Project: Dodgy and Abandoned 2 The Downfall

Director: Samantha Strachan

Category: Feature Film

Making your first film is always a daunting prospect. From that first day on set to the eventual reveal, it’s a nerve-wracking experience guiding your imagination into existence, hoping that the end result does justice to your dreams.

Most of us opt for something short: a bit more manageable with limited resources. Yet at 45 minutes, Samantha Strachan’s Dodgy and Abandoned runs around half the length of a feature film. An impressive feat for any first-time director. And she’s doing it all over again.

Dodgy and Abandoned is about five urban explorers who decide to explore a place where there are rumours of kidnappings and tortures of orphaned children,” she explains. “The explorers ignore this and explore anyway, but things turn ugly fast. What started off as an innocent exploration turns into a never-ending nightmare.

Dodgy and Abandoned 2 is a sequel to the first that I produced last year. We follow the character of Phoenix after the tragic events from the first film. She tries to get back to her normal life, but things get more complicated as the past resurfaces, and the horrors of the small town of Kirkburn continue.”

An HNC Film student at Fife College, Samantha is an emerging talent, this sequel only her second film. “I attempted to make another short horror film a year before,” she notes, “but with no planning or proper equipment the project was never finished. I did vlogs where I would explore abandoned places but that’s about it so far.

“I started getting into filmmaking back when I was in Primary School, just using my mother’s camcorder to record anything I did. It eventually progressed onto doing vlogs on my adventures which also got me into photography. I used to also write stories and scripts and imagined them as if they were a movie, and that’s where the spark started. I knew filmmaking would become my passion.”

Both films express Samantha’s other passions. An urban explorer with a fascination for the macabre, Dodgy and Abandoned clearly takes her interests as inspiration. “I am influenced by dark elements such as gothic horror and suspense drama. I also love a good mystery. The horror film Mama influenced me to make my own horror film – I watched it imagining how fun it would be to make my own.

“Both horror and thriller have always appealed to me. I love being at the edge of my seat where I have no idea what is about to happen, every twist and turn unpredictable and exciting. I love experiencing those emotions when watching both horror and thriller, and I want to create those feelings for other people with my productions. 

“I usually use any spare time to go exploring – either nature or abandoned places – taking photos and sometimes vlogging my adventures, which helps with anxiety issues that I face on a daily basis.”

Dodgy and Abandoned 2 is an important next step in Samantha’s growth as a filmmaker. She expresses pride in how her work has improved, with a growing faith in her own directing and leadership skills. “I would probably say the production in the second film is at a higher standard,” she says, “as I’m learning more amazing things about filmmaking and making sure I progress.

“I’ve learned a few things since my first film, including having a better production schedule. This year, I have made sure I’m more organised. Last year was a bit disorganised and it caused a lot of stress for me and the cast. 

“I am more knowledgeable this year as I now have a little bit of experience. I find it easier to organise cast, direct the camera work and to take control of the production better.”

Returning to the world she has created with renewed confidence is allowing Samantha to further explore her themes in new and creative ways. “There are a lot of similar elements from the first film, which will also be in the second film, but there will be differences including visuals, script and layout. We will be meeting a few new characters who you’ll either fall in love with or hate them, more suspense and drama also.”

Curiously, Samantha initially had no plans for a sequel, only deciding to create one following demand. “After everyone asked for a sequel, I realized it was a good idea as there were a lot of unanswered questions from the first film.”

Starting pre-production in November, the first scenes were filmed in early March, with Samantha reuniting with many of the team that made the first one so much fun. “It’s great working with the same people,  as we are all really close and it just makes being on set a lot of fun. We have a few great actors working with us – including a few who were in the first film, such as Maryam Almhameed. She’s an amazing actress who surprises me every time we are on set.

“We also have a few new actors including Morgan Wilson and Holly Miller. Adrian Thomson who is a part of the crew is also amazing to work with and great company. I have a lot of family members also taking part.”

The influence of friends on Samantha’s work has even extended to its name. “The title was originally going to be Abandoned and Forgotten,” she explains. “I decided to change it after the word ‘dodgy’ became a word which me and my college friends used a lot to describe how weird or scary a situation.

“That is the first film in a nutshell, so I changed it to Dodgy and Abandoned. The place where the explorers visit is certainly abandoned with dodgy vibes throughout – so a very fitting title!”

It’s clear that one of Samantha’s joys in filmmaking is the social dynamic; for her, a great way to make memories with her friends and family. “We have had a lot of amazing and hilarious moments from this year of filming alone, including one of our first shoots with my mother who is portraying Phoenix’s mother. My mum couldn’t get her lines out and my gran who was filming behind the scenes kept repeating stuff which put the whole cast and crew into stitches.”

Such memories could only be made for the briefest of times. The Covid-19 outbreak has stalled further filming indefinitely, with Samantha’s plans halted after only a handful of days. “The Coronavirus has certainly had an impact on my film where the whole production has been put on hold for the time being which is very unfortunate. We have a lot of vulnerable cast members who decided to postpone their scenes before lockdown happened, but after seeing the spread of the virus get worse I decided to put everything on hold until the situation gets better.”

Despite the global circumstances, Samantha is determined to push through and get the film made – eventually. “My passion for filmmaking has kept me going and I’m thinking how I’m going to feel once everything is edited and ready to be released. I am very passionate and it is a great push to keep on going and get past the struggles.”

One thing immediately apparent from Samantha is her sense of gratitude for the support she has received. From the cast and crew to her lecturers, Samantha is full of praise for the people who believe in her and her films. “I haven’t had any financial support,” she says, “but I have had great emotional support throughout this amazing journey. My lecturer at college, Graeme Campbell, has helped me a lot with my projects this year and last. My family have also played a big part.”

With the original June release now on hold, Samantha is getting ready to hit the ground running once opportunity allows her to do so. Yet by the time of the sequel’s release, the series will have already occupied a number of years of Samantha’s life. So, is this it for the Dodgy and Abandoned series?

“I don’t think there will be a third Dodgy and Abandoned as I’m planning to stop at the second one,” she says, “but maybe I’ll come back as it’s close to my heart. I do want to try other projects with new and different storylines, characters and style.

“I might explore other genres soon including emotional drama and adventure. Those genres appeal to me too and it would be an experience to try those genres. 

“Overall, I’m glad to be a part of the filmmaking industry. I’ll continue to develop my skills and portfolio, and continue meeting amazing people.”

Dodgy & Abandoned 2 The Downfall is currently in production.

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