Please Note: Once you press play it will take a few seconds for the episode to start playing.
From Short Films to Directing Shazam! with David F. Sandberg
So many times we hear those mythical stories of a filmmaker who makes a short film and uploads it to Youtube in hopes of a big time film producer sees to and comes down from Mount Hollywood and offers him or her a deal to turn that short into a studio feature. Today’s guest had that happen to him and then some. On the show is writer/director David F. Sandberg.
David’s story is the “lottery ticket” moment I speak about so often on the show. His journey in Hollywood is remarkable, inspiring and scary all at the same time. He created a short film called Lights Out. That short was seen by famed filmmaker and producer James Wan (Furious 7, Aquaman, The Conjuring) who offered to produce a feature film version at New Line Cinema.
The feature version of the film was made for $5 million and grossed $150 million at the box office. Here’s what the film is about.
When Rebecca left home, she thought she left her childhood fears behind. Growing up, she was never really sure of what was and wasn’t real when the lights went out…and now her little brother, Martin, is experiencing the same unexplained and terrifying events that had once tested her sanity and threatened her safety. A frightening entity with a mysterious attachment to their mother, Sophie, has reemerged. But this time, as Rebecca gets closer to unlocking the truth, there is no denying that all their lives are in danger…once the lights go out.
The film stars Teresa Palmer (“Triple 9”) as Rebecca; Gabriel Bateman (“Annabelle”) as Martin; Billy Burke (the “Twilight” franchise) as Martin’s father, Paul; Alexander DiPersia (“Forever”) as Rebecca’s boyfriend, Bret; and Maria Bello (“Prisoners”) as Sophie.
After the success of Lights Out he tackled the horror prequel Annabelle Creation. That film went on to make over $300 million at the box-office with a $15 million budget.
Several years after the tragic death of their little girl, a dollmaker and his wife welcome a nun and several girls from a shuttered orphanage into their home, soon becoming the target of the dollmaker’s possessed creation, Annabelle.
The studio Gods were pleased with David because he was offered New Line Cinema’s Shazam!, the origin story that stars Zachary Levi (TV’s “Chuck”) as the titular DC Super Hero, along with Asher Angel (TV’s “Andi Mack”) as Billy Batson, and Mark Strong (the “Kingsman” movies) in the role of Super-Villain Dr. Thaddeus Sivana. Shazam! was a box office smash.
David and I discuss his days making short films, which he still makes on the side, working in the studio system, his filmmaking philosophy, how he could afford a place to stay in Los Angeles while he was in pre-production on Lights Out and what it takes to make it as a filmmaker in today’s world.
Enjoy my conversation with David F. Sandberg.
LINKS AND RESOURCES MENTIONED IN THIS EPISODE
- DONATE to Feed America to help with people affected by the Coronavirus
- Rise of the Filmtrepreneur: How to Turn Your Indie Film into a Moneymaking Business (FREE AUDIOBOOK)
- $1 Closed Captions for Indie Filmmakers – Rev ($10 Off Your First Order)
- The Complete Indie Film Producing Workshop with Suzanne Lyons
- Shooting for the Mob (Based on the Incredible True Filmmaking Story) (FREE AUDIOBOOK)
REAL-WORLD STREAMING FILM EDUCATION
- Indie Film Hustle TV (Streaming Real-World Film Education)
- Hollywood Film School: Filmmaking & TV Directing Masterclass
- Filmmaker in a Box – Learn How to Make an Indie Film – 18 Hours+ of Lessons
- Storytelling Blueprint: Hero’s Two Journeys
- The Dialogue Series: 38 hours of Lessons from Top Hollywood Screenwriters
WATCH MICRO-BUDGET CASE STUDIES
- IFH Academy – Exclusive Filmmaking & Screenwriting Training
- FreeFilmBook.com (Download Your FREE Filmmaking Audio Book)
- Indie Film Hustle® Podcast
- Bulletproof Screenwriting® Podcast
- Filmtrepreneur™ Podcast
- Inside the Screenwriter’s Mind® Podcast
Alex Ferrari 0:02
Now guys, so many filmmakers out there go the route of making a short film in hopes of it being seen by somebody in Mount Hollywood, where they will come down and go we want to make your short film into a feature film. And then that will launch your career into doing huge big budget horror movies are big budget studio superhero films and, and your life would be set as a filmmaker. And that is the dream of so many filmmakers out there. But alas, it happens once in a blue moon. And today's guest did exactly what I just said. We have today Writer Director David F. Sandberg. Now David made a short film actually made a bunch of short films. Back in 2013. He was just making it with his girlfriend now wife in their house, very simple, very low budget, not too complex, but they were scary as all hell. And one of those shorts happens to be called lights out. And that short one around the festival circuit but didn't make a whole lot of noise. For some reason you get got here got there, got a couple of awards, but definitely did not set the festival circuit on fire. So then he posted it up online through YouTube and all of a sudden, it went viral. People were watching it it was going up 10s of 1000s hundreds of 1000s up to millions of times being seen. And one of those people that saw it was director James Wan, the filmmaker behind The Conjuring universe saw furious seven, and Aquaman just to name a few. Now James helped him produce the feature version of lights out which went on to make $150 million at the box office with a $5 million budget. His next film was Annabel creation, which also did obscene amounts of money. With a $15 million budget it grossed over $300 million worldwide. And soon after that he was offered Shazam being part of the DC Universe. And arguably Shazam is one of the most fun enjoyable films in the DC Universe. And it was it's a rags to riches story he came from across the world couldn't afford an apartment here. While the first movie was getting done. There was so many amazing stories that he gave us in this episode. So without any further ado, please enjoy my conversation with David F. Sandberg. I'd like to welcome the show david Sandberg, Ben. How you doing, David?
David F. Sandberg 5:04
All right. How are you doing?
Alex Ferrari 5:05
I'm as good as I can be in this insane world that we live in. But um, yeah, well, man, I'm doing I'm doing I'm better than I should. That's just
David F. Sandberg 5:18
pretty much Same here. Yeah.
Alex Ferrari 5:20
Is the thank you so much for being on the show. Man. I'm, I'm a fan of your work. And I wanted to kind of talk shop with you for a little bit. So first things first, why did you decide to be a filmmaker? Like what made you want to come into this ridiculous business?
David F. Sandberg 5:35
I mean, I've always been fascinated by movies and always wanted to make movies like since I was very, like, I think my dad bought a video camera when I was. I think it was five actually. So it's always been a thing. And I've always been sort of fascinated about how it works and how to do it. And one of my early sort of memories, I remember, because I was playing around with my dad's video camera and like, Okay, this is how it works. And then I remember watching the Muppets as a kid. And they had this thing where they had a musical number. And when they were changing angles, I was like, how do they do that? Because I only knew like having one camera. So it's like, do they everyone just pause at a certain moment, and then they move it around? And then they do it again? Like I'm trying to figure out like, how does that work? multi camera? No, so it's always been my Golden's always been what I've wanted to do. I've had certain other interests but movies have always been the same.
Alex Ferrari 6:40
And let's give a shout out to the Muppet Show. For our for artists. We're similar vintages. I'm a little older than you, but we're similar vintages, the Muppet Show.
David F. Sandberg 6:48
Yeah. Was the thing man growing up. And by the way, everyone listening all five season will be on Disney plus coming next month. So yeah, I saw that.
