Category Archives: Interviews

tomandandy talk about their film scores

Terry Wickham: Let’s go back a ways. What made you guys want to go into music? I guess you both met at Princeton, is that correct?

Thomas Hajdu of tomandandy
Thomas Hajdu of tomandandy

tomandandy: Yes, that’s correct. We met in the graduate program at the music department.

TW: What medium did you first start doing music for; records, TV commercials, TV programs, art installations or films?

 

Andy Milburn of tomandandy
Andy Milburn of tomandandy

tomandandy: We started making music in several areas at the same time. However our first commercial work was for MTV with their in-house producers. Those producers were some of the most talented young directors. For example, Mark Pellington was a production assistant at the time and we worked with him on our first commercials at MTV. From there we continued to expand into commercials for advertising agencies while at the same time working on art installations, records and films.

TW: Which type of medium do you like to create music for the most and why?

tomandandy: We’d be hard pressed to pick just one because we’re fascinated by the way in which music informs media and visa versa.

TW: Was Killing Zoe your first film score?

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tomandandy: Yes!

TW: I’ve always been curious, what does Tom bring to the table versus Andy.

 

Andy Milburn of tomandandy
Andy Milburn of tomandandy

tomandandy: We’ve worked with each other for a long time. We’re very diverse and complimentary and we know how to leverage those strengths to create broadly different scores, for example, The Rules of Attraction sounds completely different than Mean Creek which sounds different than Mothman Prophesies which is different from Resident Evil which is different from The Details which is different than The Strangers. The common thread is that we try to enhance the narrative of the film regardless of style or instrumentation. Our goal is to create the best overall result.

TW: How did you get involved working with film director Mark Pellington?

tomandandy: (see above)

TW: Talk about the music you made for Arlington Road. I really loved the music for that film and how incredibly diverse it was, yet anchored with the same line. How did that gig come about and how did Mark Pellington split the music up amongst those who contributed to the soundtrack?

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tomandandy: We met Mark at MTV and worked with him on several projects in different contexts. He asked us to work with him on Arlington Road and really enjoyed working with him on that project. You’re right, the music is diverse but hangs together by combining orchestra with non orchestral instruments and sounds. The result is quite large sounding.

TW: The Mothman Prophecies is probably my favorite score ever done. I feel it was revolutionary and a landmark for composers to follow since then. How do you guys feel about what you did for that movie now?

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tomandandy: The approach was radically different from film scoring when the film was made and It seems to stand the test of time.

TW: That score is unlike any I’ve ever before or since. How did you come up with such a spiritual cinematic sound?

tomandandy: It was a combination of working with a noise guitarist from NY called Glenn Branca, unusual sounds and live orchestra.

TW: What was it like working with Renny Harlin on The Covenant and then Alexandra Aja on The Hills Have Eyes remake? I really liked how you captured a western feel for Hills.

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tomandandy: The Convenant was a precursor to the Twilight films which was really fun and engaging. That was a completely different experience from working on The Hills Have Eyes. You are right, our goal was to create a post modern homage to Spaghetti Westerns.

TW: When I saw The Strangers in the theater, I didn’t know you two had scored it until the end credits. But after going through such a terrifying suspense filled experience, I said, “Why of course ? ” The quietness and subtle approach you took really worked wonders for that film.

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tomandandy: We appreciate that, thank you. The approach to The Strangers was to make soft sounds loud and typically loud sounds soft. 

TW: Talk about Girl House. When were you guys contacted about doing the movie and how did you like working with Director Trevor Matthews?

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tomandandy: We were contacted after the film was edited. We really enjoyed working with Trevor. He was very engaged in the film and naturally understood what worked and didn’t work musically for the film. It was a very positive experience and we hope we can work with him again.

TW: I noticed again a more restrained approach rather than how so many composers just go for the obvious screaming brass for a horror film.

tomandandy: It’s true. We didn’t want to be cliche, the music is nuanced.

TW: Girl House is obviously a modern day slasher film. What was your goal musically on the film?

tomandandy: The film music is trying to connect instrumentation to the notion of slasher in the context of today’s technology. The film includes people connecting online, via mobile, they are being watched and watching each other. As a result, the music has technological sound elements as well as traditional instruments as part of the palette. 

