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An Interview with Allen Kellogg, Director of 7 Nights of Darkness

by Mike Haberfelner

September 2011

Films directed by Allen Kellogg on (re)Search my Trash

 

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Your film 7 Nights of Darkness - in a few words, what is it about?

 

Six reality television show contestants attempt to spend 7 nights in a haunted asylum. If they don't leave they are awarded a share of one million dollars that is split amongst any contestants that don't leave.

 

Basically, by 2010 the found footage-approach to filmmaking used in 7 Nights of Darkness had been done to death. What convinced you you could make it work nevertheless?

 


Content is king. No matter what the genre or convention used to bring a story out, content will always prevail. The most popular found footage movies fall into two categories for me. The first is the fear of the unknown (Blair Witch, Paranormal Activity), where it's not about what you see but what you don't see that is frightening. It's what your imagination can do to make the scare. Then there is Cloverfield. That is more of what you see. The movie is pure spectacle. Different people react to different things. Those who aren't struck by Blair Witch may be struck by Cloverfield. What I wanted to do was give both audiences something. Fear of the seen and fear of the unseen.

 

An obvious inspiration of 7 Nights of Darkness was reality TV. Your personal thoughts on the subject?

 

Hogwash. Absolute hogwash. I worked on a reality show once on crew for a certain major network. I'll keep the actual show to myself but the premise was that one girl had to pick between 5 or 6 guys. One guy was eliminated each round. I'll start by saying that the girl had absolutely no choice in the matter. In the end, it wasn't about who the girl liked but about what guys were the most entertaining or obnoxious to keep around. It was all at the producers' discretion. Secondly, every interview is completely scripted off camera and the interviewees are asked very leading questions to give a certain and usually very dramatic response. Reality television may be the most un-real thing out there. But of course, as I stated earlier, content is king and the producers manage to make some very dramatic and tense situations.

That all being said, I do occasionally have the guilty pleasure of watching a few every now and then. I blame my wife, but that may just be a cover. I think most people do understand now that most things they see on reality television are scripted to a point. But that doesn't matter. It's the content and the feeling that it COULD be real. I found that I had to cut out the original opening to the movie, which I believe will be available on the DVD. I did this because in the original opening, it mocks reality television. It begins as a parody. This was a mistake on my part and luckily one that was fixable. People want to believe that it could be real. Even if they know it isn't. That would have been swept away in the first minute had I kept the original opening.

 

Other inspirations when writing 7 Nights of Darkness?

 

Never really wrote it. I do write. A lot. But with this project being in the genre it was, it would be unnatural to write a line by line script. I consider myself a decent writer, but only the likes of David Mamet can write like that. In normal conversation people routinely cut each other off, talk over each other which is precisely how someone like Mamet writes. My writing style isn't there. Instead I wrote an outline of events. Certain visuals I had in my head that had to be there. I started with the scares and worked the outline around the scares.

 

Why a ghost story, and have you done any actual research on the subject of ghosts as such?

 

Most of my research involved watching multiple episodes of various ghost hunting shows. I watched a ton of them. As to why a ghost story, it's cheap. I had to think, "Okay, I have X amount of dollars to do this with. What can I do that is commercially viable?" The answer is a handheld horror flick with effects I know I can pull off. Is it a movie I WANT to do? Sure it's fun, but it's not what I want to be doing the rest of my life. It's what was doable at the time.

 

You play one of the leads in 7 Nights of Darkness. What can you tell us about yourself as an actor, why did you choose Carter of all characters, and did you write the character with yourself in mind?

 

I got into this business in the first place in order to act. All the directing and writing and producing was used as a vehicle to get me there. I know getting regular work as an actor is very difficult. I figure one of the best ways to then do it is to create the project yourself. Why rely on others to do it for you? No one is going to come knocking on my door out of the blue and say, "You! I heard about you! Come be in my movie!" That being said, I did not write Carter for myself actually. I knew the actors I had to work with and put people where I thought they would do best. I just landed on Carter.

 

A few words about the rest of your cast and crew?

 

In a word, amazing. I've worked with the executive producer, Spencer Jay Kim, a long time now. He really had my back in every facet of production. When you are shooting low budget, you need to make every second count because time really is money. Between Spencer and my 1st AD Jessica Fleming, they really helped keep track of the shooting schedule and shot list. We finished on time and on budget thanks to their help. As for the cast, they were better than I had hoped. Bad acting would have sunk the whole project. There isn't a weak spot among them. They all got what we were trying to do with this project and couldn't be more believable in their reactions.

 

What can you tell us about the house 7 Nights of Darkness is set in, and what made you choose that exact location?

 

The original location for this was actually going to take place in a large house. As I was working on an outline a friend of mine and our set photographer, Coleen Moskowitz, showed me a story in a local paper about tours of a haunted building that wasn't far away from us. I called the owners and booked a tour. It was perfect. The location really helps the movie a long way. It is an actual haunted asylum dating back to the civil war. It did make shooting a little uneasy as everyone was constantly weary of seeing something they didn't want to see or hearing something they didn't want to hear, which happened quite often actually. I suppose that helped a long way with the acting. It's not very hard to act scared when you are in fact scared.

