web analytics
Home | Interviews | Interview: David and Daniela Tully​ (Writer and Producer for Dario Argento’s The Sandman)

Interview: David and Daniela Tully​ (Writer and Producer for Dario Argento’s The Sandman)

An exclusive Horrornews interview with The Sandman writer and producer team, David and Daniela Tully​

As the clock ticks towards the final toll ​on ​the ​I​ndiegogo campaign launched ​for​ legendary director Dario Argento​,​ ​it ​has​ ​​reached ​over ​9​5​% of its​ target​ at press time​​. The Sandman ​screenplay was ​written by David Tully​,​​ and​ is ​set​ to be a​n​ ​unequivocal​ chiller to whet the appetite for fans of Argento’s earlier surrealistic ​slasher ​type films​ ​in the vein of​ Suspiria and Phenomena.​ ​Allowing Argento​ full creative control ​was​ no question when the ​ambitious ​​screenplay writer began to tackle what is sure to be Argento’s​ most profound​ and ​determined​ film in years.​ Upon ​reading​ ​David ​Tully’s script​,​ Argento was thrilled at the tailor made prospect​ of becoming ​the ​director ​on the film, which ​could ​possibly be, but hopefully is not, ​his swan song. ​But, this is a project that not all Argento fans​ and critics are convinced​ will transfer to ​a proficient ​​​undertaking.​ ​So​ therefore ​with a​ ​hard working ​and dedicated​ team of producers assembled​,​ ​the ​belie​f and hope is that it will become his best new chance to recapture his former grandeur.


Argento was quoted as saying:​

“I was thrilled to read the script, because I recognized right away, this one was written for me. I’m so excited for the first time in my career I will be able to involve my fans so early in the process and have them play an integral role in my next film. Also, working with Iggy Pop is amazing! Such an interesting and intense personality! I would not even simply say “actor” does not cover it. I would rather say a unique presence! Welcome to the unique world of The Sandman!”

Additionally,​ ​i​conic punk rocker​ and actor​ Iggy Pop has been confirmed to star in The Sandman​, who is​ equally if not more so ecstatic about the forth coming production​ and was quoted as saying:​

“I have long been thrilled and fascinated by the amazing films of Mr. Argento, ​a​ll of which are master works. Yes, and also compelling​,​ strange, and beautiful and full of relentless terror. If I could play The Sandman for ​Dario Argento​ it would make my life complete. I hope I have not just written my own epitaph.”

The Sandman tells the story of Nathan, a young student struggling to cope with the childhood trauma of The Sandman who’s weapon of destruction is a jagged melon spoon. The killer claims the eyes of his victims as trophies. Nathan had suspected his terror with the Sandman was a final chapter written upon their grisly confrontation. Years later he witnesses his neighbor being slain in eerily reminiscent fashion of his boyhood tormentor. Now consumed in fright​,​ Nathan must find a way to destroy The Sandman once and for all.

Regrading the Indiegogo crowd funding campaign: http://igg.me/at/thesandmanfilm ​for as little as a $5 contribution​,​​ and as much as $25.000​, ​Argento​ fans​ globally​ ​can ​receive ​perks like ​a free one month membership to​ https://www.fandor.com​, or become an Executive Producer on the film.​ Th​e​ ​Fandor web​site ​for instance ​enables fans to get access to over thousands of rare independent horror films from​ ​around the world​, and within ​its extensive collection are some of Argento’s most admired titles​ like​ Deep Red, Inferno and The Bird With The Crystal Plumage.