TW: At this point, when you take on a film, are you ever given musical/film score references as to what the director wants or do they leave it in your hands?  

tomandandy: It really depends, we are very flexible. Sometimes we start from scratch like Resident Evil while other times we are given references.

TW: What’s your favorite score you guys have ever created and why.

tomandandy: We really like many of them for different reasons. I’m not sure it would be fair to single out one in particular.

TW: What’s on tap that we can look forward to seeing or in your case, hearing?

tomandandy: We are currently working on a number of film projects including “Sinister 2”.

TW: By the way, which one of you is answering these questions? Tom or Andy?

Thomas Hajdu of tomandandy

Tom 🙂

TW: I want to thank both of you for continuing to create involving deeply emotional music that makes the cinema going experience so special.

tomandandy: Thank you!?????????

 

Please visit tomanandy’s official site to learn more of their amazing work:

www.tomandandy.com

Trevor Matthews on Directing Girl House

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Trevor Matthews shares his thoughts about directing his first feature film Girl House

 

 

 

 

Terry Wickham:  Tell me a bit about Kanata, Ontario, Canada.  I’ve never spoken to someone from that neck of the woods.

 

Trevor Matthews:  It’s beautiful. It’s quiet. Lots of trees and lakes. The community and people are amongst the best I’ve ever met. It’s a similar environment to much of the North Eastern Appalachians – but for me It’s just… home.

 

TW:  What was it that drew you away from studying Anthropology to getting involved with the film business?

Director Trevor Matthews on the set of the horror film “GIRL HOUSE” an Entertainment One Films release. Photo courtesy of: Entertainment One Films.
Director Trevor Matthews on the set of the horror film
“GIRL HOUSE” an Entertainment One Films release. Photo courtesy of: Entertainment One Films.

 

TM:  I was always heavily influenced by movies, and I loved telling stories. I got into Anthropology and geography because I originally wanted to be a mountain guide and have a strong understanding of history and culture. 

I ended up being drawn to the film business for the excitement and unknown. I knew that whatever I was going to do – I wanted to be an entrepreneur. The film business seemed to be that perfect balance between commerce and creative. I’m glad I made that choice… because now my job is anything but routine and I’m still constantly challenged and learning more about this industry everyday.

 

TW:  I learned you’ve climbed some of the steepest mountains on North & South America.  Is there any comparison to making a film versus climbing a mountain?  I know from experience, making a film can be grueling.

 

TM:  It’s amazing to me that when you gain a new level of understanding in your career, a sport, or a climb, how easily that can become useful in something entirely different. I have learned more from climbing and from the mountains than I ever expected. It has definitely taught me that there is a balance between being humble and patient, and being efficient and effective towards achieving your goals—whether that be in growing a business or making a film.

 

TW:  I read that you attended New York Film Academy.  What made you choose a school all the way over on the East Coast, which is my neck of the woods?

 

TM:  I actually went to the NY Film academy in Los Angeles… I know that sounds funny. But they had a great program in LA where I got to learn, work and shoot on the Universal Studios Backlot. It was pretty cool.

 

TW:  I’ve seen that you’ve done some acting.  Was it acting that lead to directing or vice versa?

Alyson Bath as Devon in the horror film  “GIRL HOUSE”  an Entertainment One Films  release.  Photo courtesy of: Entertainment One Film s.
Slaine as Loverboy with Director Trevor Matthews on set of the horror film “GIRL HOUSE” an Entertainment One Films
release. Photo courtesy of: Entertainment One Films.

 

TM:  I started acting in my early 20’s. I love preforming and I’d still love to do more of it. I’ve always been really interested in filmmaking in general. It is such a collaboration between all the different departments.  So for me – as long as it’s a cool project and I’m part of the team… I’m in.

 

 

TW:  Had you always planned to make a horror film as your directing debut?

 

TM:  No. But I do love a good horror movie.

 

TW:  How did Girl House originate?

 

TM:  Nick Gordon, the writer (and fellow producer) of the film and the Head of Development at Brookstreet, had the idea a long time ago and just never wrote it. One day we were throwing around ideas for contained horror films that could be made for a low budget and everybody responded in the room.

 

TW:  Are you a fan of slasher films?  I grew up during the height of the slasher era that followed John Carpenter’s Halloween.  That was a great time for horror cinema, as there were some real gems to come out from that period.

