Premiered today, July 22, Lights Out, marking the debut of Swedish director David F. Sandberg on the big screen. During the press day, I had the opportunity, alongside with other journalists to talk to the director, and his wife and creative partner, Lotta Losten, and hear about their incredible journey from Sweden to Hollywood. The two talked about their inspirations, stepping for the first time on the set, the advantages of advancing technology and more.
Lights Outs is based on the short movie of the same name by David F. Sandberg who is also the direction of the long feature which was translated to the big screen with the help of James Wan. The screenplay is by Eric Heisserer. When his brother, Martin, experienced the same events that once tested her sanity, Rebecca tries to uncover the truth behind the terror that brings it forward with an entity that has an attachment to her mother, Sophie. The cast includes Maria Bello, Teresa Palmer, Alexander DiPersia, Gabriel Bateman, Billy Burke, Alicia Vela-Bailey, Lotta Losten, among others. Lawrence Grey and James Wan sign production.
Congrats on the film, guys. Tell us a little bit about coming from the shot movie to the big screen.
Lotta Losten: It’s been a year and a half and we made the shot at our apartment in Sweden for a competition, and we thought that was the life of that short. What happened was we made this short for no money back home in Sweden. But since we didn’t have too much experience we couldn’t get so we decided to do this one with no money at all and show them. Then, all of sudden, in March 2014, we started getting all theses views online
David F. Sandberg: Yeah, we made this for a contest. A few months after that, we figured that was it, because I won a director’s award but not the contest overall. But then, a few months after that, the short just blew up online. It started getting millions of views, and we were like…
Lotta: What does it all mean? Is it just numbers, or does this mean something more promising?
David: So then, all these people from Hollywood wanted to talk to us. I was getting contacted by agents and managers and producers and studios. I had to make a spreadsheet of everyone I had talked to, just to keep track of it all. I had to get an IMDb Pro account just to see who they were.
The idea to turn the short into a feature came from Hollywood. Did you have any idea on how to turn this into a movie? How everything came together?
David: one of the first producers that got in touch was Lawrence Grey, who was someone I really connected with, and it seemed like he knew what he was doing. He was really interested in making this into a feature. He had talk to James Wan about maybe making something together, and he figured maybe this could be it. James had seen the short online and really liked it, but he didn’t know if there was enough there for a movie, so I wrote a treatment of what I wanted the story and characters to be that Lawrence gave to James. He really felt that this could be a movie. Lawrence flew us out here for a couple of weeks to meet with James, and James brought New Line Cinema involved because they have their relationship. It just came together really great and smoothly. People keep saying, “Don’t get used to that,” [laughs] because that’s not usually how it works.
Lotta: It was like every week we were being told that we would know more next week, and we just waited and waited. I had a job. I had to tell them that I might be going to Hollywood in a while, but I don’t know when. Is that okay? I need time off. They had been part of this entire story. But when Hollywood called and said, “It’s happening, come on Friday,” I had to quit my job. They couldn’t give me any time off, but they said, “If you come back in a few months, you will get a new job. We will make it for you.” We realized quickly that we would not be going back in a few months.
David: It just happened so fast. We just locked the door at home and got on a plane. For the first week, the studio paid for a hotel here, and then we had to stay in B&B, little efficiency, where we could stay.
Lotta: We couldn’t get a big lease because we don’t have a credit score here, and we didn’t know when we’d be going home, so it was month to month to month. In January, we finally got a real apartment.
David: We just went along with this adventure to see what would happen.
What kind of material did you grow up on that may have influenced your creative path or the material that you’re now interested in writing or directing?
David: I grew up watching lots and lots of horror movies, all kinds of stuff. But my tastes have changed over the years. When I was a kid, I used to watch a lot of Nightmare on Elm Street and a lot of Italian horror movies from the ’70s and ’80s. At that time, I liked gory horror movies and stuff like that. Now I’m more about suspense and mood, and creating something that’s not really about blood, so I look for something different.
Considering the fact that all of this came about because of a short film that was posted online, can you discuss how modern technology can open doors for creativity and for aspiring filmmakers?
David: It’s the best time ever to be a filmmaker, because you have all these tools available. You can record audio on so many easily available devices, and you can shoot video with your phone these days, too. There’s no one really stopping you from creating these things. You can put them up online where everyone can see it. You also have all these communities of people sharing their knowledge of how you use software or how you can build your own dolly. You have film school and film exhibition online. It’s weird, because you never know what that thing is that will resonate with people, so I think the only thing you can do is follow your passion, and do what you like, not what you think others will like. We had no idea that our little two and a half minute short would lead to all of this. That was just one short of many we were going to make.
Check it out the full audio of the roundtable I attended.