Some people just have the perfect vision and direction for brilliant filmmaking. This can be said about a recent newcomer in the horror community, director Timothy Vandenberg. I recently watched his horror short, Agatha, and was absolutely taken back at the quality and overall production of an 8-minute story. He’s most definitely a director I will keep my eye on and I look forward to his upcoming work.
Vandeberg took time out of his busy schedule to talk with HorrorGeekLife about his start in the filmmaking, his deliciously disturbing horror short, upcoming projects, and more! You can read my review for Agatha here.
HorrorGeekLife – Thank you, Timothy, for taking the time to talk with HorrorGeekLife! Did you always know you wanted to work in the film industry?
Timothy Vandenberg – I always been a giant movie fan but just enjoyed playing around with filmmaking a little bit as a kid. Most of my childhood I wanted to be an army helicopter pilot like my oldest brother. I really didn’t dive in till halfway through college when I worked in an AV Lab and I could check out an SVHS (super high tech) camera. I just started making little movies with my friends in the dorms and kept going.
HorrorGeekLife – Sounds like you always had it in your blood. What inspired you to take the first steps?
Timothy Vandenberg – Editing got me excited. Back then, they had just come out with the first accessible non-linear system. It was basically a box with one screen that digitized your video. For most of my videos, I was still editing deck to deck. Having access to non-linear showed me the overwhelming possibilities and endless ways you could sequence, combine and mold your content. I think that was the spark.
HorrorGeekLife – I’m glad you got the opportunity, which eventually helped create your first horror feature. Agatha is an incredibly beautiful and eerie short film. What was your inspiration behind the making of this short?
Timothy Vandenberg – I had a recurring nightmare when I was a child. I would be in the front yard of my childhood home and an old hag lady was trying to take me from my family. My seven brothers and sisters were stretched out, holding hands in a sort of “life chain,” and I was reaching for them but she just kept dragging my other hand. She was trying to pull me into the woods next to my house. Finally, my grip would break and I would fall into a darkness, then, somehow, I was now inside her cabin in the forest, hiding under a thick blanket. I could hear her limping around, dragging one foot on the floor. She was searching for me through the cabin, calling out, saying that she knew I was in there and she was going to find me. I could hear her nails scrape against the walls as she searched for me. I tried not to make any sounds and hold my breath, but she was getting closer and closer until it was completely quiet…and then silence. She rips the blanket off of me, screeching as she grabs me, then I’d wake up.
HorrorGeekLife – Holy cow! That’s crazy. I would be terrified to go asleep, but I can tell how that would be your inspiration for a great horror story. How did you go about casting for the three main characters?
Timothy Vandenberg – I did a casting call in Wilmington and Louise was part of a local children’s theater group who showed up to it. Penny (the mother) came to that same call. I found Agatha (Jessica) through a theater company called Theater Now that had featured her contortionist act as part of their New Years Eve show. She does some great contortionist work in the film, but we didn’t end up using it because it didn’t fit the tone of the particular scene. Jessica (Renee Farrabow) spent a lot of time working on Agatha’s posture, her “perch,” and subtle body movements within her crawl. Really impressive!
HorrorGeekLife – Yeah, Agatha truly terrified me with that crawl! Do you think the little amount of dialogue in the short helps add to the creepy atmosphere?
Timothy Vandenberg – Yes. My goal as a filmmaker on Agatha was restraint. I really wanted to test holding myself to the old filmmaking age of “show me, don’t tell me.” The dialogue is crucial to set up the world. Once you’re in it with Sophie, I wanted to use the physical acting, the sounds, and atmosphere that our cinematographer (Bo Webb) and Gaffer (Eli Johansson) so beautifully created.
HorrorGeekLife – I agree, the way you created it made the atmosphere far more intense and creepy. Although I loved it, is the rest of the horror community responding to Agatha in a way you had hoped they would?
Timothy Vandenberg – The response had been mind blowing, to be perfectly honest. Our goal as a team was to test whether we belonged creating something in this genre in the first place. My background is mostly comedy when it comes to filmmaking. The horror genre is a tight knit community and they are not afraid to call you out. They are very versed and educated in the roots and many sub-genres of the form .and know how to spot a dud and thrash it.
