Inside The Enfield Poltergeist with… Phoebe Campbell-Harris
By Elise Czyzowska
31 October 2023
The latest from MetFilm Production, The Enfield Poltergeist revisits one of the most famous poltergeist hauntings – and the inspiration behind The Conjuring 2 – in the new series for Apple TV+. The Guardian has bestowed upon it the honour of ‘pick of the week,’ while The Standard lauds it as “a compelling examination of a series of events that captivated the nation“.
MetFilm School are proud to have 22 students & graduates credited on The Enfield Poltergeist, including MA Producing Graduate Phoebe Campbell-Harris, who worked as Director’s Assistant on the project.
With the series available to watch NOW, get an inside look in today’s blog with Phoebe Campbell-Harris…
What did a typical ‘Day on Set’ look like as a Director’s Assistant?
While on set, I encountered a wide range of tasks, from impromptu research to assisting with scheduling.
However, my primary responsibility during the filming process was to guarantee a seamless playback of the archival tape material for the actors to lip-sync to, closely collaborating with the sound team and their earwig equipment.
And in the show, the ‘behind-the-scenes’ world of filmmaking is highlighted. How did this production differ from other projects?
The Enfield Poltergeist stands out by its blend of documentary and fiction filmmaking. While the set functioned much like a traditional film set, there were separate interview shoots and dedicated ‘doc days’, where contributors came to visit the set, triggering memories of living at or visiting Green Street, Enfield.
What made the experience particularly unique was the commitment to capturing everything verbatim. While I had previously encountered verbatim re-enactments in documentaries, I had never experienced it to this extent.
It involved bringing scenes to life with an unwavering dedicating to reproducing the world of the original tapes, complemented by the work of the incredible production design for the house.
As part of your role, you also coordinated and edited scripts – how did the focus on archival footage influence the scripts?
In the series, everything you hear is derived exclusively from the tape recordings (except for the interviews and a few recitations from the investigators’ diaries and notes).
Jerry Rothwell (Director) and Claire Ferguson (Editor) initiated the editing process before filming, meticulously constructing edit timelines to guide the re-enactments, and leaving the visual component blank.
As part of this intricate process, I crafted scripts based on the timelines, ensuring that actors were well-informed about all the characters’ vocal quirks and stumbles for their rehearsals. It was a very technical process, with lots of stages!
You also assisted with the casting process – what was this like?
I found this aspect very enjoyable! While I had prior experience with smaller-scale castings for short films I’ve produced, a casting of this magnitude was new to me.
To prepare, I wrote character biographies for the Casting Director and her team. These biographies included any facts about the actual individuals, complete with photos, to ensure the actors chosen somewhat resembled the real-life figures.
It was fascinating to observe how the actors tackled the verbatim challenge, and brought the characters to life using the authentic voices they had to work with.
What would you say was the most valuable takeaway from your time as Director’s Assistant?
It would be the necessity of being deeply immersed in the story and scripts, to provide valuable support to the Director whenever necessary.
I would advise anyone venturing into a Director’s Assistant role to ensure they have a comprehensive understanding of the project in advance, enabling them to be more effective in offering help when needed.
And now, you’re working as a Development Coordinator for MetFilm Production – can you give an overview of this role for our audience?
Like with being a Director’s Assistant, my role is multifaceted. I read and review submissions, offer script feedback to aid project development, and take charge of tracking projects on our slate, ensuring the team is informed about critical action points.
My role also extends to finding talent, sourcing compelling stories, designing pitch decks, and helping with funding applications.
I absolutely love the variety and diversity of the role, and I learn an enormous amount about filmmaking, storytelling, and packaging each day.
And finally, can you share your favourite television series of 2023?
From this year, it’s got to be BEEF. The filmmakers waste no time with the set-up, resulting in a desirable energy and efficiency with the storytelling, and the energy was maintained throughout.
I also loved the messaging of the series about the impact of revenge, and how it only wreaks havoc on those who seek it!