Your new movie Fifteen
- in a few words, what is it about?
The film takes place on the night of October 29th where two roommates
are getting ready for a Halloween party they are hosting. A serial killer,
nicknamed “Truman” (for his sick and twisted Truman Show style show)
is broadcasting his bloody exploits to the masses, via Twitter’s
Periscope app. Tonight, he’s about to meet his match. Fifteen
was fully interactive in that Periscope users could comment and
engage Truman, helping entice the actors decisions and plot direction.
was originally streamed live on the internet - care to explain exactly
how, and who came up with the idea for live-streaming, and how did
everything come together?
I thought up the idea of a live movie over Periscope within 3 minutes
of installing the app and understanding how it worked. It was a real
lightning bolt moment of what it could mean for a new form of
storytelling. I reached out to Ryan Turek at Blumhouse Productions
to pitch the idea and he was immediately supportive. Blumhouse
strong grasp of what is cutting edge and is always rolling out film
projects incorporating new and consumer based-technology; I thought this
might be right in their wheel house.
From there we were off to the races with mere weeks to prepare for the
perfect horror movie release – Halloween.
What were your inspirations
for writing Fifteen,
and did you intend it to be a "live performance" from the
The writing came out of the concept, definitely. I was set out to
make an experience that could blur the lines of fiction and reality, since
Periscope gives viewers the opportunity to interact with the actors, we
were able to incorporate moments where Truman was able to directly address
Truman is sort of Dexter-meets-Patrick Bateman in that he really enjoys
killing, doesn’t mind boasting a bold and often “bound to be caught”
edge to his kill locations and victim choices. Only we’ve giving
him the added advantage of modern technology to invite the world to watch.
The idea of Fifteen is what happens if a killer had built up a bit of an
audience, had gained a bit of an “invincible feeling” getting away with
his killings night after night. How much would he believe his own
hype, his sick success and get more theatrical with each outing.
How long did you all rehearse for the film
actually, and how much was set in stone from the beginning, and was there
room for improvisation?
We had a table read and a walk through one day and then three days of
rehearsal which were also tech rehearsal days. It was a very
condensed schedule. I was confident in the cast we had to execute
everything with precision. We had a lot of room for improvisation.
When working on a single take film/shot like this the timing of what you
write has to be massaged to fit the timing of the location you are filming
at and all of the logistics of making the camera moves work, the activing
moments, etc; how to have that all flow in a seamlessly and natural
Because the film is “found footage”, seen through the eyes of
Truman’s iPhone over Periscope, you are dealing with the first person
perspective which gave us lots of room to play with how to alter
traditional methods for special effects make-up, stunts, lighting and all
other areas of filmmaking. We had to think outside of the box in the
methodology of achieving each moment which meant adjusting the script here
and there. Also having this much rehearsal gives the actors time to
play with the dialogue and character and bring everything to life,
improving on the blueprint laid out. I personally love it when cast
and crew bring new ideas forward. There is rarely the chance that
what I wrote on the script page is the absolutely best and final and
couldn’t possibly be improved in some way moment.
What can you tell us about your
cast, and why exactly these people?
Both Sarah Booth (Jessica) [Sarah
Booth interview - click here] and Neil Napier (Truman) come from a lengthy
background in horror and sci-fi as well as stage performance. It was
important to me that the two leads have a background in longer takes,
stage combat and improv. When you are live anything can and will go
wrong. Neil and Sarah have acted together on SyFy
Network’s Helix, and coincidentally it is Neil’s character that kills Sarah
towards the end of season two. Though I’m married to Sarah I would
never cast her in a project if I felt she wasn’t perfect for it.
After we collaborated on The
Scarehouse, I knew her range for stunts and
being terrorized. I also know she never tires and is incredibly
gracious with her fellow cast and crew.
With Neil, he was also saddled with the responsibility of being the camera
operator for the majority of the film before Sarah takes control of the
iPhone and films the remainder. When Helix was in production I was
invited as a guest on location in Montreal and had a chance to watch Neil
at work. I remember telling him that day how I really enjoyed seeing
him give a great performance in the simplest of moments. It was a
set-up where two actors were having a critical conversation and his
character is simply reacting and listening to the information. His
nuances in gestures and expression blew me away because this was the most
throwaway of any shot in the episode, yet he was committed to giving the
director the most range to choose from when editing the episode together.
It was a real blessing to have seen him on another set before meeting him
in person and discussing the role of Truman with him. The energy I
saw that day on Helix was magnified tenfold. Neil is beyond
professional and threw himself all in with making Truman’s exploits as
real as possible. I largely attribute his performance to audiences
believing Fifteen was real; real enough to call the police during the
The remainder of our cast, Alastair James, Paula Jean Dixon and Hannah
Kat Jones are newcomers to working with me but after reviewing their
material and hearing their enthusiasm for what we were setting out to do I
was convinced they too were perfect for the roles. It’s scary to
attempt something brand new yet I never caught a moment of fear that the
challenge was overwhelming. It really was a dream cast to work with.
