Your new movie The Scarehouse
- in a few words, what is it about?
Well… in a few words it is about the state of union, our foreign
policy and how it affects the lower class… just kidding – it’s a
terror filled revenge film in which two friends open a Halloween fun house
in order to seek revenge on their former sorority sisters and uncover the
truth about an incident two years prior. It is often referred to as
sort of Mean Girls meets Saw.
were your inspirations when writing The Scarehouse?
I like revenge stories. I like stories about underdogs. I
also love horror films and thrillers but had only made one short and one
horror-themed music video before The Scarehouse. Growing up in a
small town, one summer my neighbor Eli and I would rent between
three and six horror films every day and just absolutely binge. We
did the entire A-Z that The Video Shoppe in Amherstburg, Ontario had to
offer. It was inevitable that I would write a “scary movie”.
Most of my inspiration for this film comes from real life headlines.
Mean kids. Kids hurting kids. Initiations into
sororities or fraternities gone too far; horribly wrong. Bullying
is out of control. How the media portrays all these stories.
That’s the emotional story’s beginning for The Scarehouse.
My wife Sarah [Sarah Booth
interview - click here] wrote the story with me. It grew out of an organic
process of us jogging together when I was first developing the
concept/story. I’d bounce ideas off of her and eventually it
became clear to me how creative she is and how well we work together to
make a story ten times better than I would have done on my own. She
calls writing The Scarehouse
cathartic; an imaginary return to certain
girls that have bullied her in the past and how in a twisted way she
could have dealt with them… you know, if there were no laws or
societies measures standing in the way!
The largest inspiration for the film comes from Scarehouse Windsor, which
is an actually Halloween house of horrors attraction. One of my
best friends, Shawn Lippert [Shawn
Lippert interview - click here], runs it and year after year I’ve hung out
behind the scenes while he’s set it up and spent his Octobers scaring
people. I thought to myself, this would be the perfect
claustrophobic setting for a scary movie. Anyone paying their five
bucks to walk through is expecting FUN terror – not actually terror
– so in a maze of dark hallways, someone with a sinister plan would
hold the high ground. They would have little stopping them from
attacking their patrons.
can you tell us about your film's approach to horror (as in suspense vs
sudden shocks, atmosphere vs all-out gore and the like)?
There is definitely a mix. There are a number of surprise moments
but the film is designed more to build mental tension as the torment
these poor sorority sisters face increases in stakes. I think we
have some really nasty stuff in here, it has left test audiences
unsettled. We even had a few actors decline their callback
audition after they read the script, just reading the content made
their stomachs turn. At the time that made me smile more, knowing
that we were doing something right.
The gore moments are choice moments versus an overkill of bloody
carnage. Sometimes it truly is best to leave some of the menace to
the imagination to get the greatest impact. The sound design
layered in to enhance the gore – man, it makes me cringe when I watch
it back now! Our sound designer, George Flores and our composer
Adrian Ellis have gone above and beyond to make these scenes intense.
The atmosphere of the haunted house itself is quite tense and moody –
all sorts of tacky Halloween-ish ghouls and moaning sounds to hide the
approach of our looming attackers. It should trigger memories of
walking through fun houses the audience has attended in the past and
bring them right back to knowing how it feels; just waiting for the next
thing to jump out at you.
talk about the film's look and feel for a bit?
For the film’s look - the sets (practically every scene takes place
inside The Scarehouse itself) we built to look exactly like the tacky
haunted house’s we’ve all been through. Now I’m not saying
there aren’t some amazing, extravagant haunt locations out there –
there definitely are – but the typical small town Halloween thrill
spot is cheap garbage bag walls, endless spools of cobwebs, dummies with
masks, cheap doors on motors to repeatedly bang – that sort of thing.
