Your new movie Cry It
Out - in a few words, what is it about?
Cry It Out is a
short horror film centered around Martin, a husband to Karen and father to
one-year-old Oliver, who finds himself at a low point in his life Ė
heís lost his job, his wife is going back to work, theyíre in the
midst of moving into their new house, and theyíre just starting sleep
training with Oliver. When Karen goes away for the weekend to tend to a friend in need,
Martin is left alone with the baby for the first time. Suffice it to say he doesnít handle it well, but when he starts
hearing terrifying noises in the baby monitor at night and begins to
experience awful, horrific visions, he must face his own fears of
fatherhood and confront his demons.
you're actually the father of the kid in the movie, how much of Cry
It Out is based on personal experience?
asking whether or not I hear terrifying sounds through the baby monitor
and conjure up visions of dead people at 3am, the answer, fortunately, is
this was definitely inspired by my experiences as a stay-at-home dad for
the first year of my sonís life; the idea came to me during one of those
3am wake-ups, and several shots and moments in the movie are specific
details and images I remember from those times.
Curling up in the fetal position in Donnyís playpen? Check.
on the floor of his room waiting for him to fall asleep? Check.
games on my phone at night listening to the monitor? Check.
The trick with this was trying to depict a father whoís more reluctant
without making him unlikeable, making him more unprepared than anything
but hoping in some way he can do a good job for his wife. Your whole
identity changes when you become a parent, and that sudden shift was
something I really wanted to explore in the context of a horror film.
sources of inspiration when writing Cry
Lots of horror movies dealing with
parenting in times of supernatural evil and crisis, ranging from Rosemaryís
Baby to The Babadook. The visual style of those movies Ė wider angles (even in
close-ups), peering behind furniture and walls, subtle camera movements
Ė really informed us in pre-production.
Do talk about your movie's approach to
horror for a bit?
Point of view is so crucial in any horror film. I wanted to make sure that we didnít stray from Martinís POV
at any point; we as the audience never know more than he knows, and
thatís terrifying for us when we hear things or see things, because
weíre not sure either whatís happening to him or whatís real or
I also like slow-burn horror, particularly with characters. If you really care about the characters or the relationships,
youíll get that much more frightened when the possibility of bad
things happening to them arises. But that takes time to really build that tension and that honest
connection, and Iím content to let that unfold rather than rush into
the jump scares.
What can you tell us about your
overall directorial approach to your story at hand?
script was sort of a challenge to myself; I come from a cinematography
background, and knew we could do a lot with visual storytelling here, but
I wanted to tackle a script that was almost entirely reliant on sound for
the scares, since we donít see most of what happens (the car accident,
Donnyís noises in the crib, the winter storm outside). And I wanted this rollercoaster soundscape, lulls of silence
punctuated by bursts of cacophonic terror, that would take the audience on
the same journey Martin goes through.
with children: Now in Cry
It Out you've worked with your own son, and I'm sure that helped,
but still, how do you get the right performance out of someone as young as
him and keep him interested?
it takes! I
will say that I donít think I couldíve pulled this off in the same
way if it hadnít been my son, because I was able to write for Donny in
some ways and because I knew what he was and wasnít capable of and
could improvise alterations to the script, even on each day of filming. It also helped immensely that my wife and my mother were on set
during production, because they could tend to him while other setups
were going on and they could keep him calm and occupied around the cast
and crew. Timmy
and Kate (who play Martin and Karen) were also really proactive in going
up to see him between takes so heíd get more comfortable around them. I lucked out in so many ways with the people on set, all of whom
were incredibly aware and considerate of my son being on set and
provided a welcoming atmosphere for him as a result; our makeup artist
Justine in particular seemed to have a baby whisperer quality about her,
because Donny was totally smitten!
But with getting him to do certain things, at times it was just a matter
of him reacting to what was happening naturally. His turn to Karen when she leaves was all him, and he did it the
same way each take! Other times, particularly when we needed him to cry on camera, it
was just us figuring out what would make him switch, and usually it was
as simple as my wife Kathleen walking out of the room in the direction
we needed his eyeline to go. We scheduled around his daily routine each day, knowing he would
nap from about 1-3pm and knowing heíd be more alert for the first half
of the day. And,
again, some stuff Ė like the split-diopter shot of his eyes open
staring into camera with Martin at the door Ė was just plain dumb
just adopted a roll-with-it style on any scenes involving him directly,
and it paid off in spades.
Do talk about the rest of
your cast, and why exactly these people?