Alex Ferrari 6:59
It should be it should be fun. Now, you also did a lot of animated shorts. What what what was what drew you no pun intended to animation, when you first started out,
David F. Sandberg 7:10
it was actually a necessity, like I've always liked drawing. And you know what, comic books and stuff like that. And then, as I was in my early 20s, or something like that, I really started messing around with it, because it was something I could do all by myself. And my first real animated short, was something I made after I was going to do a horror movie with some friends in Sweden. This was during the winter, and it was so cold that we gave up after just shooting a couple of shots. And then when I got back home, it's like, I still want to do something. So I made like a little animated. I mean, it was actually barely even animated. It was almost like a slideshow. But I made that. And this was in early 2006. And I put it up on YouTube, because I had just gotten an account there because it was like, I didn't even know what it was. It's like, okay, you can upload videos. So I uploaded that. And it actually got some traction in Sweden, you know, got some views, and people seem to really like it. So I made another short that got even more attention went viral in Scandinavia, which got me like, won some awards set like Film Festival and started getting companies asking me to do like, Hey, could you do a little animated short for our company that we can put up on YouTube or so I was starting to get, you know, work doing that? Not a lot of money or anything, but it was I was able to, like, start my own company, which was just me, but so I could charge people for it. So I did that and did documentary work for a few years in Sweden. And made an OK living. Like sometimes I had money. So other times I had to live off my wife and because she had a steady job, you know?
Alex Ferrari 9:05
I know that feeling very well. We're filmmakers. Isn't it true that all filmmaker all guy? Well, filmmakers in general should have a spouse that is extremely supportive, and also does not work in the business or has a steady job.
David F. Sandberg 9:20
It's a it certainly helps. Yeah. But the goal for us for a long time in my wife was to make things together. And that's what we started doing. We started making shorts together. And that's how we made lights out which went even more viral than anything I'd done before and which led to ending up here in Hollywood.
Alex Ferrari 9:40
So you'd make so you've been in from my from my saw and your filmography you were you were making shorts constantly making these small shorts and just kind of putting them out and then you made lights out, and you just posted it not really thinking much. It was just another short it wasn't like this isn't gonna blow me up or anything like that.
David F. Sandberg 9:56
No, no, it was actually just the second short the Latino made together? Wow. Because what happened was, you know, I done, I'd started doing like animated shorts, I think that got a little bit of a following on YouTube from from Swedes because it was mostly in Swedish. And then yeah, we did a little short called cam closer look than I, which was just two minutes or something like that. But we really enjoyed that. And we're like, yeah, let's keep doing this. And yeah, we saw a contest online, like make an under three minute horror short and win some prizes. And that's what we made lights up for. But yeah, it was only supposed to be a contest submission. And I did win Best Director. But the movie itself didn't make like the finalists, the top six finalists. So it's like, yeah, that was cool. I won Best Director. But that was the end of that was, was what we thought. But then a couple of months after that, yeah, some it just suddenly went viral. And that, so we got, when that happened, we started getting contacted by all these people, like in Hollywood, you know, agents and managers and producers and our thing, and started having conversations about making a movie. But while this was going on, that was a little over a year of like, back and forth and deciding which manager to go with and talking to the producer and all that. So and we didn't know if this was actually real. So that's when where we kept making shorts, because it's like, let's, let's not take this for granted. Let's just let's keep making stuff. So most of our shorts were made in that period. And we even started having these plans on to make a feature just not on AI, which would have been difficult, but had an idea that it would just be the two
Alex Ferrari 11:51
of you. It was just been the two of you.
David F. Sandberg 11:53
Yeah, the same way we've made our shorts, just feature length, based on
Alex Ferrari 11:57
that would have been interesting.
David F. Sandberg 11:59
That would have been taken it would have but yeah, before we got that far, the Hollywood thing turned out to be real. We got to move here.
Alex Ferrari 12:07
So that's the thing I want people to listen to, to understand that just because you start getting calls from Hollywood, and you get a lot of attention, you have a short and you get some heat, because I've been down that road a bunch of times earlier in my career as well. You just don't know sometimes it pops like it does for you. Sometimes it doesn't like other directors. And you guys were smart. You're like, you know what, this? This, this could all be BS. Yeah, you didn't feed into the hype, which is so amazing. And how old? Were you at this point?
David F. Sandberg 12:37
My weight When was this? So I must have been 33 or 34? All right. So
Alex Ferrari 12:45
you've been around the block a couple times, you know, so it wasn't like your 20s?
David F. Sandberg 12:49
No, I mean, that was kind of the thing as well, that we were kind of feeling like, something needs to happen soon. Because in Sweden, you know, I was trying to get money from the Swedish Film Institute for like horror movies and things like that. And what happened was, they were like, well, you're not experienced enough to get the, you know, the proper funding, and what, and they also have like beginner money, but that's for people under 30. And I was now just over 30. So I was like, Well, what am I supposed to do? Now I'm too inexperienced for this. And I'm too old for that, like, what are we going to do? Which is why we started just making things with no money on our own. Yeah.
Alex Ferrari 13:31
And so you start called, so they so you, you spend this year you're making other short films, and then the thing from lights out actually starts turning into a real thing. And they fly you out to LA and and they want to make a feature with you off your short, right.
David F. Sandberg 13:43
Yeah. So yeah, pretty early on. They wanted us to come out like our manager, and an agent wanted us to come out and meet people and everything. But we were like, We don't have any money. We can't fly to the US. That's expensive. So we had to do everything via Skype and email and phone calls and stuff. But then when it started getting closer, the producer of the movie flew us out for a little over a week. So we could meet everyone and like start, you know, meet Jane Swann and who produced the film, and take a bunch of meetings. And then a couple of months after that. It was like yeah, movies happening. We need you're here now and we're gonna pay for the flight and everything.
Alex Ferrari 14:24
That was the key point, you'll pay for the flight. Okay, I'll
David F. Sandberg 14:26
show up. Well, yeah, otherwise I couldn't do it. You know,
Alex Ferrari 14:29
I know. I know. I feel you man. I feel you. So you, did you. You did something that most a lot of independent filmmakers dream about, which is make a short film, put it on the internet, get it goes viral Hollywood calls. They want to develop a feature around that short. What was the development process like because I'm assuming it was a kind of shock to the system coming from Sweden and doing everything ourselves like a DIY stuff, and then just being thrown into you know, a Hollywood movie.
David F. Sandberg 14:59
Yeah. I mean, I do. I think that experience is pretty unique going from like, no budget, and the budget right into the
Alex Ferrari 15:07
other side of the world, which is another whole conversation, I'd like Kansas or another part of America, like you're completely culture shock.
