David F. Sandberg is a highly talented and innovative filmmaker who has left an indelible mark on the world of cinema. Born on January 21, 1981, in Jönköping, Sweden, Sandberg’s passion for filmmaking began at a young age when he discovered his father’s VHS camera. Little did he know that this simple encounter would shape his destiny.
After completing his education, Sandberg embarked on a journey to fulfill his dream of becoming a filmmaker. He started by creating short films, which showcased his natural talent for storytelling and his ability to craft suspenseful and visually captivating narratives. One of his most notable early works was “Lights Out,” a terrifying short film that gained widespread acclaim and eventually caught the attention of Hollywood producers.
In 2016, Sandberg’s career took a meteoric rise when he directed the feature-length adaptation of “Lights Out.” The film received critical and commercial success, establishing him as a rising star in the horror genre. His mastery of building tension and crafting memorable scares earned him a reputation as a horror maestro.
Not content to be confined to one genre, Sandberg continued to explore his creative range with the release of “Annabelle: Creation” (2017), a critically acclaimed addition to “The Conjuring” universe. The film further solidified his reputation as a director capable of delivering high-quality, spine-chilling experiences.
What sets David F. Sandberg apart is his unique approach to filmmaking. He is known for his innovative use of lighting, practical effects, and well-paced storytelling. With each project, he shows an extraordinary ability to engage audiences emotionally while delivering an edge-of-the-seat experience.
Sandberg’s skills are not limited to the horror genre. In 2019, he took on the challenge of directing the superhero film “Shazam!” for the DC Extended Universe. His ability to blend humor, heart, and action into a cohesive and entertaining package earned him praise from both critics and fans, proving his versatility as a filmmaker.
Beyond his talent as a director, David F. Sandberg is admired for his hands-on and collaborative approach to filmmaking. He maintains a strong presence on social media, sharing insights into his creative process and engaging with fans, making him a beloved figure in the industry.
In a relatively short period, David F. Sandberg has established himself as a visionary filmmaker with a distinctive style. His commitment to storytelling, coupled with his technical prowess, promises a future filled with more captivating and thrilling cinematic experiences for audiences worldwide.
Alex Ferrari 2:00
Enjoy today's episode with guest host, Jason Buff.
Jason Buff 2:05
Now I want you to imagine I want us all to close our eyes and imagine something you're sitting in your apartment one day you and your wife and you have always wanted to make a horror film, but you don't really know what the next step is. So you see these horror competitions and you say, You know what, let's enter into one of these horror competitions and see how it goes using just the resources you know, you don't have a lot of money. So just using the camera that you have and the equipment that you have, you're going to create a horse short and submit it to one of these competitions just to see what happens. And not only do you win the competition, but your video becomes a huge viral sensation. Suddenly, your you know, Vimeo videos and YouTube videos are being downloaded by 1000s and 1000s of people and not too long after that you start getting phone calls from people in Los Angeles that you know want to have meetings with you. Now fast forward a little bit to you know, being invited, you're invited to Los Angeles by new line. And before long, you're sitting in a meeting with James Wan talking about making a feature film version of your short this is more or less what happened to David F. Sandberg in 2013 when his short lights out became a huge viral sensation. And on June 22, the feature film version of Lights Out starring Maria Bello and produced by James one will be coming to a theater near you all right now on with the show
David F. Sandberg 3:26
Came here. My wife Laura and I a little over a year ago now. But it all happened really fast. Because it was like, you know, we got the call that yeah, lights out the movie is getting made. So can you get on a plane next week? So we flew over and yeah, we went back home just over Christmas now. But that's that's it. Now it's been weird. Like, it all happened so fast. When we first got here we just were the first like nine months or so or whatever we stayed in the Airbnb is around town. And it's just now this year that we've gotten a proper apartment to stay.
Jason Buff 4:08
So it was really like, I mean, well, let me ask you, first of all, how was how was living in LA? Because I've lived there. And it was very difficult. I mean, I and I'm from the US, you know, so it was kind of a culture shock for me. Are you guys like settling in and feeling more at home? Are you are you there permanently? Are you going to go back to Sweden?
David F. Sandberg 4:29
I mean, right now, it's pretty permanent because we've rented out our apartment back in Sweden. And I mean, as long as things keep going, well here we'll stick around, you know, right. But But yeah, it's a lot different from Sweden. But both good and bad. You know, the weather's always great. And there's a lot of cool stuff here. And that Yeah, I mean, we love it. So far. We haven't seen a lot of the other parts of us. We've only been to California. We went to Las Vegas for a day for cinema con. Right? This is all we know, like, we want to see more of the states.
Jason Buff 5:09
Yeah, you gotta go. Well, I'm from North Carolina. So you should definitely head that way. And kind of see something. LA is very, it's cool, but it's very different from the rest of the US.
David F. Sandberg 5:18
Yeah, that's, I can imagine. It's, it's, it's a unique place. It feels like
Jason Buff 5:24
The people that rented your old apartment know that that was where the short was filmed.
David F. Sandberg 5:30
Now, yeah, that's one of our friends who who's actually in, we met a short called picture, and she's the queen in the picture. So yeah, she knows and she thinks it's cool. Like, she has people over and it's like, Hey, this is the lights out apartment. Whoa. Yeah.
Jason Buff 5:48
That's cool. Well, what I want to do is I got a lot of stuff I want to talk about, and I want to be very conscience. conscious of your time.
David F. Sandberg 5:56
Let's I mean, it's Saturday today, so there's no work today. So that's, that's fine.
Jason Buff 6:00
Okay. So what what is, what are you guys doing right now? I mean, I assume the, you know, pictures locked in what what's kind of going on right now? And you're like, what's your week full of right now?
David F. Sandberg 6:11
Right now? It's pre production on Annabelle two. So, yeah, we're shooting in six weeks. Okay, so it's getting close, lot to lot to prepare.
Jason Buff 6:26
Is there anything you can I mean, that story wise, but I mean, what, when you say you're preparing to shoot, what is that kind of mean? Are you working on? Is the screenplay ready? Are you working on?
David F. Sandberg 6:37
There's still tweaks being done on the screenplay, but also, you know, we're casting people, we're scouting some of the locations we still haven't figured out yet. And this one has a bigger budget than lights out. So we're shooting it on a stage on the Warner Brothers lot, which is awesome. So we're the house has been the sets are being built, you know, and there's, you know, some budget issues like, hey, maybe we can, you know, we're a little bit over, maybe we can cut out this room of the house, a lot of stuff like that back and forth
Jason Buff 7:09
As the way you think about it changed now that you I mean, I would assume that walking into lights out the feature, you probably still had a lot of those ideas in your head about oh, there's ways to save money and cut corners and do this and you start working with a studio and it's kind of like, oh, okay, well, there actually is some money to spend on this.
David F. Sandberg 7:29
Well, I mean, I had no idea. I mean, I've, I'm so lucky to have skipped all of these steps. You know, like I went from making no budget shorts, which is locked on me back in Sweden, right into making Hollywood studio features. Like, I've never made an independent movie or anything. Like I've never been on a real film set until lights out. Right, which was scary as hell. And there was so much like, you know, I put so much pressure on myself as well, just like, This is my shot, you know, better not screw it up. Because, you know, then I'll go back to Sweden and never do a movie again. So, yeah, that was intense. And it was just so much to learn, like, you know, I know how to sort of make a little movie, like how to tell a story. But everything around it was just new, the whole the studio thing and just working with so many people, you know, I'm used to shooting myself and editing myself and doing all of that stuff. And now I had to work with other people for the first time and just working with a writer and yeah, there. I had, like, I'd wake up in the middle of the night being all stressed out and like, I have these things where I wake up, and I'm half asleep and I hallucinate. And I'd see like the whole crew standing around my bed just waiting. And I'd be like, Wait, what are we doing? What? Why? So hopefully now on Annabelle, I know a little bit more what to expect, and maybe we'll have a little less nightmares. Right?
Jason Buff 9:05
So your confidence is better going through this? Or did you look at the finished film and just kind of sit back and be like, holy crap. I did this.
David F. Sandberg 9:15
Yeah, no, I mean, but that happened to like, just during editing, you know, we were cutting the scene with between Maria Bello and Teresa Palmer. They have this argument and it's like, Shit, I actually directed this, like, a real movie with real actors. And yeah, that was there's been a lot of those moments, especially because of the beginnings of the whole thing. Like I'd see people you know, painting the sets and stuff like that. And I'd have this feeling of these people are working on this. Just because lotto and I made this little short, you know, just an evening back in Sweden, which is insane.
Alex Ferrari 9:56
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Jason Buff 10:05
Did you ever run into because I remember reading stories about when, for example, James Cameron was making aliens. And nobody really knew who he was. So they were kind of like, Oh, this guy didn't know what that, you know, he was making the best or movies of all time. But the people on the set, were just kind of like, Who's this guy doesn't and he was, you know, he was, I think it was on a British set, too. So everybody was like, Is this you know, America,
David F. Sandberg 10:27
I saw that documentary as well, which is, I love that. It's one of my favorite movies as well. But yeah, I There were definitely elements of that have, you know, it's some there was this feeling of some people on the crew, like, you know, they're doing me a favor, because I'm this nobody from, from Sweden and the they've worked on all these big movies. And it led to some friction in some places, where it's like, some arguments with the camera department and where they, you know, try to tell them, like, No, you don't need to do that. And I was like, No, we need to do that. Like, I know what I'm doing. So it led to arguments about stupid stuff as well. Like, how, how cameras work. And like, because they were telling me that there was this one shot that they were telling me you can just you can shoot at high speed, and then decide in post if you want it to be slow motion or regular speed. And I was telling them, but But no, because the shutter speed will then look, you know, the shutter angle will look, it will look like you know, the opening of Saving Private Ryan, if you?
Jason Buff 11:42
Yeah, so, what 48
David F. Sandberg 11:44
So they were telling me that, no, the shutter speeds always the same. And I was became this whole argument, and I was like, but then why do you need more light when you shoot high speed changes? And it was like,
Jason Buff 11:57
Like, damn, this guy knows what he's doing.
David F. Sandberg 11:59
Yeah, I mean, stupid arguments like that. But I mean, it got better, you know, further into production, everything did but when we sort of got to know each other and what we knew and didn't know.
Jason Buff 12:14
Yeah. What were you shooting on
David F. Sandberg 12:17
Yeah, the Alexa.
Jason Buff 12:19
Right, right. Was there ever I mean, if I was you, and I was kind of like, I mean, cuz you're a do it yourself kind of guy. Yeah, I would just be like looking over everybody's shoulder and be like, Okay, what do you guys, you know, and just like, in between directing, just kind of, like, all the time.
David F. Sandberg 12:33
I mean, this was my home school in a way like, I didn't go to film school. And now I was I was getting paid for. So it was a lot of that. Okay, so you're lighting it like that? You're putting it there. Okay, cool, was like, you know, finding stuff.
Jason Buff 12:49
Is there anything that kind of maybe you can share that jumps out at you at like in terms of just purely like cinematography? Were there any things that you just kind of were surprised by that? You? You know, having done things yourself? You're like, Oh, I didn't realize this is actually how they do it on a film set not to put you on the spot.
David F. Sandberg 13:11
No, but I don't know. I mean, I think I I mean, I read a lot like I read like the American cinematographer, and all of those things. So I try to keep up as much as possible. So nothing really surprised me that much. No, it was just being there and seeing in real life, you know, on a full set that was was interesting, but I mean, you know, the lighting it feels like it's the same thing when you're doing it yourself with what little you have. It's just on a bigger scale, and you have more fun toys really?