Alyson Bath as Devon in the horror film  “GIRL HOUSE”  an Entertainment One Films  release.  Photo courtesy of: Entertainment One Film s.
Alyson Bath as Devon in the horror film “GIRL HOUSE”
an Entertainment One Films release. Photo courtesy of: Entertainment One Films.

 

TM:  Evil Dead, Army of Darkness, Dead Alive, Bad Taste, Nightmare on Elm Street, and of course Halloween. I loved to track how the great horror directors progressed and expanded on their experiences in the horror genre in their future projects. Like Sam Rami with The Gift or A Simple Plan… there is so much influence from his roots in horror imbedded into that work. And most of the time his horror mastery influenced the best scenes! Even Spiderman. When you watch Sam’s early stuff you can totally see how his tools were sharpened in the horror genre.

TW:  Did you shoot your movie close to where you are from in Canada?  The locations were very scenic and gave the picture an atmosphere not found in films shot in California or New York.

TM:  We actually shot most of the movie in Kanata, my hometown. The GirlHouse location is actually the house that I grew up in! I never thought those walls would see this amount of carnage. I think my Dad was half worried I’d tear the place down while making this, but then again, he was probably worried about that while I was living there as a kid too.

TW:  Had you known Writer Nick Gordon prior to this project?

TM:  I met Nick about a year before we started working on Girl House. He wrote a wicked little gangster script that I read as a sample and I knew I wanted to work with him right away. GirlHouse is actually the second script Nick has written for the company, so while working on that project we got to know each other pretty well. He’s a great guy with a ton of experience, and I really liked his writing style.

 

Ali Cobrin as Kylie Atkins in the horror film  “GIRL HOUSE”  an Entertainment One  Films release.  Photo courtesy of: Entertainment On e Films.
Ali Cobrin as Kylie Atkins in the horror film “GIRL HOUSE”
an Entertainment One Films release. Photo courtesy of: Entertainment One Films.

 

TW:  Talk about your cast.  How’d you find your two leads Ali Cobrin and Adam DiMarco?  They definitely have onscreen chemistry together.

TM:  Annie McCarthy handled our casting out of LA. We were so lucky to have her and her associate Freddy on this job. They were fantastic and were able to put the perfect cast together for these diverse characters. Ali was hot from her performance in the latest American Pie film and Adam had a fantastic audition and came highly recommended from some of my Canadian producing friends. I think they had great chemistry. I loved how dorky and funny Adam played the character. It’s great to watch.

TW:  Ali Cobrin’s character is more sexed up, but I really felt she conveyed innocence, intelligence and ultimately toughness as “Kylie Atkins” that is comparable to Jamie Lee Curtis’ performance as “Laurie Strode” in John Carpenter’s Halloween.

TM:  Well I’m glad that came across, but I also think her character is more modern. She’s treading into the world of online porn after all, owning her body and trying take control of her recently turned upside down circumstances after her father passed away. Ali had to tackle a modern, “wholesome” woman that joins a porn house. Not an easy task. 

TW:  I think Adam DiMarco’s character “Ben Stanley” might be the key to making your movie work.  I say that because his role as an honest, caring, somewhat moralistic person gives the film balance against all the sex and violence.

TM:  Their relationship is really important to the story on so many levels. I think it’s what makes people care whether Kylie lives or dies, but it’s also more than our love story. Among other things, Adam plays a counterpoint to Kylie’s choice to join the house. Their relationship it gives Kylie the chance to show that she’s smart and independent and doesn’t need his approval to feel good about herself and her decision, while at the same time showing her vulnerability and desire for courtship, romance, and love. 

TW:  Was Slaine a choice you had in mind all along or did he come through the casting process?

Slaine as Loverboy in the horror film  “GIRL HOUSE”  an Entertainment One Films  release.  Photo courtesy of: Entertainment One Films.
Slaine as Loverboy in the horror film “GIRL HOUSE”
an Entertainment One Films release. Photo courtesy of: Entertainment One Films.

 

TM:  It’s funny when you’re making a movie with someone in a mask most of the time, it’s easy to focus on casting the other roles. But when the idea for Slaine came up, I had a really hard time envisioning anyone else. And we hustled and hustled until the last minute, had to move the schedule around very late in pre-production, but the pieces finally fell into place and Slaine came onboard… and MAN I’m GLAD HE DID … he absolutely killed it! He’s such a talented actor with just great natural impulses and ideas.  He brought a lot to the character.

