LATEST | FEATURES | INTERVIEWS | NEWS | FRIGHTFEST | REVIEWS

Interview with Adam Stovall, director of A Ghost Waits
By James Whittington, Sunday 9th February 2020

Ahead of the World premiere of A Ghost Waits at Arrow Video FrightFest Glasgow 2020, director Adam Stovall reflects on getting through depression, creating paranormal romance and the influence of Tom Waits...

You have an interesting CV - from comedy theatre and film journalism to writing for The Hollywood Reporter and second assistant directing. Was all this a game plan to becoming a fully-fledged director?

AS: I've known since I was a little kid sitting in the basement watching the network TV premiere of Back To The Future while holding my Back To The Future storybook and waiting for them to premiere the first footage from Back To The Future 2 during a commercial break that movies meant more to me than they did to those around me. And that's not a low bar - my Dad worked as a projectionist all through his college years, and my Mom takes my Aunt to see at least one movie a week. I remember seeing Pulp Fiction in the autumn of 1994 and suddenly realizing that a) cinema is far more elastic than I had previously thought, and b) it helped the world make sense in a way nothing else could. That was when I knew this was my path. But I grew up in Northern Kentucky, which felt like the furthest you could possibly get from Hollywood. I spent my 20s trying to do anything else and be happy, to no avail. Towards the end of my 20s, I was mired in a severe depression, getting wine drunk and writing scripts on the weekends. Then, my dog died, and it put into stark relief just how alone I was. So I sold as much of my stuff as I could and moved the rest to L.A. so I could pursue film.

Quickly I had the thought that I'd feel pretty stupid if I moved 2000 miles and just sat in my room, so I started volunteering in the Creative Screenwriting screening series. After eight months of that, I wrote for a magazine, which closed down, then a friend asked me to work on his movie. I was not supposed to be the 2nd AD, but they ended up with a budget far smaller than they thought they'd get, so as people left the production for higher-paying gigs, I kept getting promoted. It was an incredible experience, though, and the best education I could have asked for in terms of no-budget filmmaking. It clarified for me where money needed to go, and where money went out of habit. So yeah, that's a game plan...

Did the story of A Ghost Waits come as a sudden flash; were you inspired by the likes of Ghost and Beetlejuice?

AS: The idea for A Ghost Waits came from a video game and a web comic. I am not a gamer, but I was visiting some friends and they told me I needed to play a game called P.T. which was designed by Guillermo Del Toro and Hideo Kojima. It's a first person puzzle game where you have to walk through an L-shaped hallway in a haunted house, doing specific things in time in order to open the door at the end of the hallway, which then puts you back at the beginning of the hallway. At some point, it occurred to me that there might be a movie in someone like me having to deal with a haunted house. While I was working on that, I saw a Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal comic where a man asks a woman what she thinks is the most American film. She answers, "Ghostbusters", and he asks why. She explains that people get demonstrable proof of an afterlife, but the whole thing is about growing a small business and navigating government bureaucracy. I thought, "That's hilarious, and also I want to see that movie.! So I wrote it!"

How long was the development process and where did you obtain financing?

AS: Development on A Ghost Waits moved irresponsibly fast, haha. I had the idea in November 2015, and we shot in August 2016. Normally I have all the time in the world to write, since nobody cares about a spec script being written by a no-name, so the process of writing with so many eyes on me was equally exciting and daunting. Fun fact: I usually name characters and title the piece late in the process, but I wasn't able to do that here since we needed to create documents for casting and whatnot. So I went home, opened up my Tom Waits discography, and named every character after a Tom Waits song. And then named the movie after him, because he is one of my creative north stars... MacLeod and I had spent the previous year trying to get another movie made, but just weren't able to raise enough money. One of the investors we met in that time remained very excited to make something, so when I had the idea for A Ghost Waits he immediately said he'd invest half the production budget. My Mom had told me to let her know when we had a firm budget number, so once we had half the budget, she invested the other half. That covered principal photography, and then MacLeod and I put in our own money to cover pickups and post-production.

How do you describe the movie, a supernatural comedy, a paranormal romance, what?