David F. Sandberg 15:15
And yeah, we had no idea that a two and a half minutes short could lead to anything like that we thought, you know, we had a plan of like, trying to get some money so we could make longer shorts, and maybe that would get some attention. You know, we got to skip all of that. But yeah, it was sort of a journey, because first of all, I had to figure out who these managers and agents were, they contacted me, because, you know, I'd never heard their names before. And so I got like, an IMDb pro account signed up for that. So I could see, okay, what other clients do they have? And like, are these guys for real? So you have the process of sort of first, getting worse, you know, deciding on a manager. And an agent was a very strange position to be in to have sort of multiple offers. Because then once I decided I had to, like, contact, you know, like, Who me and say, like, yeah, sorry, I don't want to, I've already picked someone else, you know, which was very strange, because if it had been like, a month earlier, I would have been begging them to take me on. So that that was sort of the first step. And then, at first, I started talking to a writer, who I came into contact with, through one of the many managers I was talking to, he was like, Hey, I have this client. And he had written this script that I had heard about, because you know, the blacklist that comes out every year, even, you know, back in Sweden, you can usually find, even there, you can usually find these scripts online, you know, someone always puts them up. So I would download a bunch of scripts to see like, Okay, what, what are good scripts, what they, what do they look like, and he had a horror script that had been on there. So I started talking to this writer, he put me into contact with a producer, he knew Lawrence gray, who, you know, became the producer on the movie. But then, the writer, his ideas, were too big for me, like it was like this worldwide event. And yeah, it was just like, no one's gonna give me a first time director all this money to do such a big movie. So I told my managers and then one, like, I don't like the idea. And they were like, well, what would you do? And I wrote down sort of a treatment that is very similar to what lights up became. And the producer I talked to he still like that. And it was just a long back and forth. So then we got Eric heisserer, onboard through that producer, and then I needed to get a lawyer so we could make a deal and everything. So I had to lots of you know, interviews with that. And it was like, Well, how do you even pick a lawyer? I don't know. So I went with the guy who, who had watched my entire YouTube channel, like even the Swedish stuff he had watched and was like, Well, okay, he really seems to be very dedicated. Okay, now I have a lawyer. Now we have a producer. Now we have a writer and you know, it's pretty soon we had like a deal made and that was about that point when the producer flew us out. So we could meet for real and start talking more and meet with like, new line because James Wan came on board as a producer. And he was like a new line of great for her you know, he cuz he had done conjuring and all this stuff with them. Yeah, it was just a long process of lots and lots of conversations. And then, you know, once I got here it was, yeah, that was quite a shock to just because I've never been on a film set before. Like, I didn't know how things worked. I knew how to tell a story. But I didn't know how movies were made here beyond what I had seen in, like, behind the scenes and commentary tracks on DVDs and things like that.
Alex Ferrari 18:54
Yeah, so that's the thing is so you, you're basically a DIY guy. I mean, you're doing everything yourself is like you and your wife, essentially. So you're shooting everything yourself on all these. The shorts and even when you were in talks to do lights out, you're still shooting all the shorts by yourself. So coming on to a professional Hollywood set must have been just completely jarring. You'd like you were saying you didn't know who did what, other than the only the only educate because you didn't go to film school. Right? No, right. So the only education you had was YouTube, or director's commentary is a behind the scenes of Raiders of the Lost Ark. Yeah.
David F. Sandberg 19:30
No, no. So when we were interviewing, when I got the interview, like the crew members, a lot of that was just asking, so what do you do what what's your job on set? You know, how, how did these things work? And, and, you know, we, before we started shooting, we did like a camera test. And that was sort of my first feel of how of a movie set. I mean, it was a smaller scale because it was just a camera test. But already then I was like, oh, like when do I say action? were like, how do I, that's when I started realizing like who I really don't know how things work on a movie set. So I had to ask the assistant director like, Yeah, when do I say action? Because it's like, yeah, sound speed and these things that were called out first. But yeah, I think they thought that I was more experienced than I was because they would ask like, okay, so who's the DP you usually work with? Or do you have a storyboard guy? And I was like, No, that's just me doing that myself. So it was just like, trying to keep up appearances. Like I knew what I was doing, because obviously, they think I'm more experienced than I am. So it was extremely stressful, to be honest. I can imagine. And yeah, trying to navigate that and working with so many professionals, because even, you know, the PA is had more experienced than me, they had worked on a bunch of movies, I'd never worked on any movie. So yeah, it was extremely stressful. And
Alex Ferrari 21:00
I could only imagine that the PA knew more than you. I mean, so you're going through that whole process. Did you have to deal with? I mean, because you weren't, that's like a $5 million budget, right? Like, you have no money to $5 million budget, which is a substantial shock to the system, and also the pressure and the stress of just having.
David F. Sandberg 21:20
Yeah, shoulders? Well, you think so. But what I discovered, is that a $5 million movie in the studio system, Oh, is that the absolutely lowest budget? Like they don't even know how to make a movie with less money than that? Because I mean, things are more expensive with unions and everything and like, overhead. And so, and I think on lights out as well, crew members, were saying like, this feels more like a $1.2 million movie or something, because I think we had, you know, we had big producers on it. And you know, a lot of above the line money, and thanks. So yeah, I quickly realized that, okay, you can't do anything, because it felt like that whole $5 million. There are no limits to what we can do. But but then it was like, Yeah, can we have rain in this scene is like, no, can't afford that. Okay. And it actually was more limiting, because I was told it was kind of in error, but because I would be like, hey, what we can do this effect, if we just do a split screen, or, you know, we do this thing here. And they were like, well, that's not part of the plan, because that's a split screen is a visual effect. You know, that's, that's going to cost money, you know, to get a VFX company or whatever to do these things. Now, so what you can do that in the editing software, or like, but the thing is, you know, when you're editing, I mean, you're just editing QuickTime files, you know, like progress or whatever, like proxies. And then everything else is done by the post company or the DIY, it was just very confusing of like, how can I How can I not do these simple things that I can do in my no budget shorts. But what I then found out once we got into the editing process, then the editor told me that no, the VFX, they don't have a union. So anyone can do VFX. So you can do that yourself, if you want to, we can get you the files and you can. But even that was weird, because if I wanted a I need this shot and this shot, so I can do it myself. I need the raw files. And then I was like, well, that's a little bit of a cost to get that from the the company who's dealing with all the files, and that where we're going to do the DI and everything. There's just so many things where the kind of felt more limiting, than on a no budget short, I would make myself which was weird. But it Yeah, I found out that anyone can do visual effects on a movie, which which helped me in that case.
Alex Ferrari 23:50
Now, when you were and I've had this happen to me on set many times when I'm working when I was younger, especially when I was coming up. I'd imagine that some some people on the set picked up that you were not the most experienced direct.
David F. Sandberg 24:04
Alex Ferrari 24:05
They usually smell that out pretty pretty quickly, especially if you're a veteran. Did you have any pushback? Did you have to deal with any kind of politicking on set? That you have?
David F. Sandberg 24:15
Definitely. I mean, yeah, I mean, we had, I mean, these were guys who had worked on huge movies, you know, like, x men and like, you know, these things and, and I think some of them, were just doing it. It's kind of like a favor to James Wan or, you know, you'd want to be in his circle. And that, I mean, what one problem was, you know, when we're doing the effect of the ghosts being there and not being there, I mean, it's simple like you, you put the camera down, and then you shoot it with a person and then without a person, you do a clean play. And what happened was, like I was got into this argument with a camera guy because like we shot the ghosts there. And then it's like, Okay, now let's do the cleanup. plate and he was like, we already got it. I was like, What? No, we don't have it from this angle. No, but we got it from the other angle. That's fine. You know? And it was like, What are you talking about? Like, we can't cut between the two things. I mean, if it's off even a centimeter, yeah, it's not gonna work. I mean, what I've then learned on doing shoe, Sam, like on a movie like that, the clean plates don't have to match that much, you know, because they will, you know, you can just do a somewhat similar move where you're like, you can move the camera around and whatever. And they'll take the clean plate and like reprojected and track it and create a new shot that matches perfectly from that. So I mean, the camera operator on lights out, I mean, he came from movies like that. So to him, it's like, well, we already shot that area without a person when we were over here, so they can just use that. But that turned into an argument where I had to like, I think that was the first time I had to, like, raise my voice on that film set where it's like, No, just put the camera here. Okay, press record, okay, now we take in the actor, we do the thing, keep rolling, she steps out, and like a head, really do it. Like step by step, this is how we do it. So there were a lot of things like that. And I've talked about, you know, with the DP as well, like he was, you know, he was worried about going too dark. And I was like, well, it needs to be really dark. That's obvious. But yeah, it's got lights, but he was worried that well, you know, if the studio thinks it's too dark, they're not going to hire me again. And right. Yeah, there were a lot of those things that were extremely frustrating. And, you know, I'm not a very confrontational guy. So it, it sort of builds up until I just can't deal with it anymore. And either I get depressed, or I will have to raise my voice and, and get it done, you know.