Other contribution packages include an onslaught of swag including the first ten pages of the script, movie posters, clothing​, exclusive glossy photographs​ and much more ​material , some of which will be autographed by Argento himself. One contribution package even includes a cameo within The Sandman ​movie ​itself.​ Nice!​

On the musical front, ​Claudio Simonetti, Argento’s long-time musical collaborator is ​slated to compose​ the musical score,​ while​ the ​​Scott ​Weiland song “Way She Moves” will act as the title ​track​ for the film​. Additionally, renowned Japanese music composer Akira Yamaoka of Silent Hill fame is writing an original song for the movie.​

Now is your last minute chance to get your contribution in while you can and be a part of horror cinema history. The ​I​ndiegogo campaign officially closes December 2. For further information​,​​ and to fund, check out the campaign page​: http://igg.me/at/thesandmanfilm

​I was granted an opportunity to interview The Sandman’s writer and producer David and Daniela Tully about the aspiring Argento project…​

The-Sandman-original-posterDAVE GAMMON: David, can you tell us a little about your career in writing for Horror films?

DAVID TULLY: Hmm – maybe the less said, the better! Let’s just say I’ve been lucky enough to sell some scripts and even see a couple made. How the resulting films turned out, in relation to the scripts I originally wrote, is another tale for another time… But I did get to meet wonderful directors like Robert Sigl and Tobe Hooper, so in terms of personal experience, it’s been nothing but good.

DG: What are a few of your favorite Horror movies?

DT: I guess it goes without saying that Dario’s films are up there atop the list – I really am primarily a fan of the Old Masters, by which I mean names like Argento, Bava, Carpenter, Dante, Hooper, etc. Of course THE EXORCIST and HALLOWEEN are burned into my brain like few others, and I find myself rewatching the Universal and especially Hammer films more and more these days, with all the beautifully restored rereleases coming out. Among more recent films, DEAD SILENCE and HOUSE OF THE DEVIL were just beautiful. DEAD SILENCE in particular is criminally underrated!

DG: Countless news media feeds, websites and film blogs are buzzing about The Sandman. Argento has said the script was written with his style in mind. How did he first influence your writing in adapting the classic E.T.A. Hoffman story, and how imperative was that to securing his involvement on the film?

DT: Italian horror movies of the 60s, 70s and 80s are my absolute favorite type of movie, just strange and stylish and sexy and groovy and scary and generally all-around bonkers, yet so artful. I’d long wanted to write a homage to that style of storytelling and in particular to its greatest practitioner and my favorite film director – The Maestro Argento. But completely separately, I was thinking about the tales of Hoffmann one day, and suddenly it hit me how one could adapt that wonderful story “The Sandman,” which gave Freud so much ammo in his essay on “The Uncanny,” and easily fit it to the weird world of Italian-style thrillers. The story came in a rush then, and I wrote the first draft of the script fast, very fast. Suddenly, I realized I finally had something I could present to The Maestro! I asked my agent to send it to his agent just to see what would happen. A week later the phone rang, and it was Dario himself, who I’d never met, telling me he loved it! That was a dream come true, no other way to put it. What he told me, in regards to securing his involvement, was that he loved Hoffmann, and he loved my story as well, my take on it – the characters, the suspense, and “the sexiness.” I proudly recall him citing that in particular, the first time we spoke. So in his opinion I managed to catch that “sexy suspense” which is such a key element of giallo – I need no other barometer!


DG: Was Iggy Pop always in mind while drafting the screenplay? How did his commitment to the project come to fruition originally?

DT: I’d be lying if I said he was in my mind when I was writing the screenplay, but I’d also be lying if I said he isn’t absolutely perfect for the role and that fate was very kind to step in and lead us to him! Said fate coming in the form of one of our producers Jeff Rogers, who is not only a first-rate film producer but a bigwig in the world of music, and a friend of Iggy’s, who worked with him on the film SUCK. We are so lucky and grateful to have him playing Coppola.

DG: There is conjecture that the serial murderer The Sandman acquires his victims’ eyes as trophies. What sort of symbolism do the victims’ eyes hold to the body of the story?

DT: Well, that question is directly answered in the screenplay so I don’t want to give it all away, but I will say it has to do with artistic inspiration and the gaze, which is a persistent theme in Dario’s work, especially OPERA. Let’s just say the phrase about the eyes being the window to the soul has some bearing here.

DG: Did you paint outside of the lines of the Hoffmann book when imagining the killer and his method?

