Enter The Dark is a short film that takes you into the dark recesses of a haunted house and the even darker fathoms of the human soul. Although it may seem similar to Paranormal Activity and Blair Witch Project, its sensibilities are really rooted in films like The Haunting, Poltergeist and especially The Exorcist, Alien, and The Shining.


And it will be scary. I promise.

CHARACTERS:


CHARLES ODOLF

Charles has a problem.  There's something in his house scaring his family and it just won't leave them alone.  They've all heard voices, seen dark shapes moving in the shadows, felt that uneasy sensation of being watched.  Finally Charles captures something on his audio recorder that proves they're not all going crazy.  He decides to make a stand, enlisting the help of his long-time buddy, Rob Tupper, to delve into the mystery of his unwanted guest and hopefully send it on its way.  If they can somehow figure out what the entity is and what it wants, maybe they can all finally have some peace.

ROB TUPPER

Rob's worried about his buddy.  He's been acting really strange lately ... well, even stranger than usual.  Rob knows that things have been rough for Charles - struggling to make ends meet in a down economy, dealing with the unexplained disappearance of his brother-in-law, Marcus, and now these claims of some ghost harassing his family.  Rob is skeptical that there's anything paranormal going on, but he agrees to help his friend out if only to find out the real nature of the problem.


With the lights out, they are led on an adventure of paranormal encounters: cold spots, an eerie talking children's book, unexplained apparitions and a final mystery that leads to an unforgettably disturbing ending.

CAST and CREW:

Charles Yoakum - Actor/Additional Photography

Rob Sandusky- Actor/Additional Photography

Todd Miró - Writer/Producer/Director/Editor


Todd has been making movies since he was just a strapping lad, running around with his buddies and his Super-8 film gear.  After graduating with a film degree from San Francisco State University, Todd pursued his passion as a professional editor and motion graphics designer, working on numerous broadcast documentaries that have aired on PBS, Animal Planet and the BBC.  More recently, he delved back into the world of Independent Filmmaking, editing and producing the acclaimed horror/thriller The Commune.

Rob Weiner - Director of Photography/Associate Producer

Jeanine Miró - Executive Producer


Eduardo Silva - 2nd Unit Director of Photography/Assistant Camera/Gaffer


Kristin Nelder - Assistant Camera/Gaffer/Set Dresser


Ben Weiner - Sound Recordist/Key Grip/Production Assistant

INTERVIEW WITH WRITER/DIRECTOR TODD MIRÓ

What inspired you to make this project?

From an early age I've loved horror movies.  I can remember watching all sorts of weird, crazy and utterly horrible movies at the drive-in. My folks would pack us into our VW squareback and my sister and I would sit in the backseat, cozy in our pajamas, and cram freshly popped popcorn down our throats.  We watched all sorts of grade z monster movies like Sssssss and Shivers and the occasional Japanese creature feature like War of the Gargantuas.  Eventually I discovered that horror movies needn't be grade-z shlock. They could be elegant. Thought-provoking. And still scary as hell, like Alien, The Exorcist and The Shining.


Enter The Dark came from a kernel of an idea that I played around with about 6 years ago.  My idea was simple - no one had really yet exploited the first-person found-footage horror genre that Blair Witch Project opened up back in 1999.  The beauty of this genre was two-fold.  First, the first-person POV of the camera placed the viewer directly in the path of the horrors unfolding on the screen, and second, the medium allowed one to use inexpensive gear without having to make excuses for it.


Of course I then sat on the idea and did nothing with it as others like REC, Cloverfield and Paranormal Activity proved that it was indeed a good idea.


When I finally garnered the resolve to actually make this short movie, my goals were simple:


  1. 1)Actually finish a project.  As a guy who has lots and lots of ideas, never follows through with them, and eventually is tormented to see others producing similar ideas and enjoying the success of their labor, I just wanted to finally finish something.  As such, I made this project as excuse-proof as possible:  shoot it in my house, with my friends, with equipment we already own. No Excuses!

