Gary Dauberman on his directorial debut Annabelle Comes Home, faith-based horror, and more

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I think my writing career informed my directing because over the years, I’ve been fortunate enough to work alongside very talented filmmakers. Each had their own aesthetics and process, so I was able to pick elements that worked for me from each and adopt it as my own. It was the same process I had when I started out writing – I’d steal from King, I’d steal from Gaiman, Vonnegut, whoever. And eventually all the elements you took from those you admire wind up becoming your ‘voice’. Feels like that’s how it is with directing, although obviously I am not as far along with the process as I am with writing…

Recently had a chat with Gary Dauberman about his directorial debut, Annabelle Comes Home. Gary’s a screenwriter as well, and he’s written lots of things – like the previous Annabelle movies, but also It and It: Chapter Two, the recent Swamp Thing adaptation, and so on.

It was neat to get the chance to talk to him about adapting Stephen King and Alan Moore, but also to ask him a few questions about how his faith has influenced his writing too – Gary had spoken in the past about how his faith had quite heavily influenced the Annabelle movies, so I was curious if that had an impact on any of his other work as well.

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John Wesley Shipp and director Andrew Lyman-Clarke on the chilling true story that inspired their new film Night Sweats, what art really is, and more

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We came to the revelation that art is simply communication. It’s basically somebody creating something in whatever medium, and that is a product that is put out into the world with the intent of communicating something to others. People who will see it or hear it or experience it in some way.

I definitely still believe that. I mean, I’m an open-minded person, I’m open to other definitions of art. But the way that I approach it is that I am creating something and putting it out into the world with a “message” for others to see and to think about and to chew on. I think that’s the value of it.

I think there’s ways of looking at art and movies and stuff that are a little bit more cynical or jaded, where there isn’t really a purpose of communicating something. It’s just to pass the time or something. I’m not really with that. I’m all about trying to say something, especially when you spend nine years working on something and you pour your heart and soul into it. I wanted it to have some kind of meaning.

Another interview I did recently! John Wesley Shipp you possibly might recognise from The Flash; he’s starring in this film by Andrew Lyman-Clarke, who’s been working on Night Sweats – his debut feature – for nearly a decade now.

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Nathaniel Blume on Prodigal Son, composing music with a bone saw, and more

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One of the central characters is a serial killer named The Surgeon; I got on eBay and found a surgical tool kit, a pair of bone cutters, things like that. We have a nice live room here at the studio, and I just set up shop in there, laying out all the various tools on a table, as well as a plastic tarp to approximate a body bag sound. We just turned on the recorder, and I went to town with all the various things that I had.

There was a little bit of a process afterwards of going through and finding the best sounds, and chopping them up, and making musical instruments out of them on the computer – essentially attaching all of those sounds to the keys on the keyboard, so that it became a playable instrument, almost like a drum pad of sorts, for the percussive elements. When I wrote the initial suite after reading the script, it came in handy to use those sounds as a starting point for the show.

Interviewing composers is always quite a lot of fun, actually – I know very little about music (I went to ukulele lessons for a few years and I still couldn’t tell you what a chord is), but every composer I’ve ever spoken to has always been really enthusiastic about their craft, which always makes for a really interesting discussion.

And Nathaniel was no exception! I thought his almost sort of ‘method composing’, using bone saws to score for a serial killer character, was fascinating to hear about. So, you know, click through and read about it.

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Joseph Quinn on Catherine the Great, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and more

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I also think the timelessness of the human condition is quite interesting for the viewer – seeing people in different times and in different environments that are foreign to ours, still going through the same shit that we go through. People get jealous, people get angry, people get depressed, all these things that are attached to what it is to be human.

I think maybe there’s some kind of comfort there [in seeing that] or definitely a kind of fascination. We do [historical drama] better than any other country, I’d say, because we’ve got such a rich history. There’s definitely a need for [historical drama] and I think that we keep turning them out, but I think we’re doing it and doing it well.

Joseph Quinn! Took a little while to arrange this one, but Joseph was great to talk to when we eventually got around to doing the interview – very polite, which is always a plus, and some great answers too. He, I suspect, is going to have quite a long and interesting career ahead of him.

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Michael James Shaw on Avengers: Infinity War, his character Corvus Glaive, and more

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Part of the trick of playing a villain is finding the love in the character’s journey, and not playing ‘evil’, you know? With Corvus, there’s a strong connection to Proxima, but also he betrayed his people to work with Thanos. I created my own little history about why he’s looking for redemption with Thanos, and searching for retribution through his work with him. I find it kinda helpful to create that backstory.

As I’m talking to you, I’m also watching Ancient Aliens on the History Channel – there’s a history that may not be in the history books, but of what it means to be an alien. [It’s] outside our normal viewpoint, just to have a different level of consciousness. That opened up my imagination about what their world could possibly be like, and how they communicate on multiple levels – whether it be through actual English, or through clicking, or whatever. It just let me go wild – there were no limitations in terms of how he moved and how he expressed himself, you know?

My interview with Michael James Shaw! We spoke about Avengers, Constantine, and his upcoming show Blood and Treasure.

There are no spoilers for Infinity War in the interview, or very very light spoilers if you want to go in completely blind. I’d not seen the film myself when we conducted the interview – it actually hadn’t even been released yet. There was a still a week or two to go if I remember correctly.