AS: I've been referring to it as a haunted house love story, but paranormal romance is good - maybe I'll start using that!

Was the choice to shoot in black-and-white more an artistic or budgetary consideration?

AS: A bit of both, to be honest. I love the B&W aesthetic, so it was always a possibility in my mind, I mentioned my idea to my UPM during prep while we were on a location scout, and she told me not to do that. We shot in color with the intention of staying that way, but we also shot with two different cameras, the Blackmagic Ursa Mini and the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema, which yielded slightly different looks. I drove myself crazy trying to match the images in color-correction, and one day MacLeod said, "Have you thought about just making it B&W?" Because MacLeod is the best person ever. Once we put a B&W LUT on it, it felt right, tonally and aesthetically. Would we have gone with B&W even if we had more money? Who knows! Just another possibility for the pile...

When did you first meet MacLeod Andrews? He says you've wanted to make something together for years? So did you write the part of Jack with him in mind?

SM: MacLeod and I met on the set of a film called Split, a bowling rom-com, which filmed in Louisville, KY. I met the filmmaker on a panel, and he asked if I'd be down to come work on his movie. MacLeod is a native of Louisville, and had worked with one of the producers on the film before. We instantly hit it off, and I was struck by his obvious talent and charisma so I sent him a script I'd recently written. He dug it, and we decided we wanted to work together. I absolutely wrote the part of Jack for MacLeod. To the extent that if he'd said no, the movie would not exist. Fortunately our brains function on similarly weird frequencies, so we're usually intrigued and excited by similar ideas.

What about Natalie Walker? How did you come to cast her as Muriel?

SM: I'd been following Natalie on Twitter for a while, and was impressed by her humour and brilliance. I had a feeling that casting her in a role that demanded she sublimate her energy would yield a similar result as when Robin Williams was asked to do the same for dramatic roles. I emailed and told her about the project, and offered to send over the script so she could check it out and see if it interested her. She responded that she was very interested, so we talked and she did a self-tape, which was perfect. We hopped on FaceTime and I offered her the role.

The chemistry between MacLeod and Natalie is wonderful. Was that instant or did it need nurturing?

SM: Instant! We never even had a table read, much less any rehearsals, so the first time they met was on set. Since we had such a small crew, I was always doing a multitude of jobs, which limited how much time I was able to spend with them. A lot of their dynamic is due to the work they did on their own. It is my profound hope that the three of us are able to work together again.

Where did you film and for how long?

SM: We filmed in Cincinnati, OH, and Lakeside Park, KY. Principle photography was 12 days in August 2016, and then we did the first set of pickups over four days in April 2017 and the last set over a week in February 2018.

What does having the World Premiere at FrightFest Glasgow mean to you?

SM: Cesar A. Cruz once said, "Art should comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable." At my lowest, movies have made me feel less alone, and I wanted to make something that could do that for someone else. We made a small, personal, weird film, and it means the absolute world to know it means something to others and is finding its place in the world. Absolutely thrilled FrightFest get to show it first".

Finally, what's next for you?

SM: We're working with a couple producers on two films, which we're obviously hoping to make soon. One is an existential horror drama, and the other is a coming-of-age comedy-drama. In the meantime, just writing a few things and hoping for the best.

A Ghost Waits is showing at the Glasgow Film Theatre on Friday 6 March, 8.40pm, as part of Arrow Video FrightFest Glasgow 2020.


Related show tags: FRIGHTFEST
MORE FRIGHTFEST
Interview with Adrian Langley, director of Butchers.
Posted on Tuesday 27th October 2020
FrightFest-Halloween-2020

Butchers is a superb piece of horror cinema from Adrian Langley. Here he chats about this grim and gruesome piece and his plans for the future.

HC: Where did the idea for Butchers come from?

AL: Butchers came from two of Daniel Weissenberger's old screenplays - he writes a lot - and I remixed them with some ideas that had been kicking around in my head after having read those scripts a long time ago.

HC: Did it take long to write?

AL: Not at all. Because Dan's scripts were so full already, the initial working draft only took about two weeks to put together and then I did a lot of rewriting during the prep process to streamline it to what...

