This week FDTC writer Adam Holtzapfel had a chance to chat with Justin Seaman, the writer and director of the winner of Best Horror Feature at Nightmares Film Festival, The Barn.
Adam Holtzapfel - When we had talked at Nightmares Film Festival, you said you had written The Barn when you were eight years old. Was that something you’d revisit every few years to see if the timing was right to film it?
Justin Seamn - Absolutely, the thought of making the film would pop up every few years throughout my life. I originally wanted to make ‘The Barn’ back in 2004 when I was in high school. So my friends and I started shooting it a faux trailer for it and I realized very quickly that to do it right would take more knowledge of filmmaking, way better equipment than what we had access to and a lot more money. I didn’t want to waste my time or others by just doing it for the sake of getting it made, I wanted to do it right. I mean, we were shooting on VHS tapes of all things lol. That being said, we settled for a silent short film called ‘All Hallows’ Eve’ that introduces the character of “The Boogeyman” and his tricks and treats on Halloween night. We actually included that short film on the 2 Disc Set of ‘The Barn’ that just came out on www.thebarnmerch.com. From 2006-2009 I made my first two feature length films and then finally in 2013, my wife and I decided that I should just go for it and make ‘The Barn’ before someone else came along and made a similar movie.
AH - The Barn has played several festivals over the last year, did the response it received shock you?
JS - When I set out to make The Barn, all I ever hoped for was that it would get finished...truly, that's all I really wanted. The fact that a great deal of people seem to genuinely enjoy the film, that it won a bunch of awards and went through over 60 festivals/screenings all over the world still blows my mind. They film is now available for purchase and it continues to have premieres throughout in 2017. It has been a very satisfying and humbling experience to say the least.
AH - How did you go about casting the leads? There seems to be a real chemistry with the cast that drives the story and overall feel of the movie home.
JS - Well, I didn’t want to hire people I knew to fill the main roles. I wanted people who were trying to become real actors, so we did the casting in stages. First, we put out casting notices online and with agencies. We ended up having over 400 submissions for the roles. Then we sent out a list of questions for the top 250 to answer, just to gauge their responses and how dedicated they would be to the project (kind of weeding out the people who “just wanted to be in a movie”). From there, we did a live audition with our top 60 choices. Thankfully the cast you see in the film were our top picks, everyone accepted the part when offered. They were our “A” cast, the ones we felt would mesh very well on screen and represented exactly what I had envisioned for these characters. We had an entire “B” cast as a back-up, which would have made for a completely different feel to the film I believe.
AH - Being based near Pittsburgh, how has that influenced your filmmaking?
JS - If you are a horror fan, obviously ‘Night of the Living Dead’ and George Romero are the first things that come to mind when thinking Pittsburgh…so absolutely made me want to be a director. Pittsburgh has a rich history of being the place to shoot films for many reasons, but many due to the tax breaks. It was always cool as a kid to hear about how films were being made in down town Pittsburgh and it definitely let you know that you didn’t have to move to Hollywood to make things happen. It can be done anywhere and Romero helped prove that.
AH - How did you get Rocky Gray of Evanescence for the soundtrack of the film?
JS - Well after the first round of shooting ‘The Barn’ I knew I had to start focusing on the next step which was marketing. I wanted a really kick ass looking one sheet to promote the film, so I contacted Marc Schoenbach to do just that. Once it was finished, Fangoria made the poster reveal and within the first 24 hours Rocky contacted me to tell me he loved the poster and wanted to see if I was in need of a composer to score the film. That has to be the most random thing that has happened in my life thus far!
AH - Do you have any new projects in the works?
JS - Yes, speaking of Rocky Gray I am currently working on my segment for his Halloween horror anthology called ‘10/31/16’ as well as being a director/producer with Zane Hershberger on a new creature feature film called ‘Cryptids’ with some other great filmmakers on the indie scene right now.
AH - Last but not least, what are your top five films of all time?
JS - Well, I’m one of those people that break my favorite films into genre categories, because I love all types of films. So for the purposes of this article I’ll just focus on the horror ones:
1) The Monster Squad
2) Night of the Demons
3) Return of the Living Dead
4) Fright Night
5) A Nightmare on Elm Street