THE DOOR was awarded BEST PERFORMANCES at the June 2022 LA Feedback Film Festival.
1. What motivated you to make this film?
– I had a few inspirations for the idea. The first, and most obvious, would be this strange phenomena of staircases popping up in the woods. I loved how one of the audience members mentioned that in their response. Another, more personal inspiration, was the fear of death. Not my own death, but that of a loved one. I wanted to bring that fear to life; literally. The film acts as an allegory for losing someone you love and how they’re taken from you. When someone dies, it often feels like they’ve been stolen from us. It’s a difficult thing to wrap my head around, and this concept really stems from me coming to terms with it.
Thematically, I had several inspirations, The Ritual, The Void, It Comes At Night, and The Last of Us.
2. From the idea to the finished product, how long did it take for you to make this film?
– My fiancé and I have been creating the world, characters, story and overall concept for over 5 years. This short film is an alternate version of the opening of a feature film revolving around this door, the cult, and Neil’s path to revenge. In October of 2020, I pitched the idea of a proof of concept piece for The Door to my class. Once I was picked by my class to create a senior film in November, pre-production on the short began immediately. From that point on production on my end felt non-stop for about a year and half. I had an incredible team with me and without Ella Evans (Producer), Jesse Crum (DP), or Chris Foley (1st AD) this film would never have been made. They all moved
mountains to ensure that this film was made, and made with a level of quality we all could be proud of.
On April 16th, 2021 we finally began shooting the film. It took 4 long days to film the entirety of the “Cult” section, wrapping on clearing set on April 19th, 2021. After that we took a 2 week break to recharge. The hardest part of the film was over then, all that was left was our “Hunt” sequence. That was a very quick 2 day shoot that was very relaxed and laid back. I couldn’t think of a better way to end such a difficult production. It felt like a little victory lap, we could all have fun and enjoy what we were doing instead of rushing to get everything done before the night came along to take our sun away.
After that we entered post production. Editing began and I would receive rough cut after rough cut. Our editor, Lauren Applegate, had the patience of a saint as I sent notes back and forth. At the same time, she was coloring the film as well and she really moved mountains in that regard to bring a really nice aesthetic to the film. Upon receiving the final cut, it was time to go into music and sound design.
Jon Savard handled all aspects of sound in the post-production phase. I don’t know how he did it, but he somehow took my scrambled, audio-illiterate mumblings and worked some real magic to bring my ideas to life. The way he cleaned up the audio was nothing short of wizardry. At the beginning of this year, he and I would work on the score over Discord for a few nights (he’s in Canada; I’m in the US) and finely tuned the sound design.
Finally, I submitted the film to my university’s film festival, The Desales University Film Festival (DUFF for short) and it premiered on March 26th–kickstarting the film’s festival run.
3. How would you describe your film in two words!?
– Character driven.
4. What was the biggest obstacle you faced in completing this film?
– Jeeze, there were so many that it’s hard to pick just one. I would say securing locations was the most difficult task. Specifically for the cult sequence. We had to bump up our intended shoot date 2 weeks in order to film on Pennsylvania state game land before turkey season started. That was a nerve wracking experience, but Ella Evans and Chris Foley ensured that we had a very smooth shooting experience and got everything we needed for that weekend. It was all or nothing, and we got everything we needed and more.
On a more personal level, I feel like every filmmaker at some point in production is hit with a heavy wave of impostor syndrome or feels like they’re not good enough for something of this level. I honestly feel like that is half the battle when it comes to filmmaking. Overcoming that takes a good crew and even better friends. I consider
myself very lucky to be surrounded by both.
5. What were your initial reactions when watching the audience talking about your film in the feedback video?
– Honestly, I was emotional. It was so incredibly validating to hear people I didn’t know, people who had no existing bias, speak about my film. It made me so happy to hear that everything I attempted to do with this film had been realized by a real audience. The fact that they all seemed to appreciate how I focused on my characters and gave a reason for you to care about them before they’re captured made me feel so much more confident in
my storytelling ability.
Watch the Audience Feedback Video:
6. When did you realize that you wanted to make films?
– December 5th, 2005. My dad kept me home from school and surprised me by taking me to see Peter Jackson’s King Kong on its first day. I was completely floored by that movie. I left the theater wanting to make something like that one day and to give someone the same feeling that that movie gave me.
7. What film have you seen the most in your life?
– I’m a sucker for found footage horror. I absolutely love the genre, it’s my guilty pleasure. Horror in general is my usual go-to for casual viewing. I’ve recently been obsessed with spooky documentaries too. If a movie involves dinosaurs in some way, I’m going to watch it no matter what.
8. What other elements of the festival experience can we and other festivals implement to satisfy you and help you further your filmmaking career?
– There are a lot of festivals on FilmFreeway that you submit to where you never hear anything back and you receive an award on their event date. You don’t hear anything else about your film or what anyone thought of it. How do I know if my film was even seen by anyone at that point? It feels like I wasted my money when I send a film out to a
festival and I don’t hear a single thing back until either the notification or event date. It’s a hollow feeling, if that makes any sense. It makes me question if I should feel confident in promoting the fact that I won at one of those festivals, since it’s hard to tell if I truly earned it.
This festival gave me exactly what I wanted out of my festival experience. I know that an audience watched my film, I know that based on their feedback, I earned that “best performances” award. I know that you are legitimate, dedicated, and have filmmakers in mind. I appreciate how much energy you give back to us. I wish more festivals put even a quarter of the energy into their responses as you do.
9. You submitted to the festival via FilmFreeway. How has your experiences been working on the festival platform site?
– FilmFreeway is honestly the best thing to happen to me in my filmmaking career.
Submitting to festivals is addicting. I don’t know how else to describe it, I think other filmmakers might understand what I mean. I’m incredibly thankful to be a filmmaker in a time where it’s as easy as it is to send a film out into the world.
10. What is your favorite meal?
– My absolute favorite meal comes from a local restaurant, The Flying V. It’s run by some of the nicest people I’ve met and really know how to make some killer poutine. Every time I passed a certain milestone during production, I would celebrate by getting some poutine. If you ever stop by the Lehigh Valley check them out, I promise you won’t regret it.
11. What is next for you? A new film?
– I have a few ideas rattling around in the old brain. I’ve recently started working on a creature feature and the work I’ve done on that has kind of reinvigorated my love for writing. My fiancé and I are still working on the feature version of The Door, Threshold.
I’ve found recently that I have a passion for helping to get films made, so I’ve tried to help underclassmen with their projects and give them the advice I wish I had when I first started making films.
At the moment my main focus is just trying to land a job in the industry or get my name out there in some way. I graduated a month ago and I’m ready to get out in the world and put my education and creativity to work. Until then I’ll be writing films I hope to make when I get there.