Created by homegrown developers Wales Interactive, Night Book is a technologically ingenious game/movie hybrid. Its director Alex Lightman sculpted a scenario where lead actor Julie Dray has her home invaded by an ancient demon. Buzz’s Billie Ingram Sofokleous reviewed it, and also spoke to Lightman and Dray.
ALEX LIGHTMAN, NIGHT BOOK DIRECTOR
What message did you want to send with this project?
The first thing was that we wanted people to have as much fun playing it as we had making it, have a few thrills and spills along the way, and have a lot of fun finding all of the different routes, the different permutations of the story – really get their teeth stuck into all the different options that were available to them while telling a story like this.
At its core, it’s a story about a person [Loralyn, Night Book’s lead character] who is desperately trying to keep control over her family whilst everything is falling apart around her. I think I connected with that idea that you can’t always be in control. Being in control doesn’t always give the best results in your life, but the drama around that has appealed to me as at the core of it. You’ve got someone who is really trying to protect their family, which I think we can all relate to.
Was any of the production filmed in Wales?
Yes, some of it was. Of course, it was shot all over the place because we shot it all remotely. Some in Cardiff, although I was never in Cardiff. I was in the Midlands. We were lucky enough to get a tramshed in Cardiff to film Cody’s [played by Siwan Morris] stuff while never leaving the house.
Some was shot in London, Julie [Dray, who plays Loralyn] shot some in Paris, so yeah, everyone was all over the place. The DOP and the producer were in Yorkshire, so it has been pretty wild.
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What changes did you make because of COVID?
Just about everything. We shot it all remotely, which meant in practise that all of the camera gear was packaged up and shipped to all the actors. They received all the cameras and attached them all up, with the help of our DOP Evan through Zoom call. Not only that but the actors had to do all their own production, design, we sent props out to them; they had to dress their own rooms, their own houses, do their own makeup, their own hair, wire their own microphones, do everything. It was a big ask – can you just become a one-person production team, oh and also act in it?
There are also different versions of the script to keep track of, that was nuts. And I was never on set with them, so everything was done over a Zoom call, sown to any movement bits that you see in the film, any special effects – they do that themselves. Everything you could think of that you could usually do on set.
The edit process was the same – never in the same room as the editor, did all that over Zoom as well. Reviewing footage, reviewing tapes, all of that done remotely. It’s amazing what technology was able to allow us to do. Without it, this film simply wouldn’t have got made.
What inspired Night Book’s narrative?
The writer, Megan Jones, has some experience working as an interpreter, and with language misinterpretations that can happen – which brought a level of authenticity to the project. She even wrote a whole language, with a new grammar and understanding, especially for the movie, so that was amazing. A completely made-up language. It really made sense!
Like I said before, it’s about control – trying to keep your family safe and do the best for them as you can. I think with the backdrop to the last 18 months, family has been incredibly important to us, I mean it always has been, but I think we realise just how important their families are. By the fact that we couldn’t see them. Tying that into the narrative is something certainly that inspired me.
JULIE DRAY, STAR OF NIGHT BOOK
What part of the movie did you find most exciting to film?
The different options of directions. I would play one option full-on and then backtrack and play the opposite choice. You have to find some truth for the character each time, so it was really mindblowing to get to think as Loralyn and justify her choices. Opposite ones.
How did making this with the restrictions feel? Did it change how you felt about filming?
I felt lucky to have an opportunity to act and be creative. This project gave me so much freedom as an artist: for many hours every day I actually escaped the feeling of being restricted and locked at home. But filming everything on my own far away from the creative team definitely reminded me how much I love my crew, and being on set!
What sold you most on completing this project?
The challenges ahead, the unknown and the wide range of emotions I would get to explore thanks to the interactive aspect.
Have you played Night Book since its release?
Finally – YES! But not enough… I still have many other paths to discover.
What was the most memorable scene that you filmed?
Can’t spoil the film… let’s just say the one scene that involved an intimacy coordinator.
And finally, what project are you working on next?
I’m currently working on personal projects here in France, but internationally I’m waiting for my next big thing. Let’s see what the future brings!
Night Book is out now via Wales Interactive. Info and purchase: here
words BILLIE INGRAM SOFOKLEOUS
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