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Interview with John Rocco and Abiel Bruhn the writers and directors of The Night Sitter
By James Whittington, Sunday 26th August 2018
HC: Where did the idea for The Night Sitter come from?
JR: From the beginning of this story, I had my childhood home in Nashville in mind as the perfect location. After several months of convincing, my parents allowed us to film in their house. It's a pretty amazing feeling to have grown up in the same location that we'd eventually film our first feature in! We were able to incorporate all the parts of my house that used to scare me as a child and weave them into a story about witches, which was extremely fun and nostalgic at times. While developing the story, I tried to recall the scary thoughts I had when I was Kevin's age.
AB: Finding an inspiring location (the house has this strange labyrinth quality on the inside) is a great way into a narrative. Otherwise it really just came from our love of the genre, and trying to craft a horror movie that is more fun than grueling. I hope in 30 years there's some future equivalent of late-night cable that stoned teenagers can find The Night Sitter on.
HC: Was it written with a cast in mind as all are brilliant in their respective roles?
JR: No, we had zero contact with any of the actors before their first auditions. Cristian Quintero, our lead producer at Roller Disco Massacre, coordinated all the auditions in LA, NY, Atlanta and our shooting location of Nashville for all the roles. So it was definitely a long process and we cast a really wide net. We were extremely lucky to find the talent we have in this movie.
HC: Was it difficult balancing the horror and comedy elements?
JR: As long as the comedy comes from characters and not forced situations, it actually really helps a horror movie to make the audience laugh once in awhile. Generally, audiences like funny people better and enjoy being around them, so they're invested and don't want to see them die. It's also harder to make an audience care about someone moping around in a dark house listening for creaks for 90 minutes.
HC: Did you have much of a budget to work with?
JR: It was definitely a low-budget production in the truest sense. We Kickstarted the gore FX budget, pooled money from a lot of small investors and had amazing executive producers who always figured out a way to get us what we needed. But in a lot of ways the low budget can be a blessing in disguise; the key cast and crew all lived in the house we were shooting in during production, so there was this amazing "grown up summer camp" vibe that kept spirits high over the course of our shoot.
HC: It has an 80s vibe with the way in which it lit and the electronic score, was this deliberate and are you fans of 80s horror?
JR: Yes absolutely. Any list of our favorite horror movies would start with The Thing and be mostly more 70s and 80s titles after that. We worked with our cinematographer Scotty G. Field and our composer Rob Himebaugh really closely to get the style right. We wanted to create our own little world inside this house with all these stylistic and story homages to our favorite films.
HC: The effects are pretty cool, which one was the hardest to realize?
JR: Thanks to our extremely talented effects artist Ben Rittenhouse, we didn't run into any major problems on set. The most difficult death to put together in pre-production was probably Charlotte's because it involved both prosthetics and stunts, which we've handled separately but never together until that scene. On the other hand, there's a throat rip that was fairly easy and on the first take it went so well that the whole crew was buzzing. That's always a great feeling.
HC: Are you nervous the movie is getting its world premiere at FrightFest?
JR: It's always nerve-wracking when something you've spent so long working on is finally going to be shown to the world, but we couldn't be happier to be premiering at FrightFest. There's such an amazing legacy of darkly comic indie horror in the UK, so it's really great to be featured at a fest that shares our sensibilities.
HC: You're both multi-talented, what's your favourite job you've had or do?
JR: Besides directing, I love working with practical effects, mostly gore effects. My true passion is for anything horror, so as long as I come home with dirty hands, I'm a happy camper.
AB: I've done one-day punch-ups on commercials for different agencies, just pitching jokes in a room with other writers about how to sell something. And then once you're done, someone else has to figure out how to actually make something worthwhile out of all the nonsense you've thrown at them. So that's a solid gig.
HC: So, what are you working on at the moment?
JR: We've been developing a project for a couple years called Killer's Vanilla, it's a horror movie inspired by our love of Los Angeles.
HC: John Rocco and Abiel Bruhn, thank you very much.
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