and raw style that matched Amelia’s emotions,” he continues. “The majority of the film is handheld and lit naturally, which works for both the bleakness of the seaside town and the beautiful nature. Bognor Regis is the perfect setting: a typical British seaside resort of former glory, now empty during the off season.”

Working handheld in natural lighting presented a host of challenges, not least when capturing the film’s action sequences. Amelia is chased on multiple occasions, and Knight felt compelled to get these sequences perfect, to help underline the overall tone: “The opening chase sequence needed an extreme sense of urgency – these guys are really out to get her. It’s all handheld, either with me running, or shooting out the back of a car.

“The final chase on the beach was filmed at high speed with a gimbal out the back of a truck, as I needed the actors to be truly sprinting full speed,” Knight continues. “It was a really technical shot to achieve, with Amelia and Donnie sprinting into view from the side, Donnie falling out of frame at the right moment, and then both the camera and Amelia slowing down to a complete stop – while maintaining the same distance.”

Tea was shot using a Red Helium with vintage Canon K35 lenses, alongside a basic lighting package that was made essential due to a very modest camera and lighting crew: just camera assistant Matt Rakstins, gaffer Arif Nadeem and gimbal op Brendan Monteiro. For Knight, that’s ideal: “I’m a big fan of small, intimate set-ups and staying involved in the action and emotions,” he admits. “I like to light a space and give the actors freedom to do what they want – whatever feels right for the scene, without limiting them.”

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Nurturing talent Short films have long been crucial for supporting and growing skilled practitioners – both in front of and behind the camera. Tea includes standout performances from its quartet of actors

Going the extra mile

When it comes to supplying kit, Knight has consistently used CVP, knowing that they’ll help him get the results he needs: “CVP will always go the extra mile, ensuring the products I have are right, and I know I can get in touch whenever I need to resolve any issues. It is far more than just an equipment dealer, the services it provides – such as product aftercare, technical advice and repairs – really help to keep productions running smoothly,” he says.

“I’ve used CVP to supply a lot of my camera accessories, as well as lighting and grip bits. Shooting for Tea went without a hitch, although my card reader was showing signs of being dodgy towards the end of production, but thankfully CVP was able to supply a replacement quickly.”

Tea has enjoyed real success on the festival circuit, with a premiere at the Bafta-qualifying Aesthetica Short Film Festival the highlight of its accolades so far. While the horror genre often leaves little to the viewer’s imagination, in Tea the audience is spared the graphically obvious, with a climactic denouement merely suggesting the character’s fate: “Sam opted to only hint at it, with a couple of flashbacks showing close-ups,” Knight confirms. “What you don’t see is more powerful.”

Originally published in the June 2022 edition of Definition Magazine.

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