Your upcoming movie Haunting of the Innocent - in a few
words, what is it about?
It's about a high-powered but philandering architect, Tom Paulson,
who's wife, Brenda Paulson has a very traumatic experience, after which
she convinces Tom, to move with their son, Roger, back to her hometown to
live with her father, Erik, to start a new life. Upon arriving she meets a
local woman, Beyla, who says seems beyond her years and possesses a
particular knowledge of the town and its people that fascinates Brenda.
But something is amiss, and the more time Brenda and Tom spend in the town
the more things seem out of place and their own personalities seem
affected by their surroundings. The strange goings-on guide Tom and Brenda
down a dark path and dredge up ancient memories that eventually reveal the
most twisted of secrets that the town has harbored for centuries.
What were your sources of
inspiration when writing Haunting of the Innocent? And what can you
tell us about your writing partners Ian Ascher and Chris W. Freeman, and
your collaboration with them?
The great thing about Ian Ascher and Chris Freeman is that
they are very active and vibrant creatives. They have ideas
constantly brewing and are always ready to throw an idea
either at you or in the trash, this makes the creative work
easy because there's always a great idea or fix coming at you.
They had already laid down the bones and sinew of the script
so when I was asked to direct, all I had to do was go in and
flesh it out in places and focus it in others. I loved the
idea they brought me, I only had a to do a couple of
roundtables with the writers and producers to get the story to
where I thought it was shoot-ready.
One of the core inspirations for Haunting of the Innocent is the 1973
feature Wicker Man. We loved the idea of how a person could be slowly
sucked into a world they thought they had full control and understanding
of only to have it flipped completely upside down on them.
How would you describe
your film's look and feel? And related to that, please talk about Haunting
of the Innocent's approach to supernatural horror for a bit!
I designed the film to look and feel a bit more like a classic horror
film, slow-burn and paced, with modern touches sprinkled about. My DP,
Miko Dannels, and I kept our frames very purposeful and efficient in
the sense that much of what's happening in scenes is expressed in as few
shots as possible. My favorite examples of this are Kubrick's Shining
and Tomas Alfredson's
Let The Right One
In (the original). The simultaneous simplicity and complexity is
one of the aspects I've come to love about the best filmmakers.
"If you're gonna show me, don't tell me. If you're gonna tell me,
don't show me" is an old adage I learned from my theater days
after college and it has always stuck with me. My intent was to express the
supernatural aspects as "naturally" as possible, given our constraints, and to not overemphasize them.
I wanted them expressed
through character choices as much as possible rather than through magic
lightning bolts from the sky or silly auras surrounding a character.
I've always felt this creates both a deeper suspension of disbelief in
general and a greater sense of dread and terror when watching a horror
horror usually also suggests quite a few special effects. So what can you
tell us about the effects work on your movie?
with the aforementioned, and considering my affinity for story foremost,
my goal was to integrate the special/visual effects with the story such
that they are not the dancer but rather they are the clothes on the
dancer. I have always been distracted when watching a movie and the
purpose of a scene is just to show me a supposedly dazzling special FX
sequence, but without advancing the story in any way. So there is a good
deal of FX usage in Haunting of the Innocent but at times the viewer may not
even be aware of it. We did however have some great SFX makeup and blood
work done by Michelle Diaz and Mika Caviola, and my VFX artist, Sean
Jackson did some fantastic work with ravens, fire, and smoke elements as
you tell us about your movie's key cast and crew, and why exactly these
Rib Hillis (as Tom Paulson) [Rib
Hillis interview - click here] was, luckily for me,
already attached when I came on board, and I can't be happier
because of what he brought to the table. As an actor Rib's
openness to guidance and sheer willingness to pursue the idea,
when put together with his talent and experience were
indispensable on my set.
Likewise Dane Hillis (as Roger Paulson, Tom's son) is Rib's real life
son and what more could a director ask for than to have a real father
and son team on set who are both natural performers. The moments of
nuance onscreen between these two are things that don't exist between
actors who don't know each other and are next to impossible to create
Jessica Morris (as Brenda Paulson) has this ability to beautifully evoke
the qualities of someone who is simultaneously surefooted and lost. That
vulnerability was absolutely necessary for Brenda as was her sense of
self to stand up to Tom at the right times. It also give you the sense
that you're not sure where she stands at any given moment, the precise
imbalance I wanted for Brenda.
