Saturday, January 5, 2019


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"I think balancing the horror with the drama was the biggest challenge", Andy Mitton told to us about one of the challenge he faced in the making of THE WITCH IN THE WINDOW, his latest big hit, a ghost story movie that touch the delicate subject of parenthood, a father that struggle to recover the affect to his son while confronts the presence of a uninvited host. Andy, from Marshfield, MA. Is a person that can communicate his knowledge in a simple way, to me it's always a pleasure could get tremendous knowledge from  persons like Andy and if you want to learn about filmmaking and how to do a movie, this is your read. I am sure you will appreciate the golden advice Andy Mitton will give you.

EFF: Hi Andy, Thank you to allow me talk to you with and also you can tell us a little bit about yourself, so let's begin with where are you from? Where did you grow up? Did exist a specific moment in your life that opened your eyes up and showed you that movies would be you life thing? 

AM: Thank you in return! I’m from Marshfield, MA. I grew up in a pretty normal suburban environment, a bit of a nerd in school, and movies, especially scary ones, were important to me for as long as I remember. But more than movies, it was stories. I knew first and foremost I would be a storyteller. From age four or so I wanted to be a writer. I fell in love with books, plays, and films, and in high school became totally engrossed in the drama program. I went on to get my degree in theater and work in Los Angeles theater for several years before my film career started. 

A specific moment I can think of is watching what I think of as my first horror movie, GHOSTBUSTERS. Which is really a comedy, of course, but it’s also pretty creepy, and the Ghost Librarian who begins the movie – well, that was my first real scare. In addition, I went about my childhood trying to recreate that feeling, both for myself and for others. Which really meant driving my sister crazy jumping out from behind things, and making haunted houses in my bedroom to force her into. 

EFF: According your filmo, you started shooting a short film called "Missing Persons" alongside Jonathan Howard as co-director. Was it that you first labor shooting? What can you tell us from that experience? 

AM: Yes, that’s the one short film I made, a few years out of college. I went to Middlebury College in Vermont, and went out to Los Angeles to join Clark Freeman there, where we started the Sight Unseen Theatre Group. We wanted to do short films on the side and build up our skills there, so I wrote Missing Persons and we invited Jon Howard, another friend and Middlebury alumnus, on board to co-direct. He had been a film student, after all, and my degree was in theater, so I knew I’d learn a lot from him. 

The movie itself is a quirky comedic drama about a lost soul who comes across a poster for a missing child, then sees the child in the world and tries to recover him. It’s very low-budget and looking back now the script is sentimental and sloppy. But that’s how we start, and how we learn, and there are seeds of good things in there, particularly in what Clark is doing in the lead role. 

EFF: After that, you co-directed and co-wrote two films. YELLOWBRICKROAD and WE GO ON alongside you partner Jesse Holland. Allow me ask you about YELLOWBRICKROAD, because it was your directorial debut in a feature film. How the story emerged out from your head? In addition, how the film was concreted, I mean, in terms of money, how was that path? 

AM: The idea for YELLOWBRICKROAD came to me on a hike in Los Angeles when I was 28. and it was very simple, just a thought of what it would be like if music was the ghost in a forest movie, and the earth started playing old music like some strange natural speaker. So, we could have heroes that are following the sound, trying to trace it. So, the next hike I took Jesse, shared that story seed, and we started riffing together on an outline. 

Getting the thing made was truly hard. We made a fake trailer, a fake website, and spent years asking investors for money and gradually gaining enough momentum to finally go out and shoot it. A big key was finding a producer who could actually put a production on its feet in the back woods of New Hampshire without everyone dying in the process. That man was Eric Hungerford, who really made it all happen in the end.
Yellowbrickroad (2010) Imdb |  Twitter Amazon 

EFF: What setbacks or funny anecdotes you had lived shooting YELLOWBRICKROAD you can tell us, location, actors? 

AM: That whole shoot was a setback, and most the anecdotes aren’t so funny. We had our fun, and I was thankfully surrounded by good friends – but truly, it was a harsh environment full of bugs and bad weather. 