Alex Ferrari 26:57
And that's the reality of things that these are the kind of stories I'd love to talk about. Because these are the things that are generally not in the press kit. Generally, not in the press tour of films and filmmakers, when they watch a story like yours. They're like, Oh, my God, look what you know, what David Sandberg did, he did lights out, and you become one of those kind of like El Mariachi stories, you know, the or Kevin Smith stories, like, you know, those kind of mythical stories like, Oh, my God, that's the thing. But there's stuff that happens behind the scenes that, that they have to understand that this is there's there's the lottery ticket, which is what you got, but there's a lot of people who didn't win the lottery, or there's a lot of stuff in between that going through that process that they don't talk about. So that's why I love going a little bit deeper into these things. So people really have an understanding about what the realities of working in, in how
David F. Sandberg 27:45
Yeah, and I mean, the thing I reflect on now afterwards is like how bad things could have gotten because when we got here, the you know, they paid for the flight. And they paid for, you know, a hotel for a couple of weeks. And then we had to find a place and everything. But the thing was that I wasn't didn't start getting paid until the movie was officially greenlit. Which was weird, because we had like a production office with all these people there working. And I was like, Well, how can the movie not be greenlit? Like spending money was, yeah, we're spending money. Everyone's here. I was like, why am I not getting paid? So you know, we had to, first of all, you know, we borrowed everything we could from our families back home, like so we could survive. And then that money ran out. And so then we borrowed money from the producer, we borrowed money from my manager, and it was like, it was this feeling of like, if this falls apart now, and movies can fall apart. At any moment, like, you can start shooting a movie and falls apart and you Everyone has to go home. If that had happened, we would have been in so much shit, because we wouldn't have been able to pay back people because that was another shock coming here and finding out like what rent is in LA,
Alex Ferrari 28:59
it's very affordable to live in LA, very, extremely affordable.
David F. Sandberg 29:03
I mean, we were I mean, we lived in Gothenburg, which is not the cheapest city in Sweden. And you know, our apartment there we thought was pretty expensive for us. And we came here and we lived in half a garage in Burbank, and the rent was two and a half times our big apartment in Sweden. And it's just like, holy shit and, and that's another thing. Everything happens so quick that we didn't have time to like sublet our apartment or anything. So we just sort of locked the door and got on a plane. So that money was going as well. So it's like, if this doesn't happen now, we're going to be so much shit. You know, and I'm sure there are for every story like ours, I'm sure there's like 100 or 1000 stories of people where it did go to shit and they were like it most bros and yeah, so I mean, we know how extremely lucky we were. That it that it worked out.
Alex Ferrari 30:00
I moved out here 12 years ago, and I literally had, all I had was a Final Cut system. And my wife, we got apartment in North Hollywood, we had I think 10 or 12,000 bucks saved up. And I had no job. I knew two people in LA, my wife knew nobody and, and we just like, we'll figure it out. And that and we're like, we have at least six months to a year that we can survive. But I know a lot of personal friends of mine who made the trip out here and try to make a go of it. And they just they go because it's, it's too hard. It's not it's your story is definitely the unique, this unique story in the bunch. But you're right, you were you were and you were you were actually in a place where you were like, on you were working with big producers, and you were working and you were still not getting paid. And that's nothing against them. It's just the way the system is set up. And you're just and you're coming in just looking around going. What What do you mean, how can I not be being paid? We have an office like this is not the way businesses run? in general. Yeah.
David F. Sandberg 31:00
No, I remember one of the guys involved with with one of the producers was talking about having a chef working for like a private chat or whatever, who was getting like 1000 bucks a week announced like, Holy fucking shit, like, I I'd kill to have 1000 bucks to get paid that, you know, it's like it we felt so, you know, like such outsiders. And it, you know, pretty early on after we got here was when you know, James Wan he had he had, you know, furious seven had just made like, a billion dollars. Sure. So and we were invited to like, we were at the same agency. So we were invited to this like party in honor of James Wan to celebrate the his achievement. And so a lot and I mean, yeah, we we had no money. So we were like, Okay, what kind of clothes do we have that we can look kind of fancy in you know, and we're sweet. So we're always like, early, we're on time, you know? So we show up to this mansion in Beverly Hills. And they had like valets, and I was like, holy, do they have valets for a private house? It's like, holy shit. Yeah. And we go in there. And since we're so early, there's like, pretty much no one else. There's just the two of us in this giant mansion. And then these people start coming in. And we were just like, we felt like such imposters, you know, like we had just snuck into this party. So we were just like standing in a corner. And you know, we had our own secret language, Swedish. So we were like, trying to look like we were just having a casual conversation, but all we were saying which is like, holy shit. What are we doing here? This is just weird. And then like, these celebrities would show up the Vin Diesel and Adrian Brody and like, holy Yeah, it was just surreal. And yeah, we were just two broke Swedes who felt like we had just gotten into a hollywood party.
Alex Ferrari 32:56
Yeah, you're waiting for any any moment security would come in like you to come here.
David F. Sandberg 32:59
Yeah, so be here. Just Yeah. Yeah. That that's insane. All right. So you had that experience and obviously lights out came out it was a very big hit for the studio. It did very well especially off of the budget that you made. So then they offer you your second feature Annabel creation Yeah, they actually did that before the movie even came out because they you know we had test screenings and stuff and it tested really well so everyone was really happy about it and they were everyone Oh, this is going to be a hit and I was like well how can you know like you can't be sure it could be a total bomb but everyone's really sure that it was going to be a hit. So they off they offered me Annabelle a sequel to Annabelle And so yeah, I started working on that before lights out was even out that so that came out during the middle of shooting Annabel which was also very surreal and that we had to like break or wrap early that day. So I could go to the premiere of lights out at the you know Chinese Theater which is so Hollywood like yeah, we have to go wrap early so I can go to the premiere of my other movie but I think it was also good because then I didn't have time to freak out like Oh, how is it going to perform and all that because I was already on my second movie and that that was also a thing where it's like I needed to find a second movie quickly because on the first one you know I got paid scale for for that movie because it was my first one and you know scale on a $5 million movie is still more money than I'd ever made before. But because we like had to pay everyone back and like to take care of everything that movie that money was starting to run out and I remember like this person at the studio was surprised like what you already burned through your lights out money. It's like yeah, to pay back a lot of people. So that was you know, I had to find something the next thing quickly and I was very happy that they offered me to interact Annabelle
Alex Ferrari 34:59
so then What was the difference in experience from you know, doing lights out to Annabel? We'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show.
David F. Sandberg 35:16
I mean, it was night and day. I mean, I still, to this day, animal creation has been the best experience so far. Because then then I knew how movies worked. Like how it films that worked. And I knew all the steps, you know, because there was just so much learning. I mean, even, you know, when we were doing the sound mixing on lights out, I came in there and they were like, doing all these things. And I'm like, when do I say what I want or like, what's happening here and like, you know, so on Annabelle creation, I finally felt that, okay, now I know the whole process. I know how films that works. And now we had more days, we had more money. And it was just pleasant experience. It was just yeah, enough money enough days, and in the less pressure as well, because it wasn't my first movie and this feeling of I better get this right. Or, um, this is my one shot at Hollywood because now I felt like yeah, I even if I fucked this up, I will have made two movies in Hollywood. And you know, I might still get a third chance if lights out does well, everything.