Jason Buff 13:52
Was there ever a moment when you were like, is there like an Ikea around that? I can? Yeah, is there is there's an I when I was there, I mean, I was there back in like 99. So it's been a while but there was a brand new IKEA. And it was like a huge deal. I mean, this is off the point, but I just happen to remember that because I think it's kind of a funny idea. Have you been like, you know if you just get a trash kid? Yeah, we do have money here, man.
David F. Sandberg 14:15
Yeah. Now with IKEA is awesome. I built my own my trash cans here as well bought some lights. I found out that the light bulbs here don't dim. They do in Sweden for some reason. The fluorescent the LED bulbs are some
Jason Buff 14:34
Oh, yeah. Yeah. Well, some of them do. And I mean, you have to kind of look for him, but the US is really, and I haven't lived in the US since in since 2002. I actually live in Mexico. Now. I do everything from Mexico. But you know, I'm amazed when I go back because here everything is so energy efficient, and everybody has LED bulbs or fluorescent and then I go back to the US and it's always amazing to me that that still hasn't kind of caught on you know people have them but they're not Uh, as you know, I don't know how it is in Sweden.
David F. Sandberg 15:03
No sweetness. I think they've, like banned regular light bulbs. Right? We can even buy them anymore. You can probably just steal some old stock probably. But it's mostly LEDs and compact fluorescents.
Jason Buff 15:18
You guys are so you know, so far ahead with everything. Yeah. I actually lived in Finland for a while. Yeah. And that for a while, but for for half of the year I went to school in yo ensue. So we were we were up in that area for a long time. And we pass through Sweden. I got lost in Sweden for a while and but it's just it's one of my favorite countries in the world.
David F. Sandberg 15:41
It's great in the summer, but in the winter, it's just gray and dark for so long. There's like, not enough sunlight. Maybe I'll miss it eventually. But now it's just it's here. It's sunny all the time.
Jason Buff 15:56
Yeah, you get actually I got kind of tired of it being sunny. All I missed the snows the coziness of having like your coffee and being inside and, you know,
David F. Sandberg 16:07
Jason Buff 16:10
Around Christmas time, I think you start kind of like, like when you have your first warm Christmas is always really bizarre.
David F. Sandberg 16:16
Yeah, I mean, we went home for Christmas. But that was the thing as well. Like we were thinking that maybe when we were back in Sweden, we will feel that now this is our home. We don't want to go back to LA. But when we got home, it was gray and dark. And we both got Vinter winter vomit disease lotto nights, we would like just throw one up. Yeah, we couldn't wait to get back.
Jason Buff 16:39
Okay, well, what I want to do is kind of go back and talk a little bit about your biography, I guess, you know, and how you got into this. And I was wondering if you could start a little bit by just talking about where you were at what what you what led up to making the original shorts. And as far as I was lights out the first shorts you made? Or was it like after making a few more because it's listed in IMDb is like the third or fourth one you man.
David F. Sandberg 17:09
I mean, it was the second one I made with that loss. And I made together. So what happened was, you know, I've been making little shorts and stuff ever since I was a kid, you know, borrowed my dad's video camera. But then, as I got an older, it got more sort of difficult to you know, get your friends together and make movies. So I started playing around with animation. Because that was something you could do all by yourself. And what happened was when YouTube was new, this was in 2005, I made an animated short that became like a viral hit in Scandinavia. And that led to me getting a lot of job offers to do like commercials and videos for different companies with my sort of brand of animated humor. So I did that for a few years. But eventually, I felt that, you know, what I really wanted to do was live action genre stuff. So you know a lot and I we made this movie called cam closer, which we really enjoyed doing just a two and a half minute short. And we tried getting like in Sweden, you have the Swedish Film Institute that gives grants to movies, shorts and features. And that's pretty much how we finance films. But they they weren't very interested in financing genres stuff. Like we tried several times to get just some little bit of money to make horror shorts. And they said no, every time. So we figured, you know, screw it, you know, I have a camera, and we can do stuff ourselves just in our apartment. So yeah, lights out was the second one we did. And yeah, it became this whole crazy thing.
Jason Buff 19:02
Now, just to get into the nuts and bolts, because I was curious about this, you had you were working with the Blackmagic Cinema Camera. Yeah. What? What was just from a purely nerd point of view, what was your decision to get that camera versus some of the other ones that are out here?
David F. Sandberg 19:18
Well, I mean, I started when, you know, when I was younger, I got like a consumer DV camera and started shooting shorts with my friends. And then I actually got a grant like a cultural stipend or whatever it's called, so I could buy an HD camera. And I've never had a lot of money to buy cameras. But then I saw about this Blackmagic camera that was coming on to the shooting RAW, which was very interesting to me, because you know, when you're shooting like H 264 stuff, you can't shoot the compression when you shoot dark stuff. It just breaks apart in the shadows.
Alex Ferrari 20:04
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David F. Sandberg 20:13
So, I really wanted that camera so we I have a producing friend in Sweden who we got some money to do a short called Wallace which is sort of like an you could say that sort of like an anti bullying film or something. That's the kind of stuff you can get money from for this from the Swedish Film Institute. You know, we got money to do a documentary about a Thai Lady Boy and like, more sort of important subjects I guess. But because we got some money to do Wallace, I could buy the Blackmagic Cinema Camera finally so that's what we used to do she lets out but the the the short shot before that cam closer I shot on the Panasonic GH one. So I had to have a lot of sort of lights that just to have a break apart in the shadows.
Jason Buff 21:09
I've always heard that the Blackmagic wasn't that great with shooting in low light, though, right?
David F. Sandberg 21:14
Well, not low light that shadows like so. Okay, in lights up. You know, when she that bedside table lamp. There's actually like a 375 watt bulb, photo bulb. Oh, what I did like, so there's a lot of light, but it's not evenly lit. You know? So I could. And that works out great. So if you're not shooting, if you're not trying to bring the shadows up, but just bringing everything down instead, it works great. So you still need light, but you don't have to evenly light your scene.
Jason Buff 21:59
So that was the same one you had with. Closer, right when you did the trash can thing. Yeah, that really close to lots of space so that everything else would be black. And you would just turn down the the aperture or the
David F. Sandberg 22:14
Yeah, so that one I've used for all of our shorts, except for the very latest one called closet space because that one I used to pocket camera for so what happened was that when we moved over here, I didn't bring my cinema camera. And I was kind of missing my camera almost, you know, when I was over here. So when I got started getting paid for lights out, I bought the pocket camera. And we actually use that on some stuff for lights out the feature. And that's, you know, now since I've been back this weekend, I've actually brought my, the cinema camera with me as well. So I have both the cinema camera and the pocket camera. But they're great cameras.
Jason Buff 23:00
Yeah, I thought it was really interesting on your video talking about the trailer. And by the way, I really I can't tell you how much it means to indie filmmakers to get to see the behind the scenes stuff because it's, you know, you're in a very unique position to be able to let us in on a lot of that stuff. Because we're all kind of watching. And, you know, there's a lot of stuff that that we don't know, you know, and you know, all those videos, like I mean, there's just little tips that are are kind of like, oh, well, I didn't know it was that easy to do that or whatever, you know. But did you have any any resistance to shooting with the pocket cam for those that each hit the like the old eight millimeter super eights.
David F. Sandberg 23:47
The only resistance was that I was shooting it. So what happened was we went to this, like abandoned hospital to shoot some stuff. And um, you know, I was telling them, like the studio, like, you know, I could shoot that myself, you know, I just need the actors and my little pocket camera. And they were like, you know, they didn't really believe in that or something. I don't know. So what happened was, we went there with the whole crew, and shots and stuff with the Alexa and none of that Alexa stuff is in the movie. So like between setups, I would borrow the the cast and just go shoot these little snippets of film. And that's the only thing that wound up in the movie, but the only thing they were sort of afraid of was me shooting it myself just because of union stuff and all that like if it's the cinematographers union would be upset about me shooting stuff myself or something, but I don't know.
Jason Buff 24:47
Yeah, I've heard a lot about ah, I heard some of that, you know, with some of the other stuff that I've been involved with where it was like, I just wanted to go and shoot B roll with a like a five If D or something, yeah. And the cinematographer was kind of like, that's like, you're really not supposed to do that, you know, but when you're used to shooting your own stuff, you don't even think about that kind of thing.
David F. Sandberg 25:12
Yeah, I mean, that that was also the thing with the effects. Because I, we shot, for example, we shot at a school where we weren't allowed to show the name of the school. So I was telling the line producer that, you know, I can just paint that out on my laptop, you know, with open source software. But he was like, No, I mean, it has to go through the proper channels, and we don't have that in the VFX budget. So instead, the production designer had to paint or make a physical sign and actually hang it up over the real sign, which just felt stupid. But then, when we were in post, I did a lot of work. Some, like 15 or so the effects shots myself. And then it was alright, because, you know, the VFX. Guys, you know, unfortunately for them, they don't have a union. So that was sort of all right, with me doing a bunch of VFX shots myself.
Jason Buff 26:10
That kind of gives you the their vote of approval with the stuff that you did.
David F. Sandberg 26:15
Yeah, I mean, no one said anything like we showed it to people like you. I mean, the studio know that I was doing some of the stuff and they didn't mind united for free. So you know, when when?
Jason Buff 26:28
Yeah, were you now one of the things that I see that you use? And you mentioned this in one of your videos, is that you'd like to use open source software like blender?
David F. Sandberg 26:38
Yeah, I mean, that's it started out just because I didn't have any money. And I was homemakers like, Oh, hey, this free software is free. And it was a bit of a learning curve. I think blenders gotten a lot better recently. But you know, since it was free, and was pretty much the only option, I sort of powered through and learned it.
Jason Buff 27:03
Did you just learn by creating projects? or was there some sort of resource that you were using?
David F. Sandberg 27:08
This is sort of a common, I mean, mostly, if I wanted to find out how to do a specific thing I or sort of a specific thing. I just searched YouTube for tutorials on that. Otherwise, it would like blender guru has a lot of cool tutorials. And now on blender nation, you can find a lot of cool stuff as well. So, yeah, but mostly just doing like, trying to find out what can and can't do. Right.
Jason Buff 27:39
Now talking about horror in general, I was wondering if we could talk a little bit about why your shorts, really, I mean, they're very effective in terms of, you know, having a kind of universal idea behind them something that's very much, you know, something that connects with people, you know, no matter where they are. Can you talk a little bit about how you developed your ability to kind of me know, it's not just like cheap jumpscares there's actually some, you know, there's a lot of, you know, story to it, and things that are going on almost subconsciously while you're watching it. How did you kind of develop your technique in terms of, you know, when you're watching the, the short lights out? What What were your influences and things that you were like, Okay, this is how I'm going to, you know, really suck people in and then scare the hell out of them. If that makes sense. It's a long.
David F. Sandberg 28:38
I mean, I, when I started making horror shows with friends, there were a lot of fake blood and stabbing and stuff like that, which I sort of got tired of. And I'm more into sort of suspense and sort of playing with fun ideas and stuff. So I mean, just the main thing with with the short was that, you know, we tried to have not just a bunch of scares, but just have that scare in the beginning to get you on the edge just because then you know, that, okay, anything can jump out at any moment, but then not have another scare until the end. So it's just tension up until that point, because whenever you have a jump scare, you sort of deflate the tension and you have to start over again, you know, because you sort of, you can laugh because you jumped or, or whatever. I don't know, I just just love mood and sort of tension and try to keep that maintain for as long as possible.
Alex Ferrari 29:49
We'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show.