As a director, how
much influence did you have on the actual live performance once it was
happening, and was there any way (or need) for you to fix things once the
transmission had started?
This is a great question! Yes yes yes! Murphy’s law
struck right away. Neil had a tiny ear-piece we had rented and used
in rehearsals. I had a walkie-talkie that communicated directly to
his ear. This was only in case of emergencies, say the camera was
covered in water, the broadcast signal dropped out or a timing cue was
going to come early or late. It was the back-up to endlessly
rehearsing for precision timing. We’re talking about a twenty
minute unbroken take with a lot of moving parts from live sound effects,
live stunts and blood effects to moving in and out of the house location.
We were dealing with consumer technology, regular home internet signal, a
regular iPhone6s so really any number of things could have had this
project crash in disaster!
Minutes before beginning the broadcast I ran up to the end of the
street to where Truman’s car starts stalking the neighborhood. I
get there and right away Neil tells me the ear piece has cut out and is
only broadcasting static in his ear – distracting, loud static.
Now it may have kicked back in at some point but I had to make and
executive decision two minutes from show time to place my trust in Neil
and let him remove the piece.
Then we start the broadcast. I logged into Periscope within one
second of Neil pressing “broadcast”, I should have been the first
person logged in to watch but boom! Not the case, there were already
400 plus people logging in. The number just kept climbing.
During rehearsals we had established that there is a delay from the camera
feed to the audience watching between three to six seconds. Never
less, rarely more. Knowing this I knew when to give cues to sound
effects such as the police siren, the boyfriend calling Hannah’s
character in the bathroom, etc. Suddently I’m watching Neil live,
getting out of the car but on my iPhone monitor he doesn’t get out for
another minute, maybe a minute and a half. I nearly had a heart
attack. I didn’t have a clue when to give my cues.
I ran to the front of the house and tapped on a window over and over
until I Hannah heard me and opened the window. I used that to hear
inside the house so I could hear the real time events and see when Hannah
left her bedroom to head for the bathroom. I was able to reestablish
timing and make my cues. It felt a little bit like having Obi-Wan
tell me to turn off the guidance system in my X-Wing and trust in the
force that my instincts would kick in!
Thankfully our behind the scenes camera captured it all happening and
we were able to show a few harrowing moments in the making of video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ew2yHWffpfA
Do talk about the shoot as
such, and the on-set atmosphere?
Excitement and dedication. We were all very much aware that Blumhouse
embracing this project was like being handed keys to the
kingdom. There was a huge opportunity to stand on the world stage
and have this fresh idea be seen by many. The other side of that is
having the ability to face plant in front of just as much audience and
press! You can’t beat that level of adrenaline racing through your
I like filmmaking very much but the best for me is when the people
I’m collaborating with become friends and there is a true sense of
family or community on set. Fifteen
had that for the most part.
It is nice to have your ideas embraced and people find and match your
passion. The idea of working in this industry simply for the
paycheck or the need to work baffles me. I never understand that.
The film was shot where I live so it was very much a sense of family,
we dined in the dining room, took breaks on the patio and by the pool out
back and everyone chipped in beyond their role – actors helped dress
sets, behind the scenes worked as production assistants – on a small
budget you really are blessed when you have a team that is willing to wear
multiple hats to see a production through.
What can you tell us
about the reception of your movie?
I can tell you a lot actually since there is an instant gratification
factor I’ve never experienced before! Watching live on my own
iPhone gave me the ability to experience the film for the first time the
same as everyone else. I was able to see the comments and the split
between people who were excited to be interacting and watching and the
people who were teetering on believing it was really happening. I
expected far more trolls given that’s what the internet has become full
of but the overwhelming majority of comments and interactions were
Since the broadcast ended I’ve had a flood of messages with
enthusiasm for Fifteen and even some invites to pitch other ideas I have.
The response keeps coming in as we saved the film to YouTube so that
people who missed it live can watch the rebroadcast.
Any future projects
you'd like to share?
“Always in motion the future
is”, Yoda says! Lots of projects in developments. I have a
few new projects for rock band Third Eye Blind coming up. I have a
new horror feature that is close to being green lit that we’ll be able
to announce soon and then it is just always writing, always pitching,
always hustling in the never ending chase to make movies happen.
Your/your movie's website,
Facebook, whatever else?
Anything else you're dying to
mention and I have merely forgotten to ask?
did Fifteen within a twenty-four hour window of when Orson
the original War Of The Worlds”radio drama, so it seems fitting that
people believed what we did was real!
Anytime, anywhere. All thanks on this end.