Annabelle: Creation – David Sandberg Q&A Following Special Screening

Dread Central was part of a select few horror outlets – and clergy! – to see an early screening of Annabelle: Creation (review) and take part in a special Q&A with the film’s director, David Sandberg.

The movie, which came out on August 11th, is an origin story, set in the 1950s. It picks up several years after the tragic death of the daughter of a dollmaker and his wife. When the couple (played by Anthony LaPaglia and Miranda Otto) welcomes a nun (Stephanie Sigman) and several girls from a shuttered orphanage into their home, every living soul in the house becomes the target of the dollmaker’s possessed creation… Annabelle.

There are some major spoilers below, proceed with caution! (Or better yet, bookmark this article and read it after you have watched Annabelle: Creation.)

Dread Central: Did you change much, from the original script?

David Sandberg: No, not really. There was already a first version of the script when I came aboard. My concern was just sort of tying it together at the end. There was some tweaking, like I wanted to add that ending scene and tweak some scares, and stuff like that but overall, the basic story, they’d already figured it out. If anything, the script was too long, really. The first cut of the movie was over two hours. It was just too much stuff so I was just trying to cut out as much as possible. We had this whole back story, a back story for Sister Charlotte, about how she got pregnant and had to give her child away because she was becoming a nun and that child had died, and it comes back and haunts her… there’s so much stuff in this movie.

DC: Was that indicated in the old photo we saw of Sister Charlotte?

DS: No, that’s just a tie-in to the upcoming The Nun movie. Yeah, so they this upcoming movie, based on the nun from The Conjuring 2, which takes place in Romania where this whole thing started, so that photo you see in Annabelle: Creation is a reference to that upcoming movie to tie it all together.

David Sandberg

DC: How involved is James Wan? [the creator of the whole Conjuring / Annabelle universe]

DS: He was very involved in the pre-production, then during production he came by a few times. He was doing Aquaman and whatever else he’s doing, but he had input and ideas. The devil smashing the lightbulb and coming down, that was his idea.

DC: The house that the dollmaker lives in – and the makeshift orphanage – is so distinctive. Is that a real house? And where did you shoot?

DS: Here in town [Los Angeles]. All the interiors are at the Warner Lot and the exteriors were out at the Big Sky Ranch. I love that environment, it’s like a western, shooting out there. Reminds me of Cinemascope. It’s an existing house that’s in “Westworld” the series, but we modified it a lot. We added extensions to it and made it look really old and re-painted it so it looks a lot cooler in our movie. It’s weird with those things actually, because a lot of props and locations that look too exaggerated in real life look OK onscreen. When we first came up there and saw the house, it’s like, ‘I don’t know, this looks like a Tim Burton movie with all these details and stuff,’ but on screen it looks OK.

DC: Child actors need to be especially convincing in movies like these. Can you talk a bit about your younger cast members?

DS: Well first of all, we did all the auditions. I had all the girls, and the test was: they had to be scared from me just saying ‘monster!’ to see if they could actually be scared from nothing. That was sort of a prerequisite, but then we just got really good actors. And all of these girls are now friends and have had, like, sleepovers. Even Stephanie, who plays Sister Charlotte, has been at these sleepovers. They’re this super tight group now. The girl who plays Janice [Talitha Bateman] is actually the sister of the boy from Lights Out, but we did hold auditions and there were several girls in the running, but she did win out. She’s great, I think she’ll have a great career.

DC: There seems to be a lot of planning in the moments of suspense, as far as visuals. Did you plan pretty far in advance?

