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An Interview with John Rocco and Abiel Bruhn, Directors of The Night Sitter

by Mike Haberfelner

August 2019

Films directed by Abiel Bruhn on (re)Search my Trash

Films directed by John Rocco on (re)Search my Trash

 

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Your new movie The Night Sitter - in a few words, what is it about?

 

A petty thief poses as a babysitter to rob a house at Christmas, but her and her friends get more than they bargained for when the kids sheís babysitting unleash a trio of witches from an evil ancient text.

 

What were your sources of inspiration when writing The Night Sitter?

 

We wanted to write a story that would mix our love of 70s and 80s Italian horror movies (Suspiria in particular was obviously a huge influence), kid-driven Christmas movies like Home Alone, and irreverent horror comedies like Idle Hands or Shaun Of The Dead.

 

What was your collaboration like, both when writing and during the shoot?

 

John Rocco: Usually I like to try to come up with a detailed outline that I'll send to Abe. Once we get on the same page, Abe will then turn the outline into a script, and we'll bounce ideas back and forth during the process in order to get to a presentable or "final" draft. We're constantly evolving the characters and script (when budget permits) sometimes up until the moment we're getting ready to shoot though, so we use the script as a guidance tool more than anything.

 

Abiel Bruhn: As for directing, I think we both share the workload pretty evenly. There are so many things to be doing on an indie movie, and we like to keep each other in check rather than step on each otherís toes.

 

Do talk about your film's approach to horror for a bit?

 

We made a horror movie with comedic elements riddled throughout, so it was a fun challenge to try to capture that specific tone that lots of our favorite cult films were able to do.

 

The Night Sitter is a film that does have its bloody bits - so do talk about the gore scenes in your movie for a bit, and how were they achieved?

 

Our lead special effects artist, Ben Rittenhouse, did such an amazing job. Heís done effects for some huge movies like Kill Bill and The Hills Have Eyes 2, and it was such a pleasure to work with someone of that calibre on our first feature. We were worried about finding someone who could handle all of our effects while shooting in Tennessee, but we lucked out since Ben had recently moved out there and started his own school. He was actually able to staff several students he was currently teaching, so we had a lot of extra help in the effects and makeup department. Weíre both hardcore advocates of practical gore, so we've got quite a few juicy kills at the end that we can't wait for you to see!

 

With The Night Sitter being limited to only a handful of locations, how limiting and perhaps also liberating was this to you as a filmmaker, and what techniques did you use to keep things interesting?

 

JR: The movie was designed specifically to be shot in one location, and we wrote it with a specific location in mind: my parentsí house in Nashville. Itís a great space that totally suited the style we were going for; we could jump throughout the house and use intense and vibrant colors to create different moods even if we were moving back into a room weíd already seen.

 

AB: It was liberating to shoot in one location because that was what allowed us to actually make the movie at a reasonable budget. Not only did we film 99% of the footage in the house, but the cast and crew were living there during the shoot. Itís the Evil Dead model of filmmaking - go somewhere, lock yourself inside, throw some blood around and make a movie.

 

What can you tell us about your overall directorial approach to your story at hand?

 

The Night Sitter is a genre movie, so a lot of the specificity in the story comes from the performances and the visual storytelling. So we can only take so much credit for the directorial approach - a huge part of the equation is casting great actors and letting them do their thing, and having a great cinematographer like Scotty G. Field who can elevate our ideas.

 

Do talk about your key cast, and why exactly these people?

 

Our ensemble cast was fantastic, and we couldn't be happier with all of their performances. We had the pleasure of working with Elyse DuFour (AMC's The Walking Dead), Jack Champion (Avatar 2 & 3) as well as Jermaine Rivers (The Gifted, MacGuyver). We depended a lot on all of our actors, especially Elyse, since she was the lead and had to carry most of the emotional moments in our movie. She really carried the movie on her shoulders, and we feel truly blessed and honored to have an actor of her calibre put so much into this role.

 

A few words about the shoot as such, and the on-set atmosphere?

 

Well nearly the entire cast and crew stayed in the location we were filming in, so it was kind of like summer camp for 3 weeks. We all had to experience a few cold showers since we had to share all of the hot water between 30+ people in one house. But it was a truly amazing experience that allowed the cast and crew to quickly become friends. Everyone bonded over the fact that weíd be having such little privacy for ourselves for almost a month. Although trying to make our days was always stressful, it was really a once-in-a-lifetime experience and weíre really grateful for it.