The reaction and support we are receiving for this film are amazing and well beyond what we expected. It is deeply gratifying to have the horror community embrace the film and be so kind. I wrote another horror/thriller, a full-length film, called The Tower and it was optioned. I wrote Agatha as a bit of test to see if horror was something I belonged even dipping my toes in. I had to see if I could do justice to the genre before I made an argument for me to direct The Tower.
HorrorGeekLife – I think you’re most definitely on the right path. Speaking of which, I heard you plan on making a full feature for Agatha, when will this begin, and can you tell us any more about it?
Timothy Vandenberg – We are currently in talks with two different studios to produce Agatha. There is some deal making/negotiating going on that ties the project to my other film, The Tower. I can’t really elaborate too much at this time. I’m currently navigating new waters with how these mechanics work and it is both fascinating and terrifying. However, if I can give any peek at all into it, I’ll say this- I have learned that having a film that has the elements to create a franchise is what a lot these companies care about. And that may be for better or worse. I can definitely see it, for better with the ideas I have for where Agatha’s story goes, but I will rely on horror fans to keep me honest throughout the process.
What we are going to do is create a documentary/series of the full-length film production. We will present it as an honest, open look, on how these things make it from idea to screen, warts and all. There have certainly been other series that have done this (project green light) but we are looking to do the antithesis of that show. We want to create a doc series that is something we would like to see. We don’t want to watch a hamfisted soap opera with puppeteers behind the scenes, pit producers and directors, and crew against each other to make “good tv.”
What we always enjoy is when you buy the DVD that has extras on it where they really go in depth on how they made an effect or shot work. From documenting SFX makeup to the sound guys to the camera department. Those are the things that interest us, not the drama so much, but we do want to have an open experience for filmmakers to see how these things get done and the traps and pitfalls laid out.
You often hear about how directors “sold out” or lost their vision between a short or idea and the final full-length film. I’ll play devil’s advocate after seeing behind the curtain a bit. I think a lot of these guys and gals have the best intentions of making a great film but they face a gauntlet of pitfalls and challenges that attack that intent on a daily basis. Conversely, I also agree there are just a ton of shitty, formula, hack horror movies out there that are done that way on purpose just to make a buck. Like, I mentioned, we are infants at this next level of the game, so we are discovering and learning and having ourselves challenged. This doc series would let horror fans come right along with us as we navigate it. Sorry for the long answer!
HorrorGeekLife – Not a problem at all, I and the rest of the horror community love knowing “behind the scene” moments of our favorite movies. Beyond this, do you have any upcoming projects?
Timothy Vandenberg – The Tower just had another producer attached, who is our biggest yet, so I’m hopeful pre-production will get rolling by mid summer!
HorrorGeekLife – Awesome, I can’t wait to hear more about that! In the future, would like you to more work in other genres as well or just stick with horror?
Timothy Vandenberg – I have a bit of creative ADD. I enjoy comedy, horror/thriller, low-tech adventure/fantasy, and writing funny commercials. I don’t imagine I’ll do any action or Sci-Fi. I don’t gravitate towards it as a filmmaker (I do as a fan). Contemporary action films are at such a crazy high level of production and grand scale, I don’t see what I could possibly contribute to that genre.
HorrorGeekLife – That’s true. I think you may have found your calling in the horror genre, though. Are there any iconic people in the film industry that you would love to work with?
Timothy Vandenberg – I think Tomas Alfredson (Let the Right One In) and Jennifer Kent (The Babadook) are contemporary filmmakers I look to as far as iconic actors. I mean, ya gotta dream you could maybe do something with Bruce Campbell too, lol. In straight horror – I would love to work with Lance Henriksen, John Carol Lynch, Brad Dourif, and Robert Englund (I’m an 80’s kid). And I actually would LOVE to put Rose Byrne as the lead adult role of the Agatha full-length film. She would crush it!
HorrorGeekLife – She definitely would! Again, we really appreciate your time and I can’t wait to see what you have in store for us next!