TW:  Did you make a cameo in the film?

TM:  I did. I’m actually the first person in the A-story to get killed! I play the hipster who walks into the GirlHouse server room – only to have my head caved in by Loverboy!

TW:  It must have been a real thrill getting tomanandy to score your film.  I love their work.  The Mothman Prophecies is one of the best scores to a movie ever done.  I must have listened to that soundtrack close to a thousand times when I was writing my feature screenplay Anomaly.  How did you get the duo involved?

TM:  tomandandy are so talented and it was just perfect timing. They were coming off another project and had a window to work with us. They are so much fun to collaborate with and brought the film alive in a whole new way. We wanted something scary but modern and digital. I was blown away with what they came up with and they worked really fast. It was a cool experience for sure.  

TW:  Tell me a bit about your Cinematographer Chris Norr and the work you did together.  What was your vision for the film and how did you feel about what he was able to capture with his lights and lens?

Slaine as Loverboy in the horror film  “GIRL HOUSE”  an Entertainment One Films release.  Photo courtesy of: Entertainment One Films.
Slaine as Loverboy in the horror film “GIRL HOUSE”
an Entertainment One Films release. Photo courtesy of: Entertainment One Films.

 

TM:  Chris is another guy that I feel so lucky to have worked with. He had literally just come off of shooting SINISTER, a film that has so much darkness in every frame. He is a master at working in low light and we knew he could accomplish a very polished look on a low budget.  

TW:  In parting, what’s next?

TM:  Brookstreet Pictures is making some big moves this year! You can expect a lot more movies in the next few years… 

Please visit Brookstreet Pictures official site to learn more:

www.brookstreetpictures.com

 

Travis Oates on directing Don’t Blink

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Travis Oates shares his thoughts on directing Don’t Blink, one of the best films of 2014

 

 

 

 

Terry Wickham:  How does an actor mostly known for doing the voice of “Piglet” since 2005 and owner/manager of a comedy theater, turn around and direct one of the Best suspense movies of 2014, Don’t Blink?

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Travis Oates:  Well, I’ve been a professional writer for quite some time now.  I’ve been writing for television and film for almost a decade.  Most of what I do is polishes and dialog passes so it doesn’t end up on IMDB, but I have also sold 6 films and 7 TV pilots.  I got tired of none of them being made, so when I sold ACME Comedy Theatre I made it a goal of mine to direct my own film.  Zack Ward found funding for the project and the rest is history!

TW:  Was directing always your end goal in terms of filmmaking?

TO:  No, I stated out wanting to be an actor when I was younger.  I had some small success at it, but when I started writing, that was where I found my calling.  During the time I owned ACME I directed up to three shows a week and one short film a week.  I fell in love with directing while I was there.  Now, I firmly put myself in the writer/director camp.

TW:  I see you had directed a short comedy film in 2011.  Was that your first attempt at directing?

TO:  Heh heh.  I actually directed about 50 short films between 2010 and 2011.  I directed my first television show in 2001.  It was a pilot for a comedy sketch show.  IMDB is actually a really poor resource for short films and smaller projects.  You have to write them and make sure your stuff shows up there, and I’ve never paid much attention…

TW:  I couldn’t agree with you more about IMDB.  I’ve done a bunch of stuff not listed that maybe wouldn’t even get accepted by IMDB, not listed there.  It’s one of the reasons I started posting a new Blog/Photo Gallery from every project I’ve ever done (33 total), until all my projects are listed in some way on my website.  If I don’t do it, nobody will ever know about them.

TO:  Yeah, it’s especially frustrating if you write pilots like I did for years.  Unless the pilot makes it to air, it doesn’t go on IMDB.  I was working constantly for 5 years, and if you looked on my IMDB page you wouldn’t see any evidence of it.  I’ve even had movies green lit, be on IMDB, then have the film go into turn around and have it drop off.  Frustrating.

TW:  What movies or filmmakers inspired you and was there anything that molded your directorial approach on Don’t Blink.