Iíve worked with
both Timmy Hart Barron and Kate Black-Spence before, which was a huge help, but not in any way the
main reason why I cast them. We had a limited audition process with a number of really great
actors, but I knew I needed actors who would be comfortable with
improvising around Donny while being able to stay in the emotional moment,
particularly with Martin. And Timmy, because of his sketch and improv comedy background,
brought that, but he also has a rawness and internal depth that was really
exciting and dynamic to watch. Kate also has that, as well as a willingness to let me make her up
in all sorts of horrifying gory glory; sheís game for anything on that
A few words on
the shoot as such, and the on-set atmosphere?
We shot for five days across two weekends. This film was made as an MFA thesis project for DePaul
Unversityís School of Cinematic Arts, which is a truly terrific
program with a ton of resources that few schools can boast of. To that end, we were able to shoot on an Arri Alexa package with
a set of Cooke S4i lenses, on DePaulís exclusive stage at Cinespace
which includes a full apartment set. That set was the entire location for our film; we re-dressed the
bedroom to serve as both the master bedroom and the babyís room, and
our rip-roaringly talented G&E crew, under the tutelage of longtime
friend and DP Bill Donaruma, crafted looks for all times and hours of
the day to give a real sense of the passage of time.
I canít stress enough how wonderful this cast and crew was. They were constantly vigilant in coming up with smart and simple
solutions, the amount of prep and planning done at all levels was
beautiful to watch, and it was just a tremendously fun group of people. I know there are people who say suffering for your art is an
important part of the creative process, and that sometimes conflict
breeds creativity, but this was just a fun set, top to bottom.
$64-question of course, when and where will your movie be released onto
the general public?
I donít think Iíd be able to tell
you even if you gave me $64! Right now the big first step is film festivals; we started
submissions this month. There are all sorts of opportunities out
there in the world for short film distribution now, and Iíll be
researching those as we get further onto the festival circuit. Cry
It Outís length (just under 30min) lends itself well to a TV
model or a Netflix one. And Iíve got a feature-length idea based around this film
rattling in my head, but weíll take things one step at a time and see
how the festivals react to it!
Anything you can tell us about
audience and critical reception of Cry
It Out yet?
So far, itís been overwhelmingly
positive, at least from the super-small test screenings and thesis
screening I had! But
the trick is always seeing how it fares outside of your circle when it
gets out into the real world. Thatís my favorite part of the whole process: seeing people
youíve never met take ownership of a small emotional piece of your film,
realizing that once a film goes out into the world, itís not yours
anymore but theirs. Iím excited to see people discover this one, especially because
while itís so much of my own experience as a father, I know other people
with children will see parts of themselves in it, and I know those without
children will get something totally different out of it. Cry
It Out is the first film Iíve made where Iím genuinely
curious to see how different groups and demographics react to it.
Any future projects you'd like to
Right now, my production company Glass City Films is
in the midst of post-production on Limerence,
a short LGBT fantasy horror film that we shot back in September under the
direction of screenwriter Dan Pedersen. And I shot a number of short film projects over the past six months
that will all probably come out of post-production early next year,
ranging from the Wendy Roderweiss-helmed dramedy Stage
Four to Dan and Walt Delaneyís Two
Lights to the recently-completed drama Breathing
Through Trees, in addition to a couple of MFA projects I DPed for
friends of mine in DePaulís program. Lots to look forward to, as always!
Your/your movie's website, Facebook, whatever
No website for the film yet, but you can find it on
on Twitter @WindyCityCamera, and my company is @GlassCityFilms.
And Iím sure when we do have a website, weíll promote it all
over those pages!
Anything else you're dying to mention and I have
merely forgotten to ask?
Feeling lucky ?
any of my partnershops yourself
for more, better results ?
The links below
will take you
So many small stories. Donny falling asleep in his grandmaís arms before a crucial scene
that was originally written with him awake, and all of us adapting to it
on the fly to create one of the scariest images in the film. Filming during Donnyís naptime on the last day to get shots of
him sleeping, and my wife constantly having to adjust his position for
camera while he slept. And I havenít even talked about the great post-production process
and working with editor Ward Crockett, whose eye for rhythm and jump cuts
really re-shaped the film in a spectacular way. Or composer Darren Callahanís unique process of not composing
music to picture and simply recording music, stingers, and melodies that
could overlap and be placed anywhere. Or the additions sound designer Travis Duffield brough to the
wish I could just name-drop everyone in the film; there were contributions
at all levels, and Cry
It Out wouldnít exist were it not for all of these awesome people.
Thanks for the interview!
for asking; youíve been so supportive of our films and other indie