Filmmaker Q&A David Paul Scott
by Phillip Wilcox "Our Movie Demon"
I loved The Haunt and found it to be a refreshing, more human take on a supernatural story - Where did the idea or concept coming from?
David Paul Scott:
A lot of it is me. I read a quote from Wes Craven when he passed away: “The first monster you have to scare the audience with is yourself.” My own experience with depression made me realise that it isn't so much about feeling sad. Depression feels more like being cut off from reality. You're sitting in a room with your friends, and they're laughing and carrying on, and you can't even muster the energy to fake it. You feel like you're fading away. That's pretty ghost-like. As for the ghost-hunting TV show featured in the movie, it had been kicking around in my head for a while. Shows like Ghost Hunters and Paranormal State are like the renaissance of the Spiritualists movement when it had its heydey after photography came along. Back then, people were using double exposures to create ghosts on film. Now it's video cameras and heat sensors capturing the evidence.
What was the most challenging part of making the film?
Definitely the three years of post-production. I did the editing, visual FX, sound design and score, and I basically gave up my life. Went to bed at 9 PM, got up at 6 AM, 7 days a week. Only took a handful of days off – and felt guilty when I did. There were too many visual FX. There are shots in the movie that you know are special FX – certain green screen shots. But there are so many more shots that no one would guess. Mundane things like getting rid of movie equipment that got in the frame. And crazy things like Edna's apartment, where every painting was added AFTER we shot the scene. The ones we painted for the shoot were so few and so terrible that I had to do something in post. I haven't done a tally yet, but there are easily hundreds of FX shots of varying complexity in The Haunt. Here I was, locked away in a room with my computer, making a movie that was a cautionary tale about the dangers of self-isolation... and I was isolating myself to make it! It won't happen again!
What are your thoughts on the supernatural, hauntings, ghosts; are you yourself a believer?
In the past I would have said I was an absolute believer – ghosts are exactly what people say they are. Now I'm a little older and not as sure. I definitely think there is something going on and that you can't just dismiss all the centuries, all the cultures, and all the personal experiences people have had with ghosts and hauntings. I suspect that scientists who emphatically say that there is no God and that there is no supernatural, have closed the door and will never be convinced or even interested in entertaining the possibilities. But there are scientists studying paranormal phenomenon today. And I've read enough to conclude so far that things like clairvoyance and intuition are very real, that they may not be supernatural but that they might be natural or maybe micro-natural. If you have a gut feeling that you should take the left road when you hit a fork in the road, I think you should take the left road. Any authority figure who tries to convince you that there is only one truth and he knows it – don't buy what he's selling. That goes for both religious leaders and neurosurgeons.
Do you have any favorite films that have influenced you as a writer and filmmaker?
I grew up on John Carpenter. I loved Halloween and The Fog. The Thing! These days I really go for independent horror. Feels like there's more heart and soul than what's happening in the multiplexes. I just saw Creepy by Kiyoshi Kurosawa and loved it. It made me re-watch The Cure and Kairo. Nowadays, I look forward to movies by Mike Flanagan and Ti West. Last night I re-watched The Invitation by Karyn Kusama, very intense! I grew up loving Psycho, the original The Haunting, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Alien. I love supernatural horror the most. Supernatural movies are tough movies to make. But they are such a beautiful thing when they work.
What inspires you not only as an artist but as a human being?
That's too tough! I do think that all artists are inspired by a combination of what's going on in reality right now and what hasn't yet become real – the ideas that live in an unknown place waiting to be discovered. Having said that, I am inspired and amazed by our ability to keep getting up after being knocked down. It's so easy to fall into the trap that when something bad happens, like your car breaks down and you've got no money, to think, “Oh, that's it. I'm done.” But it's a trick! A trick of the Universe. You look back on life and you'll find a million of those moments. Relationships that ended and you thought you'd never see the Sun again. But you survived, time after time. Human resilience. The determination to keep trying. Even Maggie, after she seals her fate in The Haunt, makes one last-ditch effort to send a message to herself to try to prevent herself from giving up.
Can you tell us about any other upcoming projects you may be working on for the near future?
I'm writing and getting ready for Cult of Nightmares. It's also a micro-budget horror feature. It's about an insomnia medication that causes nightmares. It deals with conspiracy theories and the media's ability to misdirect the public. It's also about what now seems to be a perpetual war in the Middle East. The idea that we're already living in an Orwellian reality, but we don't seem to realise or care. It's also about dreams and the idea that the collective unconscious is also the collective suffering. After Cult of Nightmares, I really want to do a haunted house film. When it works, there's nothing better than a supernatural horror film based on a haunted location. Unfortunately, I always feel “locationally challenged” as a filmmaker. I've got some great ideas, but we're going to need a little more money to conquer locations. Armed with that, I think we can make something really special.