Best friends Stan (Jay Jay Warren) and Dommer (Cody Kostro) find a solution to their bullying problem via a vampire in Stan's backyard in the new horror movie The Shed, but their solution becomes a problem due to its insatiable (and problematic) appetite for blood. Written and directed by Frank Sabatella, The Shed is coming to theaters, VOD, and Digital HD on November 15th, and we caught up with Sabatella in our latest Q&A feature to discuss the importance of taking a unique approach to vampires, The Shed's long journey from story idea to screen, linking vampires to real-life issues such as bullying, and the bloodsucking cinematic influences that inspired Sabatella while making his latest film.
Thanks for taking the time to catch up with us, and congratulations on The Shed! When and how did you come up with the idea for this film?
Frank Sabatella: The idea actually began back in 2003. A film school buddy of mine, Jason Rice, had come up with a short story about a teenager who finds a vampire inside his tool shed. Such a simple concept with so many possibilities! The short version never got made into a film, but years later, around 2014, I contacted Jason and asked if I could expand the concept into a feature film and he gave me his blessing. From there I began to work in the fuller concepts of neglect and abuse and where these characters were really coming from and what motivated their decisions.
How long did it take you to write the screenplay for The Shed, and how many drafts did you go through before filming began?
Frank Sabatella: The initial screenplay took me about six months or so to write back in 2014. I went through at least five more drafts over the next two years, which took me into 2016. When Peter Block came on board to produce, he and I worked on another round of rewrites. I believe all in all we ended up with seven drafts by the time we went into production.
Where did filming take place, and how many days did you have in your shooting schedule?
Frank Sabatella: Filming took place in Syracuse, NY, and it was an excellent town to shoot this film in. We had 17 days in our shooting schedule. It was a very tight and fast-paced shoot—very intense and meticulously planned.
We’ve seen countless films on vampires over the last century. How important was it for you to take a unique approach to vampires and link your story to real-life issues like abuse and bullying?
Frank Sabatella: It was very important for me to find a unique approach to a vampire tale and find a way to make it relatable and smart for today's audiences, who I think demand a little more from their horror movies. Connecting the idea to bullying, neglect, and abuse just seemed like a natural extension to these characters and I felt it was something everyone could understand and therefore connect with. There is a different kind of horror that comes from bullying and what the potential consequences can be in this day and age, that is very scary as we have seen in the news. I think a good horror movie takes some of the current fears and anxieties of the times and lays them out in a digestible way—sort of a controlled look at anxiety.
Were you influenced or inspired by any other vampire movies, TV shows, or books while making The Shed?
Frank Sabatella: Of course! I believe any artist is the sum of their influences and our influences are a reflection of our tastes and obsessions. Some of my biggest influences for this film came from some obvious places, such as The Lost Boys and Fright Night, in terms of vampire lore, but I was also very inspired by the film River’s Edge and the kind of youth in that film and how they responded to their circumstances and how their environment created their reactions. Additionally, Stephen King’s writing and his approach to vampires and really any horror set in small-town America have had a big impact on me.
Looking back at your time on set, is there a favorite or memorable moment that stands out?
Frank Sabatella: Hmmm, there are many great memories from that set because we really had a great crew and a lot of fun shooting the film, even though it was extremely intense at times. One of my favorite moments was shooting one of the dream sequences, when Stan, our main character, is sleepwalking essentially out into the yard. We had filled up the entire field with fog and had this bright, eerie light coming out of the shed and it was the middle of the night. The moon was very bright in the sky, crickets were chirping and it just all felt like we were really immersed in this spooky scene. It started to feel very real for everyone on set and the atmosphere just completely enveloped us. It was a great night.
Ultimately, what do you hope viewers take away from The Shed?
Frank Sabatella: I hope viewers would walk out of The Shed thinking it was a fun, cool, and thoughtful horror film. I want the audience to have a great time watching it and also maybe consider how people treat one another. Especially in this time, where people are so quick to hate on each other over the internet and on social media, people don’t think about how their words and actions might affect someone.
Ten years ago you released your previous feature film, Blood Night: The Legend of Mary Hatchet, and you directed several short films since then as well. What is the biggest filmmaking lesson that you’ve learned over the past decade?
Frank Sabatella: The biggest lesson for me is to just keep your head down and do the work. It’s not easy getting films made and I think if it is something you seriously want to do with your life, it is important to understand it is a long, trying road. Be prepared to put in long hours, and wait long stretches of time before your work may be seen or validated. Just keep doing the work. Keep thinking about it and keep going. Be your own cheerleading squad, too. And remember to have fun.
RLJE Films acquired The Shed for US distribution. How exciting is it for you to have RLJE Films in your corner to help get this film to horror fans?
Frank Sabatella: It is so exciting! RLJE has so many great horror titles and I am just honored to be among their films. They are doing such a great job creating awareness for this film and other indie films, and it feels really good.
With The Shed coming to theaters, VOD, and Digital HD on November 15th from RLJE Films, what other projects do you have coming up that you’re excited about, and where can our readers follow your work online?
Frank Sabatella: I’m presently developing two story ideas that I’m just beginning to flesh out. I think the one I’m more excited about is about two girls who begin dabbling in witchcraft with the hopes of summoning an evil entity to do their bidding and take revenge on someone who wronged them, but of course things go horrifically wrong when you mess with the dark forces! It is very early in the process, so I will see how it takes shape and what other opportunities come my way.