DT: Absolutely in terms of method – there are no jagged melon spoons in any of the Hoffmann translations I’ve come across. Maybe one or two in “The Nutcracker,” but that might be my memory playing tricks on me. As for the killer himself, I definitely was inspired by Coppelius as described in the tale, but the mask is my addition, stemming from the classic giallo killer as seen in countless films, especially Bava’s BLOOD AND BLACK LACE.

DG: The Sandman character and all that he embodies seems to be a very poignant antagonist for Horror film fans, and could very well become the next iconic masked figure in Horror films, next to Leatherface, Michael Myers and Jason Voorhees. Was this the intention when imagining the look and aesthetic of the Sandman character?

DT: You bet! I love all those guys – I even wrote a spec script for a FRIDAY THE 13TH prequel a few years back, explaining how Pamela and Jason got the way they are, and tying up all the loose ends from all the then-extant films. I did that purely as a labor of love, and cite it here just to show you how much I do love them, though I should probably be keeping all of this to myself, as it’s actually pretty embarrassing to admit that’s how I spend my free time. Still, all those guys, great as they are, have been pretty busy for about forty years now, and I think they’re entitled to a little vacation. Cue The Sandman to take over their shift for a spell!


DG: Are you pleased with the progress of The Sandman campaign and reception from fans and media?

DT: Oh boy am I! Iggy says it best in the IGG video when he says “we were blown away” by the reception last summer, when news leaked out we were only hoping and thinking about doing this movie. It was that reception that got the campaign rolling, and since then it’s done nothing but pick up steam, with wonderful folks like Akira Yamaoka coming on board simply because the campaign made them aware of the project, and because of their love for Dario and his films, and Iggy and his music. It’s amazing how the campaign and its reception have made it become more real with every passing day, and the love and support pouring in from people all over the world, for which we are so grateful. Like I said about that first phone call from Dario, it’s a dream come true.

DAVE GAMMON: News of the Indiegogo campaign for The Sandman has spread like wildfire across film and also music media territory. Was it the intention from the beginning   to choose crowd funding and have Dario turn to his fans by allowing them participate in the process?

DANIELA TULLY: The script was written especially for Dario, and after his enthusiastic response to it, we did think about crowdfunding immediately. When the script also got us Iggy, and taking into consideration how much respect these two artists have for each other, we were saying: “Now, we can’t NOT go with crowdfunding.” We started going the traditional route of film financing (see my next answer, this leads me almost straight to your next question) — but the current market, as every independent filmmaker is well aware of, is becoming increasingly difficult, with less presales, less pre-sellable names, and horror is an area inundated with projects and competition.


DG: Was it difficult to convince Dario to consider crowd funding or did he embrace the prospect immediately?

DT: When we approached Dario with the idea to do crowdfunding, he didn’t want to go along at first. He said to him, it felt like begging. Dario is an artist through and through. And European on top of it. He is a very classy man, and also can be shy at times. Plus, he also comes from a generation of filmmakers where he never had to humor the thought of crowdfunding. He only saw this from a monetary aspect, never from a marketing aspect. We slowly introduced him to the concept, and he studied the prominent platforms, and then suddenly understood why other filmmakers had done it as well. Veronica Mars was one of the projects, for example, that helped change his perception of it. He realized that it is anything but begging, but is actually an offer and promise to his faithful fan base to become a part of his next project, from early on, something which only crowdfunding makes possible. And when he saw all the enthusiastic responses from his fans, the over 54.000 and rapidly increasing number of likes for his facebook page, the fans demanding the next masterpiece by the Maestro, he was overjoyed that he had agreed to do this. For an artist like Dario, there is nothing greater than to get this amazing feedback from the outside, which will spur him on to great work, I am sure.

DG: There are some who would say that crowd funding should be relegated to new up and coming artists rather than geared to icons like Dario Argento. Others believe you are helping break new ground by creating a model for future renowned filmmakers to be inspired, and use this form of film financing. What are your thoughts regarding these conflicting perceptions?