SHARE: READ MORE
Interview with Andrew Thomas Hunt, director of Spare Parts.
Posted on Tuesday 27th October 2020
Spare Parts

FrightFest is all about the diversity of movies, none more so than Spare Parts from director Andrew Thomas Hunt. This superb mash-up of gladiator-style fighting and a scorching soundtrack is desitined to become a cult classic so we chatted to Andrew about this movie.

HC: Did you know from a young age that you wanted to work in the film industry?

AH: I did - from the age of 16. I was a huge fan of David Cronenberg's films, and when I discovered that he was not only from Toronto, but made his films here, it made me realize you didn't have to be from Hollywood to make movies.

HC: How did you become attached to this wild project?

AH: It was pitched to me at TIFF (Toronto Int'l ...

SHARE: READ MORE
And the winner is... Benny Loves You!
Posted on Monday 26th October 2020

The winner of the FrightFest Horror Channel First Blood Award 2020 is... Benny Loves You!

Here, Channel Manager Stewart Bridle chats to its very talented director, Karl Holt.

SHARE: READ MORE
Interview with Liam O'Donnell director of SKYLIN3S
Posted on Sunday 25th October 2020
skylin3s-poster

FrightFest Digital Edition 2 concludes tonight with an out-of-this-world premiere, SKYLIN3S. Here its writer and director Liam O'Donnell talks about this and the other entries in this sci-fi series.

HC: You've been involved with the Skyline series of movies from the start, where did the initial idea come from?

LD: Initially the idea just came from, we were sort of do it ourselves film makers and I had been living in the building we ended up shooting in. We had already been illegally shooting on the rooftop helipad for a pitch that we were developing and when Greg's (Greg Strause, director of Skyline) unit on the top floor and he walked in and saw this big, expansive view of LA...

SHARE: READ MORE
Interview with Paul Tanter director and co-writer of The Nights Before Christmas
Posted on Sunday 25th October 2020
The Nights Before Christmas-poster

Prolific creative Paul Tanter has delivered a real treat for FrightFest pass holders today, the blood-splattered shocker, The Nights Before Christmas. Here he chats about this cracker of a movie.

HC: Have you always been a fan of the horror genre?

PT: Absolutely. One of my first cinema memories is my dad taking me to see Fright Night in 1985 and there being a promotional pack of vampire teeth on every seat. I was five at the time so I'm not sure how he snuck me in there, considering it's rated 18. I grew up watching The Omen films, in parts enthralled and terrified by them. I still can't pass that church in Fulham without keeping an eye on ...

SHARE: READ MORE
Interview with Simon Phillips, star and co-writer of The Nights Before Christmas
Posted on Sunday 25th October 2020
The Nights Before Christmas-poster

Seasonal slashers are once again coming into vogue but none as brutal as The Nights Before Christmas. Here, its star and co-writer Simon Phillips tells all about this movie.

HC: Did you know from a young age that you wanted to work in the film industry?

SP: I don't know if I ever was sure I was going to be in the film industry but as a child I sure liked talking a lot and my teacher once shouted at me "They'd better pay you to talk when you grow up, because you sure like the sound of your own voice"... So perhaps it was always on the cards!

HC: Are you a fan of horror movies?

SP: To be honest they terrify me... not the o...

SHARE: READ MORE
Interview with Elza Kephart, director and co-writer of Slaxx
Posted on Sunday 25th October 2020
SLAXX_Elza_(C)photoB-Calmeau_0125FrightFest is all about originality and new talent and 2020 has been a belter of a year for such things. Slaxx from Elza Kephart is a prime example of the new and exciting creative talent that's out there at the moment. We chatted to Elza about this superb shocker.

HC: Are you a big horror movie fan?

EK: Yes, huge! I started my horror adventure when I was a pre-teen, reading Agatha Christie, R.L. Stine, Christopher Pike, Anne Rice. If there wasn't a death I wasn't interested. From that, I migrated to horror films; when I was about ten, I watched Aliens, the Fearless Vampire Hunters, Exorcist 2. I might have been a little too young, I remember being re...

