Frank Sabatella is an up and coming horror director, and his second feature film, The Shed, just came out in select theaters and on VOD. It’s a high school set vampire film, and deals with themes of bullying and revenge.
We talked to Frank about his fondness for the horror genre, working with Pulp Fiction‘s Frank Whaley and filming in the timeless city of Syracuse, New York.
LRM Online: Thank you for taking the time to speak with me.
Sabatella: No problem.
LRM Online: So, I watched the movie, and was wondering how big a fan you were of vampire movies? Were there any ones in particular that influenced this film or that you grew up watching and enjoyed?
Sabatella: I am definitely a fan of vampire films, and I’m a fan of horror movies in general, and that’s just part of the genre. And I think that I was very influenced by The Lost Boys and Near Dark and Fright Night and River’s Edge. Even though River’s Edge is not really a horror movie, but it’s one of the films that was influential for this film. And I just wanted to contribute to the vampire genre, because it’s something that I think is really cool and it’s a classic aspect of the horror genre.
LRM Online: I think you did make a really good contribution, and it’s funny you mentioning River’s Edge. It definitely has those classic aspects of bullying and kids in a broken home. Were there any others like that besides River’s Edge that influenced you?
Sabatella: For sure. Over The Edge, if you’ve ever seen, the ’79 Matt Dillon film.
LRM Online: I’ve heard of it and I’ve heard good things, but it’s definitely one I should check out.
Sabatella: Yeah. Put it on your list. It’s a good one. I think that that’s probably the two sort of high school films I drew on. Just for the concept of those, like you said, neglected kind of misfit kids. And I think just by the nature of the era that I grew up in, high school films were just a big part of not only the genre, but just even all the John Hughes stuff is influential. So, I think it’s just a thing that people are drawn to, because it’s sort of a, it’s something everybody goes through. Everybody can connect to high school and a high school experience. Right?
LRM Online: Yeah, definitely. So, Frank Whaley is in the film and I was wondering if you were a fan of his before. I personally know him best from the ’90s indie movies he made, like Swimming With Sharks and Pulp Fiction. Can you talk about casting him and working with him?
Sabatella: Yeah. I was a fan of Frank Whaley, of course. He’s in a bunch of awesome films, so it’s just cool to always have an actor with that type of experience, and sort of a name and a face. My producer actually connected with him, and they orchestrated the casting. He also lived locally near Syracuse, which is where we were shooting, which was also a plus for us. And it just kind of a good series of events brought him into our circle, and once we sent him over the script, he was kind of into the project, he wanted to do another horror film, and pretty much went from there. And it was just cool having somebody with that amount of experience on set.
LRM Online: Yeah. Between him and Siobhan Fallon Hogan, they have a lot of experience. They’re both great, and actors that you’re familiar with. To me, at least, all of the kids were new faces. Was that a hard process, trying to find your leads?
Sabatella: Well, when I was looking for the kids for the leads, I was adamant about them actually being the age that they are or close to the age. And I wanted it to feel like they were kids and I wanted them to have a real recollection of what that feels like. And it all was. They were teenagers. Stan, Jay Jay Warren that plays Stan, was I think 17 or 18 while we were shooting. Same thing with Sofia who played Roxy, Sofia Happonen. This was her first film. So, it was cool having these sort of fresh faces who were super professional, super talented and really excited about doing the film.
LRM Online: I imagine it was. And especially for her, her first film, that’s a great debut for her.
Sabatella: Totally. And she got to do a lot of action and a lot of cool shit. So, I think it was good.
LRM Online: You were talking about filming in Syracuse. I was kind of taken aback by how beautiful that setting was, and I didn’t know if it was an actual small town or what have you. And I actually looked it up just before this interview, and Syracuse is a decent sized city, like a hundred plus thousand. Why did you choose to shoot there? Did it, just fit the look of what you wanted?
Sabatella: We had an opportunity. We were planning to shoot somewhere in central New York, and we had a unique opportunity to do something in Syracuse and work with some filmmakers, some producers that were working with the New York Film Commission. So, once we went up and did the scout, just check out locations, I kind of had the same thing. I didn’t really know what to expect. I’m from Long Island, New York, and Syracuse is about five hours north, and I didn’t really know what to expect. And when I got up there and just started looking around, I was like, Oh my God, this is perfect. It’s gorgeous. It’s kind of stuck in time, in a sense, and it just had the look and the vibe, and it was just super cool to be there.
LRM Online: Yeah, it definitely looked stuck in time. You could have shot a movie set in the ’50s there. It definitely reminded me of those small towns in Pennsylvania that I grew up in. It’s a really good look on film.
Sabatella: The house that we shot in, the main house, Stan’s house in The Shed was an abandoned house on some farm property. And when we found that house, it was like, a lot of the furniture and the wallpaper and things like that were all still just in the house, and we just used it. It was literally like people just walked out of the house 50 years ago and we were like, “All right, we’re done here.” And that was it. It was kind of preserved. So we just were like, “This is perfect. Let’s do it.”
LRM Online: Can you talk a little bit about what it is about the horror genre that appeals to you? Because I was looking at your filmography on IMDB and it’s just straight horror from start to finish. And the shorts themselves sound really, really cool. I know you made another feature about a decade ago. But what is it that got you into horror?
Sabatella: I’ve just always been into it. I don’t have an answer for why. Just, as far back as I remember, I was just that little weird kid that liked monsters, and it just started from there. When I was a little kid, all my toys were like the Universal Monster toys. I had the Wolfman and Creature from Black Lagoon, and it just stayed with me my whole life. I grew up watching horror movies in the ’80s. I don’t know how it started, but it’s just always been my thing.
LRM Online: Well, definitely from seeing this, you know what you’re doing when it comes to filmmaking in the genre.
Sabatella: Thank you.
LRM Online: Are any of those shorts available online?
Sabatella: They all are. If you go to Vimeo, I think it’s Vimeo/sideshowpictures. If you go on Vimeo and you searc Sideshow Pictures, you’ll find the Sideshow Pictures page, and all the shorts are on there.
LRM Online: Oh, cool. Yeah, I’d definitely be interested in checking them out.
LRM Online: So, right now you’re out promoting this film. Do you have your next project lined up? What’s in the future for you?
Sabatella: I wouldn’t necessarily say it’s lined up. I have two concepts I’m working on, and the one I’ve been leaning towards that’s in the very, very, very early stage of development. This could change at any minute, but I’m leaning towards this story about two girls who are experimenting with witchcraft and they’re seeking to conjure this evil, demonic entity for the purposes of revenge. And when the entity arrives, it’s of course not what they expected, and shit goes wrong, and horror happens, if you will.
LRM Online: That sounds awesome.
Sabatella: I don’t have a title for it. I couldn’t even tell you the names of the two characters. I just have that sort of very loose concept, and I’m just starting to outline it. So, it could change at any minute. But that’s what I think of normally.
LRM Online: Well, it’s a cool start, for sure.
LRM Online: I wish you luck with promoting the film. It comes out next week, right?
Sabatella: Yes. Friday, November 15th, theatrical and video on demand and digital HD.
LRM Online: Awesome. Well, I hope people check it out. Thank you so much for taking the time to talk to me.
Sabatella: Thank you very much.
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