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An Interview with the 15 Second Horror Film Challenge's Andrew J.D. Robinson

by Mike Haberfelner

August 2015

Andrew J.D. Robinson on (re)Search my Trash


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Your 15 Second Horror Film Challenge - well, the title is rather self-explanatory, but could you go into a bit more detail, what is it about?


Although I did not invent "the micro-short film contest", what we are about defines us where our approach is to build an annual social network film festival that spawns across countries. I even have interest from filmmakers in Vietnam and Kenya! 

It's a festival that I wanted to speak to the needs of indie filmmakers: (1) submission fees pile up quick, so let's get rid of having a registration fee and on top of that you can submit as many entries as you produce (2) exposure is always an issue regardless of whichever festival we're accepted to, so let's create a social media community that not only connects us all through our degrees of separation, operates through our indie social networks, but also draws in outside industry horror celebrities for guest judges and (3) festival programmers are flooded with submissions, so the odds of being accepted into film festivals is much smaller, so let's accept every submission (unless of course it's flat-out malicious by nature).

What we are about is what separates us from others: we offer something secular.


I think the main reaction regarding this challenge might be "Why only 15 seconds? That's hardly enough to tell a story." Your answer to that? And have you ever made a 15 second horror short yourself?


Limitations can be the fruit to creativity: You are a painter. You open your window and see a brick wall. What will you paint? Many will paint the brick wall while a few will paint what they imagine could be behind that wall... and if you can do that... that's when no one can ever come up with ideas and stories that you can. That's having vision. Storytelling suffers from stigmas that a story must have "enough time" to be told. Elevator pitches and two-sentence horror stories make for some of the strongest stories ever. "The last man on Earth sat alone in his room. Suddenly there was a knock at the door."


So what were your key inspirations conceiving this challenge in the first place?


My ideas stem from being a fan of film first and foremost, so when it came to coming up with the idea to program 15 Seconds Horror Film Challenge, it came from something I wished I had come across: you mean tell me there's an online festival where some of my favourite horror celebrities are guest judges, folks from outside my city will see as many entries as I enter, and all of this is for free?! Count me in!


Any practical advice for filmmakers wanting to pick up your challenge - and some of the qualities you're looking for in your entries?


I would suggest that filmmakers take a punchline approach to their 15 second short films where they apply the Bugs Bunny cartoon formula: first half establishes an assumption whereas the last half pulls a twist. That could either mean (1) a pop-up scare (2) a suspenseful revelation or (3) a WTF spirit throughout. Their entry should be approached like a two-sentence horror story or a short and sweet joke you would tell, "A guy walks into a bar. Ouch." Innovate clichés. They say there are no more original ideas, but what they really mean is that many films fall onto certain motifs. Study motifs so you don't "paint the brick wall," rather, you "paint what you imagine what could be behind that wall." Once you have your story, storyboarding is such an asset. Also, do not rush out of pre-production. Try new options on what images, like a photograph, not only tell your story but spell it out as clearly as possible, because the audiences will be emoting immediately knowing they are entering a 15 second ride.


So how does one submit to your challenge?


Anyone can submit through the submission form at or our FilmFreeway at


You do have a panel of judges for your challenge - so please talk about those for a bit, and why exactly these people?


I approached Lloyd Kaufman, Nicholas Vince, Felissa Rose [Felissa Rose interview - click here], Tristan Risk [Tristan Risk interview - click here], Lee Demarbre, and Steve McGinnis because I'm genuine fan of their work. I've either grown up watching The Toxic Avenger, Sleepaway Camp, Hellraiser, and Jesus Christ Vampire Hunter on VHS and am rooting for today's pioneers of the new wave of horror. Our film challenge is a love letter to the genre and what better way to celebrate than to have these figure. Know that no one asked for compensation either. They truly support indie filmmaking. That was the incentive for them and we should all be warmed by that.


You also accept audience votes though - so how does one vote?


One can vote when I premiere the playlist across 100+ Facebook groups. There are many online festivals that, when an audience award is determined, fall into becoming popularity contests where filmmakers share their entry to their friends hoping everyone goes onto that website and clicks like so maybe they could win. I wanted to remove that bias and instead find real-life horror fans in their natural habitat. Whoever comes across my posts on Halloween will be able to chime which entry was their favourite and an unanimously acclaimed entry will emerge after I tally up everyone's votes.


So when and where will the winners of your challenge be announced?


The winners will be announced on our official Facebook page, website, and YouTube.


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Is the 15 Second Horror Film Challenge a once-in-a-lifetime event, or are you planning to make it an annual thing? And other future projects of yours you'd like to talk about?


The 15 Second Horror Film Challenge will be an annual event. My two future projects will be feature-length horror films. Although I won't disclose any details at their current stages, I'm committed to seeing them through and am practicing great patience on my part to not just go out and shoot them tonight! It's hard enough not to talk about them, because I'm very passionate about these projects. They are two films that I wish had existed in the 80s horror era and if done properly, will be a lot of fun for viewers.


Your/your film challenge's website, Facebook, whatever else?


Anything else you're dying to mention and I have merely forgotten to ask?


My closing thoughts is that I'm just very excited to explore these new creative horizons as a community.


Thanks for the interview!


© by Mike Haberfelner

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Thanks for watching !!!



On the same day
a Burglar wants to kill you
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



Stell Dir vor, Deine Lieblingsseifenoper birgt eine tiefere Wahrheit ...
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... und dann triffst Du auch noch die Frau Deiner (feuchten) Träume ...


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