mute fate

Mute Fate – Behind the Scenes

Go behind the scenes on Magic Rabbit Productions’ original short horror film Mute Fate.


Watch the full movie before reading! You’ve been warned.


The Fear

Let me start by saying I’m terrified of snakes. Like petrified. As in, if I see a snake I freeze up, can’t move and go into a kind of statue – like state of terror. It’s been that way my whole life.

There’s not a formative moment for me. No Indiana Jones – esque defining event that would forever shape my fear. They were just always a dark element for me; I didn’t like the way they moved or looked or sounded. It’s a very base reaction.

I used to work in the shipping and receiving department of a retail store. I don’t know how the idea came into my head, but every time I opened a box of packing peanuts, I always paused before reaching in. No matter what the manifest says, you never really know what’s in that box. There could be anything underneath the styrofoam and there’s nothing you can do but reach your hand in and find out what’s waiting for you.

I never found anything unusual in their packages, but my quasi – phobia was enough to inspire the marvelously talented Elizabeth Green several years ago. She wrote down my fear in a short horror story called “One Way Out.”

I’m the type of person who craves control. And sometimes the best way to take control of a fear is to use it creatively.

mute fate bts


When I started developing the story, I decided to cut it down significantly. Because I and altered so much, I wanted to rename the story. I called the piece Mute Fate for two reasons. One is the literal use of the word – there is no dialog at all so our main character’s fate is literally “mute”.

The second reason comes from an old radio play from the Escape show: “A Shipment of Mute Fate”. The “mute fate” in the show is a bushmaster, which hides out on a ship at sea and terrorizes the crew and passengers.

mute fate bts

My own mute fate needed a strong visual symbol, since it was only to be discovered in the last shot of the movie. I chose a cobra, with its iconic hood and posture, to be the antagonist.


Now for the gritty technical details…Mute Fate was shot exclusively on a 5D Mark III using Magic Lantern’s raw hack. The credits sequence was shot with a Canon 85mm f/1.8, the rest of the movie with a Zeiss Flektogon 35mm 2.4 and a Super Takumar 50mm f/1.4 and the aforementioned Canon 85.

The entire movie was lit with Genaray SpectroLED lights, which are quickly becoming my favorite lighting package. They’re light, run cool and give a nice blue light, as opposed to many other LED’s which tend toward greenish hues. The lights are massive and not focusable, but their falloff is so pleasing that it more than makes up for it.

mute fate bts

Three boxes were employed – one empty and sealed, one open and filled with packing peanuts and one half – box that allowed the snake to be manipulated by the puppeteer. The packing peanut box was specially rigged with a tube inside that could be pulled back and forth, shifting the peanuts inside and creating the illusion of a slithering mass rising from the box.

mute fate bts

The address on the box is something of an in – joke for horror fans. Robert Blake, DunwichArkham, and even Massachusetts are all nods to some of my favorite Lovecraft horror texts. Poor Robert just can’t catch a break.

 Post Production

I had been working with J Farell since the inception of the film.  Since I was creating what amounted to a silent film, I knew the score would have a major impact on the emotion of the piece and he and I worked very closely developing the sound of Mute Fate. The introduction and credits, which I call the “overture” feels like an old 80’s horror movie to me. It’s bombastic and creepy and it brings you right into the movie. It says “Pay attention – you’re about to see something scary!”

The entire movie was cut on Premiere CC and graded in After Effects. I’m not a Da Vinci Resolve guy, probably because I’ve been using AE for years. I can work faster and more efficiently there and it integrates better with the workflow.

The grade was heavily influenced by The Fourth Kind, which used over – saturated practical lights to an awesome effect. I did something similar, accentuating the orange glow from the lamp in the first half of the movie.

mute fate lamp

 Overcoming the Fear

So, I guess the question I need to answer is: Did it work? Am I able to look at snakes without the icy terror?

mute fate bts

Yes and no. As with everything, it’s a process. What Mute Fate gave me was a chance to take control of my fear and share it with others. By doing this, I was able to transform it from an emotional response into a weapon. This movie is less about me overcoming my fear and more about me learning how to wield it. It’s not just mine, now it belongs to all of us.

So next time you get a package in the mail, open it carefully. You may be surprised by what is inside.

Be Sociable, Share!