Jason Buff 29:58
Are you thinking to yourself, are you You're kind of like, okay, this is what I want people to be thinking at this moment or feeling at this moment. And just trying to kind of like, I mean, there's a great moment when Lata tapes, the light, and that's kind of like, that's a little bit of comic relief. I think that I mean, I don't know if it was planned like that. And it's very similar to the moment where she drops the, I guess it's like a pearl or something, or the marble or something into the No, yeah, right thing. And there's always there's, there's like, it seems like there's a, it's like, it leads up there's something that's like, okay, we're supposed to sit there and be like, Okay, what, what's going on? What is this? You know, and a lot of it's the thing that I love about your shorts is so much is done with sound? There's not these cheesy FX, you know, CDs, or whatever, you know, I mean, it's all done purely, like quiet, and you just hear these little subtle noises.
David F. Sandberg 30:58
Yeah, I mean, I love playing with expectations. Because there's nothing more boring when you watch a movie and you, you already know, every beat is going to play, you know. So that's what I hope to achieve, to play with extra typical expectations. And that's something very proud of in the feature that they a lot of some of the characters, they don't do the typical stupid horror movie character stuff and get themselves killed. So, you know, people who have seen the film are like, Oh, he's going to die now. And then it turns out, no, he's actually smart, and he's going to get away. But also, as far as the humor, you know, yeah, I've been doing sort of humorous animation for a long time. So I like to have that little bit of humor in it. And, in fact, in lights out nuts, I mean, the tape was definitely supposed to be a little moment, brief moment of humor. But the face at the end, to me was supposed to be humorous as well, because it's this sort of face that turns off the lights, but most people are. They don't see the humor, but
Jason Buff 32:08
Kind of a twisted humor problem.
David F. Sandberg 32:09
Yeah. No, but I like that. Because there's no there's funny moments in the the feature as well. That's, that's not very evident in the trailer they released but people, you know, that that's, I love seeing the future with an audience because they laugh and clap, and they cheer and like, it's the best. It's like horror and comedy, are the best sort of films to see with an audience really?
Jason Buff 32:39
Yeah, I think that one of the things that a lot of horror movies don't get right as the humor, you know, they think that everything is supposed to be just okay, scary. jumpscares you know, somebody's walking with a flashlight, and then jumpscare, and they don't really develop the characters at all, you know, they don't really work on the story, we have,
David F. Sandberg 33:00
I think you need that sort of dynamic range in movies, you know, like, because then, you know, if everything is just depressive darkness, you know, then means you need the lighter moments as well just to have the difference between the two and the same in comedies. If it's just silly the whole time. It's not as good as if you have some emotional depth times you just need variation really. And I think no movies, has this needs to be serious enough that you can have some light moments.
Jason Buff 33:38
What would you consider I was actually watching one of your other interviews, and you mentioned jumpscares that were just kind of cheap. jumpscares Yeah. And I was wondering if you had kind of an example of what is like an urn jumpscare versus one that's just the cheap one thrown in there for effect.
David F. Sandberg 34:00
Now, the cheap ones are the typical, you know, the cat jumping out from a cupboard or something or the friend putting a hand on the shoulder or just stuff that's not that's not part of a scare, you know, like it needs to come from whatever it is that scary. So, I mean, for instance, take an example from James Juan from insidious you know, the Red Demon face. I mean, that sits behind Patrick Wilson.
Jason Buff 34:30
I think that's such a great scene.
David F. Sandberg 34:32
Yeah. Because that's really well made because you have you have her telling the story and setting the mood. And then you even have that sound design that crackly sound design sort of creeping in a little bit for you see the the face. I mean, you can have jumpscares like, I think is one is it Paranormal Activity two or something like that all the cupboards open at once. And it's like, you know, it's just quiet just someone sitting in a kitchen doing nothing, it's just boring. And then bam, all these kitchen cabinets fly open. And, of course, you're going to jump because it's unexpected, but it's not part of, it's not really scary, you know, it's not, it's not building to anything. So I think those are the sort of lace your jumpscares, because you can make people jump there easily, they just have to be unprepared. But to make them to put them in that mood, and then make them jump is a lot more fun and effective.
Jason Buff 35:36
So is there like a choreography to it that you're like, Okay, here's this, like, when you watch and Sidious. And I want to talk about James one and just a second. And, you know, it seems very, you know, I don't know exactly how he approaches it, but it seems like okay, this is we're going to create this jumpscare you know, we're gonna put it together and it's got certain beats to it. Yeah. Is there like, as you're going through the screenplay, and everything are you like, Okay, we need to have, you know, certain moments that are going to be like this, and you just kind of start putting them together? I mean, how does that all work?
David F. Sandberg 36:14
This sort of come naturally from the situation. So that's what I tried to do, at least to just build from the situations the characters are in, and then not to have them just be like a singular scare, but actually haven't be part of a longer sequence. And I think that's sort of James's mo as well to not just have bandages scare, and now it's normal scene, and bam, there's a scare, but it's actually something that builds you have. Things start going crazy. And then they get even creepier, you have a little bit of a scare, and then it just ramps up and it stretches out for longer than just have those brief punctuation scares, you know? Do you work?
Jason Buff 37:02
Are you conscious of the like the compression and expansion of times you're going through like this is gonna go by real fast. And then once we get to this suspenseful scene, let's just drag it out as much as we can.
David F. Sandberg 37:13
Pretty much yeah, we'll just Yeah, I mean, all scenes need, you need to find that sort of rhythm of when to compress and when to expand. But yeah, for when you're when you're in those tense moments, you really want to expand as much as possible without without going overboard, you know, you can have people just walking through a hallway for way too long.
Jason Buff 37:39
You do that in editing, you're just kind of like Okay, let's try it a little shorter. Okay, little Okay, little I mean, do you like, sit there and just nitpick exactly when is the right moment?
David F. Sandberg 37:49
Kinda Yeah, I mean, it's. Yeah, I mean, I have a pretty clear, I plan these things out in advance so much that it's not that much that can change in editing, I guess. But. But yeah, then then it's finding the sound effects as well to work with, and just where the sound design because a lot of movies have that that's something that happened in the initial sound design on the outside as well that they the sound guys were putting in. They were sort of giving away the scares with the sounds like they had sounds building up to a scare or like, they just had a tendency to put in too much sound and telegraphing everything that was going to happen. So that was a bit of a struggle.
Jason Buff 38:37
There's nothing scarier to me than being in a horror film. And all of a sudden, there's like, no sound. I mean, that's the scariest. Yeah, it's scary. She can do because you know, something's gonna happen.
David F. Sandberg 38:47
Yeah, and that was the thing with the music as well for the feature that I didn't want a lot of music for the scarier prospect. We can have use it whenever else. But let's go quiet. And let's just have the scenes play out. As they aren't, you know?
Jason Buff 39:04
Now, moving back, I kind of jumped forward, talking about lights out when that became a big, you know, kind of a viral success. What were you contacted by other people? I mean, what what was that kind of like, when you realize that people were kind of sharing it? I mean, I think it had like, 20,000 or 20 million views or something like like crazy. Yeah.
David F. Sandberg 39:27
Well, first sort of people, just random people contacted us and said, they want to work with us. And you know, like actors and like this one guy who does special effects for movies, like big blockbuster movies. It was like, Hey, I'd love to work with you. And I was like, Yeah, I'd love that too. But, you know, it's just me and locked down on our apartment in Sweden with no money. It's like, how's that going? But then, I actually, you know, we started getting contacted by these people on by journalists and I actually said look like, you know,
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David F. Sandberg 40:11
I've heard that people in Hollywood, you know, get representative, but people get representation from Hollywood, through like viral videos and stuff that agents, managers, you know, look at Vimeo staff pics and stuff like that. And it was just like a day after I said that I woke up and I had my first email from a management company here. And then it was just all at once, like, I got contacted by me, managers and agents and producers and studios. And it was just insane. Like, I had to put together a spreadsheet with everyone I talked to, and what I what was said the last time. And yeah, so we're like, so, you know, first of all, I had to sort of choose manager and agent, which was a great position to be in because I had all these options, but at the same time, I knew nothing about them. Because when you Google these management companies or agencies, you know, they don't they hardly have webpages, because they don't want people contacting them like that. They'll contact you if you've done something they're interested in. Right? So I had a, I got like an IMDb Pro account, so that I could at least see like who these guys were representing. Just to get a feel for who they were. And yeah, it was a crazy time, because because of the time difference, you know, during the day, I just have a normal day. And then during the evening and the night, it was just phone calls with Hollywood every day.
Jason Buff 41:47
So you still had like a normal day job when this was all going on?
David F. Sandberg 41:51
Yeah, I mean, my job at the time was pretty much a freelance animator, right, which is code word for broke. Because I was doing this on my own, and I'm terrible with charging for my work. So they were like, Hey, so how much do you want to make this one minute commercial? And it's like, oh, well, you know, it's not that hard to do. So I can really charge a lot of money for it. And yeah, so. And that guy was, that was the thing as well, that once I picked a manager, they were like, Hey, so can you fly out to LA, because we want you to meet all these people. And you know, go on this, go to all these producers and studios and stuff like that. I'm like, Nope, I don't have money. So all I could do was sort of Skype with people for the time. But then, I got in contact with a producer called Lawrence gray. He was one of the first sort of producers I got in contact with who wants to make something out of lights out. And, you know, as soon as that started coming together, he he paid for me to fly out to LA. So we could meet, you know, James Juan in the studio and get everyone on board. And that when we were out here, that's when I did the whole water bottle tour, as they call it, where you go to all these studios and producers and just have general meetings. And, you know, they offer you a bottle of water. And so yeah, so that
Jason Buff 43:26
How was that. I mean, was that like a total cultural shock for you?
David F. Sandberg 43:30
Yeah. I didn't know what you're supposed to do. But this is just a general meeting. So it's like, they just, they ask about you. And you know what, who you are and like, what you want to do. And then they give you their spiel about who they are, what they do. And then you can get their business card, and it's like, hey, let's keep in touch or something and you walk out over sometimes they might send you a script or something like, Hey, maybe this script is something for you. Yeah, but I just, yeah, it was all new. And then that's the thing as well, that after. So we were out here for a little over a week, I think. And one of the last scheduled things was to meet new line in the studio that was interested in, in doing lights out. And so after every general meeting, my agents would talk to, you know, like, checkup and also how was that the feedback they got was that I was very sort of reserved, and that, you know, I didn't talk a lot because, you know, I was very Swedish. And
Jason Buff 44:38
What do you want?
David F. Sandberg 44:39
Yeah. So, so I got this call from my agent that were my managers and they were telling me that you know, it's important when you meet the studio now that you know, you can show them that you're that you can be captain of the ship, you know, that you can be a director, take charge and it's like, Ah, I don't know how to do that. I just, you know, tried my best to just talk a lot and be, you know, I was sort of telling them about this. YouTube short, I made the got banned from YouTube because it was had a lot of, you know, giant dicks and vaginas and a lot of sex and stuff in it. You know, that made him laugh. So, you know, and you know, I got to break the movie, so must have done something, right.
Jason Buff 45:26
But your manager was like, Okay, that was a little too far. Stone it down now.
David F. Sandberg 45:30
Well, they weren't there. They just knew that. They called me. Well, yeah, they just called me back after I heard you killed it. Okay.
Jason Buff 45:40
So that was with new line. Yeah. Okay. So that how did these these, the project comes together? You're talking to the executives? I mean, you know, where does Where does James one come into the picture with all this?
