This past weekend, filmmakers David Charbonier and Justin Powell celebrated the world premiere of their first feature, The Boy Behind the Door, which debuted online as part of the 2020 Fantastic Fest celebration (you can read my review HERE). Recently, Daily Dead had the opportunity to speak with both Powell and Charbonier about the project, and they discussed the inspiration behind their story for the film, their experiences collaborating with their cast on The Boy Behind the Door, and more.

I would love to hear a little bit about what the initial inspiration was behind this story, in terms of these kids and the things that they have to endure and the friendship that they share. Because obviously, their friendship is really the heart of the story, and a lot of it is hard to watch, but I think ultimately there's a sense of hope because of their connection to each other.

Justin Powell: Oh my God. I'm so glad that you felt that because that was a very important part of even conceptualizing this, as we came at things from a thematic standpoint. And just having a core of friends till the end was what this grew out of in many ways. In some ways, I think their friendship is reflective of David and mine's in certain ways. We have not been kidnapped and had to go through something terrifying, like the characters in this do. But having this strong friendship between these two young, lifelong friends, was really important for us to tell. Beyond that, we just are huge fans of horror, thriller, and suspense. We grew up with that old-school suspense. That's what we wanted to recreate and tell. We also love young protagonists in movies, especially when they're in those kind of horror settings, like in Child's Play or Jurassic Park. So that's what this grew out of at first.

Can you talk about working with this cast and finding the physical beats, the emotional beats, and bringing them together for this story?

David Charbonier: Yeah, totally. I mean, we had an amazing casting director. I can't say it enough. Amy Lipins. We knew right away that Lonnie would be perfect for this kind of role. We didn't think we could get him. We met Ezra when he came in for an early audition, and he was great. I think we just hit the jackpot when it came to casting. Everyone in it was just so amazing. And if you don't have really strong performances that you believe in, because there are such few characters, everything just falls apart. Especially for a story like this, in terms of hitting some of those emotional beats with the boys, I think we just tried to really make ourselves available for if they ever had moments where they needed to reflect on things.

They're both able to pull from this really dark place for these really serious emotions that is hard to understand, because the next second they'll be laughing and throwing darts at each other and running around having fun. But once you say “action,” it just comes out of them. I think we just tried to be really supportive because the subject matter is very dark. But I do think we got really lucky, because we did get the best people.

In speaking to that, because you have two younger actors who are dealing with a lot of heavy stuff in this movie, how did you guys keep that balance for them? Because ultimately, you don't want to traumatize these poor kids for the rest of their lives after working on this.

Justin Powell: For us, it was just about keeping the environment on set for these kids very light. The story is very dark, it's dealing with very dark subject matter. But that doesn't mean that these kids between takes aren't able to have fun, be their own genuine selves. Their families were always on set and sometimes even their friends. So, they were able to kind of hang out with them between.

And they're so good at just immediately being able to tap into that dark space, that all we would ever have to do is maybe have short discussions with them, asking them what they need from us, making sure that they understood what was coming up next, and seeing if they needed any assistance getting into a certain dark place. And they never did. So, it was just really about keeping that environment light and fun for them, and really not ever going too deep into the specifics of the dark subject matter that's occurring in the story, because they didn't really need that for their performances.

I know a lot of folks will say that if you shoot a film in one location, it's so easy because you're just staying in one place and it's almost like a cheat. But I don't actually think it is that easy because when you're telling a story visually, you have to find ways to keep it interesting for viewers, and the geography of a locale can really make or break a movie. Can you talk about, one, finding this house because it was great, but two, sort of using this environment which, in some ways, becomes a character as well in the movie?

David Charbonier: Thank you for pointing that out because I know some people call that a crutch or a cheat when you have one location. We like stories that have that more contained feeling to them. And one movie that comes to mind was Don't Breathe. I mean, you could even say Die Hard is one location. But yeah, we always knew the house was going to be super important. It took actually a really, really long time to find this house. We didn't first starting looking in California. We started looking in New York for a really long time because we wanted to initially shoot it in New York because of the landscape. But that didn't work out.

Justin Powell: Even though we found a location we loved there.

David Charbonier: We did find a location that was great. There were other problems that we couldn't shoot in New York. But then when we started looking here, we found this really cool house. It's actually not far from a lot of people. It's in Culver City, and it's surrounded by all these great oil fields. The story was always written with one location in mind. So once we actually found the house, we really took the floor plan and broke it down and then sort of reworked every scene to really fit how the hallway connects to the kitchen, to Bobby running from the kitchen through the foyer to the stairway. Everything had to be reshaped. It's a big consideration, but I think it makes the story a little more unique.

So it's strange because you are premiering this virtually. And yet, you're still getting to be part of a festival, which is great. Is it an interesting process for you guys to be sharing this movie with people in this manner versus getting to actually go and share this with people in person?

Justin Powell: I almost feel like Dave and I are kind of shy and awkward in person. I mean, it's not the worst, I guess, for us. This is also our first movie, so we've never had this experience of being able to show people in person. So I guess that we're not necessarily envious of what we're missing out on because we haven't experienced it before anyway. But, at the same time, we’re just really thankful that they've figured out a way to hold this festival and other festivals safely for people to actually still attend from the safety of their own home. So many of these festivals just weren't able to happen at all, so honestly we're just grateful that A, this festival is happening, and B, that we're able to be a part of it. But it helped us hide how awkward and weird we are [laughs].

  • Heather Wixson
    About the Author - Heather Wixson

    Heather A. Wixson was born and raised in the Chicago suburbs, until she followed her dreams and moved to Los Angeles in 2009. A 14-year veteran in the world of horror entertainment journalism, Wixson fell in love with genre films at a very early age, and has spent more than a decade as a writer and supporter of preserving the history of horror and science fiction cinema. Throughout her career, Wixson has contributed to several notable websites, including Fangoria, Dread Central, Terror Tube, and FEARnet, and she currently serves as the Managing Editor for Daily Dead, which has been her home since 2013. She's also written for both Fangoria Magazine & ReMind Magazine, and her latest book project, Monsters, Makeup & Effects: Volume One will be released on October 20, 2021.