 The owners were more than accommodating and I can't thank them enough. They do have a website: http://www.madisonseminary.com/madison_seminary/Welcome.html and they do tours nightly I believe. As far as I know they are booked through the end of the year so why not make a Christmas present out of it. Very cool place that people from all over travel to.

 

Let's go back to the film's found footage-approach - isn't the concept of having the actors carry little videocameras and shoot the film themselves also the source for an awful number of aesthetic compromises?

 

In a way. I remember being on set one of the last days of shooting and Spencer said to me, "We'll have to shoot the sequel like a real movie."

I get it. I prefer to shoot like that as well, but in this instance

1) I don't believe it would have turned out as good shooting the conventional way 

and 2) I go back to content is king. I had certain visuals in my head of the scares themselves. I got the scares almost exactly how I wanted them so in the end, how much of a compromise was it really? We had to shoot at 60i instead of 24p for a couple of reasons:

1) Reality shows are not shot at 24p. Reality shows do not look like movies. This is not supposed to look like a movie. It is supposed to look like reality show footage.

and 2) With a lower frame rate, every turn of the camera will make people sick.

 

Let's go back to the beginning of your career: What got you into filmmaking to begin with, and did you ever receive any formal training on the subject?

 

I'll save you the list of plays I was in during my community theatre and high school career and say that my training started at Ohio University where I concentrated on acting and playwriting. While attending OU I drove to Cleveland every weekend to take improvisation and writing classes with The Second City. When I got fed up with a 4 hour drive every weekend, I transferred to Cleveland State University where I majored in Communications with emphasis in film. It was there that I found myself in an internship with the film Welcome To Collinwood starring George Clooney, Jennifer Esposito, William H. Macy, Sam Rockwell and others. When the semester ended my internship ended and they hired me on as a Locations Assistant. From there I just began working on crews of films that would come into town. Some as a Production Assistant others as a Stand In. Whatever I could do.

 

Your filmwork prior to 7 Nights of Darkness?

 

I worked as a 1st AD on Spencer Jay Kim's Dreaming on Christmas starring Spencer, Liz DuChez, Danny Trejo and Nick Mancuso. I also co-wrote, produced and was the 1st AD on My Soul to Take and My Soul to Take 2 starring Nick Mancuso and John Savage. I also played the part of Dexter in the Soul To Take-series. They are now being marketed for distribution and I expect will be on the shelf soon. We did have that title before Wes Craven by the way, though I think he beat us to the punch in releasing it.

 

Any future projects you'd like to talk about?

 

There's a ton going on and none of which I am at liberty to talk about. But you'll be seeing us again soon.

 

Filmmakers who inspire you?

 

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In no particular order: Coen Brothers, Terry Gilliam, Terry Jones and of course Spielberg.

 

Your favourite movies?

 

Again, in no particular order: Jaws, Gladiator, Casablanca, The Big Lebowski.

 

... and of course, films you really deplore?

 

I take heat for these all the time but:

1) Titanic. Why? Because by the end I found myself rooting for the iceberg, that's why. Because they had a chance to tell a real story of real people that really died on that ship. Apparently a ship sinking in the midst of class warfare isn't enough drama for an audience and they threw some poo-poo love story in it. That being said, watching the ship sink was fun. Sorry if I ruined the ending for anyone, yes, the ship sinks.

2) Peter Jackson movies: Until he learns how to tell a story in under 3 1/2 hours, I refuse to watch. No battle scene needs to be 45 minutes long, cool as it may be, and I refuse to sit there for 4 hours just to watch a giant gorilla fall to his death. Again, sorry if I ruined the ending for anyone, yes, King Kong dies. Jackson did give us Dead Alive though, for which I thank him.

 

Your website, Facebook, whatever else?

 

7 Nights of Darkness will have a facebook up shortly.

 

Thanks for the interview!

 

Thanks for the opportunity, Mike.

 

© by Mike Haberfelner


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Thanks for watching !!!



 

 

On the same day
a Burglar wants to kill you
and your Ex wants
to make up ...
... and for the life of it,
you can't decide
WHICH IS WORSE!!!

 

A Killer Conversation

produced by and starring
Melanie Denholme
directed by
David V.G. Davies
written by
Michael Haberfelner
starring
Ryan Hunter and
Rudy Barrow

out now on DVD

 

 

Stell Dir vor, Deine Lieblingsseifenoper birgt eine tiefere Wahrheit ...
... und stell Dir vor, der Penner von der U-Bahnstation hat doch recht ...
... und dann triffst Du auch noch die Frau Deiner (feuchten) Träume ...

 

Und an diesem Tag geht natürlich wieder einmal die Welt unter!!!

 

Bauliche Angelegenheiten
ein Roman von
Michael Haberfelner

 

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