SHARE: READ MORE
Hair scares, killer jeans, Santa slays and an invasion from above. Day 5 of FrightFest Digital Edition 2
Posted on Sunday 25th October 2020
slaxx-poster

We reach the final day of FrightFest but what awaits us will ensure that the event ends not with a bang but with an alien invasion!

It's always exciting when new creatives release work and The Stylist from Jill Gervargizian is no exception. Everyone dreams of being someone else... but for Claire that dream goes from an obsession to a living nightmare. Her job as a hairstylist allows her to move through other people's worlds, but when the right target sits in her chair, she does more than observe the client's life - she ends it, and keeps a permanent souvenir. Her lonely life, meticulous method and shocking secrets are suddenly thrown into turmoil when her regular client, Olivia, asks her to s...

SHARE: READ MORE
Interview with Adam Leader and Richard Oakes, co-directors of Hosts
Posted on Saturday 24th October 2020
hosts-poster

Hosts is a dark, brooding and sinister movie from two very talented creatives, Adam Leader and Richard Oakes. Here they chat about this outstanding movie.

HC: Have you always been fans of this genre?

AL: Yes, the first film I ever watched was the original Nightmare on Elm Street when I was eight years old. That turned me on to the horror genre, and since then I became absolutely horror obsessed. Every weekend, my dad would take me to the video store, and I'd choose the most messed up movie I could find for him to rent for me.

RO: Yes, coming from a family with a sister 7 years older than me, I was always fascinated by the films her and her friends used to watch. I walked in...

SHARE: READ MORE
Interview with Barry Keating, writer of Embryo
Posted on Saturday 24th October 2020
Barry Keating at NIGHTWORLD on 25/08/2017Barry Keating is a scriptwriter who has had quite a number of movies at FrightFest over the years. He's back with another shocker for 2020, this time the truth might be out there in Embryo. We chatted to him about this sci-fi chiller.

HC: We show another of your movies on Horror, Nightworld, what's it like writing a script, which has horror legend Robert Englund in it?

BK: When I found out they'd cast Robert in the role that was a very surreal day. At first I didn't quite believe it, but when the producer forwarded a message from Robert to me saying that he really dug the script I completely geeked out. I'm a hug...

SHARE: READ MORE
Interview with Patricio Valladares, director of Embryo
Posted on Saturday 24th October 2020
Embryo image 1

Chilean director Patricio Valladares is back at FrightFest and this time he's taking us into the science fiction zone with Embryo. Here he chats about working with Robert Englund on Nightworld and this sci-fi shocker.

HC: Have you always been a fan of horror and sci-fi movies?

PV: Yes, from my childhood, my old brother watched Jason Voorhees and A Nightmare on Elm Street film series at home with a couple friends in the 80s. So, I always went from the bathroom to the living room at night to watch from behind the sofa with them. I Loved it! I liked the ultraviolence and gore from Robocop. When I was 14 or 15 I was a metalhead, so I had lots of tapes of death metal and a lot of low ...

SHARE: READ MORE
Interview with Lucy Harvey and Danielle Kummer, directors of Alien on Stage
Posted on Saturday 24th October 2020
alien-on-stage-poster

FrightFest always has a fine selection of documentaries showing, but none have touched hearts like Alien on Stage. This warm and loving look at an amateur stage production of the classic movie Alien has been placed in the running for the Horror Channel sponsored First Blood award so we chatted to directors Lucy Harvey and Danielle Kummer about this wonderful project.

HC: How long have you worked together and are you fans of the film, Alien?

We met working on a no budget British indie film in 2006 (I think) both working for free. Danielle was a camera trainee, I was the costume stylist. It was like going through a war together, it cemented our friendship and Danille...

SHARE: READ MORE
Frightfest Archive: 2020 | 2019 | 2018 | 2017 | 2016 | 2015 | 2014 | 2013 | 2012 | 2011 | 2010 | 2009 | 2008 | 2007
PICK OF THE WEEK
Bram Stoker's Dracula
BRAM STOKER'S DRACULA
Tuesday 29th June
10.40 PM
It Came From The Desert
IT CAME FROM THE DESERT
Friday 25th June
9.00 PM
Lava Storm
LAVA STORM
Saturday 26th June
6.45 PM