The film is colourful. The accent lighting in The Scarehouse
array of colours – it isn’t the common modern horror film palette of
heavily desaturation. There is a loose 80’s vibe to the
soundtrack and general appeal of the film that demands more colour I
We also have a found footage element to a small number of flashbacks
shot through the eyes of the sorority sisters during an initiation
ritual that took place a few years prior to the night of the main
Scarehouse events. Anyone who knows me knows of my massive love
for found footage films that are executed brilliantly. I hope
I’ve done these scenes justice. I shot them myself to ensure I
had the exact look I was going for. Far too often you see a found
footage movie that was clearly lit and shot with big Hollywood
filmmaking lights and cameras and it throws off the authentic appeal of
what makes a found footage film believable.
words about your key cast, and why exactly these people?
Sarah and Gavin Michael Booth
Our cast is amazing overall. My wife Sarah [Sarah
Booth interview - click here] is the lead. There
are plenty of jokes of how she * cough cough * secured the role but
really I’m not influenced at all to cast friends and family. If
anything they are the last people I want on set when things get tense.
Sarah and I had made a short film together – the first time we
ever worked together as director/actor – called To Hell, With
Love. I can say without hesitation, aside from being my soulmate, she is an incredible actress who works her butt off every day and
always finds new touches to bring to the character/script.
Enough about her! (Right? You were thinking it!) – we have
Katherine Barrell [Katherine
Barrell interview - click here] as the sorority leader, Jacqueline. She’s
vicious and turns in a performance bordering on insanity. You
really get to see three sides of a character with what Katherine does
The ensemble that makes up the sorority sisters includes many up and
coming Canadian actresses – Teagan Vincze [Teagan
Vincze interview - click here], Dani Barker, Ivana
Stojanovic interview - click here], Jennifer Miller, and Emily Alatao. Casting these girls
was all about who suited the character the best – no specific look in
mind when it was written. We really tried to go for talent as the
top factor. We don’t have pretty faces that are
sorta-kinda-cardboard on camera, we have pretty faces that can also turn
in a performance. In fact we cast a few girls we didn’t expect
to after their auditions impressed us so much. The girls have to
also all work together as an ensemble. The way the filming was
scheduled the girls barely interacted on set in more than a group of
three to four at a time. It wasn’t until our last day of filming
that scenes with all of them together were shot.
If I can be honest – there is always a lurking fear of “did we cast
the right person?” up until you roll cameras on them. With each
actor on The Scarehouse
- after the first take or two - a huge relief came
over me knowing that they were going to do the character justice. I
expect to hear nothing but great news for these girls’ careers.
what I've read, the location is one of the key factors of The Scarehouse
- so what can you tell us about yours, and what were the advantages and
challenges filming there?
As I mentioned early, we filmed inside a building where an existing
Halloween fun house exists. Scarehouse Windsor has some hallways
and display rooms that we didn’t have to change at all – simply
light and they were ready to shoot! Rather than hire a traditional
production design, we employed Shawn Lippert [Shawn
Lippert interview - click here] that runs the haunted house
to design the rest for us – why not go with the guy that does this for
a living, right?
The building itself used to be a myriad of things – a Knights of
Columbus center, a bingo hall, a bowling alley, a swimming pool, retain
stores, a restaurant and office space. It’s a maze of old tile
rooms, stairs to dire looking basements, echo chamber concrete rooms…
just everything – boiler rooms, big empty spaces. We treated it
like our private mini studio in Windsor, Ontario. It was actually
bought by the Raindance Film organization. They renovated the
front of the building to hold classes and a kid’s film camp, with
plans to expand more as they grow. Rhys Trenhaile and Amanda
Gellman that run that organization were extremely supportive of us
taking over and shooting inside their space.
Aesthetically it suited the film perfect – but an old building
doesn’t come without its challenges. We were informed the
plumbing worked for example and we would be able to get hot water to a
kitchen we were planning on using for some of the crew meal prep. Turns
out, instead, there was no such ordinance in the building and one of my
producing partners Mike Carriere and his brother Brad busted some
serious hump (and above the call of duty skills, these are super
producer powers on top of the usual fair it takes to make a movie!) to
re-plumb everything two days before the shoot started. Also the
electrical system in an old building is a mystery game of wires, patches
and decades of rigging it this way or that. We would lose power
occasionally and even the best of the best electricians called in would
leave scratching their heads at how the building is set up.