David F. Sandberg 45:55
Well, it actually started with when I was talking to all these people in Hollywood, I, one of the managers I talked to had this client who had written a script that I really loved. Because I, you know, even before all this happened, I'd read a lot of scripts, like I, you know, every year they have the blacklist with the most read scripts, and most liked scripts in Hollywood, or whatever. So I'd made sure every year to find downloads of of the scripts, so I could read them just to see what good scripts are like. And this guy had written one of those blacklist scripts, a horror script that I really liked. So I got in touch with him, and started talking about lightside. Because when we made the short, we had no idea what what a feature would be, because we didn't expect to make a feature out of it. So I started talking to this writer here in LA, who had an idea for it. But his idea was very big. And I felt like, I don't think I could, I don't think I could handle that as my first movie. And I don't think people would give me that kind of budget, you know, just coming from having done nothing to do such a big thing. So instead, I had this idea of making a smaller, sort of more family based story that could be made for less money, which that writer wasn't as interested in. But that writer put me in touch with Lawrence Gray, the producer, and Lawrence Gray was still interested in that idea. So I wrote a treatment based on that idea, like a 15 page treatment or something. And Lawrence, new James won, like he had a meeting with him, and they want to do find something to do together. And he felt that this could be it. So he sent my treatment to James to read, which he liked. So that's when they flew me out here to LA to meet with James. And so we did that. And then because James has his relationship in new line, that's how they came in, you know, they, they work together a lot. And James has now his production company at the Warner a lot to make, you know, this kind of low budget horror movies with newline. And it just came together really fast and really smoothly. And people kept telling me, you know, that don't get used to that, because that's usually not how it happens. But yeah, it just worked out really well.
Jason Buff 48:35
You off the topic? Do you ever deal with like trolls and people who are just kind of being jerks about like, I mean, it is kind of a rapid rise to that kind of thing.
David F. Sandberg 48:47
That's what I was expected that people would sort of hate me because I got this that I got this lucky, you know, people should hate that. But instead, people at least on YouTube, and all the comments I've read, people are like, Hey, I'm so proud of you and like, yay. Like, oh, okay, great. Like, that doesn't seem to be jealousy. There's seems more to be like, Oh, hey, one of us actually got in the door of, of Hollywood, you know? Yeah. Which is how I feel about it, because I certainly don't feel Yeah.
Jason Buff 49:23
Well, I mean, I think if you had a you know, if you came out with sunglasses on, you're just like, you know, being all egotistical. Yay. I was a nice guy. What happened to the Vimeo guy that I used to? Screw you guys now I'm a big time player. No.
David F. Sandberg 49:40
Like, just the other day I was meeting with this actress for potentially for Annabelle, too. And, of course, they set up this meeting at Chateau Margaux Chateau Marmont year where you know you're supposed to meet celebrities
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David F. Sandberg 50:08
And he's just just so awkward. Like he was like, she was like, Oh, well, let me give you my email and she put out her hand to sue. Because you want me to give her my phone to her. But when she stretched out her hand, I was like, Oh, she wants to shake my hand. Okay, so I shake her hand. It's like, she was like, No, your phones like, oh, okay, so, yeah, I think I'm always going to be that awkward.
Jason Buff 50:38
That probably I mean, you know, once you've have one, you've got one on your, you know, behind you. I think the next one, you're going to be a little more like, okay, the step I'm getting, you're gonna find your comfort zone, you know?
David F. Sandberg 50:49
Yeah, hopefully, it's just Yeah, it's weird. It feels like I'm just going along with everything. And just, okay. No, no, yeah. So far.
Jason Buff 51:00
I mean, I certainly can't speak from, you know, experience with that. But LA is a very bizarre town to, you know, which is the way people act. And I mean, I was, I was a, you know, lowest I was working as like a PA on stuff. And, you know, there was just this whole way that people talk and act that I just couldn't ever wrap my head around, you know, because I come from the south, and we're just kind of say, we, I don't know, it's just a different world.
David F. Sandberg 51:25
Yeah. And it's weird as far as like, I hope I don't turn into an asshole. But like, I mean, I started I get a lot of people were sending me like their shorts, like, Hey, can you watch my short or they send me scripts and stuff like that. And, you know, I watch them. But now the more time goes on, I'm getting so many shorts sent to me, like, I don't have time to watch them all. It's like, sorry, you know, like, yeah, I want to be a nice guy and helpful, but I just don't have the time.
Jason Buff 52:01
Now. Well, let me let me ask you a question about that. You know, you're you're in a situation now where you're seeing a lot of shorts. And your shorts were they were all very effective. What are the things that you see with people who are making maybe indie films, indie horror films, and making shorts and things like that, that maybe, is kind of like mistakes that you see people making in terms of, you know, not being really effective, as, you know, maybe jumpscares, or being scary or whatever, because there's a lot of filmmakers out there, making shorts trying to do what you're doing. And it's just not quite hitting the nail on the head.
David F. Sandberg 52:42
I mean, I'd say the biggest problem that I see is that they're too long, or that they don't get to it quickly enough. Even even the ones that are just three minutes or something like, I feel like with attention spans today, and especially online, you have to you have to keep up the pace. And just I think timing is just the biggest issue. The second biggest is probably sound that people don't, you know, spend enough time on sound like the lot of shorts can look great, because you have all these cameras and tools these days to make them look really expensive. But then people don't pay as much attention to sound and timing and sound. I'd say,
Jason Buff 53:29
What did you use to like? You? I assume you had like a digital recorder? Yeah. When you were shooting did you What did you use for like the kind of jumps those those sounds?
David F. Sandberg 53:42
Well, actually, I believe they didn't have for all of these shorts, I don't record sound when we're shooting, I replace all the sound in post. And that's something I started doing. As soon as I could edit, digitally, like on a computer, that's how I did it just replace every sound, even the dialogue just to have that control. Like, I may not be necessary to be that anal about it. But you know, that's that's been how I work with it. So and also I've always wanted to make sure that I could put these up without any copyright issues and stuff like that. So I've always been sort of afraid of like sound effects libraries or royalty free music and stuff like that, in case they weren't actually royalty free and stuff like that. So I've made a point of trying to record as much sound myself as that I can and just try and make my own music even even though it's not great. It's at least I know I can use it as much as I want. But yeah, I've just I have for a while there I used to record a lot of sounds just on my little I had assumed h four and just brought it with me When I was going places just because hey, maybe I'll find a cool sound.
Jason Buff 55:06
Yeah, like Ben Burtt. Sorry. Are you a fan of Ben Burtt?
David F. Sandberg 55:11
Yeah, absolutely. He's awesome. But yeah, just trying to gather as much sounds as I can keep in my little library.
Jason Buff 55:23
Do you? One of the things that I think is also really effective is not showing the monster, you know? Yeah. That I've seen a couple of shorts recently, where it was like, Oh, okay. That was the, that's the thing that we're supposed to be afraid of. And you look at it and kind of like, okay, that's quite, you know, no,
David F. Sandberg 55:41
Yeah, like we did this shortcode coffer where I kind of kind of regret showing a monster at the end there, because I don't think it was needed. But yeah, in general, I try to not show it as much. And even in the feature, you don't see a lot of the what she actually looks like. Because I mean, you're what you imagined something to be is always going to be scarier than whatever rubber suit you get made. Even though you have even though we had like, Oscar winning makeup artists created, you know? Yeah, I remember,
Jason Buff 56:15
I think it was Spielberg who was always saying that, you know, your what you bring, it doesn't matter how scary the monster is, what you have in your head is always going to be a lot scarier than anything we can create on screen.
David F. Sandberg 56:26
Yeah, I'm I. I'm a big believer in that.
Jason Buff 56:30
So I want to get into a little bit about talking with James one. And if you could describe meeting with him, because we your sounded very casual about that. But I mean, I think that for most of us, it would be kind of a big deal to meet, you know, somebody like James Wan, and to be able to kind of just see how his mind works. Can you talk a little bit about that?
David F. Sandberg 56:51
Well, there's a lot going on in his mind. I mean, that first time I met him, he was just, he had so many ideas. Like he was just saying, Hey, we do this, maybe that happened, maybe this could be that. And they were. So like, far apart from each other. And like from I mean, some were like, totally sort of opposite from the treatment I had, while others were very much in line with it. But it's like, so walking out of that meeting. I was like, am I supposed to incorporate ideas into the script or into the story? Because I can't do that. Like, there's just so many and so varied, you know, but he just has a lot of ideas. Now, but that first meeting was great, except for just freaking out with all the ideas he had. I mean, yeah, he's cool. I mean, he sort of started out with a short as well, I mean, saw as a short and about to make a feature over here. And yeah, it was just telling me a lot about just just to have fun with it. Because it's it's weird business in a weird process. So, but couldn't really listen to that on lifestyle, because I was freaking out, like, Oh, this is my chance, chance, I better make it awesome. Maybe for maybe for anabol be able to be a little more relaxed and have fun with it.
Jason Buff 58:18
What did you I mean, psychologically, was what did you have to do to kind of just say, Okay, I'm going to deal with this and just kind of move forward. And even though things are freaking me out? Um, I mean, did, I'm sure there was a certain aspect of your personality that was like, that has like this imposter syndrome, which is something we all have, oh, yeah. You know, of like, walking in somewhere and being like, Oh, well, you know, I'm just waiting for these guys to figure out that, you know, I'm a fake or whatever, you know, and that's not just, I mean, that's everybody's kind of has that, you know? Yeah, absolutely.
David F. Sandberg 58:51
And I mean, especially with this, it's like, how come they're letting me do this, like, do they? I have more experience than I actually do? Because I think maybe it was an advantage. But I was from Sweden. So for all they know, I could be huge in Sweden and have a big career there. But so, yeah, I mean, I just was this weird feeling of just going along with everything, just, you know, just like, there was no way to prepare. So it's just alright, I'll just go along and try to figure things out as best I can try to be as prepared as possible, do a lot of storyboards and just figure everything out as much as possible in advance. And there's just so much weirdness. Like when we've a little over a year ago, when we first got here. I was invited to this, you know, like I'm with the same agency as James Wan. And Furious seven had recently came out were made like a billion dollars or something. So a lot and I were invited to this party in James's honor. And we had just gotten here and that wasn't on film wasn't good. mean like, yeah, so we had no money.
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David F. Sandberg 1:00:12
Like, we had borrowed from our families as much as we could, just to, you know, buy food and stuff. So we had no money at all. And we got invited to this party in this mansion in Beverly Beverly Hills, you know, and it's like, you know, Vin Diesel was there and Adrian Brody and it's like, What the hell are we doing here? It felt like we'd snuck into this thing. And so we were just sort of standing there talking to me that each other in Swedish, like keeping this appearance up of just casually talking, but we were just saying things like, This is so fucking weird. Like, what are we doing here? Like we, you know,
Jason Buff 1:00:49
Like, Oh, hey, Vin Diesel, how's it going?
David F. Sandberg 1:00:53
And I mean that that weirdness just hasn't stopped. Like when we went to cinema con recently because now we're doing publicity for light sound. Now we got to go on a private plane charted by Warner Brothers, you know, and diverse, like Samuel Jackson and Christoph Waltz. And just all these celebrities, Jared Leto, and on a private plane going to Vegas, this is so weird, like, I how can you can you ever get used to this?
Jason Buff 1:01:27
Is there anything that like kind of being in that world that surprised you that you kind of didn't think would be the way it actually is? It's kind of a vague question. But yeah, I mean, are people just kind of are people that are like that, you know, celebrities and stuff. When you're kind of hanging out at that level? Is it like, are they just kind of down to earth? And just like, kind of well, I mean, yeah,
David F. Sandberg 1:01:53
Well, I don't dare to talk to them anyways. Yeah, I talked to two Swedish celebrities, just briefly, Alexander Skarsgard. And Joel Kinnaman. But otherwise, it's like, I just feel so out of place that I can you know, I just keep them myself. Yeah. Yeah. But they seem like normal people, I guess. Yeah.
