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Shankland, Tom (The Children)

Tom Shankland Talks The ChildrenMost people go on vacation to relax. It seems writer/director Tom Shankland went on vacation only to find inspiration for his next horror project. After all, it was while on a holiday with friends that he found some creepy inspiration for his latest film, The Children (review here).

I went away with some friends for a trip who brought along their kids,” said Shankland. “I was disturbingly amused by their almost complete inability to have any control over them. That’s when I started thinking up The Children.

Shankland calls The Children a Freudian nightmare, something that should only exist in the nightmares of any parent – what happens when your kids turn into deadly and sadistic monsters?

While the idea of working with kids and animals in the snow might be daunting to a lot of directors, for Shankland most of the difficulty came before the first time he ever set foot on set.

Shankland said, “I have always been completely passionate about this project; maybe that’s why only after 55 drafts did I feel like the story was ready to shoot. I knew I wanted to direct this film despite having to direct children or animals – that has nothing on trying to dream up compelling dialogue.

Another hard part for Shankland was casting the right kids. After all, when you have a movie centered around a group of youngsters, you better make sure they can deliver throughout an entire film and keep the audience engaged.

The kids casting was really tough,” Shankland explained. “For every 90 terrible kids, we maybe found one or two that we liked. It’s nothing against the young talent we saw either. We needed kids that were not only brilliant but could deliver a very broad emotional range, too.”

“In the end, though, what I thought was interesting is how much I learned from working with such young actors. I usually find kids kind of unsettling, but I got a mad, creative energy from this group. They helped me find my Zen in filmmaking,” Shankland added.

While Shankland is enjoying the accolades that The Children is stacking up around the horror community, he’s quick to point out that filmmaking is more than just his work. It takes an entire team’s contribution when making a movie.

Shankland said, “Hearing the overall response that The Children has been getting is such a treat for me. I always keep a very simple ego when it comes to my films – it’s not just me but an entire cast and crew made up of talented people. But whenever you make a movie and someone beyond your own mother likes it, then it’s a win.

The writer/director is one of the first people to realize that it can be a tall order to ask audiences to root for harming children, but Shankland realizes that it’s the power of storytelling that provides a wicked justification for audiences around.

You have these horrible, malicious children so I think viewers are okay with rooting against such a young group of human beings,” explained Shankland. “In society we’re not supposed to harm children, but in the movie, by the second half, everyone seems to get a little bloodthirsty towards them because of how evil they are.

I just love that I get such a reaction from the movie. That makes the whole 55 drafts worthwhile,” added Shankland.

Heather Wixson

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