A private investigator researches the disappearance of a child in the Salton Sea. But her interview with the mother uncovers something much darker than she could ever have imagined.

‘Searchers’ is a proof-of-concept short horror film by Isaac Ruth. Isaac is a horror short film specialist who also likes to throw in some comical twists in some of his films. You’ve surely seen one of his dozen films featured on Film Shortage over the last few years. But you shouldn’t expect any laughs in ‘Searchers’ as Isaac pushes his own boundaries and depths to create an original and terrifying story. The short is just a tease to a larger story, where in the feature film, Olivia’s investigation will uncover twists and turns, betrayals, and dangers unlike anything she’s faced before… as well as a horrifying truth about a world just beyond our own. We checked in with Isaac who told us a little more on the film:

Can you tell us what inspired you to bring this story to life?

This project has been a long time coming. The first draft of the feature was completed in 2017 and, many drafts later, began collecting awards in numerous screenwriting competitions. After receiving high acclaim on the Blacklist, a producer reached out to option the script for 2 years to be developed into a mini-series with Sky Entertainment and, for a brief time, Netflix as well. A new writer was hired to adapt the feature from its original Salton Sea location to Iceland, and things seemed positive up until March of 2020 when the pandemic halted everything. Sadly it seemed that the momentum was gone and the rights were returned to me just in time for the whole world to grind to a dead stop. After a few years of producing short films (many of which have been featured on Film Shortage), I decided it was time to revisit the story for a page-one rewrite. But, while the script was in a good place, my wife (actor and regular creative collaborator Christine Renaud) knew we wanted to show what our talents were capable of, and the proof-of-concept short film was born.

What was the most challenging scene for you to film?

The long take from the upstairs bedroom down to the first floor was difficult for numerous reasons. We used every light we had to get our coverage as well as a complicated system of crew members passing the camera from one to another on a ladder. While that was the most complicated scene to shoot, finding a location at the Salton Sea in 115 degree heat surrounded by the smell of rotting fish and methane was its own challenge.

What has this film taught you about filmmaking?

This was the most complex audio mixing and design I’ve ever had to do. Between the foley, ADR, and composing, I think I spent maybe two months intensely listening to every edit. Once you start paying attention to everything you’re seeing in each scene, you’ll realize that literally everything needs a sound. This production was probably the best education in sound I’ve had.

Do you have any tips or advice to offer fellow filmmakers?

– If you have the time, get the coverage. If you don’t have the time, make the time. Whether it’s video or audio, you will never regret having too much to cut with.
– If you see or hear a problem while shooting, call it out and ask for a change. Most of us don’t have the resources for reshoots, so don’t lose your chance to fix something while you can. I promise you, you will never not notice the things you could’ve changed.

What are your favorite films?

Jurassic Park was the first film I ever saw in theaters. I was 5 years old, which was far too young to see a lawyer ripped off a toilet and shaken in half, but I was scarred in the best way. I saw Jaws shortly afterward which was equally traumatizing, and I think I’ve been completely obsessed with movies ever since. I could go on about my favorite movies for days, but to list a few would be Alien, Rosemary’s Baby, LOTR, The VVitch, The Thing, The Silence of the Lambs, Primer, Pan’s Labyrinth, and Before Sunset.

What are your favorite short films?

Anything from David F. Sandberg is inspiring, I love to see what a crew of two can do on their own. Laura Hasn’t Slept has amazing atmosphere. Spider was one of the first shorts I saw in college and changed everything for me, same with Alive In Joburg.

Which films you can say directly inspired this film?

Se7en, Resolution (honestly anything by Benson and Moorhead), The Ritual, True Detective (not a film but, c’mon, how can you beat season 1?)