DT: I really think this is a platform for both “extremes,” if you want to call it that. Of course, you have it a lot easier if you have projects that have big names attached, than films by up and coming artists who haven’t created a name for themselves yet. After this one, I am doing another campaign for a film by a first time director (www.dontspeakofthedevil), and with a package like that you have to approach and structure a crowdfunding campaign from a completely different angle. For most up and coming artists, you will first of all have your friends and family participate. They know you and believe in you, and that’s why they come on board. They don’t care about a signed poster or the cast and crew t-shirt, they only care about supporting you.

Regarding your question about this being a form of film financing: I think something like Veronica Mars, to name this example again, is one of the rare projects that raised their entire budget through crowdfunding. We certainly cannot and should not do a film entirely with the money raised on Indiegogo. All of the producers involved are lucky as we operate in the arena of independent co-productions, and with our base and nationalities, we have the possibility to raise a good chunk of the budget through soft monies. But you should never look at crowdfunding from a mere monetary viewpoint – yes, you raise money which will always be helpful and a great support to get to the finished product, but the marketing side is of equal value – and in some cases also leads to more financing – you create an awareness of a film that is not in the can yet. When announcing the crowdfunding campaign for this project initially, we had a coverage of 12 million readers! That is amazing. Since then, so many artists have reached out to us, offering their support and help, not necessarily through buying a perk, but by contributing with their art. If it hadn’t been for the campaign, someone like Akira Yamaoka (who is known for the Silent Hill series) would have never gotten wind of us! Now he is a valued member of our team, and we cannot wait to work with him. Financiers reached out to us because they had heard about the project through crowdfunding. That is what you want as a filmmaker. Reaching out to people from all over the world and inviting them to become a part of the project. That is priceless.

DG: The Sandman perks offered are creative and unique. How important is promotional and collectible product to the overall fan experience through various levels of financial contribution?

DT: The perks alongside the names attached are a driving factor for the outcome of your campaign: we have worked tirelessly on them, building them in the months leading up to the campaign, monitoring them and their performance, revising them during the campaign. We have been told many times that we have great and original perks – so did you, and thank you for that, I am happy to hear that.

You need to be able to offer the funders unique items. Of course, it is easier if you have big names attached, as you have the possibility to offer them all type of products directly coming from their idols, heroes, artists, etc. that they can only get through this film, only by becoming a part of the project, and not anywhere else.

And with big names, it is also easier to offer products for all types of wallets — but even for projects by up and coming artists you can overcome this potential obstacle by offering the funders perks that they couldn’t get anywhere else. However, I think the names attached can be as big as you like, but if you didn’t do your homework on the perk front, then your campaign will be a lot less successful.

So I guess I could have shortened my answer to “extremely important!”

DG: Can you give us an idea of the location, landscape and what kind of sets you envision using for the film?

DT: The script says right on the first page: “It’s a Currier and Ives print drenched in blood” – and that pretty much nails it. The script is set in upstate New York: farmland, farmhouses, an idyllic peaceful scenery with rural charm. Under a hundred miles away from one of the most cosmopolitan cities in the world — yet, it is that type of rural charm that you can find in every rural area around the world: quiet, peacefulness, nice neighborhood… but here, of course, with a dark past brooding underneath. Farmhouses and forests play a big role in the film, covered in snow. And then, eventually, drenched in blood. Red on white in the exterior shots, with the eerie glow and light from the Christmas trees, emanating false promises of peace and harmony in the interior shots.

DG: What can we expect from the Tully’s after The Sandman?

DT: You can expect us keep working with the masters of the genre. We have a horror thriller called CASTING THE RUNES with Joe Dante attached to direct. David is working on another, very exciting project with Dario as well. Then there is the horror script that we are currently packaging, an adaptation of Peter Straub’s classic novel IF YOU COULD SEE ME NOW. And there’s a horror television series, as well, based on a notable historical figure. And last but not least: SPEAK OF THE DEVIL, which I referred to earlier.

For further information,​ up to the minute announcements and developments​ about Dario Argento’s The Sandman, visit these key web domains​:​


A very special thanks to each David and Daniela Tully for this interview. Long live the Sandman.