One story that comes to mind is getting kicked out of our location on Day 2 of our shoot. It was a place we’d had permission to be, and we were set to shoot nearly half of our film there. That permission got suddenly revoked (probably when they saw the amount of equipment we had!), and we were left stranded with no location. Then an EMT we’d hired named Rebecca let us know her family had a large farm nearby and they’d be happy to have come shoot there. This big family just took us in and saved the entire shoot with their generosity. 

Another story from that set is how I met my eventual wife, Laura Heisler, who plays Liv in the film. We’d cast Laura off a tape, so I hadn’t met her till I picked her up at the train station to start shooting. Laura and I are nearly five years married with two sons, so I’d say that particular set story had some major life implications! 

EFF: After taking off the skin of the debut, you and your partner embarked in WE GO ON. Personally I liked a lot, the concept, the story, the acting were great. What inspired you to create this story? Do you feel audience got what you wanted to transmit them? 

AM: WE GO ON was really a handful of years later, after Jesse and I had spent years writing and pitching for bigger budget movies that never had too much luck actually getting to production. So WE GO ON was made out of our frustration with that; we figured we’d go back to our independent roots. We conceptualized it based on a short film idea I’d had with the same premise (a man puts an ad out offering a reward for proof of life after death) and I built it out into a screenplay off our outline. We thought the concept was something very relatable, and we wanted to do something more narrative than YELLOWBRICKROAD, with a quicker pace, a musical score, a whole different feeling. And we both liked the idea of having a mother and her adult son at the center; it felt fresh, and the journey of a believer and a non-believer was attractive dramatically. 

And yes, I think audiences really got it from the outset, which was a relief. YELLOWBRICKROAD may have launched us, but it violently divided audiences. Mostly people either really liked it or hated it with a passion. But with WE GO ON, it seemed like most people were going on the ride we hoped for.
We Go On (2016) Imdb |  Twitter Facebook | Amazon 

EFF: I always like to ask about old movies from my interviewees that let me know with what intentions or ideas they tried to expose their movies. So, let's submerging in with THE WITCH IN THE WINDOW, your latest work and indeed your first feature film as a director, working alone. How was that experience working alone, what things changed? If they did. 

AM: Well, I certainly missed working with Jesse, and just getting to see him all the time, as he’s a good friend. But we’re living in different places now, and felt it appropriate we go about telling separate stories for a while and I knew I would have to be careful about making the transition to working alone. So I built WITCH to be a very different style of production from WE GO ON, which was in Los Angeles at about forty different locations. On that film, we were constantly changing crews, changing our home base, everything shifted from day to day and it was a ton of extra logistics and transport and headaches. For WITCH I purposely wrote a movie that could take place on one location, knowing I’d have one crew and we could just be in this one place as a family and never have to move all our shit. It was an easier environment as a result and even though I was without a co-director, I think of this as being my most collaborative film. Because I still had serious co-pilots in my producer Richard King, my cinematographer, Justin Kane, my Executive Producer and frequent collaborator Clark Freeman. I had smart people to steer me right when I was going wrong, that took good ideas and made them great. I had a great time making this movie.
The Witch In The Window (2018) Imdb |  Twitter Facebook | Amazon 

EFF: Writer and Director, I read that you were a kind of lucky because you already had the location when you started the script, Am I wrong? Tell us, how was that? In addition, what inspired you to create this story?

AM: Yes, that’s exactly right. I had called Alex Draper and told him I wanted to write a movie for him but I needed him to find me a creepy house first. Sure enough, he came through with what’s called the Blair House in real life. Middlebury College had purchased it but not renovated it yet, so they graciously let us come film there. And we brought aboard some students from the school to assist on set. So, before there was a script, there was a lead actor, the house, and a production plan that sounded affordable. I had some ideas of what the story would be, but they were vague. I let the house itself inspire me. I looked at its layout, its most powerful places, where the light was, all of that. Then, I wove a ghost story together with my own fears of parenthood.

EFF: You touch a keen topic, what is parenthood, a father that wants to rebuild a relationship with his son, at the same time an old house it's being reconstructed, making a simile between both aspects of the film. What do you feel was the most difficult thing you had at the moment to make the story?

AM: I think balancing the horror with the drama was the biggest challenge. I know some horror fans don’t want the drama at all, but the combination makes sense to me, especially on this budget level. As someone who started in theater, I’m interested in themes. But I don’t want them taking over the story entirely; it’s equally important to me, if not more so, that the dread is real, that the horror is satisfying. All through production and especially in post-production, finding that balance was the hardest thing.

