Starring Emilia Clarke (Game of Thrones) and set in a gorgeously ominous castle, the new gothic thriller Voice from the Stone is now out in theaters and on VOD and Digital HD from Momentum Pictures, and we caught up with the film's director, Eric D. Howell, for our latest Q&A feature, and we've also been provided with a new clip from the movie.
Thanks for taking the time to answer some questions for us, Eric. What attracted you to this story and made you want to bring Andrew Shaw’s adaptation of Silvio Raffo’s novel to life on the big screen?
Eric D. Howell: The script was one that literally made me want to read under a blanket with a flashlight. It had familiar gothic motifs, but told a story about love, loss, grief, and fear in a way that was completely compelling and original. Andrew is an amazing writer and he had me all the way through.
You capture so many gorgeous and haunting locations in this movie. Where did filming take place and what did those environments add aesthetically and atmospherically to the film?
Eric D. Howell: This is an Italian story, so for me and producers Dean Zanuck and Stefano Gallini-Durante, there was never a question about filming in Italy. We filmed the exterior castle location at a place just outside of Siena called Castello di Celsa, and the interiors in northern Lazio at a place called Montecalvello.
Obviously, the gothic elements are seen in the exterior location, but one thing that compelled me about the interiors was the brightly painted walls. The contradiction of this kind of light environment surrounding a dark and moody story made for interesting photographic choices and opportunities. The film is about love coming to a boy through stone—a contradiction that was reflected in the locations.
What was the shooting schedule like for Voice from the Stone?
Eric D. Howell: We had 35 days of filming. What’s great about working in Italy is that they hold you to ten hours of work plus one hour for lunch. No overtime. They work hard, then they go eat and enjoy each other. It forces a director to be efficient and therefore I feel makes for better storytelling.
What was it like working with Emilia Clarke, who plays Verena?
Eric D. Howell: Working with Emilia was one of the highlights of my professional career. Her work ethic, talent, and attitude sets the tone for the entire cast and crew. I’m not a barometer for Hollywood, but as a human being, I can tell you that she will have a long and excellent career because of who she is as a person.
Do you have any favorite haunted house films or psychological horror movies that influenced you while making Voice from the Stone?
Eric D. Howell: I sort of avoided watching too many other films while making this one. Frankly, I often get into comparison mode and that can seize up creativity. There is no question that Hitchcock’s Rebecca, Amenabar’s The Others, and anything by Guillermo del Toro played a huge influence.
When you look back at your time on set, is there a particularly funny or memorable moment that stands out?
Eric D. Howell: Maybe the pinnacle of filmmaking for me happens in the sound mix, which we did with Gary Rizzo at Skywalker [Ranch]. During that process is when I sent the film to Amy Lee (of Evanescence) to see if she would be interested in creating a song for the film. She immediately responded to the film after what was basically a cold call. Hours later, she sent the first 40 seconds of what would become "Speak to Me." She came out to the Ranch and wrote and recorded the song with our composer, Michael Wandmacher. What they made is simply astonishing, and at that moment I realized that our film had inspired another artist to create something, and that may be the biggest compliment I’ve ever experienced.
What types of scares can viewers expect to experience in Voice from the Stone?
Eric D. Howell: VFTS is a slow burn, not an in-and-out horror film. There are scares, but this is a story that will slowly seep into your mind and hopefully your heart. It’s really a haunting romance more than a horror film. It’s sort of a Merchant-Ivory ghost story!
With Voice from the Stone now out in theaters and on VOD and Digital HD from Momentum Pictures, what projects do you have on deck that you can tease, and where can our readers find you online?
Eric D. Howell: I’ve got two that are in the fire—one is a graphic novel called The Revolution of Cassandra, which is a contemporary female Indiana Jones with all the thrills, but she wears dreadlocks and Birkenstocks rather than a fedora and whip. My next feature is Killing Roma, which is a cross between Lost in Translation and Leon: The Professional. A meticulous assassin and a suicidal femme fatale roaming around a city, getting in trouble, and falling in love, with a bit of stylish action to boot.