Fear of-episode Agoraphobia: Fear of Leaving the House - in
a few words, what is it about?
is about a women named Emma (Anne Bobby [Anne
Bobby interview - click here]). She has not left her home in
over a year after she lost her family in a bad car accident.
She was the only survivor, but almost didn’t make it herself.
She is in a lot of pain, addicted to all types of painkillers, and
is running low on cash. She applies for disability benefits, but refuses
to leave the house when asked to be evaluated by the Department of Social
Services. So, they send a psychologist named Kendall Pike
to her home for evaluation. Emma also has a young man who helps her
live. Dennis (Blaine Pennington) is her connection to the outside world,
getting her food, cleaning her home, and most importantly getting her the
meds she needs to survive. With someone new in her house, there is no
telling what will happen.
is all I am going to say about it. HAHA!
It is a rollercoaster ride of a story.
What were your
inspirations when writing Agoraphobia, and to what extent can you
relate to the fear of leaving the house? And any (other) pet phobias of
yours you want to talk about?
is one particular story I read in high school English class that inspired
one of the ideas in the film. I would rather not reveal that title of the
story as I am afraid it would give away the ending, same with one personal
fear of my own ... however,
Agoraphobia was kind of inspired by my mother,
We always joked that my mother never liked to leave the house,
which is not true, but at the time my sisters and I always took her car,
so she never had any place to go. We always joked she never liked leaving
the house unless she really had to. Now that she has a car of her own,
she is never home. However unlike Emma in the film, my mom is not nuts.
The element of adding in the prescription drug addiction is because I see
it all the time, in both my personal and professional life.
It an epidemic in the world, when I work out of my job at night and
be approached by drug dealers in the parking lot that are strictly just
selling prescription drugs out of a shopping bag for forty dollars a pill,
you know there is a problem.
As far as personal phobias - I hate fucking
clowns. As a kid my mother had my room decorated with clowns and for years
both my parents wondered why I would never sleep in my room. Honestly I
didn’t sleep in my own room until I was about eleven years old and the
clown statues were gone. Of course I didn’t tell my parents this until I
was 21 years old. They still talk about it to this day. It's funny when I look
back at it now. I also have a fear of someone kidnapping my children, but
what parent doesn’t.
What can you
tell us about the look and feel of your movie?
Think The Twilight Zone
about your cast for a bit, and why exactly these people?
I first wrote the script I told producer Scott W. Perry [Scott
W. Perry interview - click here] that I wanted a
local, small group of actors to fill the roles. It was my first time
directing a film in over 12 years. Scott
and I met at a local diner when I finished the first draft of the script.
He read the script in front of me and his reaction was priceless. I
remember him saying “I want to direct this!” Of course I was like
“Fuck no I am”. He loved it and approved the episode right there and
then. Then he said we need to get a name to play Emma. We toyed around
with different actresses in mind. I wrote the script with Anne Bobby in
mind but at the time we had no clue how to get a hold of her. Finally
Scott found her on Facebook and dropped her a line, five minutes later she
got back to him, within the hour she had the script, and a few hours later
she agreed in principal to do the film. Her response was fast, and she
became a big part of the project. It was a dream come true for both Scott
and I. Growing up as kids we were both very big Nightbreed fans. Speaking
for myself I must have seen Nightbreed
over sixty times when it was released
on VHS back in the day. It is the film that spawned my passion for horror
and reading horror novels. So having the opportunity to work with Anne was
a dream come true. The
greatest thing about Anne Bobby is that she is not only a wonderful
actress but a great writer. She actually helped me with make Agoraphobia
better with some ideas she bought to my attention. It is always good to
have someone from the outside read your script and I incorporated a lot of
input Anne has had into the second and third draft.
She was very involved in the process of helping us getting things
going. She even wrote another episode for the In
which goes into production in October. She is an all around great actor
also, on set she nailed everything in one or two takes. I loved working
with her, because she is an actor that comes to set prepared, as a
director the more prepared the actors are the easier your job is. Anne is
just wonderful to work with, I cannot praise her performance enough.
is a friend of Anne. During auditions Anne bought Frank in. At first he
was not what I was looking for in the part of
Kendall, but Anne insisted that he would work for the part. When he came in the
audition room, his appearance right away got the gears in my head
thinking. I was like “Oh my God, this guy is perfect" - I think I
had him read the script straight through with Anne three times that day.
His audition was about a half hour long. My mind was made up right there
and then that he was playing
Kendall. Frank is such a diverse actor; He is another guy who is a master of his
craft and so much fun to work with. He is the all-American actor and just
a great guy in general.
