Interview with Director Johannes Roberts for ‘THE OTHER SIDE OF THE DOOR’

– by Gig Patta

The spirit world never wants to be disturbed.

And yet—the living never heed the warnings.

THE OTHER SIDE OF THE DOOR follows a mother who recently lost her son due to a horrific accident in India. With the feeling of absolute guilt, she found an ancient ritual that allows her to speak with her dead son one last time as long as she doesn’t open the door to the other side. She ignores the warning and opens the door to horrific events.

The film stars Sarah Wayne Callies, Jeremy Sisto and Sofia Rosinsky.

Latino-Review had a phone interview with director Johannes Roberts for THE OTHER SIDE OF THE DOOR. We discussed filming in India, origins of the story, the cast and the spirit world.

THE OTHER SIDE OF THE DOOR is currently available on Blu-ray, DVD and digital download.

Read the transcript interview below.

Latino-Review: Where did you get the original idea for this movie, THE OTHER SIDE OF THE DOOR?

Johannes Roberts: I’ve been obsessed with the idea of something on the other side of the door. I loved the idea of “don’t go into that place” or open that “Pandora’s Box.” That’s been kicking around my mind for ages. I didn’t quite know what to do with it.

I then came across this village in South India called Bhangarh, which is the most haunted place in India. It’s a village that is totally abandoned and nobody knows on what happened to the occupants. They fenced off the whole village and put signs around it. It says, “You cannot enter the village after sunset.” It’s because the ghosts of the dead roams the village to make it a dangerous place. And I was just like, “Wow!” What an interesting idea. So the whole thing really came from there.

Latino-Review: How much research did you have to do in regards to the village?

Johannes Roberts: That was just the springboard really. Myself and Ernest [Riera], my writing partner, went over to India and explored certain places. We got to know the different cultures. We tried to understand the mythology of the different religions out there. It worked into this idea.

Latino-Review: Was this based off a specific religion?

Johannes Roberts: No, we used a lot of the bits from the Hindi culture. We put some other stuff in there as well.

Latino-Review: How did you work with your writing partner? Did you come up with the story together? Did you work on separate parts of the script?

Johannes Roberts: Since it came to be that I’m a writer/director, I find the idea that I wanted to make. I’m not selling the script to another director. I’m writing it for myself. It’s an idea that I’m passionate about.

I contacted him and told him that “this is a great idea and let’s work on it.” We talked about it and broke it down. We worked for months to go over every little detail on it. To be honest, I tend to go away and actually write the script.

The writing of the script tends to be easiest task. The bit that’s hard is all the planning and the structure.

Latino-Review: Tell me. Did you film the entire movie in India?

Johannes Roberts: Yeah, we filmed it entirely in Mumbai. The exterior was the house where Rudyard Kipling was born. All the interiors were built in film city, where you would call it as Bollywood. We built the set there.

Latino-Review: Was having the production in India a lot easier than anywhere else around the world?

Johannes Roberts: I loved it! It’s very different. The scale of the production is huge. I just finished a movie and my team was probably 30 to 40 people. In India, I had a crew numbering 200-300 people. It’s a big operation out there.

Things are very different. It’s chaos. But, it’s brilliant. The skill level is phenomenal. It just worked very differently. It’s very fluid. It’s not necessarily very structured out there.

It suited me very well. It’s not for everybody. I loved it. I loved going out there and working it.

Latino-Review: Is a whole lot cheaper on production over there?

Johannes Roberts: You don’t get a tax break though. There aren’t any tax incentives. Things are cheaper. Nobody goes out to India for that reason. We went out to India, because we want to set the story in India.

Latino-Review: Excellent. Could you tell me more about the Kipling house? You told me that you only filmed the exterior.

Johannes Roberts: We went all around India from the south in Kerala, to Kolkata, to the middle of India and to Guntakal. It was literally on our last day after sixth months of traveling. We flown into Mumbai and looked around. We were about to shoot in Karola and my flight was out of Mumbai. As soon as I got to Mumbai again, I said, “No. We have to set it here.” It had a really dark vibe to it.

We came across it when the location manager had pictures of the house. We went and saw it. It was enormous and it was crumbling down. Nothing had been taking care of it. For the inside, it didn’t look very good. On the outside, it was just stunning.

It had a lot of references to the THE JUNGLE BOOK in the script. And totally by chance, when we got there someone told us that is where Rudyard Kipling was born. I said, “Oh. I had no idea.” It’s an incredible place.

Latino-Review: Was it easy to get the permission to film there?

