Horrornews Exclusive Interview : Darin Read
Short Film: Up Under The Roof
Where did the concept of “up under the roof” come from?
I’ve been obsessed with fear and how people overcome it all my life. Like many children, I was afraid of the dark (or what I imagined lurked in it). I watched horror films and read “Famous Monsters” during daylight hours but grew terrified at night when the lights went out.
When I read Manly Wade Wellman’s short story it struck me on a visceral level. I knew I wanted to see this as a film and realized I wanted to make that film myself. So we had to get the rights to adapt it for the screen. I was ultimately afraid to make the film, so I had to face that as well. It was all a part of the process. (I have perfectionist tendencies which are hell, believe me.)
How did making this project all come together for you?
After calling legendary literary agent Kirby McCauley for more than a year, I finally got through to the rights holder and got permission to film this. It was difficult to make a 35mm film set in the early 1930’s on such a small budget. Finding the right house was key. We couldn’t proceed without the right house since it’s essentially a character itself. After an exhaustive search, a chance call suddenly led to everything falling into place. It was a miracle. After we locked the house, many other elements fell into place, like our amazing cast and crew. We had an incredible amount of help and support from a lot of talented people which I’ll always be grateful for.
I like the look of the old farm house. How much scouting did you have to do before you found that house?
I found the exterior early on but it took (literally) hundreds of hours of scouting before I found an interior that we could match to it. The nice lady (who shall remain nameless) that owns the house we shot our exteriors at usually doesn’t allow anyone to film on her property. Luckily, she made an exception for us. Our production design team worked hard to make the stunning interiors and shabby exterior match. I think they did a fantastic job. The houses are actually in different counties and in different settings, one rural and one urban.
How did you go about casting your short?
We cast as wide a net as possible for The Boy and the Minister’s Daughter. Our casting sessions lasted three days. Jonathan and Shawnna were the best of the best of those sessions. For the Father and Mother, Danielle (producer) recommended Geoff Elliott and Jill Hill, who are from A Noise Within, a very prestigious theater group in Glendale. I saw Geoff in a play there and was stunned by his performance. He is in fact the artistic director of the company (along with his wife). Luckily, he and Jill agreed to sign on to our adventure.
How many days did it take to shoot this short film?
Not enough. Per the child welfare rules we had a limited time with the children on set so we were always pushing to make our days. Jonathan (The Boy) is in every scene so we couldn’t shoot around him. I had to end up slashing whole scenes but stuff like that always happens. I’ll say this: our crew never worked those hellish long hours you hear about. We couldn’t because of the strict child welfare rules.
Who are your influences in the world of suspense and horror movies?
I worship at the altar of Mario Bava, Val Lewton, Jacques Tournier, Terrance Fisher, etc. In general though, I’m more influenced by individual films than by specific filmmakers.
What was the most difficult aspect of filming “up under the roof”?
The limited shooting time with the children on set and getting the rat to perform on cue. (He did, brilliantly.)
Did you have any interesting behind the scenes stories that happened while filming?
Our interiors were shot in an old multi-story Victorian house that has the reputation of being haunted by the woman who owned it who was murdered there in the late 90’s. I had to stay in the house to guard our equipment each night. It got quite interesting after everyone left and I was alone there.
You won the horror category of the indie producer short film contest, how has that helped your filmmaking career?
Well, for starters, it got me this interview. Danielle and I had a great meeting with Kerry David. She’s an amazing lady and, in addition to being an accomplished producer herself, runs a great online resource at Indie Producer so we’re very grateful and honored to win the award.
Do you have a “next” project yet?
Danielle Stallings (co-writer and producer of the film) and I are working on multiple projects right now that we’re really excited about, including a feature that has some of the same elements in it as UP UNDER THE ROOF, only it’s much darker and more “epic”. I can’t wait to get it off the ground.
Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions,
Thank you Mike.