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An Interview with Pete Yagmin, Director of Planchette

by Mike Haberfelner

July 2015

Films directed by Pete Yagmin on (re)Search my Trash


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Your new movie Planchette - in a few words, what is it about?


Planchette is a short horror film that was created for the Wicked Film Challenge and it’s about a Halloween party circa 1986 that takes a dark turn while the guests are playing with an Ouija board. It’s got a great “Creep Show” vibe about it that I think makes it really accessible to people who are just starting to explore the horror genre.


Can you elaborate on what the Wicked Film Challenge is and what challenges this meant for the film?


The Wicked Film Challenge is similar to a 48 Hour Film Challenge, though there’s a regional restriction that the team leader has to live within 50 miles of Boston and it’s a little more leisurely in comparison as teams have approximately 2 months to write, shoot and edit their film, although there are benchmarks which need to be met by certain dates to avoid a penalty points.

My decision to sign-up only days before registration ended meant I didn’t have the same luxury as other teams to secure cast, crew and location before the kick-off event. Teams randomly drew a genre and were assigned the same required prop, character and line of dialogue.

One of the biggest challenges I faced was trying to write a script in 2 weeks (the first deadline of the competition) while trying to secure a location, crew, props and everything else that goes into production. Once I hit the deadline of the script, we had 30 days to shoot and edit a one min rough cut scene and have that uploaded to the judges to show progress which might sound easy enough, but because this was so last min the scheduling was a nightmare. My first location fell through before the shoot date and there was only a single day in which the entire cast and crew was available which was only 5 days away from the rough cut deadline.

All things considered, I think we did pretty alright in the end thanks to an amazing team of people, both cast and crew!


With Planchette being about a Halloween party gone horribly wrong - any of this based on actual horrible Halloween party experiences you had (apart from the killings I hope)?


Ha! Definitely not - I’ve seen plenty of Halloween parties go wrong, but definitely not to this extreme! This is purely a work of fiction and any similarities between any events or people featured in the film dead or alive (especially dead!) are purely coincidental.


The Ouija board - your personal thoughts about/experiences with it?


I’ve always had a fascination with the occult and prior to acquiring this Ouija board for the film, I haven’t owned or touched one in over 20 years. When I was filming the title sequence (at 3am no less), I had set the camera down on the board for a moment to turn off the lights; I had barely made it to the other side of the room when the camera low-battery sound chimed and shut itself off. The battery was fully charged and I had just turned the camera on. I wish I could say this was a marketing ploy, but I was genuinely creeped out; I even posted a photo of my goose bumps when it happened.

The next time it came out of the box was on set and after filming it went right back in and that’s where it’s been ever since. I was thinking about having the cast sign it, but I’m not sure I want to touch it again. I’m pretty sure Tiffany’s reaction (in the film) to the board is genuine as well.


What were your (other) sources of inspiration when writing Planchette?


None really; after I did a Google search for Mata Hari, it occurred to me the easiest way to incorporate her as a character would be as someone’s Halloween costume. I had originally written the script that a dark spirit was released when Julia took her hands off the Planchette before saying goodbye, but we ended up having to improvise due to a costume not making it to set.


Planchette picks up a few slasher clichés, however tongue in cheek - is that a genre you're at all into?


Actually not at all, and I found it especially challenging to write a straight genre film and I tend to skew towards comedic when I write. I really just tried to write what I thought a stereo-typical slasher film would be.


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


My directorial approach to Planchette was very laissez-faire considering the challenges we faced. I had only 2 weeks in which to write and revise my script before submitting it for the first milestone deadline, so my focus was on making sure the requirements for the dialogue, prop and character were met.

In the scene where Julia and Melissa are discussing Julia’s date, Tiffany Howcroft ad-libbed the whole story with the exception of the required line about Mark Wahlberg. Similarly, the dialogue Stephen Wu delivers in the final scene was improvised.


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


There were a number of people who signed up to participate in the Wicked Film Challenge, which included writers, directors, actors, etc, but not as a team lead. I found Stephen Wu (Killer/Late Party Guest) and Tiffany Howcroft (Julia) on the participants list of actors, though I cast Sophia Cacciola (Melissa) [Sophia Cacciola and Michael J. Epstein interview - click here] after I wrote the script. Michael Oberther was a very last-minute addition to the cast, when the original person I had cast (who was a first timer) was too nervous to do it.

Tiffany has experience as a belly-dancer, so that worked really well for the Mata Hari character (though we ended up cutting her dance number from the film) and Stephen is super tall, especially in comparison to the women and I thought would really add to the menacing nature of the character. I had previously met Sophia once before and I was somewhat familiar with her work, so she was the first one that popped into my head when I created Melissa and luckily she agreed!

Michael Oberther and I actually went to high school together and we had just recently reconnected through Facebook. We were chatting over email when I asked him if he’d be interested in filling the part of David, assuming he was still in Massachusetts. We hadn’t seen each other in 20 years and come to find out he now lives in Connecticut, yet he drove 2.5 hours on a Sunday to help me out. How’s that for a good friend?!


What can you tell us about the shoot as such, and the on-set atmosphere?


Depending on the scene or time of day, it was pretty laid back with people socializing and joking around earlier in the day and we had a nice family style dinner in the evening while waiting for the sun to go down in order to shoot the exterior scenes.

Shooting the scenes with the Ouija board was genuinely creepy. When Stephen was in full costume with the red ambient light behind him, he completely disappeared and was replaced by this menacing figure that towered over the actors who were sitting on the floor.

By the end of the night, we were all fighting exhaustion but everyone really brought their game. I couldn’t have asked for more dedication than these folks gave!


When will Planchette be released and where can people see it?


Planchette just premiered at the Wicked Film Challenge on June 26, 2015 and I’ve submitted it to a select few genre festivals, so it may be coming to a city near you! Barring any premiere restrictions, I’ll be making it available online no later than October 2015.


Any future projects you'd like to share?


I think I may have mentioned a horror-comedy I had been working on last time we spoke; I haven’t given up on that, it’s just taken a backseat for now. I’m actually resuming preproduction on another script I had written interim; the working title is Staring into Oblivion.

The best way I can describe it is sort of a psychological thriller/occult horror – think Rod Serling or Ray Bradbury writing a story set in the H.P. Lovecraft universe; it’s weird, dark and very atmospheric set in historic New England during the winter months.


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It’s worth mentioning Planchette won two awards at the Wicked Film Challenge – “Outstanding Sound Design” and “Outstanding Original Song” thanks to the multi-talented Michael J. Epstein [Sophia Cacciola and Michael J. Epstein interview - click here] who I now consider my indentured servant go-to guy for future projects!


Thanks for the interview!


Always a pleasure!


© by Mike Haberfelner

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

is all of that.


Tales to Chill
Your Bones to
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
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Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

the new anthology by
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On the same day
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and your Ex wants
to make up ...
... and for the life of it,
you can't decide


A Killer Conversation

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

out now on DVD