Forest of Light is the perfect country city, clean, organised and bucolic. But the apparent perfection of the place is undermined when Helena, a young documentary filmmaker, decides to investigate the mysterious disappearances of young people from the community. The discoveries will take her on a much more macabre path, a fate so terrifying that it could make her doubt what is real and what is delirium caused by fear.

In Forest of Light (BRA), nothing is what it seems to be. The series keeps the viewer on edge, following Helena and her investigation, slowly uncovering the underlying corruption of the – not quite – peaceful town.

Melbourne WebFest spoke with Allan “Riggs” de Bastos about the creation of his 2020 Student Selection web series.

What inspired Forest of Light? How did you decide on the subject matter?

Initially, we didn’t have a specific subject to target. We started by creating the characters and making them as unique as possible. We knew from the beginning Helena would discover something in the underworld of the town and, by developing the personality and vision of Walter Morgen,  we identified our subject and theme: misuse of power and objectionable methods. The next step was building the story around that, and we had a lot of inspiration coming from video games, such as Outlast and Resident Evil 7. These two games served as a reference for the story and tone. We also had a lot of inspiration coming from Kubrick’s work.

Why did you choose the web series format?

It started as a feature film for our thesis project at film school, but after we graduated and the project was finalized, we decided to try new formats. The one that stood out more for us was the episode format, which improved the overall pacing. In service of the story, we decided to re-edit the film as a web series, which also allowed us to reach a wider audience by posting it online.

What was your greatest challenge creating the series?

My greatest challenge with Forest of Light was, no doubt, leading a large crew. Before this project, the biggest crew I had worked with, had 10 people and all of them were friends. This time I had a lot of friends involved too, but also professionals from the area, teachers evaluating our work and a whole group of classmates counting on me. We usually had 30 people in the crew, not including actors. It was an exhausting experience at times, but it was also tons of fun and, most importantly, taught me a lot.

Forest of Light Trailer

What prior experience did you have before you started the series?

Before Forest of Light, I had done many personal projects for the web, most being short films. I had also worked as an actor for TV a couple of times, which helped me understand a real film set. In preparation for Forest of Light, five months before production started, I gathered my team to shoot a 10-minute short film, so that we could get used to working together.

I am curious about the filming locations. How and where did you find these abandoned buildings (the old restaurant and the place where the experiments are conducted)? What was it like filming there?

We actually got really lucky with the locations. The abandoned building is a real place and it’s pretty close to where the other two creators live. It also offered no risk filming there. For the “institute”, where the experiments were conducted, we used a building that is owned by our film school (PUCRS), so it was pretty easy to get authorization. The building used to be a seminary and it was being renovated for film studios. We used an area that hadn’t been renovated yet and, at times, it was pretty sinister to film there. That created a great atmosphere, especially for the actors. 

What’s next for Forest of Light? Are there more episodes on the works?

We achieved our vision for the series and we don’t intend to create more episodes, but Forest of Light is definitely serving as inspiration for upcoming projects, and we continue to collaborate with many of the actors that participated in the series. This project was just the start for Riggs Productions and we already have a lot on the way!