Alex Ferrari 36:28
Yeah. And I'm imagining that it was a good feeling that while you're in production on Annabel, that you're, you know, you see the returns and the reviews on lights out, come out. And I'm sure that boosted your confidence a bit. I mean, we all go Yeah, imposter syndrome, I'm assuming Yeah, probably were. You weren't positive
David F. Sandberg 36:46
all the time. And the thing was that I hated lights out until we had test screenings of it. Because just watching it. I mean, first of all, the first time you watch it is it's temp, audio, music and like temp effects and like the colors aren't right, and it just feels really lame. So I was really depressed, seeing like the first cut of it. And thinking like, maybe, maybe we can cut a cool trailer out of it, because there's some cool shots in there. But the movie just sucks. So we, you know, just started cutting out as much as possible. Just like, take out this, take out that scene and trim this and just to get it down to like the bare bones story. Like, I just wanted as little of the movie in the movie as possible. So it's a very tight movie at 80 minutes. But yeah, so but I still sort of felt that this is a piece of shit until we started screening it to people and I could sit there in the audience and hear and see their reactions. They were laughing they were getting scared. And that was the moment where it's like, okay, maybe it isn't so bad. Maybe this is an okay movie, after all. So yeah, it wasn't until then that I started feeling a little bit better about it.
Alex Ferrari 38:05
And then Annabel comes out and it's also another hit. So you have now hit you've had two hits back to back. Yeah, so you're you didn't even have time to worry about your sophomore. Jinx, there's no that you weren't.
David F. Sandberg 38:18
And it was the same thing with HSM that I got, right that job before animal creation was even out. So yeah, my agents and I mean, everyone was telling me like, don't get used to this, like things don't usually go this quickly. And this well, like, it's it's not normal. Right.
Alex Ferrari 38:37
But but then you got so then you got your exam, which is a I mean, dude, that's a step up a budget. That's a step up in everything. And Shazam, you know, you're in the DC Universe now, which, you know, the DC Universe has had a couple stumbles along the way on their side, and they have some, you know, obviously Batman and Superman and those kind of things. But it was rough. And then you got something like Shazam, which was coming out completely different than it's not a dark and broody movie. It is a fun, let's have some fun kind of movie. It's what I love about Shazam so much. It was just so much fun. And it's also mean the story is great with the little kid that turns into who doesn't want that story. So, you know, what was it? What was it like going in dealing with not only the pressure of a big studio movie, and it's a big superhero movie, but also translating a beloved IP and character onto the screen that's never really been on the screen like that before? I don't remember at that level.
David F. Sandberg 39:37
No, they did serials in the 40s and TV show in the 70s. But not Yeah, no movies. No, it was. It was interesting in that he's not as known as you know, Superman or Batman or Spider Man or anything like that. And he hasn't had movies before, which I think helped a lot because it I can't imagine like taking on like Superman or Superman movie or something, because there's so many expectations. And there are so many like versions of, you know, some people will say Superman has to be this way for them. Other people are like Superman has to be this. She's AM. It's like, I mean, he's been around for as long as Superman, but he's never been quite as big, or at least not recently. And there have been a lot of different variations of him in the comic book world as well. So it didn't feel like oh, it has to be this one thing. And so it was a bit that pressure wasn't as big, I don't think. And also, the fact that it was something so different from what I'd done before. I felt like, if I fuck this up, I don't want to fuck this up. But if I do, it's something that's completely different. Because then I can go back to horror was like, yeah, superheroes. That's not for me, obviously. But horror, I can still get more chances there. But But yeah, overall, making the movie was like making my first movie again, just because there was so much to learn, it was so big. And it was, you know, things that are sort of out of your control. Like, for example, with visual effects on lights out and about creation, I did some of the visual effects shots myself, and even the ones I didn't, I would shoot in such a way that I would know exactly how to put it together myself if I would have to, while on a movie, like Shazam, it's just such crazy stuff going on. It's like, I don't actually know how we do this. So you have to like, Listen to the visual effects, guys. And like, Okay, so what do you need, you need these elements to put this together. And, and, and I've always had issues working with like, storyboard. People because like, I tried it on lights out. But then it was like, you know, they would go off and draw things, and then they come back with all these shots. And it's like, but I want to design the shots. I mean, if they're doing that, then they're kind of making the movie, you know. So I had real problems with that. So on Annabelle creation, there was just a couple of sequences where we needed to storyboard. So for some of that, I would draw really simple things myself, because I didn't have time to do them properly all by myself. So I would draw, you know, little thumbnails, it's like, yeah, just do this, but make them look better. And then I'm sure Sam, I finally got into this thing of like, I don't have to do I mean, I can do a lot of revisions with them. But I also don't have to do exactly what they draw. It's just sort of a starting point. And then we can work it from that, you know, it was more of getting the action, right. So we can take that to previous and so on, maybe I've always had that feeling of, I don't want to give up all this work, especially not like figuring out the shots because that's sort of what filmmaking is to me, right?
Alex Ferrari 43:02
Now. So working on on a film of this magnitude and this kind of scale. And I think you're right, because you Sam's not Superman, Batman or Spider Man or something that's so well known. There wasn't as much pressure attention. Like, I remember when I saw the trailer, I'm like, Oh, that's gonna be interesting. But it wasn't like, but when the next Batman comes out, everyone starts thinking of, of Nolan. Or when Superman came out, yeah, like everyone starts thinking of Donner or, you know, or x men or they, there's so
David F. Sandberg 43:29
much comparison and like things to live up to. And you know,
Alex Ferrari 43:33
so when 40 years when they make a reboot of Shazam, they're gonna be like, but David, you've got to live up to the David's and versions. So the pressures not as much but working inside, I mean, working inside the studio system with lights out and Annabel, that's a certain level, but when you're dealing within the studio system, with so much money is at risk here. What kind of pressures are you dealing with creatively, because you're just, you're just hot, you know, you're being hired as a director to tell the story to direct the film. But there is so many other kind of pressures was just like, I mean, I don't even know I don't even know what the budget was, if it was, I think 100 million years, like $100 million. So when you've got $100 million on the line, people are are a little bit more on hand. And there's
David F. Sandberg 44:20
Yeah, it's what you can feel those some of the concerns more like, you know, I mean, they're in any movie, they're gonna care about casting and maybe it's a little bit more and then, you know, a lot of the look more at different choices. And just making sure that is this the right way to go. But I think they're quite open at Warner Brothers. Because I've heard stories from other people working with on certain movies at certain other studios. Not just superhero movies, but the movies of that size. Where it like I've heard horror stories where Director comes in. And they already have like previous for the action scenes. And it's like, you know, I wouldn't. That sounds awful, like you see, so you just do the Why am I here? The dialogue scenes or like, and, you know, I didn't have that was the good thing about Shazam that I got to do all those things and I got to cast it. And you know, because there wasn't already a Shazam cast for the universe or whatever. So it felt quite free in that way. But yeah, of course, people care a lot when it's that much money at stake. Yeah.