Jason Buff 1:02:17
Now, I want to go a little into pre production. And just talk about that a little bit. What was involved? How long was that process? Was it like, Okay, this is, when you're setting it all out? I assume that just from a complete, outsider's point of view, you've got I mean, who who's kind of your chief person that you're leaning on? Are you dealing with like a line producer? Are they giving you a certain you've got? Okay, this is your certain amount of time that you have to work on this. You're working on the screenplay with your writer? I mean, how is how does basically, pre production all come together? And then, you know, what are the kind of ways that you know, what are the things that you're doing? Yeah,
David F. Sandberg 1:02:58
I mean, first is sort of like a soft prep, I guess, when you're still just figuring out the screenplay. And you're sort of people are slowly starting to get hired like, yeah, line producers is was the one you sort of talked to a lot during pre production. And then all of a sudden, we, you know, you have a pre production office with all these people. And yeah, I mean, my first sort of thought before all of this was like, is this just going to be like me stepping onto a film set, and not knowing what the hell's going to happen or how things work. But during prep, I don't know how many, like real prep weeks, we had six, seven, or something on lights. But during prep, there's so much going through everything that once you get on set you you know, the movie Inside Out, you know, you have all these you do camera tests, you do like tech scouts, where you go through, you know, the whole location and just tell everyone, everything that's going to be shot and how it's going to be shot. And so it's just a lot of preparing and a lot of answering questions, because that's something that newline told me before it all started, like I went to dinner with these two executives, and they were like, you're gonna get a lot of questions, just answer them right away. Don't let them pile up until this big thing because even if you answer them wrong, we can always fix that on set. And all the questions were like, you know, what kind of car does this person drive what kind of shovel this this person pick up? And this seemed like stuff like that. Like there's a shot where someone picks up a shovel. So you get presented with like five different shovel options. And it's like, yeah, I want that shovel. And it's just so much weird. So many questions and it like it started. A gun burned out on giving answers. So I was actually buying a hamburger late one evening, and I like couldn't decide on the menu which burger to get. So I like I called my lockdown my wife and I was like, hey, just tell me what burger to get because I, I'm done with answers now so it's just, yeah, a lot of going through everything and figuring everything out lots of answering questions. And the weird thing on LightSail was that there was some casting issues. That ate up a lot of the pre production time, unfortunately. So, for example, Teresa Palmer wanted to do it pretty early on. But then there were some issues. Like, for example, we found out that she didn't actually have a visa, or like a work visa, because she's Australian. So like, she's married to an American. So we all figure like, well, she, you know, she's married to them. But it turned out that she, like, you have to be in the country for a certain number of days, consecutive days. And because she's an accuracy travels all over all the time. So she hasn't had that opportunity yet. So while that was figured out, we had to look for others. And yeah, was this whole thing where people got canceled very late. In fact, Maria Bello was cast, like a week or two into shooting the movie. So the first time I actually met her was like, five minutes before her first scene. So it's like, Oh, hey, nice to meet you. And action. So I was really lucky in the fact that we had such great actors that, you know, it's not like we needed all of that prep, like, they got into it really quickly. And were awesome. Because, you know, newline was saying, like, Yeah, this is the first time we've never had a table read before a shoe, because we just didn't have the cast. Oh, wow. And it also meant that, like Billy Burke is in the film, and he was cast even later than Maria Bello that he plays her husband. So all the, like, family photos in the house had to be just green pieces of paper, and then we'd have to, you know, put that post. So that was insane. But it worked out.
Jason Buff 1:07:25
Well talk a little bit about I think one of the things that intimidates directors, it certainly does me is the idea of, you know, working with an actor who is at that level, you know, what did you learn by, you know, working with those people? And what kind of what things can you share about what you learned about the directing actors?
David F. Sandberg 1:07:47
Well, I mean, something I've learned since I was younger, it's just that you're never going to get what's in your head, like, you have this sort of vision, about, I mean, the whole movie, really, but with accuracy, as well, that you hear them in your head saying things a certain way. But you're never gonna get that. I mean, if you try to just get them to say exactly this in exactly this way, it's just not going to be good. So my approach is just to go sort of, to not go against the grain and let the actors sort of find, or whatever. So for the first, like, for the first take, and not give them much direction at all, and just see what, what would come out of them. And if it was too far from what I wanted, we'd talk about it and we'd try it again, you know, but, yeah, in general, I just, I mean, they were so great that it was just, it wasn't very difficult. It wasn't like I had to pull a good performance out of it just sort of came naturally. And we just did. tweaked it a little bit. Yeah. But yeah, it was sort of intimidating. Like you know, Maria Bella, which I'm a huge fan of John she's in love a history of violence, which he's in and like, she's a nurse and all that. And, but, you know, she's like Karachi, come in and just nail it. And she would also sort of talk about, like, almost give tips or like, when she was walking working with Gabrielle cool kid in the film, she sort of come over to me and like, you know, he's doing this, this, maybe you can talk to him about that. So, which is very helpful.
Jason Buff 1:09:34
Yeah, I've found also that on some of the indie, you know, really low budget stuff. If you have one really good actor in there. A lot of times they kind of become the default, like acting teacher for everybody. So it's like, if you have a film, get at least one. I mean, you and your case, you've got a bunch of great actors.
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Jason Buff 1:10:01
But I mean, in that case, it's like, everybody's game goes up when you have somebody who is really,
David F. Sandberg 1:10:06
Yeah. Maria and and Teresa, lay mother and daughter were just awesome. Like, we have this scene where they're sort of a little bit of an emotional scene between them. And it's like, everyone who was there and saw that it was just like, yes, we, we, we got it, you know, this is, this is gonna be great. Because they just play off each other really well.
Jason Buff 1:10:32
And you can just sit back and go look at what a good director I
David F. Sandberg 1:10:36
It was a little bit like that, because we have the we're shooting this we're shooting this argument at a dinner table. And we were shooting a sort of handheld, sort of free flowing. And you know, sitting by the monitor, looking at that sort of handheld argument with great acting was like she just feels like the last one, three or four or something like, awesome.
Jason Buff 1:11:02
They were like who? That some Swedish guy? Yeah. Well, cool. Yeah, that's, I mean, I'm just kind of amazed. I'm kind of living vicariously through this through everything. You're saying,
David F. Sandberg 1:11:17
You know, what I want to I plan on doing a bunch of YouTube videos just talking about all this because it's stuff that I would want to know, like, how does this happen? And how, what's the process like? And I really want to talk about that. But most of that will have to be after the movie comes out, just because I want to go so in depth with the whole thing. You know what? Yeah, story points and everything?
Jason Buff 1:11:40
No, that would be amazing. You know, it's one of the difficult things I'm doing. You know, this is probably the first time I've talked to a filmmaker about a film that hasn't come out. Usually what we would do is just kind of jump in, start dissecting everything. You know, but I'm really looking forward to hearing hopefully, yeah, that'd be great. If you could just kind of explain the experience and put things together. Yeah, um, I just want to make sure that I've got a bunch of questions here. How are you doing for time? You okay?
David F. Sandberg 1:12:06
I have the whole day.
Jason Buff 1:12:08
Okay. Yeah, this will be our first 24 hour. Yeah, we'll just sit here. People will tune out. Now, let me see here. I've got a bunch of different things. I wanted to continue talking a little bit. I don't know how, you know, I talked to, I've talked to a number of filmmakers who have worked with, you know, kind of people that have big names in horror. Right now, I talked to Daniel Stam about making The Last Exorcism with Eli Roth and James Wan and Eli Roth are kind of in similar stratosphere is right now in terms of the horror world? Was he kind of, you know, hands on with stuff when he come on set. And one of the things that I was thinking about was like, you know, wouldn't it be cool if you're working on a horror film? And you could say, I wonder how James Wan would do this thing. And then you just say, Well, let me give him a call and like, let him see this or whatever. Were there any like moments like that? Where you're like, let me let me kind of see what's in his head, how would we put this together to be better or, or was there anything like that?
David F. Sandberg 1:13:10
A little bit of I mean, he, he's a really busy guy. He wasn't around all the time. But he did come by the set a few times. And he did have a lot of input, like, it gives me sort of his input, like, you know, maybe you can shoot this scene all in sort of one tape, because that is usually very effective when when you don't cut a lot when you have these sort of scary sequences. So we try that and nothing he didn't come in and sort of come with come up with some advice. And he in pre production, he was around for a little bit as well and had some ideas. Like, if you've seen the trailer, you've seen the there's a neon sign gag, you know, that neon sign goes on and off, and she sort of blinks in and out. That was actually his idea, because my original idea was that it would be cars going by outside and the sort of headlights would sort of sweep across the room. And that's how she would sort of appear and disappear. But the neon sign was a really cool thing because you get more of that on off thing instead of this, this sweeping light. did make it hard to shoot though, because, you know, a neon sign would be on a set time interval. So at first we tried shooting it like okay, it's four minutes, four seconds on four seconds off. And Teresa would have to sort of act to that number. It's like okay, so the first time it goes off, you do this and second time you do this and it just didn't work. So what we had to do was I would just call out on or off so I would watch her performance and it's like okay, now it'd be good if it came on now would be good if it came off. But But So I was sort of afraid that people would go, what the hell's wrong with that neon sign? Because that sometimes it's all for 10 seconds. Sometimes it's all for one second, but no one's that seen the movie so far is complaint. So, yeah, it worked out.
Jason Buff 1:15:16
Did you ever talk to him about any of his films like The Conjuring? Or insidious? Or any of those? Or did you have any? Like, I would just be like, I would have like a million questions. It'd be like, Okay, I don't want to work with this guy anymore. Just leave me alone. Did you like ever kind of talk about his stuff? Because I mean, obviously, you know, when I watched lights out, the first kind of idea I had was, this is kind of in the same genre, kind of in the same mindset is insidious. And I don't know if insidious, I don't know, which came before or whatever. But did that did his films influenced you?
Or saw obviously,
David F. Sandberg 1:15:55
I'm sure they did. But what we mostly talked about, I think was saw just because that was his, that was the closest to my experience, because that was his first movie, his first time sort of coming to LA and doing all of that. So he would talk about, you know, the difficulties of getting the app made and just Yeah, trying trying to give as much advice as he could on just how to get through your your first movie, but I mean, his was a little bit different as well, because he, like he couldn't get into the country right away. So like, he had to do like all the pre production from he was stuck up in Canada waiting for his visa. So he, you know, he had like, a couple of days of prep on site before they had to start shooting. So yeah, I'm really glad that didn't happen to me. And yeah, no, we didn't really talk about stuff like that, he would sort of just give more of a general advice, like, you know, try to shoot more overlapping stuff. Because I, I'm so used to shooting and editing myself. So I'll only shoot like, okay, now I know that I'm going to cut to this and then I'm going to cut back. So I don't need all that. But so he was sort of adamant that no, but try to actually shoot everything through because she don't know what happens in edited and stuff like that.
Jason Buff 1:17:26
When you were on set, who was the guy that kind of I mean, did you have a pretty good relationship with your assistant director? Was there was it? Did you feel pretty comfortable after a while? Yeah.
David F. Sandberg 1:17:38
Yeah, no, I've got along great with everyone. And he's my assistant director is coming back on Annabelle to like, I have no idea. That's the first time I've ever worked with an assistant director. So it's good or not, but I liked him. He's coming back. No, it's just the first time working with every one really, like I've never had an someone else edit what I've shot before. So that was weird, or someone else should shoot when I'm making. So a lot of times it was almost like, oh, just let me do it. You know? Yeah.
Jason Buff 1:18:15
Did you kind of sit in video village and just kind of watch from there? Or did you actually get up and derive a camera?
David F. Sandberg 1:18:22
Yeah, I'm always sort of near the camera. I only look at a monitor. I mean, I usually just look at the focus pullers monitor because it was closer. I didn't want to go all the way to video village. But yeah, I mean, the good thing about the editing was that I've never edited with Avid on the AVID. So so even if I wanted to take over I didn't know that software at all. So I just had to sort of talk to the editor instead.