Blaine Pennington also auditioned for the role of
Dennis, he was the second person that came in that day to audition for the
role and he came in character. I was blown away by his performance, he
nailed it. My mind was made up right there and then. We had a lot of other
actors coming in to audition for the role, but my mind was made up.
is like the Samual L. Jackson of independent filmmaking. He almost had to
leave the project because of all the other films and television shows
he has commitments too. I tried moving mountains to keep him; I did not
want to recast the role. I got lucky that the other production he was
working on, of which he has a major role, moved his call time to the
evening. So he was able to come early and we got his scenes done first.
Honestly I have never met any actor like him.
is so incredibly talented, he was in character on set the whole time, and
the fact that Dennis is a socially awkward ... Blaine
was kind of creeping out some of my crew. He was awesome, just out of this
world. When he was wrapped this whole other personally came out and he was
this great friendly guy. He is a name everyone should be looking out for.
is a true talent in his art.
taking a wild guess here, but the fear of leaving the house suggests that
you are pretty much limited to one location - so what can you tell us about
yours, and what were the advantages and challenges regarding this?
When I write I always write
with the purpose of knowing what locations I can get. I am a very budget
minded screenwriter. I have
worked on independent films in the past where the producers are up to
their heads trying to secure locations that are hard to get without having
a big budget. For example if you need a hotel room to shoot in, all the
hotel manager hears is movie, and they think you have a million dollars to
give them for the use of the room, so they charge you out the ass. I wrote
Agoraphobia knowing that we were going to shoot the film in my house. The
only real challenge was convincing my wife to take the kids and go
somewhere for the day and all the cleaning and preparing that go along
with using your own home. I have to give my wife a lot of credit for
getting everything ready in the house.
What can you tell us about the shoot as
such, and the on-set atmosphere?
It was bit stressful at
first - we had some technical issues to deal with and a dam helicopter was
flying over my house for about ½ hour screwing up the sound; but once it
was gone we managed to iron the technical issues out.
The shoot went great. All the actors and crew had a good time, but
we all worked our asses off. Like
I mentioned above the actors were all wonderful in their roles. One
concern I had was during a scene in which Anne has to freak out and scream
over and over again. Most of my neighbors were warned, but one neighbor I
did not have time to tell was having a small party down the road that
afternoon. I was scared they were going to call the police or come running
down to see what was going on. They didn’t, I think they had the clue
that we were filming. They know me as the horror guy on the block.
How did you get in
touch with the In
Fear of-project to begin with, and what can you tell us about your
collaboration with the In
Series creator Scott W.
Perry [Scott W. Perry
interview - click here] and I have been friends for close to ten years now.
We talk on the phone almost every night like two washwomen.
I knew about In
Fear of before it was a reality. Having
produced some films in the past Scott has always come to me for advice.
During Season one however it was all Scott, I think maybe he called me
twice to ask about something, but he produced the first season on his own,
it is what helped him grow as a producer. He's all business now, in the
second season and has really grown as a filmmaker since I met him all
those years ago. Our
friendship is what got me involved in the second season. Scott treated me
like he treated all the other writers and directors that worked on the
series, even the scripts and ideas he rejected. I want people to know that
Scott even said to me before I wrote Agoraphobia that there were no
guarantees he would approve the script for production.
One thing about our friendship is that we both know when business
is business and we have that mutual respect for one another as friends
even when we might disagree. I
am just glad that Scott liked the script so much. He went well above and
beyond to get this episode made and to go and get me a talent like Anne
Bobby, an actress that I grew up watching in one of my favorite horror
films. He made a dream come true for me. I never had a friend do something
like that for me before and I cannot thank him enough for doing what he did. He
truly is a great friend and a great guy. His whole purpose for this series
is to get a bunch of filmmakers and talent together to make a great
series. No egos, no self-centered filmmakers, just a group of artists who
believe in each other's work. When season two is all said and done there
will be well over 100 people in the film and television industry that have
worked on it. That’s something we can all be proud of.
Any future projects beyond Agoraphobia?
Yeah! I have a few things in
mind such as finishing up the short story that Agoraphobia is based on.
After the shoot last night, I felt empty, with the episode in the
can, and tired as shit from filming all day I decided to start writing
another episode last night. I don’t know what will become of it or if we
will ever do a season three. That is all still up in the air. Right now
really I just want to go on vacation with my family in a few weeks and
then think about what I might want to do next.
got you into filmmaking to begin with, and did you receive any formal
training on the subject?
I went to college for two
years and studied television, radio and film.
I didn’t have the money to continue my education beyond my two
year degree, but was lucky enough to have had a friend that went to film
school and brought me along for a few classes and showed me the rope and
taught me a lot. I also learned a lot of hands-on just from working on all
kinds of productions.
