Bobby Roe and Zack Andrews talk about “The Houses October Built”

For me, as well as many across the United States, October is a very special month. Traditionally, this is the time of year where the leaves on the trees die, landscapes become awash with gray and brown, and nature’s dying elements suddenly spring to life. It is also the time of year where millions upon millions flock to the haunted house attractions scattered across the country, seeking their fix for scares, creeps and downright nasty set-pieces. The film “The Houses October Built” chronicles one group’s journey across the United States in search of the greatest haunt in America, found footage style. Unfortunately, they find that not all participants are eager to be part of their documentary, and the trip of a lifetime turns into the stuff that nightmares are made of. I had the opportunity to speak with Writer/ Director/ Co-Star Bobby Roe and Writer/ Star Zack Andrews about the origins of the film and what they felt sets their found footage film apart from all the others.

Eric Schmitt: The Houses October Built is a Media Mikes favorite of 2014; brilliantly done and really innovative. What was the driving force behind making the film in the first place?
Zack Andrews: We wanted to do a found footage film about the haunts across America, but we were weary at first because the genre has become so watered down. We wanted to do it a different way – A first person view of haunted houses, which is something people hadn’t touched on yet.
Bobby Roe: We found that approximately 30 million people per year visit haunted houses in the United States and felt that if we could hit the right audience, especially in the Mid-West and South, where we all grew up, we could do something original. These are all real actors and real places in the haunts. It’s very organic.

ES: So all of the interviews and haunt scenes in the film were legit?
ZA: Yes, all interviews conducted and haunts were legit.
BR: We wanted to use real places and people, give credit to the craft. Think about it- we had every filmmaker’s dream; We got to shoot on million dollar sets for free! We used all of the real actors from the haunts, all of the real sets – it’s a realism that you can’t fake.

ES: What do you feel will attract people to your film, say over the next found footage film that they lay eyes on?
ZA: People are intrigued by the haunted house aspect and we really looked to appeal to the Halloween world. We’re hoping that audiences find it very intense, because it does take you on a ride. It’s a ride that’s a dream for a lot of people, to be able to road trip and visit all of these different haunts.
BR: And we tried to show different ways in how the haunts were done, like the Zombie Paintball. That was incredible!
ZA: That was a lot of fun! I’ve never seen anything like it before.
BR: Exactly! We’d never seen anything like it and to experience it, man it was great! After we ran the shoot with the regular actors, we had the entire crew go through it just so they could experience it.

ES: Did you receive any resistance from the haunts while you were shooting?
ZA: Not at all – the haunts were one big supportive family.
BR: And it was essentially a free commercial for them.

ES: So which one (of the haunts) was the most effective, in your opinion?
ZA: Each haunt really had something super effective, something that was its own specialty. Ever haunt we visited had something that would stick out. We’d visit a haunt and two weeks later still be talking about that one thing. Like there was one haunt that had a white-out room. We’ve all experienced a completely black room, but this room was completely white, filled with smoke and had one flood light. All of a sudden you would see this white mask appear from no where. It was intense.
BR: This one haunt had a kid, maybe 12-13 years old. He was the best scare actor we had ever seen. He never came out of character and it was amazing. We talked to the owner of the haunt and found out that when he had joined he was failing school, came from a really bad background. After a few weeks of working at the haunt, the kid had completely turned it around. The haunt, this family, gave him purpose. His teachers even called the owners of the haunt to tell them what a positive impact it obviously had on him. The haunt family created a sense of pride in him.

As a fan of the film, it was really great to hear the level of passion that Bobby and Zack had to express about the filmmaking process and the haunts themselves. For many of us, they most certainly lived the dream – traveling the country and visiting the best haunted houses around, all while filming a horror movie. Although the majority of people who read this article and/or see The Houses October Built will never be presented with the opportunity to make such a film, we can still engage these haunts across the U.S. and experience first hand what this group documented. We can see, hear and feel first hand what the masters of this craft have to offer, all the while knowing that the terror that grips our senses is authentic, much like the footage in The Houses October Built.