 

The $64-question of course, where can your movie be seen?

 

It will be available digitally on iTunes, Amazon, Google Play, etc. on August 6th. And youíll be able to find DVDs/BDs of The Night Sitter at WalMart and other retail stores.

 

Anything you can tell us about audience and critical reception of The Night Sitter?

 

The festival world has treated us well. After we had our world premiere at FrightFest London, we kind of rode a wave of good buzz and started getting requests from different festivals around the world. Itís so cool to think about people all over the world, places weíve even been, getting a chance to watch it on a big screen. We got a chance to see it with an audience at a film festival in Los Angeles and it was a really special moment.

 

Any future projects you'd like to share?

 

We have another feature film concept that weíve actually been wanting to make since before The Night Sitter; itís a serial killer thriller called Killerís Vanilla about a homicidal rideshare driver who is obsessed with a pop starlet. We both live in LA and itís kind of our love letter to the city.

 

What got you into filmmaking in the first place, and did you receive any formal training on the subject?

 

We both went to film school, but for each of us the passion for filmmaking was something that started as children. When youíre first discovering movies - especially horror movies, which are so powerful and evocative - you just sort of get hooked and you want to create those images, create those feelings. Then you just have to never give up chasing it.

 

What can you tell us about your filmwork prior to The Night Sitter?

 

We formed a collective of filmmakers who share the same passion for horror called Roller Disco Massacre. All of us met in film school and the partnership was born there. We've made a series of vibrantly colorful horror shorts since graduating, and The Night Sitter is our first feature.

 

Filmmakers who inspire you?

 

John Carpenter, Sam Raimi, Dario Argento, Alexandre Aja, Lucio Fulci [Lucio Fulci bio - click here], Michele Soavi, Edgar Wright, Brian De Palma, Fred Dekker.... the list goes on and on!

 

Your favourite movies?

 

JR: The Thing (1982) is my favorite, but there are so many other films I love, Spring Breakers, Shaun Of The Dead, Good Time, Under The Skin. Iíd say some of the best movies currently out are being released by A24.

 

AB: Such a difficult question, and Iím going to challenge myself not to repeat any of Johnís answers. Iíll just say three that I love because of the voyeurism, tone and production design: Rear Window, Body Double and Fright Night.

 

.. and of course, films you really deplore?

 

JR: I try to give everything a shot and usually can find something good in every movie I watch. Iím not a huge fan of the Disney/Marvel/Star Wars franchises being built and rebuilt, but Iím in the minority of course. As long as thereís at least one good horror movie being released a month, Iím pretty satisfied.

 

AB: Itís fun to analyze movies and figure out why they werenít as successful as they couldíve been, but itís tough to really hate on any movies because we want the industry to be healthy. If people are paying money and driving to the theater to watch movies, thatís a win for the industry. I personally hope every movie makes money and finds an audience.

 

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Find The Night Sitter
at the amazons ...

USA  amazon.com

Great Britain (a.k.a. the United Kingdom)  amazon.co.uk

Germany (East AND West)  amazon.de

Looking for imports ?
Find The Night Sitter here ...

Thailand  eThaiCD.com
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Your/your movie's website, Facebook, whatever else?

 

www.RollerDiscoMassacre.com or by going to our YouTube channel - Roller Disco Massacre. We've also got Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram accounts for The Night Sitter as well.

 

Anything else you're dying to mention and I have merely forgotten to ask?

 

You forgot to ask us if we are delighted to be interviewed by your site, and the answer is yes.

 

Thanks for the interview!

 

© by Mike Haberfelner


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Robots and rats,
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love and death and everything in between,
Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

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Tales to Chill
Your Bones to
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a collection of short stories and mini-plays
ranging from the horrific to the darkly humourous,
from the post-apocalyptic
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tales that will give you a chill and maybe a chuckle, all thought up by
the twisted mind of
screenwriter and film reviewer
Michael Haberfelner.

 

Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

the new anthology by
Michael Haberfelner

 

Out now from
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On the same day
a Burglar wants to kill you
and your Ex wants
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... 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
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starring
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Rudy Barrow

out now on DVD