Einstein said the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. And that’s what Dread Central contributing writer Erik W. Van Der Wolf realized he was doing after years of trying to make it as a screenwriter in Hollywood, which is why he took matters into his own hands and made his own short film entitled “Inside the House”.
It’s not that all those years pounding away on a keyboard didn’t yield results for Erik; they just weren’t exactly the desired ones. In August of 2001 he sold an action spec called Cold Hard Cash (written with then partner Ken Koral) to Canadian production company Wishbone Entertainment and thought the industry door had finally opened after so many years of knocking. Unfortunately, 9/11 happened only a few weeks later, and the anti-violence sentiment which swept over the filmmaking community put their uber-violent heist thriller on the back burner, where it still resides.
After splitting with his partner, Erik then went on to write an action/sci-fi script called Marauders for Raptor Island producer/director Stanley Isaacs, followed by a couple more horror scripts being optioned by well established producers. So far none of those projects has made it to the screen. “After riding that merry-go-round for some time, you eventually get to a point where you realize you have to jump off and find another way to move forward.”
So, after years of false starts, Van Der Wolf decided to become part of a growing trend of frustrated screenwriters who are turning into filmmakers. “I just decided I wasn’t getting any younger and if I was going to do it, it had to be sooner rather than later. So I went all in and enrolled in film school.”
After spending a year attending classes at the Northwest Film Center’s School of Film in Portland, Oregon, Erik has now written and directed his first short film called “Inside the House”, which will hit the festival circuit this winter and is currently entered in the Scary or Die online short film contest. “The original intent was to get enough hands-on knowledge to make a trailer for a spec script to put together as a presentation for investors. A number of filmmakers have gotten projects financed that way because it helps investors actually see what the film would look like. A good trailer can really energize their interest. But, after thinking about it, I decided to make a short film and get the experience of shooting and editing a narrative piece that has a beginning, middle, and end. It’s a more complete filmmaking process that I wanted to go through and learn from.”
With a running time of about four minutes, “Inside the House opens with a mother (Cait Powers) who is home alone with her two children and on the phone with a 911 Operator (Tess Thompson Hardwick) reporting that someone is trying to get into her house. The Operator stays on the line with her as she dispatches units, but will they arrive before the impending terror is unleashed inside her home? “It’s a simple story,” says Van Der Wolf, “but it’s one we see in the headlines all the time, and every time we do, it just gets sadder and sadder.”
One thing Erik wants to make sure of is that his crew members get their due attention. “I can’t say enough about them. I was really lucky. We all met at the Northwest Film Center, and it’s a real special group of talented people. My cinematographer, Brent Butler, got the most out of the Panasonic Mini DV Camera we rented from the school and really helped me define and nail down the visuals we were going for; Nicholas Mahon did a wonderful job with the lighting; and our sound guy, Michael Howes, was invaluable. Sound is one of the most important aspects of low budget filmmaking, and he really came through for us.”
As for the end result? “As a filmmaker you’re never happy. You always see things you could have done different, better, a shot you wish you had gotten, etc. But thus far the feedback has been pretty positive, especially for our lead actress Cait Powers. We knew casting was going to be incredibly important, and this film works because of her. She has the potential to have a very successful career. She just landed a role in an independent film, which is great; she deserves it.”
Now that the film is done and out there to be judged, is there another short on the horizon? “No. I need to get back to writing. I have two new spec scripts in the works: a giallo style thriller for the spec market – which will make my agent happy – and a low, low budget supernatural horror piece that I’ll go through the process of getting budgeted and financed with the intention of it being my first feature as a director. Through the process of making “Inside the House”, I found out what I needed to know about myself, and I know I’m ready to tackle something larger.”
You can check out “Inside the House” below and at scaryordie.com. But only vote for it if you like it, Erik says. “I hate when people campaign and try to get friends and family members to vote for their films more than once while also getting them to vote against the other films on the website. What are you learning as a filmmaker from that? It doesn’t mean your film is any good; it just means you ‘got out the vote’ or found a way to game the system. We’re only interested getting the film seen first and foremost, receiving genuine feedback, and becoming better filmmakers based on that feedback, not winning one competition.”
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