Maria Johnsen’s Experience As A Producer and Screenwriter of A Paranormal Horror

Maria Johnsen is a global digital marketing and A.I influencer. She is one of the most influential women in online business. We have seen some interesting buzz in film industry about her latest short film the ghost on the bridge, a production of Golden Way Media films in London, UK.

Why did you start in film industry?

I have been writing since I was 10 years old and decided to bring my stories to life through filmmaking.

Tell us about The Ghost On The Bridge.

The Ghost on the bridge is a paranormal horror story with a twist of the psychological thriller. 

What is the story about?

It revolves around John Baker whose wife Julia has gone missing and never came back after photographing on the bridge. Paranormal activities start to happen in the house and lead John to discover why his wife never came back home.

Why did you write a paranormal horror?

I wanted to talk about loneliness and grief of a writer who lost his beloved wife in a photography accident.  People are actually stronger than they think they are. The climax is left “subjective and open-ended”, letting the viewer form his or her own catharsis.  My vision in this project was to talk about love, family, faithfulness and dealing with grief in form of paranormal horror with traces of psychological thriller.

What kind of challenges have you faced during production?

I changed three directors because each one did not fit within my financial plan and vision. I began to feel uncertain about everything and my mind was pervaded with the desire to make my short film.

Did you receive any help and advice?

Professor Jonathan Powell the former head of drama department at BBC 1 in London and Gillian Gordon helped me to get through my difficult time. For example professor Powell  helped me develop my screen development ability and Gillian Gordon provided encouragement and excellent literary resources along with strategies to develop my film production skills. Without their help I would not be able to be where I am right now.

How was your budget to make this excellent short film? How long did it take to make it?

I spent  £7,272 . From pre production to production and post production all took 8 months.

Tell us readers about your filming?

The filming process began and most of what we did was on the inside and ended in the evening at 7: pm. We seemed to work harmoniously as everyone handled their station satisfactorily. There was this deep sense of self-worth that came when I realized that I had chosen the right crew. It was apparent that I had selected a team that was efficient as a unit.  Our operations were a symphony.  Respect and appreciation for one another was the order of the day.

You are good leader, Maria. I can tell you have a brilliant management skills. Where was the bridge and how did you manage to film on the bridge?

Thank you. We filmed on the Richmond Bridge in London.
Richmond Bridge is the busiest bridge.

Why did you choose there?

Because I have to compromise and take all shots in London. It would have  cost  me even more if I wanted to move 18 crew members and one and half million pounds equipment to  Egham in Surrey county where I originally planned to film. All other bridges in London were too expensive to book for filming. Thanks to Film Richmond’s staff, they made it all possible and allowed me to film on the Bridge.

We heard that you hired powerful British and International actors. How were you able to do it?

I interviewed 200 actors and actresses in London and Manchester. Although they all were good actors but were not close to my story’s characters. So finally I found the ones who matched with the characters of my story John, Julia and Rose

Who are stars of your film, Maria?

Andrew Shire as John, Elena Harding and Julia and Niamh Blackman as Rose.
Were your actors easy to work with?
Yes. They were lovely and I am planning to invite them to cast for my next film project.

What is your next project?

Ghostware a sci-fi horror feature film. 
It sounds interesting.
Yes, it is an interesting film.

Are you going to cast a Class A actor?

I haven’t decided yet.

Tell us about post production? Let’s start with editing.

I hired Daniel Haywood, one of  the sweetest and smartest guys I have ever met. We had many things in common, both studied computer engineering and A.I  and have passion for film making. Me and Daniel had hours of discussion about editing. I loved each moment of working with him. A brilliant editor. Everything went very well throughout the editing, VFX and color grading processed.

How did you management VFX?

The bathroom scene was the most challenging one [03:51] which  is intended to be the scariest scene in the entire film, so we approached it as a chance to slowly build the tension until the big jump scare. There was a green screen element to the bathroom so for the shots of John and the mirror my editor applied a chroma key to the left half of the shot with the mirror, placing a licensed image of a tiled bathroom wall behind the video which he also colour graded to match the scene, and another chroma key to right half of the shot to eliminate the reflection of the green screen on the wall tiles. Daniel also composited in chroma key treated footage of Julia between the wall image and the video for the jump scare, masking out John’s reflection around his foreground movement when in front of the mirror.
The jump scare is intentionally the loudest moment of the film to make this moment stand out.

Tell us about the ghost effect, Maria.

For the final scene, Julia needed to look supernatural to make her metaphysical state clear to viewers and inject more of a mystical element into the world’s spirit lore, that is to say she needed to stand out as paranormal.
This was achieved by layering multiple effects over the video: a desaturation filter to make her skin paler, a blue tint to connote the supernatural element and her tragic motivation, a light blur to make her movement seem less physical while preserving the detail of her facial expressions, and a glowing aura which subtly implies her being benign rather than intentionally malicious towards John. The adjustment layer which comprised all these effects was then duplicated and modified to add more intensity to the glowing aura around Julia herself.

I watched your film and was amazed by the raven scene. Why Raven, Maria?

In Western culture a raven is symbolic of death while in Norway (where I come from) and Norse mythology ravens act as watchers for Odin. Therefore my intention was to have editor use raven clips and composite throughout the story to watch over the events from a distance and appear more prominently for Julia’s death and the climax.

Tell us about the music. Who wrote the song and composed the music?

I wrote the lyric. Mark Smith the film composer scored  the music and I chose Alternative Gothic genre for my film. Because it matches with texture of my story. It took two weeks for the music to get ready.  Working with mark was great. He talks less and does the job right. I am so grateful. He is a talented music composer and singer.

Tell us about color grading

As well as applying color correction my editor Daniel Haywood color graded the film to give it a more cinematic look. Notably he matched the coloring of the licensed raven footage to the rest of the scene while preserving the detail of the raven itself [01:55], he darkened the scene when Rose tries to leave so that it seems to take place in the evening [11:09], and he used a blue palette for night time scenes in homage to gothic fiction in which a full moon would often provide unnatural lighting.

When is screening for the public

It will be in October 31st

Any distribution plan?

We are in process of talking to some distributors in the UK and USA

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