What was interesting about this interview, actually, was that when I conducted it Michael’s identity as the actor playing Corvus was still being kept secret – to the point that, when it was being arranged, I wasn’t actually initially told it was going to be him. At first, he was just referred to as the Corvus Glaive actor (admittedly I had a hunch it was going to be Michael, because one of the things they did tell me was that the actor had previously been in Constantine, and Michael struck me as most likely of the cast to be Corvus).

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Writer Cavan Scott on Pacific Rim: Aftermath, ordinary people in extraordinary worlds, and more

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I’m massively influenced by comic books, no matter what I’m writing. As I said, when I was starting to read as a kid, they were pretty much what I first read, rather than books, rather than prose. Also, anyone who knows my past, knows that I’m quite heavily linked to Doctor Who, and Doctor Who has been a massive influence on my storytelling. From the classic series of the last century, that’s all episodic cliffhanger based storytelling – which again works very well for comics, yeah, and the kind of books that I write as well. [The books] are usually thriller based, both for adults and kids, and very much [shaped around] cliffhangers. At the end of every chapter there is a cliffhanger – it hopefully keeps you reading on! I have to thank Doctor Who for that, because at such an early age [it was] so influential.

Had a very nice chat with Cavan Scott recently about Pacific Rim, visual storytelling, and of course Doctor Who. Cavan is a very nice guy, whose voice was much deeper than I expected it to be. Though that might just have been our phone connection. Anyway, check it out!

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Mark Mangini on Blade Runner 2049, the importance of sound design, and more

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I think another interesting metaphor, which maybe the public could more easily understand – they may not understand what a cinematographer does – but sounds are to sound designers as words are to a writer. A writer uses as their simplest tool, words, to build sentences to build paragraphs to build chapters to build scenes to build scripts. Every single word in the screenplay or a novel is chosen for a reason. There’s no misplaced word. There’s no word that isn’t there for a reason. Writers sweat over words like sound designers sweat over sound.

In that regard, we choose our palette of sounds and the order of those sounds and the way that it presents it to the audience; in the same way that the writer chooses their words and builds them to coherent sentences and lines of dialogue and soliloquies, so too does the sound designer with sound. I think that might be a helpful way of understanding the kind of effort that goes into creating the soundtrack to a movie.

One of my favourite interviews I’ve ever done, this. I spoke to Mark (pictured here at 19, working for Hanna Barbera) for around an hour, I think it would have been, and I had a great time. He said some genuinely interesting things about his creative process and way of working that I think are going to stay with me for a long time – I’m not especially musically inclined, but a lot of what he said rang true with me, and I’m going to want to steal some of his ideas for a long time to come.

But that aside, Mark was just really lovely to talk to – it’s always nice to listen to someone who’s enthusiastic and passionate about their work, and that’s something that was especially true of Mark. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed conducting it!

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Composer Ariel Marx on evoking emotion through music, her score for The Tale and more

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We ultimately just settled on a pretty intimate, small palette. It’s just a combination of acoustic and electronic elements, strings, guitar, piano, bells. These variations of these instrumentation’s in colour kind of change as we deal the different decades of time and different subjects. Again, the palette is intimate, and the palette actually shifts over time as the memories begin to change. There’s certain emphasis and acoustic palettes and later emphasis on electronic palettes when things start to change and become clearer. It was a real very interesting process. Something that was interesting too is that the whole film is kind of about peeling back layers, so the music was very layered.

In hindsight, I feel like I should have put “her score for The Tale” before “evoking emotion through music”. Whatever. And I’m also increasingly wondering about Oxford commas in these review titles, actually.

Anyway! Ariel was lovely to talk to and is also very talented, so this is worth a read if you’re at all interested in music and writing music and such.

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Doug Liman on his latest movie The Wall, growing as a filmmaker, and more

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It was a chance to grow as a filmmaker. I make… most of my movies are completely different than anything I’ve ever done before. In this case, this was going to be one of the biggest challenges of my career, because I do have a short attention span and one of the ways in which I have consistently dealt with it is by having a lot of spectacle, and a lot of characters, and a lot of locations, and a lot of different moving parts. You never get settled into any one thing for too long. This was going to push me to grow as a filmmaker, and then to maybe not use some of the ‘copouts’ I’ve used previously in my career.

My interview with Doug Liman, about his filmmaking career. We also spoke about the upcoming Chaos Walking movie that he’s working on.

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Alex Lawther on The End of the F***ing World, his creative influences and more

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I read somewhere, someone much more eloquent than me, saying “it doesn’t matter if [a character is] likeable but they have to be interesting“. You don’t have to like them, but you have to want to know what happens next. Even if you hate them or you’re scared of them or if you… as long as they’re not boring you, because boring is passive.  It’s not so much not being liked… they cause you to be interested in them actively and to see where their objectives are going to take them. Which I think is the analytical way of putting it, yeah.

This is one of my favourite interviews I’ve ever done, because I absolutely loved talking to Alex Lawther – he’s just wonderful, I’m a huge fan. I promised to learn French for him, in fact. (At time of writing, and by writing I mean editing all my old posts for the new wordpress site, my duolingo streak is 177 days.)

(I would continue to talk about how great I think he is, but… well, I don’t want to overdo it, you know?)

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