EFF: There is a moment in the movie, that what we watch that happening to Simon it’s not what it is. I liked specifically when Louis tells him "You never left your house" there it is when started the delusional point on simon. I think this could represents what usually explain supernatural situations, that it could be the product of a broken mind. What do you think?
AM: Yes, I like thinking of a haunting as something that happens in the head as much as it happens in the house itself, and even thinking of a troubled mind as sort of a haunted house of its own is interesting. But opening those doors allows for some surprises, and surprising an audience is my very favorite thing to do. Better of course, if I can scare them at the same time. 

EFF: Cinematically speaking what was the aspect you were looking for to show in the film? What references you took in at the moment to make the shots, in the crucial moments of the film, could yo give us examples?

AM: Justin Kane and I worked closely on the shot design. But we didn’t so much think of specific references for specific moments; I always like focusing on tailoring things specifically to this story and this story alone, so hopefully it feels distinct and original. But, of course influences get in there naturally – that’s how it works and we did spend evenings early in the shoot watching IT FOLLOWS and THE WITCH. But more so Justin and I talked about the kind of lighting the Coen Brothers use, and Roger Deakins, or Dennis Villeneuve and Bradford Young, even Kubrick, Paul Thomas Anderson. There are textures we both really like and we that our horror was in broad daylight, so, would be served by having shots that didn’t tell you what was scary and when to be scared. We designed the shots purely based on how the characters felt, how the story was moving.
The Witch In The Window

EFF: How did you set up the day to day of filming? I mean, draw out storyboards before to shoot, stuffs like that.

AM: I actually have never storyboarded, except for very specific moments in sketches. I like to make a big Excel document that’s sort of a Shot Bible that everyone has. It lists the shot, the scene, the page, the subject, the motion, whether it’s wide or close or medium or some combination, a guess at the lens, whether it’s handheld or sticks or dolly, etc. And there’s a very brief description in a notes column. It gives you the image, but sort of the way a novel makes an image in your mind’s eyes – it leaves room for interpretation. And I think that’s healthy, because as much as I like planning things to death, I also like showing up on the day and being inspired by what’s there in the moment. 

EFF: In every film exists problems that has a tremendous influence over the final product, filmmakers have to change what they had in mind to do in certain things, now, I can imagine what could happen in a micro budget film. What were those setbacks you had to overcome in order to get the final product, either are locations or casting or any other.

AM: Although it was a blessing to know the house before I wrote it, the house itself was also the biggest source of problems. When I wrote it, I imagined I would be able to repaint rooms, and really tear things up a bit more. But in the end we really had to embrace the house for all its strangeness. Those birds on the wallpaper – we didn’t put them there. The previous owners had interesting taste to say the least. But Sam Hensen, our production designer, did a wonderful job of adding color and texture where we could, and building off the existing bones to make something great.
Andy Mitton On set

EFF: How do you manage actors on set, do you rehearse before every shot, explain us your dynamic on that subject, for example in this movie, let me tell you that I liked a lot Alex Draper performing.

AM: Well, if I had lots of money I’d have three or four days of rehearsal ideally before production even begins. For a play, of course you want weeks and weeks, but with a film I think you want to find a balance. It’s good to get an idea of how a scene works, how it’s going to be staged and shot. But you also want to capture something more spontaneous in a film than you do in a play. You’re shooting the rehearsal, in essence, but you don’t want to go in totally blind. 

But of course we had no money for that, so on this film I only had one afternoon with Alex and Charlie before we started shooting, and we barely scraped the surface. So from there, it was up to us to sneak in little rehearsals, little conversations in between setups, to stay ahead of things. 

Other than that, I don’t have one way of managing actors. Every actor is different, and they have different ways of working, and I like to adapt to that. They’re professionals and they know what gets the best work from them, so I follow their lead. And then when it comes to making adjustments between takes, I try and be direct, but also collaborative. I want to know how a take felt to them, whether they have an instinct to try something different. If all goes well, we’ve nailed it by take four or five. 