  2. 2)Prove that I know how to write and shoot scary scenes.  I've watched and absorbed tons and tons of horror movies.  When I started the process of writing Enter the Dark, I must have watched every ghost story ever filmed - The Haunting, Poltergeist, The Shining, The Entity, The Sentinel, 1408, The Orphanage, The Devil's Backbone, The Changeling, Sixth Sense and many others. Then I thoroughly overdosed on Ghost Hunters and all the other paranormal reality tv shows to understand the language of the paranormal and the process of ghost hunting. I absorbed all this information to challenge myself to see if I could pull off some of the most famous spooky setups ever filmed - and ones never-before seen.

  3. 3)Make an entertaining and thought-provoking movie.  I wanted to take the traditional ghost story setup and play with it a bit - prey on the viewers' knowledge and expectations, and create a twist at the end that would ultimately be much more horrifying.  I also wanted to interject a bit of humor and vérité throughout.  I love the way in which Alien is so visually stylized, but how the acting is so matter-of-fact, which enabled Ridley Scott to convincingly place the audience in a heightened state of paranoia and fear.


Hopefully, the audience will agree that I've been successful on all three counts.



Are you concerned about comparisons with Paranormal Activity?

Well, obviously there are similarities: a house with spooky things going on; two people trying to get to the bottom of it with video and other gear; first-person camera angles with night-vision cameras.  However, I really did have this idea way before PA came out, and although on the surface they may seem similar, my movie is much more complex.  Once people see it they will realize it is more about the underlying psychology of the situation and an ultimate horror which is much more disturbing.  Plus, as well as the infrared camera, I also shot my movie with a traditional camera using standard cinematic techniques- enabling me to interject my own style and vision.



What was your writing process like?

I first spent a long time just thinking up the scariest scenarios I could conjure.  I would lay in bed in the dark at night and ask myself what would really freak me out if it happened right here, right now in my own house?  Then my actors Rob and Charles and I would just riff on the scenes until we nailed down the essence of each.  Then I went through and assessed which scenes were actually filmmable, given my limited (ok, practically non-existent) budget and time restraints. After that I figured out a logical progression of the scenes - from eerie to scary to downright terrifying.  I already knew what the twist at the end was going to be, so it was just a matter of creating a thread that linked all the elements.


Originally, my script was really just an outline, with occasional dialogue and action notes here and there. My intent was to leave it loose and improvise most of the scenes to keep the vérité feel.  However, once we got into the scenes, I quickly realized that was not going to work.  I've known my friends Rob & Charles since the seventh grade.  We've made tv shows and short movies together and they did a tremendous job in Enter The Dark, but asking them to improvise the scenes was just too much.  I was already asking them to shoot much of the movie (through the infra-red POV cam), and light it, (with a flashlight - the single light-source for most of the movie), so the added burden of creating dialogue and motivated action on the spot was asking too much.


So, our process became, as the next scene to work on came up, I would do a first pass on dialogue and action.  Then I would let that percolate for a while and kind of pick on it as ideas would arise.  Then on our shoot date Charles, Rob and I would go through the scene and work it - work on the blocking and the delivery of the dialogue and edit anything that felt false. I would try to put on my editor's hat and be ruthless about eliminating anything that was unnecessary, even if Todd the writer  had to cry a bit when some of his favorite witty dialogue got chopped. I tried to be open to everyone's suggestions and incorporate anything that could make the scene better and make the story stronger. We would go through it over and over again until they had their dialogue nailed and all the action felt natural. Then we'd shoot.


As we progressed through the movie and I started to cut the scenes together, I found myself having to make changes to upcoming scenes as I became aware of things that were and weren't working. Sometimes I'd have to shift pieces of information forward into the movie to help with the overall timing and flow.  As such, the script wasn't really finished until we shot the final scene.



What gear was used on the movie?