Jason Buff 1:18:57
What was that process? Like? I mean, how did you? I was it when did they start editing before you finished directing? What was what was kind of the timeline on that?
David F. Sandberg 1:19:08
No, they were editing while we were shooting, you know, like they got material continuously. So as soon as we wrapped production, I, you know, went to the post production office, and I could see the first cut of the movie. And I got super depressed. This is the worst thing ever. And everyone was telling me that that's how everyone feels. But good now starts the real work, you know, to make it into a good movie because everyone's saying like, well, you know, when Ben Affleck saw the first cut of Argo, he was like my career's over and then he won Oscars and stuff. And it really is like that because you have while you're shooting and you have this vision in your head.
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David F. Sandberg 1:20:03
And then you see what someone else has put together? And it's like, oh, no, I wouldn't have put that there. And that, you know, it's all. It's not at all what you'd expect, you get really depressed. But you just you keep working at it, you take things out, you move things around, and you tweak it. And then eventually, it's like, hey, this isn't bad. But yeah, and I mean, I got really depressed during the shooting as well. Because here's, the thing is that whenever we make our shorts, Latina, halfway through the short, I'll just be now this is shit. I don't want to do this. And she'll have to convince me that, no, we're actually going to finish this. And then we do and then it actually you're like, hey, this is bad. You know, we've actually made something cool. And that happened on lights out as well. But because it was a feature in my first Hollywood film and everything, it was so much worse, like, I got so depressed for a while there in the middle was like, this isn't fun at all. Like, I don't want to make movies. And yeah, and the producers took me out to dinner to sort of cheer me up and talk about it. And that's the whole Ben Affleck Argo thing came up there as well as like, he was unlike it when it's finished. Yeah, and I got back to it and powered through and then got fun again, and it turned into a good movie, but it was just so overwhelming, you know, working with all these people and being like, question on the camera stuff that I was talking about before and just, it was so overwhelming and just so much work, you know, you work 15 hour day, so you you really become depressed. But then once it's over, you're like, Yeah, let's do that again. It's weird.
Jason Buff 1:21:54
Do you remember a moment when you really started feeling that depression? I mean, was it just things weren't coming together the way you wanted them to?
David F. Sandberg 1:22:03
Yeah, we're just I don't know exactly what it was. It was just dealing with so much. At once, and then those really long hour days. I think I was the most depressed after like, a 15 hour day, came home at night. It's like this. I can't I can't do it, you know,
Jason Buff 1:22:25
Just from exhaustion.
David F. Sandberg 1:22:27
Yeah, I think that was a big part of it. Because I can't really point to one thing was like, Oh, that just fucked everything up. And yeah, it's just hard to get through. But yeah, I did. It's,
Jason Buff 1:22:39
I mean, I think that's really super important for other filmmakers also to hear, you know, because not many people will, you know, they don't talk about that aspect of it that, you know, and you can look back through time, I mean, look at, you know, Star Wars or all these, you know, amazing films, I was listening to some interview, I think with Robert Rodriguez about talking with Quentin Tarantino, and how depressed he was that pulp fiction was just this piece of shit. And he was like, so depressed about it. And he's like, it's doesn't make any sense. And it's the done whatever, you know, and it's like, it seems like a pretty common thread with, you know, making a film that you you will go through that, you know, yeah, even the shorts, like you said, like, the short too. Yeah,
David F. Sandberg 1:23:22
I mean, the most important thing is to not give up even though I mean, when you're in that moment, you are 100% sure that this is never going to be good that this is going to be shit. So it's really hard to continue, especially if you're making a low budget, no budget thing at home, because then it's easy. It's just not was, you know, go watch Game of Thrones, or, you know, do something else instead. But you just really have to power through and get it done because you you can't know how you will feel about it when it's done while you're in the making of you just can't even though you're 100% convinced that you can. Alright.
Jason Buff 1:24:03
Now, I'm just curious how old were you when you made lights up? The short?
David F. Sandberg 1:24:09
So I was How old are you? I'm 35. So 33 and 3233. Okay, I guess it was at the end of the deadline for that competition that we entered it in was December 30 2013. And then it went viral in the spring of 2014. Right.
Jason Buff 1:24:35
Well, can you uh, was there any day in particular that sticks out? That was like the hardest day you ever had on the set?
David F. Sandberg 1:24:45
I mean, I guess it must have been about 15 hour day when we were just trying to pick as the we actually shot the finale of the film, or a big sort of scene pretty early. Leon, that's what took so much time, it was so hard. And yeah, I don't know, if it was the same day, maybe it was the same day. But when when we're having a big argument with the camera team as well, because we were shooting one of those scenes with the neon light when she disappears, you know, so you have to shoot, you have to lock the camera off, shoot it with the performer, and then shoot it without the performer. So you can do that the effects thing of her going in and out. And they were. So we've moved the camera, and then we were going to shoot one more time of her appearing and disappearing. And they were telling me that no, but we already shot the clean clean plate. And I was like, but we've moved the camera, we're gonna have to do another clean plate. And they were kept telling me that. But we already have we shot it before. And I was like, eventually I just snapped and I was like, just put the camera here. Turn it on. And now you come in here and now you okay, not roll the camera, cut it and like I just had to take over and be Yeah, I was kind of mad.
Jason Buff 1:26:15
Do you have what looking back now on the process and kind of being a little more weathered? I mean, do you feel like you changed a lot from the first day to the last day in terms of just the way you were doing things?
David F. Sandberg 1:26:29
Yeah, and I just just realizing how much you can ask for or demand even. Because it was this whole thing that I've talked about. I've talked about reasonably where like, I wanted this scene to be shot with candle light. Like the little boy Gabriel, he has a candle walking through the house. And everyone was telling me like, No, you can't do that you got to light and you got to light it properly. Okay, and but then James came to the set that they were shooting that and he was like, Hey, you should like that. But just a candle. And everyone was like, oh, okay, great. Great. We'll do that. So it's like,
Jason Buff 1:27:10
Mr. Wong, sure. Whatever you say? Yeah. So
David F. Sandberg 1:27:13
I've just realized that you can demand more. And something I discovered as well was, sometimes when I was just tired and things weren't going as well as I wanted to, I'd be like, Alright, that's good enough. Let's move on. But then everyone would be like, good enough. No, like, that's like the worst thing you can tell the film crew that it's just good enough? Because they want it to be really good.
Jason Buff 1:27:37
Did you say that on the air? It's good enough?
David F. Sandberg 1:27:40
It did. And I got that reaction. It's like, what do you mean, good enough? Like,
Jason Buff 1:27:45
I'm Swedish, but I mean, something else? Does we say it a different way? That it sound bad? I don't know.
David F. Sandberg 1:27:50
Yeah. So it's just realizing how much you can actually demand or sort of get people to do, because the thing is, well, is that no one on set is going to care as much about the film as you do, just because for most of these people, for most of the crew, it's just another job, you know, like, there's another movie, and they'll just soon move on to another thing. So of course, if there's an easy way to do it, then that means they'll go home to their families earlier. And you know, you can't blame him for that. But sometimes, you have to do things the hard way that the way that will take a lot of time just to get it right. And, yeah, that's sort of learned to demand that I guess.
Jason Buff 1:28:34
I mean, as far as I've seen, with a lot of, you know, these films, the director is usually the one person who has the least experience of being on a set. Yeah, you know, because all these other guys have been working for years, as you know, crew members, and it's doing stuff.
David F. Sandberg 1:28:49
That's a weird thing. Like, there's two jobs on a film set you can get with no experience in PA and the director. We were just super weird to be on that film set and feel. I mean, it's reassuring as well to feel that you were the least experienced, because I believe everyone else has made movies before. Yeah, it's really good that a director can get that shot, while others have to do go the long way, you know, to get good at cinematographer, or you know, it's a strange business.
Jason Buff 1:29:27
Well, you kind of see that going right and going wrong with different people, you know, because there's a lot of directors who are around now that's I mean, I look at like Gareth Edwards for example is probably one of the closest examples to kind of your story you know, which was he made he went out and was making stuff on his own and then you know, he made monsters with a little you know, the ATX X something the Sony with a lettuce 50 millimeter on his you know, and then just took it into, I mean, I see a lot of similarities with with what you guys Done.
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Jason Buff 1:30:11
And he, he was the one that kind of inspired me to kind of get back into filmmaking after, you know, I've been doing graphic design for years. And I was like, wow, look at what this guy did, and just kind of shot handheld and put all the effects in with motion tracking and everything. And then I saw what you did. And when I first discovered your videos, I didn't know that you were making a feature. I think the first time I saw lights out you had already you were already in LA, you were already making it, you know, so I didn't even know that part of the story after it.
David F. Sandberg 1:30:40
Yeah, no, I mean, it's quite interesting that there's so Hollywood seems to be so prepared to take chances on new directors, which is probably a bad idea. Sometimes, I wouldn't have given me a movie because that's the thing back in Sweden, where we couldn't get money, you know, I went to one of the film centers in Sweden, and want to get like, a couple of grand to make a short. And they thought that they said that I wasn't experienced enough to apply for the sort of professional money. And they said, yeah, maybe you can apply for the rookie money. But the rookie money were was for people under 30. So suddenly, I was like, Okay, I'm too old. For the rookie money. I'm too inexperienced for professional money. So what do I do now? While Hollywood? You know, they see a two and a half minute short, I directed and they're like, Hey, here's $5 million. direct a movie. And I was talking to a DP who shot a single man, among other films. He's from Spain. And he was saying the same thing like he was 27. And no one in Spain wanted to take a chance on him as a DP. But in Hollywood, they were like, Yeah, you can DP a single man. So for some reason, they're stupid enough to take chances on people.
Jason Buff 1:32:04
Do you find that like, I mean, what did you notice? When you are in that world of producers and executives and stuff? Are they kind of dialed into that whole world of YouTube people? And Vimeo? I mean, is that kind of Yeah, that they really started focusing on finding their next people from them? And obviously with you?
David F. Sandberg 1:32:24
Yeah. No, that's something I've discovered here. Like, you hear a lot of talk about what's currently the, you know, the viral video or Yeah, people get discovered from that a lot. It seems I mean, I don't seems to still be pretty rare that one goes to a feature, but you can still, you know, get in a room and get meetings and people and maybe representation by doing shorts, because they seem to keep track of what's out there. And what's popular
Jason Buff 1:32:54
With Nate would talk to you about your shorts when I mean, and I don't know if you and James talked about this, but were were they commenting on the amount of views that had and the the amount of like the viral sensation, or did they specifically say Oh, well, this guy knows what he's doing. Because look at this short and look at these things that he you know, these are kind of advanced things that you were doing versus somebody who just started doing, you know,
David F. Sandberg 1:33:19
Yeah, I don't think they cared that much about the views just sort of the effectiveness of the film. Really. Um, then I know James was at first a little hesitant because he was like, yeah, it's a cool short, but can this guy tell like a 90 minute story, which is, you know, the treatment I wrote was what? Persuade him it's like, that's what made him go okay. This guy. No longer storytel Darling as well. Yeah.
Jason Buff 1:33:52
Did you when you were after the treatment it what was is the the actual screenplay pretty, pretty much what you had in that treatment, or was it changed?
David F. Sandberg 1:34:03
It's out of here. Eric Kaiser who wrote the screenplay, kept very close to that treatment. In fact, there's even like, ended up treatment were bits of dialogue and stuff that actually made it through to the film as well. Like, there was one scene in there where we needed like a little scene between Teresa and her boyfriend. And sort of like a placeholder, I wrote this scene where they have a, like, an argument about a sock, or whatever, that actually made it through the film. Like I was convinced that that would be the first thing that he would throw out. But he kept it in. So yeah, good. Pretty close.