EFF: From what you had in mind, what did change from the first script draft or your first idea on how to shoot the film to what we can watch now on the film and why?

AM: The first draft had a totally different ending. I knew it was crap when I wrote it, but I had to get it out of my system. I’m going into spoiler territory here, so if you haven’t seen the movie you should skip to the next question! But I was trying to save Simon initially. I wanted him to succeed in making this a good house again with him still in it. Shows you how much it hurt me to come around to killing him in later drafts. But I knew it was right. I liked the challenge of pulling it off while still providing an unexpected bit of hope in the epilogue.
Andy Mitton On set

EFF: How is your artistic relationship with the crew, specifically with the DP, any anectode you can tell us?

AM: It was great all around. And Justin Kane, our DP, was certainly at the center. We just speak the same language, and appreciate a lot of the same things. And I appreciate that he thinks about everything in terms of music, the way I do. He wanted to know what the score would sound like, and since I had already written the melody of the main theme, I played it for him while we were designing shots and we let it influence our mood, our choices. 

EEFF: I haven´t asked you how was the pitching process of the film. Tell us how that periplo was. 

AM: In both cases, the process was simple compared to my other endeavors. Our investors were coming aboard on the strength of the script and thankfully it all came together fast with the help of a strong business plan from Richard King and lots of help from Clark Freeman. Since we were completely independent, the money was all we needed and there was no one else to answer to. In pitching the film for sales, I went to the same sales agents we’d used on We Go On, Film Seekers in London. They’d done a terrific job on the last one and understood the international market so well. They took us on quickly and soon after we sold to Shudder at the market in Berlin, and then secured our premiere at Fantasia for this past summer. For once, there was very little stress in the sales process, the festival circuit wasn’t a race to sell it, just a press-generator to bolster its release and what a nice change that was!

EFF : How has been the audience and critic response so far? When it was released on and where it was premiered on? 

AM: It’s been great! It was wonderful to see it on big screens at festivals over the past several months, audiences have seemed very absorbed and satisfied. Also surprised in the ways that I hoped – both by the plot turns and by the emotional qualities. The reviews have been the best of my career overall. In the mainstream, there’s totally more backlash because lots of people want their horror to be pure escapism and they don’t want scenes of dialogue and themes and all of that. Which is totally cool and I get it. But happily – and this is why this community is so terrific and often underestimated by studios – for every one of those there are four others who went on the ride the way I’d hoped and with something as subjective as cinema, you take those numbers any day!

EFF : Why do you think nowadays supernatural horror is the hit thing on horror genre? 

AM: I can only guess at this – but for me, it’s attractive because it focuses on fear rather than pain. There’s not a lot of pain and suffering in a ghost story. It’s usually more about dread, building tension, hair-raising sort of stuff. And while I can get into slasher movies and all of that, I know that a larger slice of the population can get into a good old fashioned ghost story. No one’s really alienated by that, and it’s even good for older kids and teens. Right now everyone’s into horror in general, and horror is making money – so the supernatural approach maybe lets more folks take part in the phenomenon.
Charlie Tacker, Andy Mitton and Alex Draper

EFF : Are you a horror fan? What horror films and directors you like most and why? 

AM: I’m an avid horror fan and have always been. The EXORCIST is my favorite, but I like all kinds – I have the box sets for NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET, FRIDAY THE 13TH, HALLOWEEN, all of it. But my real favorites artistically are JAWS, CANDYMAN, SEVEN, THE SHINING, THE BABADOOK, THE THING, JACOB’S LADDER, CARRIE. I could really go on and on, and the reasons why are all over the map. Sometimes it’s about nostalgia like with Craven’s ELM STREET, or it’s about technical perfection like Fincher’s SEVEN (I refuse to spell it SE7EN, even though I just did).

EFF: What directors has influenced on your career?

AM: The Coen Brothers are heroes for me. I follow everything they do very closely, like so many others do as well. I’m happily on the bandwagon with most others when it comes to Spielberg, Kubrick, DePalma, Friedkin. Sidney Lumet was huge for me, too - and P.T. Anderson. Spike Jonze. I could go on and on!

EFF: what equipments, camera, shots did you use for the film, do you have a predilect angle or frame or technique, tell us why? 