DS: Not a lot, because that’s something I found on Lights Out: I did a lot of storyboards and shot-lists, all these things, and then once on set they go out the window, either because you run out of time or you come up with something different or you can’t do something. So for this one I figured we’d work it out on set and that’s mostly what we did. On the other hand, we planned ahead a lot on the general look. It’s shot by Maxime Alexandre, who I’ve been a big fan of since his first film High Tension. He’s great and when I was interviewing him I was talking about how important darkness is to me because when we were shooting Lights Out, a lot of scenes didn’t turn out. The darkness wasn’t as dark as I wanted, so we had to fix a lot in post. I was talking to Maxime about the importance of that and he said, ‘I’m your guy, I’m not afraid of shooting in the dark.’ So we got along great, talking about a lot of references. One of the things I’m most proud of is how it looks, the various shot setups, and we have long takes.

DC: It must be hard to figure out how to best make Annabelle come to life.

DS: Yeah and that was the challenge, you can’t have her move around because that was the rule, you can’t see her move like Chucky. So yeah, there are a lot of different scares. It’s kind of funny because when I was doing press for Lights Out, I was talking a lot about how I hate fake jump scares… for example, like a friend putting a hand on your shoulder and then in this film, the girl putting her hand on her friend, but we didn’t go with a big sting so I think we got away with it. The sound is subtle and that is Bill Dean, who I worked with on Lights Out. Sound is super important to me and actually on Lights Out, the first sound supervisor we had was fired, which was super awkward and weird for me because I’ve never been in a situation to have a person fired before. But it seems on projects like this, it’s not really a big thing, it’s not like their lives are ruined. But it was super weird. We were just not having the same ideas on sound. I think a lot of guys, sound guys in Hollywood, try to push too much sound stuff and the sound leading up to stuff and giving things away, but Bill and I got along right away.

DC: There’s a scene where a character is torn in half… this is an R film, right?

DS: Yes. But to be honest, that was actually something that was added later because originally she was just crucified on the wall. It was done during the edit. It was like, we needed something more. So I did a digital mock-up. I said to my editor, ‘What if it’s just half of her?’

DC: We saw some shades of Psycho here. In structure, because we follow one person halfway through the movie, then our focus shifts to someone else.

DS: Well thank you, and Psycho is definitely an inspiration. I love that idea where you think this is about the main character and then something else happens. Originally the scene on the couch between the two girls, wasn’t in the script. The scene where she’s like, ‘No, you’re going to find a home,’ and everything, because it felt like… I mean this girl basically dies, she never returns, so we have to have a scene or moment between them where it’s sort of goodbye. I found that interesting to have that switch of protagonist, really.

From New Line Cinema comes Annabelle 2, with David F. Sandberg (Lights Out) helming the follow-up to 2014’s hugely successful Annabelle, which scared up nearly $257 million at the worldwide box office during its run in theaters. The new film is once again being produced by Peter Safran and James Wan, who also partnered so effectively on The Conjuring movies.

Sandberg directs from a screenplay by Gary Dauberman, who also wrote Annabelle. The film stars Stephanie Sigman (Spectre), Talitha Bateman (The 5th Wave), Lulu Wilson (Ouija 2, Deliver Us from Evil), Philippa Coulthard (After the Dark), Grace Fulton (Badland), Lou Lou Safran (The Choice), Samara Lee (The Last Witch Hunter), and Tayler Buck in her feature film debut, with Anthony LaPaglia (TV’s “Without a Trace”) and Miranda Otto (Showtime’s “Homeland”).

Serving as executive producers are Toby Emmerich, Richard Brener, Walter Hamada, Dave Neustadter, and Hans Ritter. Collaborating with Sandberg behind-the-scenes from his Lights Out team are production designer Jennifer Spence, editor Michel Aller, and composer Benjamin Wallfisch; they are joined by director of photography Maxime Alexandre (The Other Side of the Door) and costume designer Leah Butler (Paranormal Activity 3 & 4).

Annabelle: Creation is a New Line Cinema presentation, an Atomic Monster/Safran Company production. The film is distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures, a Warner Bros. Entertainment Company.

Synopsis:
Several years after the tragic death of their little girl, a dollmaker and his wife welcome a nun and several girls from a shuttered orphanage into their home, soon becoming the target of the dollmaker’s possessed creation, Annabelle.

Annabelle Creation

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