Jason Buff 1:34:43
Was there ever a moment when you you were considering or you thought about actually writing the screenplay for it? Or did they want to just go with somebody that was a little more seasoned?
David F. Sandberg 1:34:53
Like I felt that I didn't want to push my luck, you know? I'm just like a first time Director, so they probably don't want a first time writer as well. And it's the same thing with lock day, you know, like, she's been the star of every short. But like, we didn't want to push her to be the lead in the film, because I mean, we just didn't want to push her luck because it felt like oh, well, we have this chance now. Like, if we push too hard, they might go, oh, well done. We're not doing the film. So it's like, yeah, a lot of that, like, Yeah, sure. I'll just work with the writer. But it turned out great, because I loved Eric's work as well. And he, you know, while I was doing the water ball tour, and agents, were sending me scripts. The one script that I wanted, really wanted to make was one that he had written called Birdbox. And
Jason Buff 1:35:46
Was that one you said?
David F. Sandberg 1:35:48
Yeah. Well, that was another writer. But yeah, that Birdbox was on blacklist as well. Okay. Okay. Sorry. That's so no lot and I even made a little like a trailer for Birdbox to sort of, to pitch that to production company, but I'm not really sure what to do with that now. I think Andy machete or miscarry or the who made Mama's is right, but he's doing it now. So I don't know what's happening with that. But that was a really good script that I was very happy that he wanted to write lights out.
Jason Buff 1:36:28
Yeah, well, that's another example. That guy that made Mama is another guy that like had a short Yeah. And was kind of did the same trajectory that you did. Yeah. And
David F. Sandberg 1:36:38
God gambled. Guillermo del Toro as a producer.
Jason Buff 1:36:42
Not too shabby. How is Lata dealt with La she feel uncomfortable there is that what has she done?
David F. Sandberg 1:36:51
Yeah, no. She's loving it as well. I mean,
Jason Buff 1:36:56
She ever get recognized?
David F. Sandberg 1:36:58
She does. I mean, even I've started to get recognized. We were at the grove here in LA the other day, and these three guys came up, say, Hey, are you the director of lights out? And it's like, hey. Now, so that's weird. But yeah, see you like that?
Jason Buff 1:37:14
I mean, do you like being recognized?
David F. Sandberg 1:37:16
So far? Yeah. I mean, as a director, I don't think you ever get to that point where it's annoying. Well, I mean, I wouldn't want to be, you know, Brad Pitt, or someone who can't probably can't go out side. A lot. But yeah, so far. It's it's great.
Jason Buff 1:37:36
Yeah, I can imagine like you just, you know, go into that well, in LA. It's totally different, though. Because you'll go to the grocery store, and you'll see like five or six stars shopping there. And it's like nothing.
David F. Sandberg 1:37:45
Yeah, that's pretty cool. Like, yeah, just down the street here. I walked by Christopher Nolan the other day and said,
Jason Buff 1:37:51
Oh, like I'm a fellow director.
David F. Sandberg 1:37:55
Yeah. We were in the same union.
Jason Buff 1:38:01
Yeah, I used to go to a grocery store that was like down the road from like, near kind of near Melrose, I used to live. And there was a grocery store there that I would always go and I would pay more because I would always see a star there. But I would just kind of sit there and like, watch them and be like, Wow, that's
David F. Sandberg 1:38:14
Yeah, it's like, Daniel, same thing here. We've seen a lot of celebrities down in the grocery store. You just play cool. You just
Jason Buff 1:38:26
Well, you know, now you can do that a new movie set, you can be like, hey, that's just gonna talk to me. Oh, he's coming over here. Like, you're the director. Why are you hiding? Yeah. Hi, how you doing?
David F. Sandberg 1:38:39
I have a friend was like, Hey, can you give me that guy's autograph or whatever? It's like, No, I have to play cool. I know what I'm doing. When I'm meeting all these people.
Jason Buff 1:38:50
Well, is there like, do you kind of have a dual life now? I mean, it's like you go, you go back to Sweden. And it's kind of like, oh, yeah, it's just David. You know, how's it going and everything. Then he come back. And it's kind of like you get to be on a set and have all these, like, famous people and everything.
David F. Sandberg 1:39:06
I mean, so far, I only been back for two weeks at Christmas. So like, I don't know, I'm just here all the time now. This is my life now. But it's awesome. I want to see how far I can take this Hollywood thing because I can always go back to making nobody short. If this doesn't work out.
Jason Buff 1:39:26
Well, you can always talk to the people that didn't give you your fund. Yeah, be like Hey, guys, remember?
David F. Sandberg 1:39:32
Yeah, I've moved to Hollywood movies. Now. I got some money. Like, I don't know. I haven't done any Swedish movies.
Jason Buff 1:39:40
Yeah, that's the real you know the sign. Are there any Swedish horror movies that people like did I mean I know you probably I've seen seen your your other conversations and I know you you like mostly kind of American based horror films and stuff. Are there any horror films from Sweden that people should check out?
Alex Ferrari 1:40:01
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David F. Sandberg 1:40:10
Yeah, I mean, the one of the more famous ones is select the right one, and
Jason Buff 1:40:15
Oh, yeah, that's brilliant.
David F. Sandberg 1:40:17
No, do they do some of that stuff? Usually it's based on books. I guess that makes them more comfortable in doing genre, stuff like that. And you know, girl with a dragon tattoo just isn't really hard. And that's more of a genre film. What else? Is there? Not a lot of horror made in Sweden. I don't think it's more serious sort of movies about alcoholism, and immigrants and divorce.
Jason Buff 1:40:47
But what would you what are your like, favorite? Like, what if you had to go back and like pick, say, like five films that are the ones that influenced you the most? What would those be?
David F. Sandberg 1:40:56
Well, just from my childhood, it's sort of Action, Horror, sci fi, you know, aliens Terminator. The thing. Diehard, you know, the stuff I grew up on, which I still love, and yeah, I just last week, I think it was they were showing aliens on the big screen here at Arclight. And that's always been my dream to see that in a theater. So I had to go on. It's like, yeah, man, this movie still holds up. I love that movie.
Jason Buff 1:41:24
Yeah, so good. Yeah. But yeah, alien or Aliens.
David F. Sandberg 1:41:29
Aliens. I mean, one of the best.
Jason Buff 1:41:32
Well, it's amazing. Yeah. Aliens was the first movie that I ever saw. I'm a little older than you. But I mean, I saw that I was I got into the theater with my family to watch it. And I realized about a couple minutes in that I was way too young to be on that movie. Because that was scary. I mean, I didn't sleep for a week. And to this day, it's still the most horrifying movie just in terms of, you know, scaring the hell out of me. But I mean, I think it came out at what, like 96 or something. I mean, 8686 Yeah. Yeah. And I would have been like 12 or something like that, but I remember going to see that and Oh, my God, it was so scary. And I mean, that's probably one of my favorite screenplays, too, you know? Yeah. I mean, James Cameron, just like, has this way of creating anyway, I don't want to get off.
David F. Sandberg 1:42:20
Yeah, no, but I'm not. I'm like Cameron fanboy as well.
Jason Buff 1:42:23
Okay. So let me just ask you this. And I'll kind of wrap it up with Annabelle, too, are you? Do you go back and look at the original movie? Are you what, what do you do in a creative sense? And I know you're you're not writing the screenplay for it, I assume. Yeah. But I assume you have a lot to do with what's going to be in the screenplay.
David F. Sandberg 1:42:45
Yeah, we're working together with the writer and all that. You know, without giving too much away, the story of animal two isn't a continuation of animal one rally, which was enticing to me. But it's its own thing more, you know. But of course, I had to go back and rewatch and about one and sort of get into that and see what they did in conjuring one and two as well, because a bit all this in was special in country one, which is where she first appeared.
Jason Buff 1:43:27
But James wrapped on the conjuring, too. That's that's like a done deal now, right?
David F. Sandberg 1:43:33
Oh, yeah. They even had like a surprise screening in Austin the other day. And, yeah, so that opens on first, sort of, they have their premiere at the LA Film Festival on the June 7. And then on June 8, we show lights out. So that after June 8, people are going to know there's gonna be reviews and stuff, I guess.
Jason Buff 1:43:57
So what what is your biggest? Like? How do you feel? What's your biggest fear right now? Are you kind of like just waiting for that?
David F. Sandberg 1:44:03
I am. Weird thing is that everyone is so confident that it's going to be hit that I think they're going to jinx it, you know? Because it's been tested really well. And like, everyone's like, No, this is gonna be hit. It's like, you don't know, anything can happen. You know. So, you know, I hope people like it.
Jason Buff 1:44:26
Well, I think one of the really interesting things about it, and, you know, not a lot of other films can say this, but it's already had, you know, because of the short it's already got people who are kind of aware. Yeah, I mean, that's a huge I mean, in terms of marketing of a film, that's got to be like a huge, you know, huge deal for them. I don't know how much they think about that when they're doing it, you know, when they're like planning stuff out, but it's like, okay, well, this has had a bazillion downloads. So everybody already knows the short, you know,
David F. Sandberg 1:44:54
Yeah, I mean, we've had to push that a little bit because, like, you know, I don't had to cut the trailer. That's all marketing. But so they they, they had this trailer that they wanted to shell that was similar to this trailer, but it didn't start with lockdown the light switch. And we told the marketing department like you have to put that in the trailer and put it at the top. Because there's going to be people out there that may have seen the short, but they don't might not remember the name or whatever. But if you have that scene with her doing the same thing as in the short, they're gonna go, Oh, I've seen this before. Like, I remember that. So we really had to sort of push them to put that in the trailer. But the other ones I know, I think those Warner's digital marketing department are more on top of it, you know, with views and all that because they wanted. They wanted to get all the stats from my YouTube and Vimeo pages. And I'm not sure what they're doing with that, and probably something cool. So, yeah, it's not been a It's not been at the forefront. It's been more, the marketing seems to be more pushing that it's produced by James Wan, because people know, conjuring and all that.
Jason Buff 1:46:15
No, I just lost my train of thought I had a question for you. All right, Scott. Sorry. That's something really important. Give me marketing short million. What do you how much? Are they kind of like, I mean, are you getting we talk a lot about marketing and distribution here. And I don't know how much you've kind of been, you know, a part of that. I mean, is there any insights you've had in terms of the way they're promoting it and the way that you know, things that you've seen on your side?
David F. Sandberg 1:46:50
I mean, the frustrating thing, how little you are part of that, because the weird thing is, like this movie cost, like $5 million. But to market a movie, you need way more than that. So like the marketing budget is many times the actual movie budget for a project like this. And they, I mean, you just have to hope that they know what they're doing. Because you're, you know, they cut the trailers, they make the posters, and they do all that thing. All those things. I mean, they look, they'll show it to you, and you can sort of, say what you want, but ultimately, it's they do their thing. You know, they know, the marketing. Like that's one thing I've been sort of trying to say that this movie is more fun than like, the trailer is very traditional horror movie, but it actually is a bit more fun, more fun movie, which I told marketing, like, isn't there a way to get that in there for the next trailer? Man? It's more like just No, like, this is how you market a horror movie. It's like, Alright, I guess.
Jason Buff 1:47:58
What is the feeling? They've like, just done it so many times. They're like, yeah, we know we're doing just, you know, quiet down. We'll put it all together. And this is we've done this a million times. We've made a bazillion dollars. And,
David F. Sandberg 1:48:09
I mean, yeah, they have made a gazillion dollars. Yeah, I guess they know what they're doing. You know, but and that's the same thing. Like if I, if I were to cut a trailer, you probably wouldn't see a lot because I was like, No, we can't give that away. Can't give that away. So it's like the, I guess you got to have someone who's more sort of, now we know how this works. Like? Yeah.