AM: We used an Arri Alexa Mini, which Justin (our DP) had recently purchased. I’d only used RED prior to this film, but I really like the Mini. It’s size let us move around that tight house with some ease. Only the first shot in the film features a Steadicam – otherwise we were always either on dolly tracks, tripods, or handheld. In choosing our framing and angles, we tried to think less about the audience perspective and much more about the character’s. In other words, many haunted house movies are using the camera to get ahead of the characters – you can tell by the creeping motion of a camera you’re supposed to be scared of something. And as a result you know to be scared before the character does. But when angles are chosen purely based on what the character knows, and what he or she is feeling, then we stay emotionally closer to them. And we can be surprised when they’re surprised. We hoped to stand in contrast to the more familiar fare by designing the film this way.

EFF: What advice would you give for those "want-to-be filmmaker" who are undecided in how to make their first film? 

AM: I have three pieces of advice for them. 

One – put actors as a top priority. In my opinion, independent films have the best chance to rise to prominence if the acting is good. I have all the respect in the world for actors, and their craft. I try and create a great environment for them to work in, to understand each actor’s individual way of working, and to make sure their ideas are heard and not get locked into my own. Often what you and your actors say to each other between takes makes or breaks a scene, so that part can’t be stressed enough. 

Two – make genre movies. In horror or fantasy or sci-fi, the audience is enthusiastic and organized and curious. Together with the passion of the festivals and lots of rising distributors like Shudder, it means you don’t have to spend a million dollars, you don’t need to have stars. Give them a great story and they’ll be happy. 

Three – surprise us. Start with a moment that’s totally new – a scare, a story turn, the scene everyone will be talking about when they leave the theater, every reviewer will be writing about. The thing your movie will do that no other movie has done. For me with Witch it was the telephone scene. I knew if I got it right, it would be indelible.
Andy Mitton

EFF: What is new in your career, what people can expect from you forwards? 

AM: I’m wondering that myself. The new film has certainly generated some attention, and I have a few previous scripts I’d love to make, plus a few new ones in the works. But I won’t say anything too specific right now. I know better than to jinx anything!

EFF: Do you see yourself making horror films always? Or do you see shooting another genres? 

AM: I’d be very happy making horror movies my whole career. And probably some people would be surprised to hear that, seeing as my films to this point have had so much drama in them it might appear that’s what matters more to me. But if I have more resources, my films are likely to have more and more horror. And hopefully I can keep the other elements just as strong. But I love the horror community, and I’m proud to feel even a small part of it. Who knows what the future holds, but for now I’m very happy where I am.
Alex Draper, Andy Mitton and Richard King

EFF: If a rookie filmmaker with no experience at all, goes to you and ask you for an advise about an cheap camera or equipments he or she can uses to make his low budget film, what would you recommend him or her? 

AM: I’d say to them if they’re going to shoot a film on a cheap camera, that’s great – just make sure the story is appropriate first and foremost. Any cheaper camera is going to feel that way – but if the tone is correct and the story benefits from grittiness or a sort of low-fi charm, it can be a gift. Look at TANGERINE, shot on an iPhone. I’m not enough of a tech bug to go naming a bunch of cheap cameras. I think it’s the story that defines all the decisions. I think about how the story should feel, and then I look at cameras and the feeling I get from them, and hope to find a match. But it’s certainly been proven you don’t need anything more than your iPhone if you have a great story to tell and surround yourself with talented artists.

EFF: If a producer gives you the chance to direct a horror film remake, what would it be and why? 

AM: I’m going to go with a wild card answer here and say LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS. Even though that’s a comedy horror, and a musical to boot. I actually am a composer and lyricist for musicals in another part of my career, and I’ve always wanted to bring everything together and make horror movie musicals. And LITTLE SHOP is one of my favorites. I adore the Frank Oz film from the 80s, but it would be fun to go a bit darker and tweak the look.
 Little Shop of Horrors (1986)

EFF: Anything else you want to say?

AM: No – other than thank you for the questions, and for the patience in waiting for my answers. I appreciate the interest, and the support, and wish you the best!

**Andy Mitton's | Imdb | Twitter | Webpage  **

**THE WITCH IN THE WINDOW'S | Imdb |  Twitter Facebook | Amazon  **


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