You also get to deal with Southern Ontario humidity while filming in
this old building – no windows, no A/C, lots of film lights… you
just sweat. I feel very much for the actors and the hair and
make-up team that had to upkeep everything in those conditions! However,
it’s the price you gladly pay in indie filmmaking to not have to find
the budget to recreate the building’s look on a soundstage somewhere.
Do talk about the shoot as
such for a bit, and the on-set atmosphere?
Honestly it was the most difficult shoot I’ve encountered. I’ve
directed four films prior to this and dozens of music videos and can’t
say there is anything like shooting The Scarehouse. This is the
largest budgeted film I’ve worked on (and that’s saying something
because it was still low!) and I have to say that Notorious B.I.G. had
it right when he rapped “Mo money, mo problems”! I mean,
I’ve faced all of the situations The
Scarehouse had – but
individually – as in one or two minor problems per each production –
but never has it all rained down on one set day after day. If I
was a biblical man I would say this might have been the powers of the
universe issuing me a forty day in the dessert kinda challenge. Every
single day had hurdles. There were personalities butting heads,
issues with the building and challenges of every nature.
I won’t single anyone out but to say that dealing with drunk members
of a film crew makes getting the task at hand accomplished difficult –
or dealing with a building that floods one of your sets isn’t always
easy to schedule around – or when an actor and the director don’t
see eye to eye constantly; cue the fireworks while everyone else
awkwardly finds a spot on the ground to look away to.
That however is all water under the bridge. I believe it is
overcoming adversity that will drive an artist forward. We all
have stories from the trenches of how we fought a battle and (hopefully)
won in the form of a finished film we can be proud of. I have that
in The Scarehouse.
That also isn’t to say every day was a complete nightmare because that
would be lying. The one thing I truly love about filmmaking is
that I get to work with some of my best friends each time. You see
people pursuing their respective passion in each department and that
energy inspires me to do my best; to do what I can to elevate their work
on the film. It is that pressure that I love – how to outdo
myself and live up to what is expected of the director. There are
crew members from this film I don’t want to make my next films
without. I’ll bring them kicking and screaming if I have to
because I believe in their ability to work under pressure and excel at
We shot in 23 days just under a year ago.
$64-question of course, when and where will the film be released onto the
October 18th for Canada and the United States. There is a
theatrical run before it comes to VOD/iTunes everywhere shortly after
We’ll be doing a hometown screening in Windsor, Ontario to let
everyone who donated blood, sweat and tears to the film be the first to
Any future projects you'd like to share?
Can I talk about the sequel yet? I’m not sure if I’m supposed
to so I won’t say any more on that, I don’t want to find myself
lured into The Scarehouse
as I speak out of line! Beyond that –
it isn’t a matter of secrecy but more about not wanting to get into
specifics before the projects become “real” (aka financed). I’m
developing a war thriller, another horror film and a musical comedy.
I’m an executive producer on the upcoming horror anthology Late Night Double Feature which will see a release soon.
I also have a highly controversial school shooting film I’ve come
oh-so-close to making several times in the past that I hope to revisit
once again. If anyone reading out there is a film investor with
serious balls and wants to get involved please reach out! It has
been a bittersweet ride with this film – it scares people right out of
the investments they already committed to! That sort of fear of
the material makes me KNOW I have to make it some day soon.
Other than that I will be shooting more music videos this fall,
including a few from the (in my not so humble opinion) wickedly awesome Scarehouse
got you into filmmaking to begin with, and did you receive any formal
training on the subject?
No formal training at all. Everything I know I learned from making
films. The obsession started for me when I was in high school and
hasn’t gone away. I started making videos for every class
project, skipping school to make short films and have worked in video
and film production for myself since finishing high school. I had
a teacher, Keith Harrick, who was my Robin Williams. Carpe Diem!
He pushed me to pursue my talents and not get caught up in
worrying about grades in the traditional math and science. It
really was the Dead Poet’s Society effect. Then I saw Clerks when I was young and read about Kevin Smith making a tiny
film – after that I saw Rodriguez’s first film and I thought –
forget film school – I can raise 10-20k and make a film. That
was my path – learning by failing, by doing, working towards improving a
little each time out.