Alex Ferrari 45:39
Right. And, and, and launching a new IP based off of a new filmmaking IP is based on an old IP. One thing I have noticed too, in your films is that I think I saw a video you I think you were saying in one of your amazing YouTube videos about characters, and like, the more characters you have, the more complicated things get, and matches Sam has a lot of characters to deal with. So what did you give in regards to other other than not having characters? So you have you have an obscene amount of characters? Yeah. On a visual effects? Yeah. You know,
David F. Sandberg 46:13
to to is even worse, because now all the all the, all the kids, I mean, they now they all have superpowers. So, you know, all the action scenes are what? Most of them you know, and yeah, it's, it's quite an ordeal. No, it's just like, a lot of figuring out, you know, like fishing, Sam, I would do like this overhead view of the carnival. And then because it was even more complicated at one point. And I had all these like, icons that I animated to just keep track of, Okay, this person is here, and then they move here. And then this happens of, it's just so much to keep track of which, you know, once you when you see a finished movie, it doesn't seem that complicated. Because, yeah, of course, they cut to this and then this guy's here, and then they fly there. You know, it seems obvious. But to get there is just so much work and worry of like, how is this gonna fit together? And? Yeah,
Alex Ferrari 47:10
it's, it's yet it's not as easy as it looks. I mean, you make it look easy. So that's, that's, that's why you get hired.
David F. Sandberg 47:17
Right? No, but I yeah, I don't have a good solution for it. Other than Yeah, don't do stuff where, where you have six superheroes all the time. And there were seven sins, and it's so much.
Alex Ferrari 47:33
You look stressed out just talking about
David F. Sandberg 47:35
it? Well, yeah. Yeah. Okay. It was interesting, because I wanted to, we tried to fit in a little horror movie between season one, and two. It didn't work out for a bunch of reasons. And I mean, COVID stopped everything as well. So I was very sad about that, because I really wanted to have that sort of palate cleanser. I mean, it's, it's a great problem to have. It's like, Oh, no, I get to do a second superhero movie.
Alex Ferrari 48:01
You know, darn.
David F. Sandberg 48:03
Yeah, no, but it would have been, I really look forward to, you know, next movie, it definitely got to be smaller. Like, we wanted to do this little horror movie with a lot of it's just a guy in a cabin, you know, it's like, oh, would have been so easy to shoot. And I mean, when you when you look at like dramas and things, it's like, imagine, imagine how easy it is to shoot that because once you cut it, you almost have your movie. It's not like months of visual effects reviews, and over and over again, and just all this complicated stuff. It's just like, nice people talking and a little drama, and then it's over. Yeah,
Alex Ferrari 48:40
yeah, maybe maybe you clean out a little thing here. You clean out a license plate there and visual effects something. Yeah. But nothing. Nothing is crazy. So at what point in the process, did you because I'm assuming that as you're making Shazam, when did you feel that you had something that was fun? Or did you have the same feeling as you did lights out? This is horrible, my career's over. Oh, my God.
David F. Sandberg 49:04
It felt some of it felt pretty good. Like, I would watch certain things back on the dailies, you know, you get an iPad where you can access all the dailies. So there were things there where I would like, rewatch at the dais. And it's like, yeah, this this is pretty cool. I think this is pretty good. And I you know, I when we shot, the first sort of Shazam scene we shot was in the convenience store when he gets shot for the first time. It's like, Hey, I'm bulletproof. It was just when we shot that scene, it felt like this is fun. Like this is I think this could be something and then there were of course other scenes where it's like, oh, shit, this is terrible. We need to fix this. Somehow, or cut it out. But yeah, it felt like there were there were good things in there. You know.
Alex Ferrari 49:51
Did you do any reshoots? Did you have to go back to doing
David F. Sandberg 49:53
Yes, we did. I mean, new line that I've done all them who said that they always do reshoots So yeah, because it kind of gets a bad rap of like, oh, the movie must be in trouble because they're doing reshoots, but they always do that they count on it. Which is, it's interesting, because on my first movie on lights out, I was told by another one of the editors, that, here's what's gonna happen, you know, you're going to test the movie. If it tests Well, they're going to come to you and say, so what do you want to add or reshoot? If it tests poorly, they're going to come to you and say, here's what we're going to reshoot or what we're going to add. And luckily, you know, the movies have tested well. And Shazam was very interesting, because I think we did a lot of reshoots and things, which, it kind of felt like, it almost feels like this movie is in trouble or something, cuz we're reshooting so much, but I think it was more of a thing of what we only spent $100 million on this or close to that I'm sure we had some savings. So it was like, Yeah, why not? Just get a little extra money and see if we can, you know, make it even better in certain places. spice it up. Yeah. And I mean, some of that. It was interesting, because, like, in the main shoot in the script, it's so there was that scene where he's on the rocky steps in Philadelphia by the Art Museum, you know, he's doing the lightning with my hands. That was always in the script. But then, during the main shoot, it's like, well, we don't have the money to go to actually go to Philadelphia. So I was like, Okay, we'll shoot it here on this street in Toronto. And then when I showed the movie to the studio, they were like, Ah, yeah, that scene really needed to be in Philadelphia. So go to Philadelphia shoot that scene, you know? And there were a lot of those things where it's like, yeah, maybe we can just make it a little better. Like the opening of the movie, originally had young Savannah in his house during dinner, and he takes an elevator and winds up in the rock of eternity. And they were like, ah, maybe we can do more action. Or maybe we can have something like with a car crash, or something. And to me, it was like, hey, if you want to pay for a car crash, I'd love to shoot that, you know, and because the thing is, if it turns out better than what we have great, if it turns out worse, then we still have the old thing, you know? So I was open to to anything like yeah, let's let's do this. Let's shoot that scene and do this, you know, and see what happens as long as you pay for it. I'm willing to do it. And and some some things I asked for, in particular, like, originally, when they first get to the group home, I did all that in one continuous steadycam shot. And it just didn't work. It just felt it kind of Yeah, didn't get there. And then there's no editing you can do when you when you do that. So I was like, I told the studio, it's like, I really want to reshoot that. But I know that's a big ask, because that means rebuilding that whole set. And the studio is just like a it's a big movie. So we actually rebuilt the whole set, and I got to reshoot that scene. So yeah, they were I think they were happy with what they saw and felt like it was okay to spend more money. Because it was going to be good.
Alex Ferrari 53:19
Right? Now, you you also a post production guy, you do a lot of stuff yourself. So what what, how much are you involved in the post production process in your films? From lights out all the way tissues? And because like you were saying earlier, you're not doing all the visual effects. But do you even still do titles or stuff like that?
David F. Sandberg 53:40
Yeah, I mean, certainly pushes them. I never did any final thing. I think some of the overlays for the news is mine, the news cast, but otherwise, I did tons of temp effects. Because, you know, when you do test screenings, I mean, we do that quite early on, and you just, you want it to look alright, you don't want all these blue screen and weird things in there. So I would do a lot of temp effects myself just to try to get it as close as possible, which is pretty fun. Because then when you do temp effects, it only needs to be good enough for one quick viewing, you know, no one's gonna rewind and look at it again. So that's a lot more fun than when you do final visual effects because there's so much work for those little things just to make it right you know. So lots of temp effects and I'm yeah, I'm quite involved in during the post process because I think that's probably one of the most fun aspects of movies. It's, it's like I forgot who said it, but you make three movies. You make the movie you write a movie producing the movie you edit. Absolutely. And I kind of I love that kind of problem solving as well where like, Okay, if we cut this scene out now this You know, now that we don't have B, how do we go from A to C? And you start looking at, okay, what kind of footage do we have? And what can I create? Because that's that stuff I did for lights out as well as, like, I need this shot of just a potion on this empty room. But we don't have that. But I have a similar thing here what I can take textures and reprojected them in Blender in 3d and create that shot. You know, I love that stuff. I'd like just figuring out stuff at home or in like, in animal creation, there's an insert shot of blood dripping on the floor. And that was one where I that I shot with my gold Black Magic Pocket camera in my apartment, you know, with some food coloring, and just put that in the movie. And yeah, you know, just yeah, that puzzle puzzling together. And just finding nifty solutions is really fun.