What can you tell us about your
filmwork prior to Agoraphobia?
worked for a series of companies right out of college doing
commercials, music videos and the likes. I also made a few short films
with a friend of mine from college as well as some of my own.
I worked on a big teen comedy feature in 2001 that was more of a
leaning experience than anything. It went direct to DVD, but kind of went
nowhere. After that I worked on some productions both big and low budget,
but mostly stuck to helping people produce their indie horror films.
I also ran the successful long running horror
movie site The Horror Review
for thirteen years. Yeah, I am or should I say was Horror Bob.
I retired in January, but am thinking about just doing book reviews
again. I enjoy reading more
than watching movies. I think any horror fans that bitch about horror
films not being original should go pick up a horror novel. And start
reading. I’m not just talking about Stephen King novels. I’m talking
the mid list and low list horror writers. There are a lot of great small
press companies where you can find work from a lot of talented writers
with original stories.
How would you
describe yourself as a director?
I think I try to make everyone happy, especially my crew. I know I can be
tough at times, especially when things get stressful. But stress comes
with this job, especially on independent productions. All the attention
and questions are aimed at you, and multitasking is something that you
need to be good at.
the actor I try to treat them the way their characters should be treated.
Sometimes it’s hard, especially if they are in character the
whole time. You don’t want to cross the line and offend anyone. On set
for Agoraphobia I think I was nice to the cast, because some of them
scared the shit out of me with their performances. Honestly I try to work
with my actors; I take all criticism and ideas and try to work with it. I
am also flexible with my script as a writer just as long as it does not
change the story. If an actor wants to change a word or a line in the
script because they think it sounds better, I am one to let them do so. I
was lucky enough on Agoraphobia that both Anne and Frank also happen to be
writers as well. I think it is great benefit to a director when your
actors also write, because there is something that you might have missed
that they can recommend can be better if you changed this word or that
line. It is just another
element that helps a cast and crew work together as a team. Teamwork is
what makes a film good. I
think that is what defines you as a director, it's being able to work with
the good people you have around you.
Filmmakers who inspire
My favorite director of all
time is Alfred Hitchcock. I am a lot like him but not as big as he was.
I think what he did as a filmmaker and the method of fear he put
into his films always worked for me. I
also give credits to the likes of George Romero, Steven Spielberg, George
Lucas, John Carpenter, William Castle, James Whale, Tod Browning and Clive
Your favourite movies?
Hitchcock’s Rear Window is
my favorite film of all time. There's something about that film that I just
love. Horror film wise I like Romero’s Dawn of the
Carpenter's In the Mouth of Madness, Wes Craven’s The People
under the Stairs, Clive Barker's Nightbreed, to name a few.
I am also a big Star Wars fan and just about anything science
fiction. When it comes to
favorite movies It has always been a revolving door. Hitchcock’s Rear
Window has been on top for a while for me. I don’t think that will ever
change, but you never know.
... and of
course, films you really deplore?
The Happening! That is one
film I will never get. There
are also a lot of direct-to-video films, and I mean a lot, that have wasted
90 minutes of my life over and over again on. I prefer not to waste more
time writing about some of them. HAHA!
series' webite, Facebook, whatever else?
you are 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
I wanted to mention my
crew, especially series producer and director of photography Steven-Mark
Glassner interview - click here]. Steve helped me out a lot with shot choices and just putting all
the technical stuff together. It is always good to have a great DP one
that will work with you and not try to take over your set. Steve’s whole
philosophy is that the director should direct and leave all the technical
stuff to the DP and his crew. He is a master of his craft and very
particular. During one shot he was upset with the lighting and asked me to
re-shoot the shot. Thank god we were already set up for the shot, and he
tweaked the light a little bit more and the shot looked a hell of a lot
better. I think he was also
happy because I brought in cinematographer Lauren Slattery as an AC for Steve. I got her first gig working on a
film I produced years ago. She was still in high school at the time. Now
she has a master in film and knows more about film than I think all of us
do. I always like bringing in a rookie on set, you can give them the
opportunity to learn and also give them criticism and teach them, most of
time you scare them right out of the industry or off set. I gave my wife’s
cousin Chris Hansen that shot on Agoraphobia doing sound. It is always a
good thing to help people trying to break into the industry and give them
a shot. Rounding out my crew was actress Heather Drew, who is in Fear of
Deformity and Fear of Being Bound and Tied. Heather was a great help-out
on set doing all kinds of work for me. My brother-in-law Tim was a great
craft services guy and cooked us a hell of a lunch, and last but not least
I cannot forget make-up and special effects artist Lisa Forst ... talk about
talent: With her skills she made the characters look just the way I
envisioned them. She is name the make-up effects word should be keeping an
for the interview!
Thank you for the interview Mike. This is the
first one I have done in about six years.