Jason Buff 1:48:33
Yeah. Well, I mean, my favorite is always like, if you look back at the alien, the original Alien ads just had an egg hatching? You know? And yeah, you know, I, that's, I'm a big fan of that, you know, have and that's one of the big things I like about your shorts as well is that it just has, you know, I'm working on a short right now. And I keep making it bigger and bigger and bigger. And I keep adding people in No, no, no, no, I gotta get, I gotta get it down to just the basic idea. You know, and I think that's one of the things that your short also really inspires people to think about. It's like, look, you know, we were just sitting around the apartment one day, and we were like, Okay, let's come up with some ideas that are scary. And let's just shoot it, you know? Yeah. I don't know if it was like that. But
David F. Sandberg 1:49:20
Ya know, I think a lot of people, they have like feature ideas that they only have resources for short. So they try to compress feature ideas into a very short amount of time. And I think I mean, at least the way we looked at it may come it's just a scene or two, you know, it's not really trying to tell such a big story. We're just going in for a couple of scenes and making the best we can out of that.
Alex Ferrari 1:49:50
We'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show.
Jason Buff 1:50:00
Do you consciously think I mean, when you were making lights out the short? was? Was it just like, Okay, we want we know people are sitting, how much? Are you thinking about your audience? Are you like, Okay, wait, let's make this I know people don't have any sort of attention span. There's a bunch of little horror shorts out there. Are you thinking about that? I mean, are you just like, Okay, let's let's come up with something that people can click on real quick and just watch something fast.
David F. Sandberg 1:50:26
Yeah, it's just get straight to the point, just have her flip that light switch as early as you can. She's just walking from the bathroom and right there to just get straight into it. Because once they see that, they get sore, like, Oh, that's cool. And then they're hooked. You know, they want to see where it takes off. From there. There's just a lot you can cut out of both shorts and features. And still, you know, that you don't need I mean, you still have to have a good pace and a good rhythm to it. But I think movies today are too long. So lights out. It's actually like, things like 80 minutes or something. And one of the producers was kind of freaking out about that he was like, has to be longer. Like, why? People have seen it. No one has said that it's too short, or that the pacing is weird, or something that just feels right. No, I wish more people more films for like, 90 minutes. Instead of the two and a half hours. Things we get nowadays, nowadays.
Jason Buff 1:51:29
It makes you wonder how many movies are like, you know, you see all these movies that come out all these blockbusters and everything. And it's like, it was just like, maybe 10 minutes a little too long. And you wonder if that was like some executive and they're gone. Yeah, we need to we need to add a little bit more. And it was just like, why? You know, what? Movie could have ended?
David F. Sandberg 1:51:48
Yeah. Yeah, that's really because I mean, if they have shorter movies, they can have more showings in a day and they'll make more money. But maybe it's something. Everything has to be epic these days, I guess.
Jason Buff 1:52:00
Now, what are you sick of seeing in horror movies? What turns you off to, you know, if you're watching something? And you're just like, okay, within like, say the first 15 minutes? What is the harm of yes to do in the first 15 10 15 minutes to kind of like pull you in?
David F. Sandberg 1:52:19
Well, I mean, as long as they don't have really stupid characters that you just like, you don't want to harm or will you want the people to die? You know, I mean, that can be fun. But stuff like that, and just Yeah. And the fake kind of jumpscares was just loud sounds with stuff that has nothing to do with the horrors of the film. Yeah, yeah.
Jason Buff 1:52:46
You watch, like, you click around like Netflix and stuff like that, and try to find new stuff. I just seems like there's I mean, one of the things that we talked about, you know, and I've talked to a lot of indie filmmakers who are, you know, making all different levels of, you know, they make stuff that, you know, very low budget from a couple $1,000 To 50,000 to 100, or, you know, in that range. And, you know, I just kind of tried to figure out like, what, what's the whole process, you know, where are they? Where are they selling it? What's what's, what's that world? Like, you know, and
David F. Sandberg 1:53:22
Yeah, I mean, for the last year or so, I mean, since we came to LA, we haven't had the television. So to watch a lot of stuff just on our laptops. But the good thing about living in LA is that you can see a lot of limited release smaller movies. So like I saw my favorites recently, were greenroom, which I loved. And the invitation, which was really good as well.
Jason Buff 1:53:51
Now, but I didn't see the greenroom.
David F. Sandberg 1:53:54
I love that one. Now with that, and that's actually I go since we don't have a TV we go more to the theaters these days. Because we live right by Northlight. So it's it's great. But a lot of movies is just feels like the same, you know, like, it's still the same sort of superhero stories and stuff like that. So it's almost a point you get like her I'm kind of tired of movies, but then you see a movie like greener I was like, No, I love movies, you know? Yeah. But yeah, and Netflix is I try to find stuff there. But usually you just Netflix, it's just scrolling through looking at movies and then never watching anything.
Jason Buff 1:54:40
Yeah, I mean, it's just interesting though, the way things are changing now, you know, and I try as much as possible to see stuff in the theater. But, you know, especially down here, we just don't get a lot. But it's just kind of watching the evolution. You know, when I was younger, you would go see a movie because the quality was my Ah, better. That was that was the only opportunity you had, you know, and then it would go to, you know, home video was even kind of like a new thing, you know, and things have changed so quickly. So everybody's watching, you know, the majority of people are going to see your film on a TV, which kind of sucks, you know, because it's made for being in a theater. Yeah. So, you know, there's this giant kind of glut of now that the technology is so cheap, there's just horror movies like crazy coming out. You know, I mean, if you go on, like Amazon Prime, and Netflix and all these different places, it's like in the qualities, a lot of them's just not very good. So I don't really have any points just bitching about it?
David F. Sandberg 1:55:41
No, but I mean, the sad truth is that 90% of horror movies are pretty terrible. And which is kind of sad. Because nowadays, like now that I'm, I mean, this last year, and now I've been working so much, that it's almost like, I don't really want to take chances. You know, I want to see something that I know is good. So, yeah, I mean, especially now that I'm making movies, I'm actually trying to watch a lot of classics, because I want to see something that I know is good. And something that's sort of valuable. So I've been watching old stuff like Fred's lines and your yumbo. And just trying to Yeah, I mean, what cool stuff?
Jason Buff 1:56:26
Yeah, of course, I'll I don't know if you're like me, but I find it's so inspiring to kind of see those stories and be like, oh, you know, do you get inspired? Like, when you watch other people's movies? Do you start having your own ideas about things?
David F. Sandberg 1:56:39
Yeah, absolutely. Yeah.
Jason Buff 1:56:41
I mean, is that let me just ask you this kind of blank question in terms of creativity, like what do you have any Have you learned to kind of like control your creativity and learn how to use it and put it together and stuff and you do do things that you know, are going to kind of jolt that creativity? Yeah.
David F. Sandberg 1:57:04
I don't have a specific process. It's just sort of comes up, I guess I love sort of idea by based things, especially sort of time travel movies, and sort of that has a neat ID at the core of it. But you're not really sure where the ideas come from.
Jason Buff 1:57:25
You write things down. I mean, you'd like if you're, you know, you said you wake up in the middle of night sometimes is that what do you get ideas sometimes that way? Or?
David F. Sandberg 1:57:33
Yes? No, just a little while ago, I had this. Like, I dream, this whole scene. And I woke up and I wrote it down on my phone. And then the, the morning after, I sent that to the screenwriter, for Annabelle to was like, Hey, can we put this in the movie? And it was like, if I wrote like, I had this dream of this
Jason Buff 1:57:56
Banana face, put it in the movie? Yes. It's like, What the hell are you talking about man?
David F. Sandberg 1:58:01
Yeah. And I wrote out this whole scene and sent it to him. And he was like, why don't I have dreams? Like, get a whole scene? But in the movie? No. So that's actually in the script isn't?
Jason Buff 1:58:14
Right. That's awesome. Well, you know, one of the things that, you know, there was a book out not too long ago that talked about how you're the state of mind that you're in just as you wake up is so far into your right brain, that that is you will never find a more purely creative moment that when you're in that kind of dream state, because you're in the same state of mind when you dream. So your mind is just creating stuff. So that's why a lot of people always have like a, you know, a pad and paper beside the bed. Or people write when they first wake up, you know,
David F. Sandberg 1:58:46
Kind of explains a lot because I do have that a lot of being sort of half awake, half asleep, usually sort of nightmarish stuff. I freak out and like, my wife will have to go no, no, no, you're dreaming, like, get back to sleep. So maybe that's where a lot of it is born.
Jason Buff 1:59:04
Yeah. Well, David, I really appreciate this man. Is there? Is there any thing else that we could touch on? Is there any advice that you have for all the indie filmmakers that are out there kind of like, hoping to emulate you a little bit or kind of following your path a bit?
David F. Sandberg 1:59:22
I mean, the the main advice would just be to keep making stuff and putting it up online and not giving up even though you think it's gonna be shit, because you never know. And yeah, and you never know what it is that gonna resonate with people. Like, you know, I was talking to this producer who made this big Kickstarter project like this big like series of videos that they had quite a budget for.
Alex Ferrari 1:59:50
We'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show
David F. Sandberg 1:59:59
And nothing really happened with it. And then with his friends, he just did like a quick YouTube thing that cost no money. And that's what got them representation in Hollywood and got into a bunch of meetings and stuff. So you just keep making stuff and you, you never know what's gonna, what's gonna be the thing that actually gets you out there.
Jason Buff 2:00:22
Now that that's one of the, you know, after doing this for like, a year and a half, you know, and I had a project that fell apart a couple years ago. And I just, you know, it's really inspiring the stuff that you did, and with your short and everything, but it's just like that, that seems to be the common thread with people who are having success in the indie film world now is just Okay, start making shorts, just get out there, start shooting, it doesn't matter, you know, shoot with your DSLR or whatever, it's like, the equipment doesn't matter anymore. And just slowly, not all of us are gonna get like, picked up for a feature film, but it's like, just slowly, one short, a little, you know, and learn. I mean, were you, you know, each short that you did, were you learning a little bit more and kind of saying, Okay, put this together. Now. Let me try it a little bit more. Or Absolutely.
David F. Sandberg 2:01:09
I mean, yeah, I'm 35 now, and I've been making movies since I was eight, you know, so, right? Or you get better and better. And you learn more and more the whole time. So yeah.
Jason Buff 2:01:21
Cool. Is there. Do you want to leave? Usually I asked people if they want to leave their, like websites and information. I don't know if there's anything that you want to leave or like your Twitter handle, maybe people can follow you.
David F. Sandberg 2:01:35
Yeah, I'm at pony smasher on on Twitter and on Instagram and on YouTube. I'm pony smasher as well.
Jason Buff 2:01:45
Should I ask what that?
David F. Sandberg 2:01:47
Well, it all started with YouTube. I mean, when YouTube was this new thing, like I signed up for that, but it wasn't a thing yet. So I was like, I don't know if I'm gonna use this. I'll just pony smasher. And then it became a thing. So it's like, okay, I guess I'm pony smasher now. So it's kind of weird now that they're, like the marketing people or like, when articles and stuff on Twitter about like, you know, you have at Teresa Palmer or whatever, and then at pony smasher and say, Oh, but Jamie.
Jason Buff 2:02:19
I mean, it could have been worse. You know, it could have been like gorilla penis or something.
David F. Sandberg 2:02:33
Jason Buff 2:02:33
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- David F. Sandberg – Official Site
- David F. Sandberg – IMDB
- Episode 666: Shazam! You WON’T Believe How David F. Sandberg Created This Blockbuster Film!
- Episode 441: From Short Films to Directing Shazam! with David F. Sandberg