The primary camera we used was a Canon 7D with multiple lenses - mostly a 17-55mm f2.8 and a 50mm f1.4. For those unfamiliar with the 7D, (and what rock have you been living under) this amazing camera allows you to shoot full HD video (1920x1080) at 24fps with beautiful 35mm lenses and depth of field for around $2,000.  This allows for a very convincing film-look at a bargain price.  (For info on this camera and HD DSLRs in general, be sure to check out Phillip Bloom's incredibly informative blog.)  We shot wide open at ISO 800 to get as much light as possible to the sensor.


The other camera in the movie was a Sony HDR-CX12 with the infrared NightShot turned on.  The camera was setup with a wide-angle lens, and an additional IR light.  It shoots Hi-Def video at 1080i and then records AVCHD (a flavor of H.264) to Sony MemoryStick cards. 


This camera was a prop also - it was the POV cam that the actors used throughout the movie as they moved around in the dark trying to solve the mystery of the sound Charles recorded.  I used this shot whenever I needed to show something that the Canon 7D couldn't pick up, and also when I wanted to build the tension by seeing their faces and putting the audience right there with them in the moment.


Our lighting rig for most of the movie (except the opening scene) consisted of the following:


1 flashlight.


Yup, that's it.  I really wanted the look of a pitch black house with just one light source constantly creating new looks - sometimes silhouettes, sometimes bounced light of the walls or ceilings, sometimes pitch black. I wanted to blacks to go absolute black because I'm trying to build a sense within the viewer that anything could come out of the shadows at any time.


Audio was fairly straightforward: 2 wireless lavalier microphones (1 for each actor) fed in to a Zoom H4n digital recorder.  We also used another Zoom as a prop (their recording device for catching disembodied sounds or EVPs), and had that rolling as well.  I always like to have two sound recording devices going as you never know when one will fail during the best take.  The wireless lavs are great but occasionally pick up random RF hits, so I could always go to the handheld Zoom as a backup for that reason.


The quality of the gear that is available to low-budget filmmakers these days is truly amazing.  There really is now no excuse for not making that film of your dreams.




What was it like shooting a movie in your own house?

Well, I can tell you my wife wasn't too thrilled - not only with having to deal with a crew of folks setting up gear and tromping through the house, and having to vacate the premises every time we shot upstairs, but mostly I think the idea of setting up all these paranormal scenarios in our house was not too appealing for her. 


It was also tricky trying to keep details from our two young sons.  Did they really need to know about the creepy talking book in their room, or the door that slammed shut and locked Rob in the dark?  I don't think so...


For me, it allowed me the freedom to really take my time with the shoot.  Given all of our busy schedules, it took us six months to finish principle photography on this movie - that's quite a long time for just a 15-minute short.  However, we all agreed that it was more important to get it right than to rush anything.  I even completely re-wrote and re-shot the first scene after we realized it just wasn't good enough.


I can say that the one drawback was I just could not get away from the project. I researched, wrote, shot and edited the movie in my own house, so all those horrifying images lived with me for almost a whole year.  I would go to sleep thinking about it, and wake up thinking about it.


One night, while struggling in a restless half-sleep I turned over and looked directly into the face of a demon staring right at me.  I literally levitated off the bed and propelled myself to the opposite side whereupon I crashed into my wife while uttering a totally pathetic shriek.  She was not too happy with me.  I dared not tell her what I'd just seen.


I looked back to the side of the bed and of course it was no longer there.  I tried to convince myself that it was just a trick of my mind.  A left-over spectre from my strange sleep-state.  You think about ghosts, demons and scary scenes for long enough and it's no wonder your dreams will be filled with them.




What are your plans for the movie?

Once finished I will be submitting Enter The Dark to many of the popular horror film festivals like Screamfest and the New York City Horror Film Festival.  I will also submit to South by Southwest and Slamdance.  Hopefully you will be able see it at one or more of those festivals.


I will also submit to IndieFlix for digital download and streaming and continue to post clips to Vimeo and YouTube.


My ultimate goal would be to garner enough attention to get a deal to direct a low-budget horror feature.


But not in my house...