Johannes Roberts: [Laughter] It’s a bit crazy out there. Yes, I really don’t know really. We got the permission. We did a lot of changes to the house. It was tricky, because you weren’t allowed to touch the house.

At one point, the police turned up and stopped the shooting. It was a little bit fluid out there in terms of who gives you permission. You might have permission for one thing, but you don’t actually have permission for another thing. It’s all a bit crazy. We got through it and we filmed it.

Latino-Review:  [Laughter] It sounds pretty chaotic.

Johannes Roberts: Yeah, it was. It was pretty chaotic.

Latino-Review: Let’s talk about your cast. Why was Sarah Wayne Callies perfect for her role as the main character for this movie?

Johannes Roberts: Yeah, Sarah. I’m a big fan of THE WALKING DEAD. We were looking for the cast and her name came up. She was a mother herself, and that was really important to me. She responded really well to the material. We chatted and she really understood on where we were going with it.

It gets pretty dark with the movie with the whole drowning sequence and where she had to go mentally. It’s a tough gig. You need someone who could reach those levels. It’s not easy to find that. There’s a lot of drama elements in the movie. It’s not a beautiful girl running around and being chased by a serial killer. There’s quite a lot of emotional stuff going on there.

She had the acting chops for it. It’s really important to me. She really knocked it out of the park. Not everybody could’ve done that since it was a tough shoot. We were filming in the slums. We were filming in the snake infested forests. You name it. It was in the forty-to-fifty degree [Celsius] heat. That was a full-on shoot and she was amazing. I would work with her again in a drop of a hat.

Latino-Review: What about working with the children? Usually working with children in these types of movies is often difficult. Please talk about Sofia Rosinsky.

Johannes Roberts: Sofia is just an incredible actress. She hadn’t done very much. I wanted that raw talent there and not the polished American TV thing. You could just see her growing throughout the film. She’s just like a little adult. She takes direction so well. It’s just a tough, tough role. You have to work with ghosts and dogs. It’s a pretty scary place. You have to do some pretty dark things. She was just fantastic. I could just sit and chat with her like with a forty-year-old. We can discuss direction.

So these things can be really tough on kids. It could be so thankless. But, she was simply amazing.

Latino-Review: It sounds like you went through a lot with the production. What do you suppose was the most difficult challenge for you?

Johannes Roberts: Ha! Yeah, that’s a good point. It was very tough. Once we were on the ground, it kind of came together. It suited me very well. The way is worked out in India was [good]. I just fell in love with that whole scenario.

I enjoyed the shoot actually—a lot. So it probably was over getting the movie off the ground. It took a while. It’s over getting the script just right. Then it’s working the logistics on how to do everything. The whole car crash scene was just insanely tough. There are no rivers in Mumbai that you could just people in. To do a drowning sequence when you don’t have a river—that sequence was just very, very tricky.

There were some challenges. [Chuckles] The whole movie was tough. It was good. I had fond memories of that film.

Latino-Review: Let me start wrapping this up. Can you talk about any of your future projects?

Johannes Roberts: I just finished a movie called 47 Meters Down (movie is now renamed as In the Deep) with Mandy Moore, Claire Holt and Matthew Modine. It’s almost entirely set underwater. It’s about two girls who are doing a shark cage excursion. They are watching the sharks off the coast of Mexico. The cage breaks and goes to the bottom of the ocean. They have an hour left in their tank to get back to the surface in shark-infested waters. You can’t just simply go straight up. It’s a really intense thriller and very claustrophobic. It’s really a tough one since it’s over directing people underwater. We did some stuff that I think nobody else had done before. That was a pretty tricky movie. It will be with The Weinstein Co.  and Dimension Films. Hopefully, we’ll see that later in the year.

And then I’m working with Alexandre Aja, who is the producer of THE OTHER SIDE OF THE DOOR, on a new project at the moment. It’s a Victorian ghost story. We’re just getting that financed.

Latino-Review: That sounds awesome. Last question. I’ll make this a fun one for you. If you had the ability or means like in your movie, who would you want to talk to on the other side of the door?

Johannes Roberts: Oooooo….crikey! I would love to talk to anyone to know what is on the other side of the door. I would be fascinated to know on what the other side would be like. I write these movies, because I’m just fascinated about that. Yeah, I would just like to ask someone on “What’s out there? What’s on the other side? What happens after we die?”

Latino-Review: Great answer. Thank you for this talk. I appreciate it. I loved the movie.

Johannes Roberts: Thank you very much. Thank you.

THE OTHER SIDE OF THE DOOR is currently available on Blu-ray, DVD and digital download today.

Interviews, Film The Other Side of the Door, Johannes Roberts