Hannah Cowley (as Beyla) was Beyla the moment she sat down in the
audition, period. Watch the film and you'll see what I mean.
Neil Dickson (as Erik, Brenda's father) instantly legitimizes any scene
he's in. He is such the craftsman of acting that, on the rare occasion I
would need to adjust a scene and couldn't find the words, he would see
my body language and just nod at me say in his regal Queen's English,
"Brilliant, yes?" and the next take was the one.
Judd Nelson (as Mr. Franklin) was a trip, I didn't know what to expect
prior to meeting him but was delighted to find out he's just as
passionate and excited to be on a set as any brand new actor on the
scene. It's always such strange experience to meet someone who you've
known since you were a kid watching them in movies and on TV and they
have no knowledge of you so there's this disparity. But once you find
the common thread, which in our case was a passion for the story,
everything else falls away and you can immediately appreciate the man's
expertise. I was extremely happy with the extra bit of magic he brought
to his scenes.
I also want to throw a quick mention to actors Autumn Federici [Autumn
Federici interview - click here], Flood
Reed, and John Joyce, all of whom I've worked with before and will
again. They always deliver.
Miko Dannels (my director of photography) was essential in the
execution of the look and feel of the picture. From the moment we sat
down he understood immediately what I was aiming for, and he knew how to
deliver it on the camera systems we used (Red and Canon 5D Mark III).
Aside from his eye for light, Miko is the kinda guy who sees a problem
before it's a problem and prevents it from getting there and he usually
does so without saying anything. He knows his business.
Darren Morze (my composer) worked with me on Blackout and I
didn't even have a choice if I wanted to achieve on this picture what I
wanted. Darren is the kind of composer that already knows what I need
before I ask for it, and he already has 3-4 ideas of how it can sound.
And the quality of his music is second to none.
Rib Hillis, Neil Dickson
Brian Guilladeau (my editor) is another guy who just gets it. As with so
many of these key crew positions, there are always droves of people out
there who have the technical skills to work a particular instrument or
piece of equipment or software, but something much more difficult to
find is someone who intrinsically understands the intersection of the
technical with the art. And Brian just gets it.
One of the unsung crew positions on most productions is sound and yet
its almost always at least 50% of the importance of the film. Chris Buch
& Jacob Voelzke (production sound mixers) did wonders getting me the
sound I needed in often impossible sound environments and then David
Kitchens and the boys at Juniper Post (post production sound) did
wonders cleaning up what we had and and creating what we didn't. A big
thanks to them.
A few words about the shoot as such, and the
Another reason my design was necessary, 9 locations and 12 primary
performers all shot in about 16 days. For the uninitiated, that's
insane. I was freaking out when the producers first told me the
timetable. Then I sat down with Miko, had a couple three fingers of
bourbon, and came up with a plan. Thanks to producer Autumn Federici [Autumn
Federici interview - click here] and
Justin Jones' experience doing these types of shoots, aside from a
dropped scene, I got the film.
The atmosphere throughout was focused but enjoyable. Shooting a movie is
always a hectic experience because you're usually working 12-16 hour
days, 6 days a week for however many weeks. You're doing night shoots,
then day shoots, then back again, and your Circadian rhythms are mucked
about, but it's also the most invigorating experience because it awakens
the senses to purpose, the most vital of principals. And usually the
type of people who work in the movie business thrive on the driven but
constantly shifting experience.
Feeling lucky ?
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The $64-question of course: When and
where will Haunting of the Innocent be released onto the general
January 28th 2014 on Redbox is the first pickup
I've heard of from the producers so far, but it will almost certainly be
out on many of the digital platforms within a week or so after the Redbox
Any future projects you'd like to share?
always got some stuff brewing, various projects are in development stages,
and I hope to be talking to you about one or more of them soon!
movie's website, Facebook, whatever else?
for the interview!
My pleasure, and thank you Michael.