Brian: How y’all two doing today?
Vanessa Winter: Good, how are you doing?
Brian: Doing great; nice weather finally so, can’t complain.
Joseph Winter: Yeah.
Brian: So I’m going to start by asking, where did the idea come from for Deadstream?
Joseph: Originally, I was trying to take a nap one day and I had this idea that hit me. What if there was a camera strapped to my head, pointed at my face, for the whole duration of a feature, and I was trapped in a haunted house and there were ghosts around me and you could hear them but it all happened offscreen? It was brilliant because we could just go out and shoot it ourselves in a house and have a feature made. And I pitched that to Vanessa and [she] said “That is a really bad movie idea.” So, I immediately was like “okay, you’re right. I’ll let that go.” And then she came back and was asking like, “what if there were more cameras, what if we started making it more cinematic, more interesting” and it started to kind of shape from there into more of like what it is. As we were talking about that, next thing we knew there was an exploding head-
Vanessa: I think that’s when I got on board, was the exploding head.
Joseph: Yeah and then we knew we just wanted to make something wild in a livestream format.
Vanessa: Yeah and I think we wanted to see how far we could push it. I think that one of the challenges that was exciting was an idea if you could take a found footage film or a livestream format that could start out more naturalistic and then evolve into something that just kind of goes more cinematic and bonkers. That’s at least what we were trying to do.
Brian: It came out really well, I really enjoyed the movie. Now, when it came to the screenplay, when it came to the dialogue, how much of it was on the page versus how much of it was improvised on set?
Vanessa: It was pretty carefully crafted to seem spontaneous. We did lots and lots of versions of the script and then we ended up rewriting the script a lot during rehearsals. Just because we were really struggling with keeping the film entertaining while being on somebody’s face talking for that long. So, we really had to fine tune it by making sure that the character was always moving, that the story’s always moving forward and that we at least had some jokes landing every couple of minutes.
Joseph: Yeah, we realized during the rehearsals that we really couldn’t just meander our way through it, it had to be as tight as possible because of how much ground the character had to cover in the first third of the movie and how much he would be talking. So, with the exception of a few lines that just weren’t working on set so we had to come up with something new at the moment, it was pretty tightly scripted.
Brian: Awesome. Now, when it comes to y’all being co-directors, how did the duties get split between you two when it came to directing?
Vanessa: We pretty much split up the responsibilities evenly. So, we end up doing a lot of our work in pre production to make sure we were on the same page. I mean obviously in this film it was a little bit different because Joseph was always in front of the camera so we were a little more split than usual.
Joseph: It wasn’t super formal as far as our assigned roles as directors except, because she wasn’t in front of the camera, like I was, she had more of the responsibility of communicating with the crew more than I did. But, like she was saying, in prep is where most of our directing work was done together; where we were doing rehearsals together, we’d watch it. We actually edited almost the entire film as a rehearsal that we shot at the house during the day while it was being built and during that editing process, we were both figuring out the vision. So, by the time we got to set we were, at least we thought we were, on the same page.
Vanessa: Mostly on the same page.
Joseph: We were mostly on the same page but even then we showed up on set and realized that we kind of had a different idea of who Shawn (the main character) was. And it took a couple of days of working on it before Shawn actually became a real person and kind of became his own thing. And after a few days we were super solidified in our vision.
Vanessa: Yeah, I think it was actually on day three where I think the character really found himself and we ended up reshooting a decent amount of scenes from day one and day two.
Brian: Well, speaking of the house, the house was perfect. I mean, if you were to look in the dictionary and find a haunted house, I’m sure it’s picture would have popped up. Where did you find the house?
