Greetings, all. Ambush Bug here. Reporting from the Film4Fright Fest, Doc Charlie Oughton caught up with John Fallon. Known as an actor and scriptwriter on features including SAW 11, THE SHELTER is his first self-directed feature starring Michael Pare (I reviewed the film a while back here. It’s a story about a man with a past who gets trapped in a house that forces him to face his demons, as John and the Doc discussed. You can catch up with the Doc on Twitter @DrKCOughton
Take it away, Doc!
DOC CHARLIE OUGHTON (CO): How did you devise the imagery in THE SHELTER? We see everything from the surrealism through to the symbolism of the albatross. Was that purposefully picked or did it just flow out?
JOHN FALLON (JF): It was purposefully picked. When I went location scouting in Louisiana, it’s an environment that’s bathed in Christian iconography. I went out of my way to shoot as much religious statues as possible. There was a scene in a park where there’s a saint looking down on the lead and while that wasn’t in the screenplay, we shot it while we were there. The saint is watching him.
CO: How did you decide to show the outright surrealism versus some of the images of the supposed haunting that we see within the house?
JF: That’s an interesting question. That just came out of the writing process. It was just instinctive. There are tropes, like doors creaking open, but even that has a double meaning. There are mainstream elements and non-mainstream elements. That’s just how it came out.
CO: How much did you talk with Pare about how he would play that character?
JF: He got what I was doing and he came totally prepared. He saw it as a big challenge as being a one man show. The first scene he shot was when he first finds his daughter’s teddy bear and he cries. He came on set and he said ‘Hey John, I need that teddy bear’ and we gave him the teddy bear and he went off with it. He then turns up on set, I yelled action and he just cried. It was an effortless shoot. I directed Mike but there wasn’t much to say. He brought a couple of his own religious interpretations I didn’t have in the script. He was seeing more of what was happing coming from the characters’ dead wife.
CO: Was there anything else that changed between the script and what was shot?
JF: The religious imagery. There was a statue of Christ and I do little ‘push ins’ on it. When I walked into the house location, the man who owned it is a hardcore Christian and it was filled with religious imagery everywhere. Everywhere. EEVERYWHERE. It was a shrine to Christ. And I was like, okay, we’re in the right house.
CO: Did you tell the guy what kind of film it was?
JF: We were in Louisiana where everybody’s Christian and we did a prayer before the shoot. I was telling them it was a religious movie and they were like ‘Well, it’s not the kind of religious movie I know about’ and I was like, ‘Well, it is’. I don’t know if the man who rented us the house would have done so if he knew. There was something actually, at one point we have a fire pit that explodes. Initially there was a wooden cross there and a crew member said ‘I don’t think we could light a fire on a cross here’ and he said ‘you’re going to offend people’. I just saw it as symbolic rather than desecration. It’s only afterwards I put it together. I mean, thank God I didn’t burn a cross, man!
CO: Did you work with the music composition guys or did they sort it out themselves?
JF: I gave them some scores and said I wanted stuff like this. When some things didn’t work, my sound designer, who is also an accomplished musician, he basically composed some things to gap what otherwise hadn’t worked. I knew that sounds were going to be very important for the movie. Everything was no accident. The soundtrack is there to augment moments. I use it as clues.
CO: Such as?
JF: Oh, I can’t give ‘em away – you’ve gotta find them! Oh, okay, I’ll give you one. The second time you see the bust of Christ there’s an ominous sound that backs it up and points at something.
CO: What’s next for you?
JF: THE SHELTER has kinda been born now. We’re running with that and trying to seek distribution for it and a lot of territories if you talk about God they get a little touchy about it. I knew it would be hard and I’m fine with that. At the same times I’m developing my next film as a director which is totally different. Bigger budget. It’s a barbarian type thing – like Conan the Barbarian. I love that stuff!
CO: Thanks, John. Look for another interview from the Film4Fright Fest 2015 later this week!