My first film like many would be using my father’s 8mm film camera as
a kid making stop-motion lego and Star Wars action figure films. Not
much has changed from there – I get my excitable friends together for
each project and we just push forward until it happens.
My first “professional” break came from making a fake A Channel news
station ID and sneaking into a Third Eye Blind concert in Detroit.
I convinced the band’s security and management I was there to
interview them and they let me! I filmed some of the show that
night and started chatting with the band back stage which led to their
bass player scoring parts of my first feature and me doing a ton of
video work for the band and leading to shooting documentaries and other
video projects for some of the top entertainers in the business. It
was a definitive lesson in the fact that anything is possible and if you
just take the risk, take the chance… you can carve your own path with
What can you tell us about your
filmwork prior to The Scarehouse?
I started with action-dramas and straight out indie drama films. The Scarehouse
is a real left turn for me. However, I’m a fan of
many genres of films and hope to work in all of them before my time here
on earth is up.
I worked a lot in the music industry, had the chance to work with some
of the bands I loved growing up – that will always be cherished
memories for me. I love music as much as I love film so the
ability to jump between films and telling stories in music videos makes
me a very, very happy little filmmaker.
If anyone wants to see previous work http://www.youtube.com/mimeticonline
has playlists for different areas of music videos and such. They
can also look up the short film To Hell, With
Love on YouTube.
Besides movies, you
have also directed quite a few music videos - care to talk about those for
a bit, and how does directing a music video compare to making a movie?
It is only a few days on set compared to weeks or months so exhaustion
rarely sets in! You also don’t have to record sound so you can
jump around and directed in a much more energetic fashion which suits
I love it for the ability to tell stories and try out concepts I don’t
always get to direct in narrative films. I get to work with new
actors I haven’t before – collaborate with different
cinematographers – really it is the ideal way to sample a bit of
everything. I’m a big fan of single take videos and try to get
artists to undertake those out when they let me.
I hope to always bounce back and forth between music videos and films.
would you describe yourself as a director?
Hmm – tough. I’m tough. I love collaborating but
ultimately I know what I want and what I’m there to make and have no
problem spelling that out. I can be a very blunt person so that
comes off snappy on a set sometimes. I don’t have a filter to
deal otherwise. In terms of the artistic approach – it is
strange because typically I’ve written the script and been a producer
getting the film to the point we are finally shooting so I’m fortunate
with all that time to live with the film in my head and imagine it
When I get on set I like to see what the actors bring. I like to
let each department give me their spin on how they see it before I lay
out my specific vision day to day – I find it helps a freedom in
creating new ideas or ways of looking at any given scene or shot.
They won’t cater answers to what I’ve just said and often it
brings up fantastic new ideas I wouldn’t have had. That is the
beauty of collaborating with talented people – the discovery.
I also edit my own work so I feel as a director I’m good in a jam –
I can see in my head how I can edit what we’ve shot to get around an
issue or when we are running out of time I can cut the shot list
according to what I know I can make happen in the edit.
who inspire you?
Richard Linklater. His diversity over his body of work is
fantastic. Huge fan of all his films. Can’t wait to see Boyhood. Who shoots a film over 12 years? That’s
interesting me. A new approach. Something that hasn’t been
done. Also with Before Midnight he’s done what few film series
have accomplished – a third film worthy of the first two. That
is a huge high-five.
Lucas. He might be the Lucas he is now – but back in the day he
fought hard to get what he wanted. I respect that. In this
day in age, too many of us filmmakers are willing to bend over and take
it just to get a movie made. Chances are the films facing the most
adversity in getting made end up being the most interesting ones. If
you have a story to tell that is bold and “out there”, don’t
compromise! There is no point in making that movie when it gets
molded into something more generic. Lucas fought back against that
and we have Star Wars for it.
Here in the local scene I’m in awe of Chad Archibald and the Black
Fawn guys. I don’t know him or the team very well but they
represent the work ethic it takes to build a long lasting career in this
industry. I watch from a distance and have a great respect for
their constant output of new material, starting a distribution company
and pushing in all directions. There should be a bigger spotlight
on their efforts.
