New survival thriller Fall – which arrives in UK cinemas this weekend – will be just about the worst nightmare for anyone with even the slightest fear of heights.

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The film follows best friends Becky and Hunter, who find themselves stranded after scaling a 2,000 ft abandoned radio tower, with no way of getting themselves down and very little chance of attracting the attention of any passersby.

The film is directed by Scott Mann, who had the idea for the movie – which was initially intended to be a short – while working on his previous film Final Score.

"The inception of the height idea came about when we were shooting Final Score at a stadium in the UK," he explains during an exclusive interview with RadioTimes.com. "We were filming at height, and off camera we got into this interesting conversation about height and the fear of falling and how that's inside of all of us, really, and how that can be a great device for a movie.

"I think the key to it was finding these actual towers that exist in America, that exist in the desert there, it was just like that is the perfect location, the perfect kind of character to be at the centre of this nutty thing."

The first port of call for the team was choosing a specific location to be the centerpiece of the film, and after much consideration, they eventually opted for the abandoned B67 TV tower in California – the fourth-highest structure in the US.

"We looked at buildings, we looked at different things, and mountains and whatnot, and ultimately we came across the tower," Mann explains. "And we just realised there was so many of them out there – and the height of these things, they're all 2,000 ft and above. And it got us excited, it genuinely did."

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But of course, while they could use the real tower itself for establishing shots, the bulk of production would have to take place elsewhere – and Mann and his team spent several weeks researching how best to shoot the movie.

During this process, they went through various options – including briefly toying with the idea of using the same techniques used in Disney Plus Star Wars series The Mandalorian, which makes use of a ground-breaking curved LED screen backdrop on which digital environments are displayed. Ultimately, though, Mann was determined to do things practically.

"I knew from the start I didn't want to do it green screen," he said. "And then that led us down the Mandalorian route because that's a much more immersive way to shoot people in a studio. But even then, when it comes down to it, to put people in these conditions – like height has a certain kind of air, light, wind and all these elements going on that are very hard to fake.

"And I think if we'd shot it in a studio, it'd be like a $50 to $100 million movie – and that movie just doesn't exist today, with non-IP characters. So it was a case of stripping right back and saying 'Okay, well how do we do this for real?' And it was [producer] James Harris who was really pushing and saying you need to shoot this for real, Mac the DP also loved the idea."

And so in the end, they decided to build the upper portion of the tower on top of a mountain – which, due to its height and positioning, would mean that the actors would really appear to be thousands of feet in the air.

"It became a mission to find the right location at height – and that was quite drawn out," Mann says of the next steps. "We scoured all around California, and it was during COVID, so we'd just drive and drive and drive to these random remote locations, to try and get access. A lot of them had kind of radio masts and things at the top of these mountains and you're just finding the right kind of top of a mountain with the right cliff and the right sunlight positioning."

In the end, though, it was thanks to the wonders of modern technology that the team found their eventual spot, with the location manager finding what looked to be the ideal place while searching on Google Maps.

"So we went up this rickety road," Mann explains. "James is scared of heights and was screaming at me because he was afraid of even the journey up there – but we got up there and saw this huge drop-off and it was just stunning.

"And then from there we basically had to do logistical work of widening out the roads so cars and things could get access. And then getting the tower – the guys who built the actual tower out in Arizona also built our tower.

"They built these 100-foot sections at the top of this mountain cliff thing. And so basically, we were actually above 2000 ft so all the kinds of camera work and things to capture the movie, [stars] Virginia [Gardner] and Grace [Caroline Curry] were really immersed into what it was like to be up there – because they really were up there!"

It's no surprise that shooting in such a remote location – and at such a towering height – brought up all sorts of other problems. But Mann says he was taken aback at the "biblical" proportions of some of the issues they faced, and he hopes that some behind-the-scenes clips will soon surface showing just how difficult the shoot was.

Grace Fulton in Fall (Signature Entertainment) (2)
Grace Fulton in Fall Signature Entertainment

"I've made a few films and it's always hard," he says. "I would say it's a struggle to make a film at the best of times. But this one, it was like just getting to set every day was like a Bear Grylls Adventure. And then we had all these things happen to us with lightning, hurricanes – we had our set blown down one time."

And there was one incident in particular that stood out to Mann – one which makes it easy to see where the biblical comparison was coming from.

"It was raining hot rain and melting the set dressing," he said. "And then that caused the locusts or ants, whatever they are, that were in the mountain to kind of come up and hide somewhere inside the tubing of our set. So when Virginia and Grace got there the next day, the thing wobbled and suddenly this cloud of flying ants came about – and we just couldn't film because there was this huge cloud of flying ants for hours.

"And they would then settle back in the tube, and you'd try and climb up and they'd release again. And it was this cycle. And you're out in the middle of nowhere, so like how do you deal with that kind of problem, you know? In the end, I had to strap a leaf blower backwards and hoover into a bag to get rid of like 8 million of these things!"

Virginia Gardner & Grace Fulton in Fall (Signature Entertainment)
Virginia Gardner & Grace Fulton in Fall Signature Entertainment

Although conditions like these might have prompted some people to curse their luck, Mann and his team took a different tack – instead deciding to use them to their advantage.

"When you end up leaning into them a little bit, like the weather and all these things, that's what we learned to do," he says. "It was like the rhythm of nature, you can either fight it or go with it. And I think we went with it and at whatever point we went with it, it paid off for us.

"And we just said let's not try and get it the way we thought we wanted it. Let's just get it. And like whatever is happening, let's just play into it for the movie – and I'm glad we did because it kind of gives a different flavour to the different parts of the movie."

Fall is now playing in UK cinemas. Visit our Film hub for more news and features or find something to watch tonight with our TV Guide.

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