On Set With: The Holly Kane Experiment

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A few weeks ago The Edge was lucky enough to visit the sunny seaside town of Brighton, and spend the day bumbling through the excitingly chaotic sets of upcoming independent psychological thriller The Holly Kane Experiment. Despite the not so sunny weather, and the occasional call to arms to help out onset (during an apartment breach scene, I aided two members of a SWAT squad by jamming their ear pieces into position), the day proved a fascinating exploration of the indie film making process.

The Holly Kane Experiment is a film that deals explicitly with the theme of control, and its surprising balance within the relationships that we perceive as “normal.” Following the story of Holly Kane, a young psychologist haunted by a hereditary risk of schizophrenia, the film explores her transgressive experimentation with different forms of mind control. For example, when speaking with the films director Tom Sands, he accounted the exhausting process of constructing one of the films key experimental set pieces: a full size trance inducing floatation tank.

However Tom made it clear that the film was to not be completely lumped within the psyche-thriller camp: “Although the film really revolves around the state of Holly’s psyche, it’s kind of a love story as well. That’s why I like it! It’s a love story, a psychological thriller, and kind of chase film as it reaches its climax.” Although I immediately likened the films plot to famously controversial psychological case studies (such as Milgram’s obedience tests, and Zimbardo’s Stanford prison experiments), screenwriter Mick Sands offered a more unexpected influence, describing Kesey’s psychedelic escapades within The Merry Pranksters as a frightening soundboard for his thematic direction.

What impressed me most about The Holly Kane Experiment though was its ambition as a production. For example the team’s intended shooting schedule consisted of covering sixty-five locations in the space of three weeks, (an incredibly uncommon undertaking within the budgetary constraints of independent productions). If this wasn’t enough, the team’s adoption of multiple roles was so extensive that I doubt there was a member of the film crew with a single job title. It’s certainly expected that there will be some departmental crossover, but when your director is also co-producing, you’re assistant director is redirecting traffic, and you’re writer is catering for the entire crew, you may have gone a tad to far.

Nevertheless, on the basis of my expertly shrewd judgment of on-set efficiency, the team appeared on top of schedule, and the on-set atmosphere never seemed to deviate from a stressfully intoxicating sense of excitement. My afternoon visit to the production teams multi purposing “home-base” proved equally as enlightening, as the communal snapshot of a crew living, working and sleeping under the same roof was remarkably refreshing. In my latter discussions with the supporting male lead: James Rose, he praised the lack of defined departmental borders as the encouragement for such an atmosphere.

Despite its narrative promise and an interesting thematic direction, what really seemed the most remarkable about The Holly Kane Experiment was the onset mentality. From the communal “home-base”, to the drizzly excitement of outdoor action sequences, a sense enthusiasm was always present. The production was a true example of indie filmmaking in its most ambitious, and I’m excited to see what Sands brings to screen come 2016.

The Holly Kane Experiment (2016), directed by Tom Sands, is produced by Substantial Films and is expected to be released in 2016. Certificate TBC. 

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