Your favourite movies?
The Shawshank Redemption, Star Wars: Episode IV, Stand By
Me, Run Lola Run, Good Will Hunting, The Blair Witch Project and
could watch those films on an endless loop. Shawshank is my desert
island film; if I had to live with only one film to watch this would be
Relating to the genre of horror- I’m a massive fan of the Nightmare on
Elm Street films – particularly the original. I can’t say that
The Scarehouse resembles it but as a kid I would watch it over and over
and loved the idea of sound and images being able to scare me so much.
It may have been the first instance (other than the obligatory
John Williams cassettes) of a movie soundtrack I wanted to buy. I
emphasize constantly how important music is to a film.
and of course, films you really deplore?
This is a great question! I actually think I don’t hate any
film. A few friends and I used to host a “Worst Movie Sunday” club - we’d go to the video store and rent what we felt would be the
worst movie, then poke fun of it. I’ve found watching bad
movies there are as many valuable lessons in filmmaking as great films.
The lessons in what not to do and what went wrong for any
I’ve also recently discovered Mystery Science Theater 3000 on
and have to say that without bad movies we wouldn’t have that gem.
It’s just about the funniest thing I’ve seen, not sure how I
missed it twenty years ago.
If I had to pick a few, they would probably be lazy sequels – sequels
that could have been great but the scripts just left massive plot holes
in them. Plot holes that I feel when hundreds of millions of
dollars are being spent on the films that someone, somewhere through the
making of the film must have caught, and I imagine a studio head
looking at the poster and the internet buzz for it and just shrugging,
extending is bottom lip in a “meh” sort of grin. The
equivalent of “fuck it!”. So – Transformers 3 is on my
shit list. Really? They found that new Transformer when man
first went to the moon in the 60’s? Well that’s great – what
a cool introduction to the film, right? Well it undoes how
humanity first learned of Transformers on Mars with the Mars Rover in
the original film. A simple line of “Sir, this has been kept top
secret… even from the rest of the government” would have solved the
error but nope.
Terminator: Salvation is on my list too, I don’t think I’ve ever
wanted to walk out of a film more. Skynet – with zero way of
knowing – ZERO –, knows that it should hold Kyle Reese hostage in
their camp in order to lure John Connor in so they can kill the future
leader of the resistance. WTF? This is chicken before the
egg. I know all time travel movies have a paradox and each one of
them has a few nitpicky things to discuss (like even Terminator 2
we’re supposed to buy that Edward Furlong is nine or ten given the
timeline since the original film!), but Salvation shit the bed. It’s
a horrible oversight that could have been fixed again with ease – the
Marcus robot could have overheard John Connor listening to his
mother’s old tapes and heard a key piece of information that leads
Skynet to the discovery – but nope – screw you audience! We
don’t care – look at the CG Arnold! Look at the cool
Ok, that’s my rant – but again, there are valuable screenwriting
lessons to pull from those.
movie's website, Facebook, whatever else?
(for music videos)
Also, listen to a track from The Scarehouse's soundtrack: https://soundcloud.com/scarehousemovie/face-your-fears-the-scarehouse-original-score
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I think that covers it for now. I don’t really know what else…
pondering… pondering… actually, I’m still a relatively new fish to
living and working in the Toronto film scene. I have to say that
the scene here is incredibly welcoming and supportive. So much
love and promotion between film camps – it is unlike anything I have
experienced before in other cities. You have warm hearted heroes
like Warren Sonoda hosting dinners to introduce filmmakers to one
another; fantastic events at The Royal Cinema constantly… it is just a
great city for people helping each other get projects made. I love
it. There’s a frenzy here I haven’t experienced before.
So in short – to everyone here in Toronto doing what they do in film
– keep it up! Much respected. If I can give back to anyone
out there, I’m happy to do so, it is the least I can do. I
very much look forward to getting to know more of the film community
here as I continue to plant roots.
for the interview!
Anytime! These questions were
great. I love having to think. Keep it coming.