TO:  I’m a huge Alfred Hitchcock fan.  I was actually reading one of his biographies while we were filming Don’t Blink.  I tried to employ some of the techniques that he pioneered.  I enjoy a slower paced, smoother look to films.  I’m not a fan of hand held or jerky camera work.

TW:  I dislike the bumpy camera work as well.  It’s one of the reasons that even though I’m currently making a “found footage” movie (called “Stash”) I’m mixing in fluid camera work.

TO:  I can hardly wait to see it!

TW:  How did the opportunity to make Don’t Blink come about?  You not only directed the film but wrote it as well?

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TO:  Zack Ward and I had been friends for a number of years, (I had directed him in a few comedy shows).  He was looking to produce a film and he knew that I was looking to direct one.  I offered to write a film for scale if I had the opportunity to direct.

TW:  Was this a project that took years to develop?

TO:  Not…really.  The development side of things happened incredibly fast.  We were funded, greenlit and starting production in less than three months.  The production itself was only a month.  Post took longer.

TW:  Lucky guy.  Things don’t usually work that way.  I wish that was the norm.

TO:  Me too.  It’s funny, the first time I ever pitched a TV show the network bought it in the room.  I thought, “boy this is going to be easy”.  I didn’t sell another pilot for two years.

TW:  I loved that your film features an ensemble cast.  I get tired of the two or three lead structure of most movies use.  The films I make that I write myself, are usually designed for a group of characters carrying the story.  Were you mindful of this when you wrote the script?

TO:  I wanted the piece to be an ensemble, with the “lead” character shifting a few times.  For example, Claire doesn’t start the film as a lead, but she becomes one in the second half.  I like doing that kind of thing in a suspense film, it makes it harder for the audience to feel that anyone is safe.  For example, some people were surprised that Mena Suvari was only in the first third of the film, as she was the biggest name in the picture.  However, that was always my goal.  I wanted the first person to disappear to be the biggest star.  I wanted the audience to think that she might come back, because of who she was. 

TW:  That’s certainly a Hitchcockian tactic (Psycho) and I love the idea of a shifting lead.  I’m all for storytellers not getting blocked into rigid character structure.

TO:  I like it when a movie keeps me off balance.  Too often I know everything that’s going to happen before it happens.

TW:  Since you are an actor, did you select actors that were your friends or acquaintances in the business or were they found by the normal process (casting director suggestions, auditions, etc.)?

TO:  It was a mix.  Zack was a friend.  I wrote the role of Lucas for Curtiss Frisle.  Leif Gantvoort was, and still is, one of my closest friends…but he had to audition.  Everyone else came from casting. 

TW:  Do you enjoy acting or directing more?

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TO:  Directing, hands down.

TW:  Give me some specific moments during the making of Don’t Blink, in regards to working with your actors, which were special to you?  Maybe it was something they did or said to you, or vice versa.  I know on my movies, I can think of little moments that stand out.

TO:  I’ll tell you about two.  The first is the knock at the door in the third act.  The camera is framed with Jack on the left and Claire on the right.  After the knock, there is a moment, and then Zack’s character Alex slowly rises to a sitting position on the couch.  That is my favorite moment in the film, (it usually gets a laugh).  My DP, (who was phenomenal, by the way), thought I was crazy and didn’t understand the shot at all…until he saw it unfold.  Sometimes, when you’re a director, you need to have enough faith in yourself to try something that everyone else thinks won’t work.

The other moment is near the end of the film.  Claire and Jack have a heartfelt conversation in near complete darkness about fear and their personal lives.  It’s a very intimate moment.  The two actors, Brain and Joanne asked me if they could try something.  They wanted to have their characters scared yet laughing at the situation—the ridiculousness of it all.  My immediate reaction was that laughing would destroy the mood.  However, I let them try it, even though the day was running long.  It turned out to be so human and touching.  Sometimes, when you’re a director, you need to have enough faith in yourself to try something that you think won’t work.

TW:  I applaud you for having the courage and willingness to allow risk.  It’s not always good to play it safe.

TO:  I was lucky that, for the most part, it worked out.

TW:  The amount of restraint that you showed in keeping the lid on what makes people disappear is really impressive.  I know that couldn’t have been easy because I’m sure the finance people wanted explanations for the audience or just themselves.  Was that at all a battle to retain?