 

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Famke Janssen talks about directorial debut “Bringing Up Bobby” and “Taken 2”

Famke Janssen is known best for her role of Jean Grey in the “X-Men” series. She also has co-starred alongside Liam Neeson in the “Taken” and its recently successful sequel “Taken 2”. She is making her writing, producing and directing debut in the film “Bringing Up Bobby”, which stars Milla Jovovich in the lead. Media Mikes had a chance to chat with Famke about her first go at directing and also working with Liam Neeson.

Mike Gencarelli: You really went all in with “Bringing Up Bobby” writing, producing and directing; how did this come about?
Famke Janssen: Well it was inspired by my first visit to Oklahoma, where my boyfriend’s parent live. All of the sudden, I was taken back by how much of a foreigner I was, even after living in the United States for 20 years. I was living in New York for all those years. It reminded me, in the beginning, what it was like coming to the United States. I remembered coming to New York, looking around and just imagining that I was in a movie. Everything reminded me of the films that I had watched. As a European, we have a very specific idea of how the United States is like. Our perception is largely formed by film and media in general. So that visit to Oklahoma, I had this renewed feeling of being a complete outsider and that coupled with the fact that to me it was so reminiscent of “Bonnie and Cyde” movies, landscape-wise. I thought it would be a good idea for a movie and that is how the idea for “Bringing Up Bobby” came up initially. Then I turned it into a story and it took its own life overtime. I watch so many movies from the 1930’s, that is like my hobby and I started wondering why am I so obsessed with the 30’s but it was because the Golden Age for women in film. I coupled that obsession with my love for films from the 70’s. Hal Ashby is a major influence. Between these two time frames, the character of Olive is really somebody in essence imagining herself to be living in a movie. Her ideas about the United States were formed by films.

MG: Tell us about how Milla Jovovich was cast as Olive?
FJ: An interesting thing that I learned from being on the other side of the camera is that you really learn about the business aspect of it all that you don’t as an actor. In the business aspect, the list of people that were able to be cast for Olive was a short list of maybe five actors who were right for the part. Milla was on the top of that list, in my opinion. I had to have specific things that were really important to me. She has to be a foreigner. She had to really stand out in Oklahoma. She had to be a great actress. With an independent film, unless you are offering somebody a different type of role than they are used to playing, they are usual going to say no. They can get money for doing the same part in a bigger movie elsewhere. Then the challenge came of getting the script to her and having her read it. She ended up liking the script very much and after having a few meetings, she was on board. Then we still had to fit it into her extremely busy schedule. So there were many steps along the way.

MG: How long did this project take from beginning to release?
FJ: It took about five years from beginning to end. Three of which, I stopped acting all together, since I thought at various times we would be able to start production but it fell through many times. But I just kept writing screenplays and tried to get it started again. It was quite an interesting process.

MG: What was your biggest challenge on overall on the film?
FJ: I think the greatest challenge was believing in myself when no one did anymore. Except my boyfriend, he stood by me the whole time. when you are pushing a project like that up the hill for that long, a lot of people stop believing you along the way. The millionth time you mention that you are making that movie, and it is now year three and you still haven’t done it, most people will think to themselves that is not going to happen. I just kept trying and believing in myself and prove that I could do it.

MG: You got a busy month with “Taken 2” also coming out; how was it returning to that role?
FJ: It was really great. After a three-year break of not acting, it was fantastic. I absolutely adore Liam (Neeson). I think he is one of the nicest people in the world. And to get a chance to work with him again for a film that was so successful the first time around is just fantastic opportunity.

MG: You are no stranger to action after “X-Men” series, how do you prepare for a physical role like this?
FJ: [laughs] Well, the role wasn’t that physical. Someone was put upside down (and it wasn’t me) [laughs]. I get dragged around a little bit. Thankfully there were some great dramatic scenes that made it worth my wild. Then the action stuff was there but not too much physical for me, I was the one taken in this movie. Liam has all of the action.

MG: You have plans to write and direct again in the future?
FJ: Yes. To keep my sanity while trying to get “Bringing Up Bobby” off the ground, I keep writing. Most of those scripts, I have put on the back burner though. Since then, I have written a script called “Río Rojo”, which means red river and is what the Colorado River used to be called. I am working at the moment in Toronto till Christmas, so in my free time, I am  trying to setup get meetings in order to get things started. I will be directing it for sure and I definitely not giving up after the last experience. It was the most challenging and yet satisfying experience of my life. Can’t wait to do it again.