Daniel Wahlen is a freelance filmmaker who loves to travel in search of the world's best stories. This is his blog, where he expresses ideas, shares his creative process, and invites further discussion about film.

Location Scouting

Once a script gets to a point where all major variables (locations, characters, important props) have been determined, then the pre-production phase may begin. (Of course this is assuming funding is in place...) Location scouting is one of my favorite aspects of the filmmaking process because I am able to explore and shape pieces of the real world to create the imaginary space that previously had existed solely in my mind.

Sometimes, you are able to find a location that works just as is. Most of the time, however, it takes a little modification for the location to match what the scene requires. When I imagined the intense scene in the bedroom, I knew I wanted it to be a very high contrast setting and to have a strong warm/cool dynamic.

The picture below is from a location scout for Mr. Williams' bedroom. To see how this window was used in the final film, check out my earlier blogpost on The Writing Process.

The large window in the bedroom that we selected fit what we needed perfectly. With a little rearranging of the room and furnishing it with character-appropriate items, we had Mr. Williams' bedroom.

For the classroom location we wanted to utilize the beautiful natural window light that lined a whole wall of the room. (Are you noticing a pattern here? I love the natural light feel.) To better achieve this, we rotated the orientation of the desks by 90 degrees, thus utilizing the windows as a side keylight. You can get a sneak peek of the classroom in this screenshot from the film.

One of the great things about film is you can create geography that doesn't really exist. In The Hideout, there is a sequence that starts here with Sam (played by Brogan Hall) on the playground, and then we follow him as he heads back into the classroom. The sequence uses three separate locations instead of the one contiguous one because the geography wasn't well suited for what we wanted to do.

One of my favorite locations in the film was the treehouse. The film is named for it after all...I was drawn to it's multi-storied structure and the beautiful setting in the woods. The rope wall on the porch was an especially nice touch.

However, there wasn't a very good way to climb up onto the porch. I had always envisioned a rope ladder, and after looking at options online we found that it was vastly more cost effective to build our own, so that's what we did.

The trapdoor opening to the top part of the treehouse is one of my favorite features of the location. By now you should be familiar with my enthusiasm for windows, and so in order to fully appreciate the natural light we removed the mesh screens from each window and raised the wooden flaps. Producer Matthew Disbro, pictured below, was instrumental in helping me achieve my vision and was a huge help throughout the entire process.

Each location is special to the film and in their own way became characters themselves. I'm excited for you all to see the finished film! Be sure to check out my other blog posts if you haven't already, and I will be back soon with another behind-the-scenes post.

Also, check out The Hideout Official Website and like us on Facebook for the latest news and updates. We will be having some film festival announcements later this summer so stay tuned!

The Writing Process

I'm a very visual person, so the first thing I do when approaching a new story to write is to close my eyes and try to envision the film—its textures, emotions, moments.

The key for me when imagining the story is to seek images that will convey the emotion I am looking for. The shot below is one of the first things I visualized while working on The Hideout. Holly, played by Christa Beth Campbell, is at her desk, feeling isolated and alone. Through the use of a 360º shutter angle, we were able to achieve this compelling shot.

By having a clear picture in my mind, I found I was able to write better. I began imagining other key points in the story. Here is how I dreamed that the scene would take place...I wanted it to be intimate yet private, foreboding yet hauntingly beautiful.

After going through the process of envisioning the key images or "set pieces" I was able to work on the screenplay's structure.

No matter how strong a concept is, if it doesn't continue to have a string of set ups and payoffs that fall like dominoes as the story progresses, then the film won't work. That can be challenging to pull off because what you're needing to do is keep one-upping yourself.

"There is no such thing as good writing, only good rewriting."

Just when you think you've got your script to how you like it—dialogue flowing, plot points snowballing forward—you awaken the next day to see that your masterpiece hasn't aged very well. That can be a big bummer. It can also be a fantastic opportunity to hone your story from something good into something great.

I've found that a person who will give you an honest critique of your work is absolutely invaluable. My photographer friend Tanya Musgrave is also an excellent writer. I would bounce ideas off of her and she had a magical way of providing fresh insight.

There is no greater feeling than the rush of figuring out the final piece of the story puzzle or suddenly seeing the story from a whole new perspective. Two heads are better than one, and I found Tanya's contributions to be a large part of why The Hideout's script is successful.

I had an epiphany just a month away from shooting and ended up rewriting the entire third act of the film, unifying elements and bringing the events toward the central location of the treehouse, which lent further meaning to the film's title.

The writing process is not bound to the screenplay. Through each phase of making the film, the story is rewritten as it is interpreted through the process.

Before we began production, we got our cast together and had them read the script for the first time. It was exciting and insightful—some lines didn't sound right, and the talented actors provided valuable insight into their characters that further strengthened the script.

Once we finish filming, the film has taken on a life of its own. It is no longer just words on paper.

This calls for some tough choices to be made in the edit room—I ended up cutting two of my favorite scenes, including the one shown here.

Despite Brogan giving a great performance and the scene being beautifully shot, I felt that it ultimately didn't work in the greater context of the film and was cut as a result.

Writing can be a lot of fun and a lot of hard work. What I enjoy most about screenwriting is how fluid the process is, and when positive collaboration occurs, it can be magical. I'm looking forward to sharing the finished film with all of you!

The Director's Statement

As we enter the film festival circuit for The Hideout, one of the first things many require is a press kit, including posters, story summaries, and cast and crew portraits. One of these requirements is a "director's statement," which encapsulates the director's vision for the film. I had never written one before, so this was a learning experience for me.

After reading some impeccable director's statements from Nicolas Winding Refn, Ridley Scott, and Derek Cianfrance, I felt inspired enough to write my own for The Hideout. You can read it below:

The original concept for the The Hideout was to make a movie about two kids ditching school to play in the woods. However, as I was developing the story I became aware of some shocking news: my grandfather, my favorite relative, the man I couldn’t wait to visit every summer—well, he was a child molester. Not only that, but I found out that he had abused one of my very close childhood friends. Reeling from the news, I found writing to be the only way to process my feelings. It was therapeutic.

As I threw myself into the project I was astounded as more and more friends would approach me, opening up that they had somehow been personally affected by child sex abuse. I gathered stories, moments, and painful memories from these wonderful people and poured it into the script, resulting in a film that rang as emotionally true as I could.

I think The Hideout tells an important story because it is not a matter of "if" you know someone who has been affected by this issue; the odds are that you definitely DO know someone. A family member. A classmate. A brother or sister.

The film that came out of this experience is something that I hope is able to resonate deeply with survivors, their families, and compassionate hearts everywhere.

In addition, prior to filming, Matthew Disbro, producer of The Hideout, interviewed me on why I chose to tell this story. I found expressing myself and clarifying these motivations enabled me to have a clearer vision for the project. You can watch the interview at the bottom.

Now that I've explored the inspiration behind The Hideout, my next post will delve into the screenwriting process and possibly give you a look into the script itself. Thanks for reading!

The Hideout

Here I am with the stars of the film: Brogan Hall and Christa Beth Campbell.

For the last nine months I've been working on a short film called The Hideout. It's about a young girl whose life is thrown upside down when she is molested by her favorite teacher.

It's been a rather intense journey, but we finally finished! As the writer, director, and editor I feel like this project has certainly pushed me creatively.

When I find time between prepping film festival submissions, I'll write some blog posts about each stage of the process.

In the meantime, check out the trailer below and be sure to visit the website for more details. Or if you're more into Facebook, we've got a page for it there too.