TO:  Yes and no.  Just as the audience of the film is sharply divided on the ending, so were the people making the film.  Carl Lucas, one of the producers, was adamant about keeping the ending the way it was, others felt differently.  I went back and forth.  My own mother hates the ending, but my wife loves it.  I do know, by the way, what is happening in the film, and there are clues to the “secret”.  In fact, someone contacted me on twitter and guessed exactly what was going on.  He caught every clue.  So it is there…but it helps if you know a thing or two about theoretical physics.

TW:  Speaking of which, did you wrestle with the thought that the audience might want to see more.  Was that a dilemma you faced either in the writing stage or principal photography?

TO:  When I watch a horror film, I’m only scared until I know the secret of what is going on.  The whole idea of Don’t Blink is to have a film where that sense of terror doesn’t fade at the end.  It stays with you.  Some people vehemently hate me for that.  Believe me, I heard from many of them.  That’s why my film is always scored exactly in the middle on every site on the internet.  I get a lot of 5’s and 1’s.  I knew going in that that was going to be the case, so yes, I struggled with it.  Contrary to popular belief I’m not the kind of person who wants to make a film to piss people off.  I just wanted to make something different.  Fortunately, most of the critics saw that, and we got very good reviews from the press.

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TW:  I think films that make you think are quite often the ones that stay with you the longest.  We’ve all seen the predictable stuff that’s easy to digest that’s forgotten the moment we will the theater or shut off the Blu-ray/DVD player.

TO:  Tell that to the internet.  They think I’m evil.  It’s okay though, I used to host a television show with Wil Wheaton.  I’m used to internet hate.

TW:  The location you used in New Mexico was beautiful.  The cleanliness of the mountain resort actually worked in your movie’s favor as normally scary, or suspense movies focus on what happens in the dark.  Since this movie was done mostly in broad daylight, or in well lit resort quarters made it unique.  Talk about why you did this and how you found the location.

TO:  It’s easy to scare someone in a dark, scary place.  I wanted to see if I could make a beautiful place feel frightening.  The location was perfect for us.  Actually, the only real problem we had was that just like the characters in the film, we had no cell signal up there.  To get any phone or internet we had to go down the mountain.  I always laugh when people on message boards say they thought that that aspect of the film felt fake – we lived it!

TW:  Tell me a little about your Director of Photography Jason Crothers and your Music Composer Mike Verta.  Their contributions were definitely important to this film’s success.

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TO:  Jason was a godsend.  I would use him in all my films if I could.  He has a great eye and was a gracious collaborator.  He took everything in my head and put it out on film.  I have never met Mike Verta.  He wasn’t the original composer for the film, and was hired without any input from me.  The original film had much less music and the score was more…restrained.  I wanted to play with how quiet everything was, how oppressive silence could be.  Mike was obviously not given that note.

TW:  I’ve noticed that silence makes people uncomfortable because they don’t know what to expect when the music isn’t telegraphing what’s to come.  A perfect example was when I saw The Strangers in the theater when it first came out.  tomandandy’s score was so unobtrusive and there were so many moments of silence, that all of us in attendance, sat on the edge of our seats.

TO:  Yeah, I really wish people got a chance to hear the original score.  It was written by a composer named Jonathan Green.  It’s really quite wonderful—very minimal.  I think that’s what made the producers nervous…

TW:  How many shooting days did you get to make this movie?

TO:  24 days over 4 weeks.

TW:  Obviously, I selected Don’t Blink as one of the Best Films of the Year.  What’s been the response so far to your film?

TO:  It’s been a critical success, definitely.  We made more than a few “best of the year” lists for horror.  The general audience either loves or hates the film depending on what they were expecting.  I understand why the ending could be frustrating for some, and I’m truly sorry for that.  If you’re mad, tweet me and I’ll give you the secret to the ending…

TW:  What are your plans going forward in terms of directing?  Might we see you make another thriller?

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TO:  I’m working on a bunch of things right now.  I’ve had a few offers.  I certainly wouldn’t shy away from doing another film like Don’t Blink…as long as the ending was clear and concise.  🙂

Travis – thank you for creating a wonderful movie that stands out because of your unique approach utilizing mature restraint, focus on acting and your ability to capture a palpable mysterious atmosphere.

TO:  Thank you for the kind words!