Never Look Under the Bed: A Conversation with Horror Directors

October 18, 2022 An Eastern Region Special Projects Committee Virtual Event

Have you ever wondered how Directors craft a scene designed to elicit goosebumps on the back of your neck and make you want to sleep with the lights on? On October 18, DGA Members intrepid enough to seek the truth of those questions were able to learn more during the online event, Never Look Under the Bed: A Conversation with Horror Directors. In a panel discussion presented by the Eastern Region Special Projects Committee, Directors Mike Flanagan (Doctor Sleep; The Fall of the House of Usher), Leigh Janiak (Fear Street; The Staircase), Eli Roth (Hostel; The Green Inferno) and Todd Strauss-Schulson (The Final Girls; Zombies and Cheerleaders) engaged in an illuminating conversation about creating thrills and chills for film and television, moderated by Director Mary Harron (American Psycho; The Expecting).

Following a welcome from Eastern Region Special Projects Committee Chair Raymond De Felitta, Harron introduced the panelists and delved right into how they make the things that go bump in the night, illustrated by clips from their work.

After showing a clip from his mini-series Midnight Mass, Flanagan commented on the longevity of horror stating that, "horror has endured without interruption since the silent era. For all the discussions of the offshoots, or now it's elevated, or now it's this, or now it's blockbuster horror. The genre chugs along completely oblivious to and above all of that."

After exhibiting a clip from her film Fear Street: Part One - 1994, Janiak spoke about her first feature film Honeymoon which combined two of her cinematic interests. “I like love stories and I like rom-coms, but it's not what I would ever make. And so, it kind of grew from that idea into a very intimate body snatcher movie. And I found the perfect way to make something about something, but still have that experience … a big theatrical experience."

Roth showed a clip from his film, The House with a Clock in Its Walls, and warned new filmmakers stating, "one mistake I see is that when Directors don't trust the audience and lose confidence in their own material, they think they have to schtick it up to keep our interest.'"

Strauss-Schulson showed a clip from his feature, The Final Girls, and compared the genres of horror and comedy, stating that "They are the same rhythms. I think it's the same pattern breaking, like setup, setup, setup, surprise. It's like Homer Simpson steps over a banana peel and falls in a manhole. Like that's a horror movie."

Throughout the moderated portion of the event, the panelists also took questions from the online audience.

See video from this event in the gallery below.

Mike FlanaganMike Flanagan
Flanagan’s directorial credits include the feature films Doctor SleepGerald’s GameOuija: Origin of Evil and Absentia; and episodes of The Haunting of Hill HouseThe Haunting of Bly ManorMidnight MassThe Midnight Club,and The Fall of the House of Usher. Flanagan has been a DGA member since 2015. 
Leigh JaniakLeigh Janiak
Janiak’s directorial credits include the feature films Fear Street 1994Fear Street 1978, and Fear Street 1666, shot back-to-back-to-back with the same cast, set in three different time periods and connected by an epic narrative; and the feature, Honeymoon; the pilot for the series Panic; and episodes of Outcast and The Staircase. Janiak has been a DGA member since 2015. 

Eli RothEli Roth
Roth’s directorial credits include the feature films Cabin FeverHostelHostel: Part IIKnock KnockThe Green InfernoThe House with a Clock in its WallsDeath WishFIN; and episodes of South of Hell and Hemlock Grove. Roth has been a DGA member since 2016. 

Todd Strauss-SchulsonTodd Strauss-Schulson
Strauss-Schulson’s directorial credits include the feature films A Very Harold & Kumar ChristmasThe Final GirlsZombies and Cheerleaders and Isn’t It Romantic; and episodes of ChadZach Stone is Gonna be Famous and The Inbetweeners. Strauss-Schulson has been a DGA member since 2010. 
Mary HarronMary Harron (moderator)
Harron’s directorial credits include the feature films DalilandCharlie SaysThe Moth DiariesThe Notorious Bettie PageAmerican Psycho and I Shot Andy Warhol; the movie for television Anna Nicole; the mini-series Alias Grace; and episodes of The ExpectingGracelandThe FollowingConstantineBig LoveSix Feet Under and Homicide: Life on the Street. She has been a DGA member since 1997 and also currently serves as a member of the Eastern Directors Council in addition to her service as Chair of the IDC-East. 

About The Special Projects Committee

Special Projects is the educational and cultural arm of the Directors Guild of America, providing its members opportunities for creative exchange to advance their craft and celebrate the achievements of directors and their teams.

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