Alex Ferrari 55:55
So you actually shot something with a pocket camera just inserted it and no one cares. Like, perfect.
David F. Sandberg 56:00
Yeah. And yeah, and there's that shot, inanimate creation. This is shot in a bedroom where you see all these photographs of Janice growing up, I shot that on my Ursa mini 4.6 K. And then like, and put the pictures in there with blender and everything. And yeah, it works great.
Alex Ferrari 56:22
And that's, again, another myth that you're debunking. And once you get to a certain level you like, you don't do things like that anymore. Of course,
David F. Sandberg 56:30
you know, but yeah, and I mean, even when we were, I remember when we were, I think we were mixing lights out, Michael Bay was mixing a movie on the soundstage next to us. And they were telling me that he had been out in the parking lot shooting something on his iPhone for the movie, because he was already so far down the post production that he was in the sound mix, but he was like, Oh, we need a shot of this thing. And he shot it on his iPhone out in the parking lot. And they put in the movie and made it at work. So yeah, it certainly happens on on everything.
Alex Ferrari 57:03
Now, what is the most stressful part of making a movie for you?
David F. Sandberg 57:08
Well, I mean, the shooting in general, just sort of keeping up with with everything, because it's such a marathon and you get so tired. And like, there were days where I was like sick, and I was just, yeah, not doing well at all, but you just have to do it. And she's an was also weird. And that that was my first time really working a lot with a second unit. And just like with the storyboards, it's like, I don't want someone else making the movie, you know. So we scheduled it, so that we shot menu during the day, and then second unit was shooting during the night. So I could once we wrap the day, I would go to second unit and hang out there and make sure that they shot things the way I wanted to. So I didn't get a lot of sleep for a few weeks there, which was, you know, not healthy and something I need to work on. But yeah, it's just a hard especially when you start sort of when you far along a shoot where you start feeling like you were behind and you were like, I haven't even had time to think of this thing we're gonna shoot next. It's like Oh, shit, like when it feels like things are just coming at you at a quicker pace than you can keep up with. That's very stressful. And you need to sort of just take any moment, you can just sit down and think about how you're going to do all these things.
Alex Ferrari 58:35
Now, do you suffer from the same thing as I think I do? And many directors do is when when you're done on the last day of production? Isn't that the kind of depression starts setting in like, like, you've built that family? If it's been a good experience, obviously, if it's been a bad experience, yeah. But do you get that kind of feeling to like, not?
Unknown Speaker 58:55
Yeah, not quite. Not that soon. I mean, one first, when you wrap the movies, like, Oh, it's over. I'll get to sleep for a few days, you know? But certainly, yeah, once you've once you're finished with a project, you get that feeling of like, Oh, well what now? And you know, it feels kind of empty yet. And that happens with even with short films and stuff as well. Like you're, you have a purpose and you know what you're doing and then it's done. It's like that was it. Okay, what now? You know,
Alex Ferrari 59:29
always looking for that next high, if you will.
David F. Sandberg 59:31
Yeah. as it existed that Yeah, in the moment, you have a purpose and you know, what your future is going to be like, and then afterwards, it's like, Okay, well, what's my future now? And what's my goal now and what's what's gonna happen? Yeah.
Alex Ferrari 59:47
Now I have to ask you about your little. I need to know the backstory about your little known for our feature film that that got released called I flip you off for four hours. Which is an official film. It's officially on your IMDb as a feature film. So I saw that I was like, wait, what is that in here about this? And I've started looking at it and it is available on YouTube. Can you please tell us the backstory of that film?
David F. Sandberg 1:00:15
Yeah. No, what happened was I, I was talking in one of my YouTube videos about the fact that, you know, being a YouTuber isn't my job. So I don't really have to care about views and all of that stuff that YouTubers have to worry about, like, oh, how's my channel doing and everything. And as an example, I was like, you know, I can do whatever I want. And as an example, I had a screenshot of a movie called, I flip you off for four hours with just a picture of me doing that. So that was just a joke in that video. But then, for some reason, some months later, I was like, well, maybe I'll actually do that. just for the hell of it, just as a joke. So I did that. And it's a cheat. Of course, I did it for like less than a minute and just added it together. So it looks like it's four hours. But I put that up, people who really ran with it and like they put it up on letterbox, and people started giving it his all fantastic reviews. So it's like, for a moment there. It was like among the top rated movies on letterbox, like next to love parasite, you know, the Oscar winner and all these. But then eventually, letterbox took it off, because it's like, it's not a real movie. But I love seeing that out there. Everyone just ran with it. I love when internet does dumb stuff like that, but not like now with the Bernie Sanders. Oh my god sitting in his chair. I've seen that in every situation now. Like people have drawn artwork and paintings,
Alex Ferrari 1:01:50
dolls, they're making dolls of it now.
David F. Sandberg 1:01:52
Yeah, I saw like a crocheted doll. And like, yeah, it's everywhere.
Alex Ferrari 1:01:57
But you heard you know what Bernie did now? Right? He actually grabbed it, put it on a T shirt, and now he's selling it for charity.
David F. Sandberg 1:02:03
Yeah, I saw that. That's amazing.
Alex Ferrari 1:02:05
So if you could do one thing and say one thing to your younger self, before you start a directing, at first, like the one thing that you wish you would have known before you started going down this directing journey, what would that be?
David F. Sandberg 1:02:20
I don't know. I mean, maybe to be to ask for a little bit more or not be too afraid with some things. But yeah, I mean, that was the big thing with lights out where we didn't want to ask for too much. Because it was like, Oh, this is our shot. Like, for example, a lot. You know, she really should have been a producer on the first movie. I mean, we're sort of correcting these things. Now. We started our own production company and whatnot. But it was like, oh, let's not ask for too much. And it's Same thing with, I've always seen myself as a writer and director. But like, I couldn't ask for like, Oh, yeah, I want to write the movie as well. Because, you know, first time director, first time writer as well, and they're not gonna, they're gonna say no, right? So there were there been moments where it's like, I probably could have pushed for a little bit more. But at the same time, it's worked out great. You know, I love what Eric heisserer did with the script. I mean, he's a great writer, and I've gotten to work with riders and see how that isn't get, you know, feedback and be able to bounce ideas off of each other. So but yeah, maybe I think that's been a bit of a problem, sometimes of me, not, you know, being able to afraid of conflict, or like taking too much space, and instead backing off.
Alex Ferrari 1:03:39
Yeah, just ask for a little bit more. I feel I feel that a lot of artists are like that. I was like that as well. You know, I do jobs. God for anything. You're gonna pay me to do this? Oh, sure. Whatever you want to give me?
David F. Sandberg 1:03:52
Yeah, that's been a constant problem of you know, back in Sweden now. It's great having like agents and managers dealing with that, so they can be the bad guys. You know, that's been awesome.
Alex Ferrari 1:04:03
Now, I'm going to ask you a few questions asked all my guests. What advice would you give a filmmaker trying to break into the business today?
