Your new movie Smart
House - in a few words, what is it about?
An online influencer is trapped in
a smart home by a sinister hacker, and forced to start a strange livestream while her family and friends fight to get her free.
How did the project get off the ground in the first place?
My old friend Richard Pierce, a
screenwriter in his own right, wanted to work on a script together and we
were cooking along on it when a distributor reached out to my producer
Henrique Couto and asked if we had anything going.
It came together very quickly after that.
I believe we wrote the script in September and were shooting the
first two weekends in December. We
first screened it in June, in Chicago, at Joe Swanbergís secret
microcinema [Joe Swanberg
interview - click here].
what extent does Smart House
mirror your own opinions about smart houses, AI and the like?
All Iím going to say is I always
say please and thank you to Alexa because I want to hedge my bets.
can you tell us about Smart
House's writers Richard Pierce and Luka Nikolic, and what was your
Iíve been writing with Richard
on the internet for years and Iím glad we finally had a super friends
team up. When Richard and I
started corresponding years ago he was I think in college and trying to
break in himself. Now heís
hit that sweet spot writing movies for Lifetime and has far surpassed me,
which is cool to see. Luka is
a good friend of his that he wanted to help break in.
Luka definitely knows his story beats and the whole cold open
belongs to him. I wrote all
the kooky dad stuff and they wrote all the actual suspense and scares.
Do talk about Smart
House's approach to horror!
My touch points are more 60s/70s
horror and suspense, so I like slow burns, cerebral stuff, offbeat
characters. I think when
Richard first brought the story to me he wanted to do more of a camgirl
thing, but I feel there was already a lot of that and I noticed my
daughter and my wife both have ASMR fixations and thought that might be a
different angle. My wife, at
least, reported the ASMR works in the movie J
A few words about
your overall directorial approach to your story at hand?
I like to be collaborative and see what everybody can bring to the
table. My producer Henrique Couto is younger and came up from a different
film tradition in the 80s/90s, so itís neat to blend those two ideas.
Iabou Windimere, the lead, had her own reads on lines which I was happy to
I decided I wanted the dad, my old friend Tom Cherry, to wear PJs and a
bathrobe the whole movie, partially because heís a shut-in and partially
for continuity, honestly. He said he didnít own a bathrobe but his mom
had a pink one so we went with that, and all the other odd things Tom
added to his costume, and people can make of it what they will.
can you tell us about Smart
House's cast, and why exactly these people?
Iabou Windimere and Joe Kidd are a
real-life married couple who played the cold open couple in Scarecrow
County, and we also shot that scene in their house.
They both appeared in The
Girl in the Crawlspae as well in small
parts and I just wanted to work with them again in a bigger way.
I saw them in this one when we were writing it.
We shot three days in their house and they were gracious hosts as
well as being talented people.
Tom Cherry, as I said, is a very
old friend and kind of my ride-or-die talent.
Heís had a big role in everything Iíve made and made everything
better. We shot two days at my
sonís house and he just hammered away and brought the goods.
I knew I wanted a name for the
AIís voice if I could get it, and Henrique Couto had worked with Brinke
Stevens [Brinke Stevens
interview - click here] on his Boggy Creek program so I was able to reach out.
I was absolutely dry-mouthed the first time I talked to her.
Sheís such a tremendous talent and an incredibly gracious person.
Her taking the time to cut the voice for the AI absolutely elevated
of course also have to talk about the actual house most of Smart
House was filmed at, and what was it like filming there?
My son is a great cook and so is
Joe Kidd, so we had good food at both places
I was glad my grandson Thor got to see what it was like to make a
movie and I hope he remembers it, but forgets all my cussing.
few words about the shoot as such, and the on-set atmosphere?
I tried to salt the movie with people I want to work with in front of and behind the camera, and I would
suggest that to anyone. I brought an AD from another city, Jake Baker, because I like his work and
think heís an interesting guy. But
my two script supervisors were a married couple, whose wedding I
performed, that I knew I could just count on and they could pick up what I
needed them to do. Then I find
some people like Erin Hoodlebrink, who can act, do makeup, boom, just be a
$64-question of course, where can Smart
House be seen?
Currently streaming on a number of
platforms, but I would suggest Tubi, where my entire career seems to have
landed, for free.
Anything you can tell us about audience and critical
reception of Smart
The circumstances of all the
screenings ended up quirky in their own way, so I guess Iíll wait for
the internet to tell me what it thinks J It also played in a great theater in Dayton as well as at
Scene in Iowa City, I think one of the premiere midwestern venues.
Any future projects you'd like to
Iíve been running the hype
machine for Smart
so not sure whatís next.
Kind of rattling around and see what makes itself known.
Feeling lucky ?
any of my partnershops yourself
for more, better results ?
The links below
will take you
Your/your movie's website, social media, whatever
You can find me on all the main
socials at @johnoakdalton
Thanks for the interview!
Thank you for asking!