More recently, SpectreVision screened the creepy thriller “The Boy” — about a psychologically troubled child who lives at an isolated motel — in competition at the SXSW Film Festival. While the Los Angeles-based company continues to grow, it has several more projects in development and intends to take on a lot more in the near future. At the Stanley Film Festival in Colorado last weekend, where “Cooties” screened as the horror festival’s opening night selection, the trio behind the company sat down with Indiewire to clarify the criteria driving their business.
If somebody else is doing it, they’re not interested.
What is a SpectreVision film? That’s no easy question to answer, considering the diversity of the company’s slate so far. But that same of variety is key to understanding SpectreVision’s sensibilities. “The number one thing for us is whether it’s unique,” said Noah, the company’s head of development. “When we’re evaluating projects, the first thing we ask ourselves is whether anyone else is making this kind of film.”
As an example, he noted that his team has little interest in low budget haunted house movies, a subgenre regularly explored by Jason Blum’s Blumhouse Productions, the team behind “Paranormal Activity.” “Jason is doing those so well that we feel he’s got that handled,” said Noah.
Give them something to root for.
Noah described the ideal SpectreVision filmmaker in these terms: “You have a strong desire for creative control and lack the resources to find it.”
That sensibility comes from personal experience. Noah struggled for five years to gathering financing his 2013 Jerry Lewis drama “Max Rose,” while Waller endured similar hardships spending nine years working on procedural drama “McCanick,” released the same year, which Noah scripted.
“Daniel was like, ‘Dude, let’s make a feature like you make the shorts,'” Waller recalled. “Let’s do it for nothing, for the pure love of it.” The duo met Wood through mutual connections and found he shared their sensibilities. “In a weird kind of way, that project that introduced us led our mutual frustration and wanting to do something purely for the right reasons,” Waller said.
“We wanted to create something where filmmakers could come to us and they would have as much creative control as they wanted,” added Wood.
Noah emphasized his desire to support any project he believed in — unlike many of the people who read his script for “Max Rose.” “A number of times, an executive or financier would say, ‘Your script made me cry, it made me reevaluate my relationships with my family, it really shook me up, but I can’t do anything with it,'” he said. “I thought, ‘What more do i have to do? We came together and said, ‘Let’s try and experiment. Let’s see what happens if we only take on projects we want to do, and not based on how much sense they make.”
For example, the team supported the black-and-white Iranian-American vampire movie “A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night” after writer-director Ana Lily Amirpour approached Wood through a mutual friend. “That was a film that made no sense on paper,” Noah said. “But we’ve had to push back against the people who support our endeavors financially to say that financial profit isn’t the only kind of profit. There are other kinds. There’s spiritual profit. The way we’ve just profited from the joy of seeing Lily’s movie succeed is immeasurable.”
For Wood, their efforts paid off with the first screening of “A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night” at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival. “I’ll never forget that screening,” he said. “It was one of the most emotional moments of my life. We realized this woman would be recognized for this extraordinary achievement.”
Every film requires a different plan — and they don’t always know what it is.
To date, no SpectreVision title has come into the world the same way — partly because each one presents its own unique distribution challenges. So don’t expect the company to offer a prepackaged set of options for bringing any given project to fruition. “All financial logic was thrown out the window,” Wood said. “We were not at all leading with whether or not something could be commercial. It was always about how we respond to stuff.”
From a more practical perspective, the actor-producer added, “the financing is different every time. There’s no set way to go about it.” However, he said, “I wish we had a fund for the smaller ones.”
Noah, however, has set his sights on a different goal. “We’ve always had a long-term plan,” he said. “We want to do what we’ve been doing on a grander scale. That’s the hope.”
The company continues to build up its infrastructure, having recently hired former Chiller executive Lisa Wolk Whalen as its operations chief. “As the company’s in the midst of expanding, we’ll have our eyes on how to give it more structure in terms of how we set up films,” he said. “You kind of have to piece it together when you’re establishing a brand. The whole goal was to put art before commerce. Now that we’ve built that up, we’d like to have a little more power to make these films happen easier.”
Don’t be afraid to reach out.
If you’re working on compelling genre films from an original perspective, SpectreVision wants to hear from you. “The doors are always open,” said Waller. “That doesn’t mean we want to read every single script on the planet, but people should listen to the words that we’re saying about what we’re trying to do. Use it as advice. Then just send them in.”
Noah pointed out that none of their projects have come to them through agencies. “That’s not because we have any bias against agents, but because it just hasn’t happened that way,” he said, noting that one filmmaker the company is currently supporting—a young director named Lukas Amman—approached the team through their Facebook page. “We read about his project and said, ‘This is really cool,'” he explained. “If it comes through the company page, we’ll look at it. We’ll read anything if it sounds like it has potential.”
They’re building a community.
And it’s growing. The SpectreVision entourage is now a fixture on the genre film circuit and continues to add new collaborators to its ranks. “We really started this to help films get realized that might not otherwise happen,” said Noah. “The very first thing we did was put feelers out with our friends and say, ‘Hey, if you have a project in this space that you can’t get traction on because it’s too weird, those are exactly the films we’re looking for.'”
According to Waller, “We’re a little bit selfish. We’re trying to create a community of the people we love and surround ourselves with them always.”