David F. Sandberg 1:04:10
Well, I mean, the, what I always say because it's, it was my path was to just keep creating things. Because the more you create, I mean, for everything you do, you're gonna learn even if it turns out to be shit, then you learn what not to do. And you're gonna get better and better for every short or every little creative thing you do. And it just, you know, it's like buying more lottery tickets, because, you know, one of those things you do might really resonate with people. Yeah, we had no idea that lights up was gonna become the thing it did. And also, you know, whenever I do something, I always think it's shit, halfway through whatever it is, if it's a short or it's a feature halfway through, I think it's shit and I want to give up, but that's you have to actually finish things you start even It feels like it's shit because you don't know how you'll feel about it later on. Because whenever you know you do the next thing you think like, why do I suck? Now the previous thing I did was good. But when you were making the previous thing, you hated that, too. So you just never know. I think
Alex Ferrari 1:05:15
that's basically just being an artist. It is it is, what is the cross we have to bear? Now, what is the lesson that took you the longest to learn whether in the film business or in life?
David F. Sandberg 1:05:30
Huh, oh, that's a really good question. I mean, if it's something, I'm still just trying to figure out the best way to do certain things like s, is it? You know, storyboards? Or, you know, I've been experimenting with so many different things with everything from shooting action figures, to just walking around a location and shooting things. You know, trying to find shots, even without people like cutting together that stuff. And I'm still working out what is the best quickest way to get my thoughts and ideas across to other people? And it's, it's hard, but yeah, at the moment, I'm using a blender a lot to do animatics and animated things and boards. And yeah, that's been working pretty well.
Alex Ferrari 1:06:23
What is the biggest fear you had to overcome to make your first film?
David F. Sandberg 1:06:30
Well, I again, I think it's has a lot to do with. Knowing that I mean, being confident in myself, in many ways, because like, on that first movie, there were arguments, where I felt like, well, these guys have done it for so long. So of course, they have to know better than me, they have to be right. I have to be wrong, because I'm new at this. But I wasn't always wrong. There were things like no, I do know this. So experience does not always make you right. So you get Yeah, even experienced people can be wrong. And I think that's something that can be good to know sometimes.
Alex Ferrari 1:07:11
And what are three of your favorite films of all time?
David F. Sandberg 1:07:16
Aliens is up their races of the last are. Yeah, I mean, it's sort of changes a lot sort of, but But yeah, those two and like the thing you know, john Carpenter's the thing. But yeah, I think aliens is probably the movie I've seen the most.
Alex Ferrari 1:07:37
That was an hour, but it's a masterpiece. I mean, it's Yeah, it's an absolute masterpiece. I mean, Cameron. I mean, Jesus, man. I mean, did you ever see the the the you've seen the best obviously? Oh, yeah. Did you see well and obviously James dispersion is much much better I think that with with with
David F. Sandberg 1:07:59
with the title is a little long, but it's Yeah,
Alex Ferrari 1:08:02
but the tidal wave makes it Yes. Work. Did you see that? Behind the Scenes of that? That the whole movie The documentary of the like, of how they made that movie, James Cameron?
David F. Sandberg 1:08:12
Oh, yeah. And all the problems and everything and I love the like three hours documentary about aliens. Oh, my God.
Alex Ferrari 1:08:22
Yeah. Oh, so in depth. It's it's absolutely insane. But David, I want to thank you for not only being on the show, but I want to make sure everybody knows about your YouTube channel. Because you're one of the few directors out there who still are trying to give back even after they are, you know, after they hit a certain level of success in the business. A lot of times it just Oh, whatever. Screw screw the little filmmaker. I don't care. I'm not that guy anymore. You're still doing it. I mean, up until recently, like, a few weeks ago, I think you've posted a new video. You do it often, man so thank you so much for doing that. It really means a lot to me and to also a lot of filmmakers out there and learning and I've watched your stuff your videos and I've learned stuff. I'm like that Yes. Like I didn't know about the river. I didn't I kind of knew about the reverse thing with the neck is an alien with the with the Oh yeah. That the edits like doing that within the edits and stuff like that. Like they just reversed it because I know Copeland it's just an old the oldest Hollywood trick in the book is to shoot something in reverse. But camera did it so beautifully in that scene that you just don't even realize it.
David F. Sandberg 1:09:26
It's the stuff I love to see. That's why what I can you know, but but I do understand why directors don't do it because you kind of reveal things where you know, you can get things in a movie that seemed like they were intentional or brilliant and maybe it was just an accident or like something that just, oh well we were gonna do this and then that fell apart. So we just slap something together and it happened to work. You know, like you You kind of reveal your true magic.
Alex Ferrari 1:09:59
Yeah, yeah. You pulled the curtain back a little bit. Sometimes directors want to keep that magic.
David F. Sandberg 1:10:04
Some people can think that Oh, he's a genius. Yeah, I'm not a genius. Open with that.
Alex Ferrari 1:10:12
But very humble of you, sir. Not call yourself a genius. But this seriously, man, thank you so much for being on the show and, and continue doing what you do. And I cannot wait to see Sam. Is his black Adam gonna be interested to
David F. Sandberg 1:10:26
know not? No, no is that they're separate for now. But also they're not maybe in the third movie or something?
Alex Ferrari 1:10:33
Yeah. So they're building it up. They're building it up. Yeah, very quickly. Listen, man, continued success. Brother. I really, really appreciate what you do, man. So thanks again.
David F. Sandberg 1:10:41
Thank you, man.
Alex Ferrari 1:10:44
I want to thank David so much for being on the show. dropping those knowledge bombs, as well as inspiration for all of the tribe to continue going, no matter what because all you have is the process. dedicate yourself to the process, and things will happen. I can't guarantee it's going to be the exact path that David took. But something will happen just keep at the process. Keep making content, keep making films, keep telling stories, and I promise you something good will come out of it. Now if you want to get links to anything we spoke about in this episode, please head over to the show notes at indie film hustle comm forward slash 441. And if you haven't already, please head over to filmmaking podcast.com and leave a good review for the show. It really helps us out a lot. Thank you again, so much. There is some more amazing guests coming in the weeks ahead. So please keep an eye out for that. Thank you again for listening, guys. As always, keep that hustle going. Keep that dream alive. Stay safe out there. And I'll talk to you soon.
Sign up to receive email updates
Enter your name and email address below and I'll send you periodic updates about the podcast.
If you liked From Short Films to Directing Shazam! with David F. Sandberg,
then you’ll love:
Enjoyed From Short Films to Directing Shazam! with David F. Sandberg? Please share it in your social networks (Facebook, Twitter, email, etc) by using social media buttons at the side or bottom of the blog. Or post to your blog and anywhere else you feel it would be a good fit. Thanks.
I welcome thoughts and remarks on ANY of the content above in the comments section below…
Podcasts You Should Be Listening To:
Podcast: Indie Film Hustle® Podcast
Podcast: Bulletproof Screenwriting® Podcast
Podcast: The Directors Series™ Podcast
Podcast: Inside the Screenwriter’s Mind™ Podcast
Podcast: The Filmtrepreneur® Podcast
Podcast: Filmmaking Motivation Podcast
IFH Podcast Network: Discover the Best Screenwriting and Filmmaking Podcasts
Stuff You Need in Your Life:
IFH Academy: Exclusive Filmmaking & Screenwriting Training
IFHTV: Indie Film Hustle TV
Book: Rise of the Filmtrepreneur®: How to Turn Your Indie Film into a Moneymaking Business
Book: Shooting for the Mob (Based on the Incredible True Filmmaking Story)
FREE 3-Part Indie Film Producing Video Series