Joseph: I put a call out on Facebook for people in Utah to just let us know if there was any abandoned houses around. But, we honestly felt like we were painting ourselves in a corner with the script because of how specific the house had to be for our story and we just felt like, I don’t know if this house exists and we would probably have to rewrite it and completely change it, but not for the better, once we actually found something. But then somebody posted this old, abandoned house literally in the middle of nowhere but it was actually only 30 minutes away from our house but then also people started responding to that saying “they will never let you shoot there”, “this is a house that somebody breaks into every night” and “the owners won’t even talk to you about it.” But, miraculously, we actually worked something out with them and they were cool with it. So, we were just really fortunate in that way and also with the house there came a huge rewrite based on the geography of the house but it was for the better. There’s a secret room in the film that Sean finds, that was actually because when we were exploring the house we found the stairs to a cellar inside of a closet that actually was, at some point, became a real secret room so we had to write that into the script.
Brian: Wonderful, the house was awesome. One of my favorite things about this film was the creature effects, they are fantastic and they look like they came from a place of love, where did the inspiration come from in their design?
Vanessa: I think 80’s creatures feature. I think from the beginning we really wanted to have creatures with a lot of personality and we wanted to show them quite a bit. So that was a decision to kind of deviate from the standard found footage format. Even with harsh headlamp lighting, we really wanted to be able to see the creatures on screen for a decent amount of time. So from the very beginning when we partnered with our creature designer, Troy Larson, it was always really important for them to have a really distinct personality, almost a little playful.
Joseph: Yeah and for me, growing up I watched House one and two a lot and also Creepshow and The Gate and all my favorite movies as a kid were movies where the creatures had a really fun personality in their design. And Vanessa feels the same way as me so we came together with Troy and that was the kind of thing that he had been looking to do for a long time.
Brian: I want to ask you, what was the toughest scene on the page and also what was the toughest scene to shoot while y’all were filming the movie?
Joseph: I think when Shawn is in the car and he’s trying to piece together the mythology and come up with a reason to go back in the house, that felt like, for us, we rewrote that to death. We just couldn’t be satisfied with it, it was just so much that wasn’t making sense and wasn’t working. I would say that was probably the hardest scene to write, would you agree?
Vanessa: Yeah, I think that was one of them. I think another one that was most difficult to film was the creature fight in the bathtub. Because I think we really wanted to do something fun and different with the bathtub monster and logistically it was very difficult because Joseph was wearing the camera so he needed to be in a bathtub full of water but also the stunt performer, wearing the creature suit, had to be in the bathtub with him and also be submerged in water. So that latex suit that she was wearing got very heavy, it probably soaked up 50 pounds worth of water.
Joseph: Yeah cause it was foam latex so it was really spongy.
Vanessa: Yeah. So I think Joseph was in that bathtub full of water for nine hours. And then, at the very end of the shooting day, we were having a hard time getting the head to explode the way we wanted it to. I think all of the crew at some point had their hand on the corpse’s head trying to hold it together so that we could get another take of it exploding. So the costumer was adding safety pins, and the makeup artist was mixing up extra goo. But, ultimately, I think it was really rewarding for everybody but that was a really difficult scene.
Brian: I couldn’t agree more, that scene was pretty great. It was rewarding, needless to say. The last question I got for you is what advice do you have for aspiring filmmakers when it comes to making movies? Looks like you did a lot on your own so what advice would you give them?
Joseph: So, one thing is, when we were looking at a really low budget, we were thinking we can’t afford a first AD (assistant director) and we can’t afford a script supervisor. But I learned from this movie that even if you are making a low budget movie, those are things that can actually save you money in the long run because we had a lot of continuity problems because there wasn’t a dedicated person in charge of that and we had to do reshoots because of some of the continuity stuff that was too big to ignore. With the first AD, after the first day, we immediately had to try to scramble to find someone that could fill that role for us. So, I would say, even if you have a low budget, don’t consider those roles as expendable.
Vanessa: Yeah, that’s a good one. I also think, just get started. I think that there is momentum with getting going with whatever money you have and for us that was a big draw for other investors as once people see you got something going and people are investing their hours and stuff into it, I think it’s easier to get people to jump on.
Brian: Well, thank you both for your time and congratulations on a very fun and entertaining movie. I hope you have success in the future too. I look forward to see what y’all do next.
Deadstream was acquired by Shudder