A young woman coping with an unwanted pregnancy moves into a haunted house. Sounds like your typical contemporary clone of Rosemary's Baby, right? The House on Pine Street - from filmmakers Aaron and Austin Keeling - is anything but typical, in fact it's refreshingly original and very, very good. We spoke to Aaron Keeling following the film's recent L.A screening.
Emily Goss is quite a find. Where did you stumble upon her?
Austin and I went to USC with her, though we didn’t know her very well until this film. Austin had helped out on a shoot she was involved with, and later directed a small spec commercial project with her. We held casting calls in Kansas City, where the film was shot, but we also asked for taped auditions from a few actors out of the state. Emily was one such actress, and when we saw her taped audition we were blown away and knew we had found our “Jennifer.”
Were the roles difficult to cast in this? See a lot of people?
Most of the roles were relatively easy to cast. We got very lucky. We saw between 250 and 300 auditions in person, with about 100 more taped auditions sent in. And for the most part, the talent was very impressive! Of course we spent a bit more time trying to lock down the lead role of Jennifer, and also that character’s husband Luke. We needed to make sure these two could carry the whole film and create a believable chemistry between one another. It took some time, but we ended up with a great cast and couldn’t be happier with the results.
As a director, how much say do you get in casting?
Since this was such a low budget project, I had a ton of say in the casting. We didn’t even have a casting director or any sort of casting team. It was just myself, Austin (the other director) and Natalie (co-writer/producer). We saw every audition and made all the final decisions. It was a bit stressful, and it was a lot of work at the beginning, but it was nice having such control over every aspect of the casting process.
At any stage did you want to try and get a big name? Can you talk about that process?
We talked about it for a while, but never really tried to seriously seek out a big name actor. One of the major reasons for this was our incredibly limited budget, but we also wanted to keep most of the cast local to Kansas City and try to pull great performances out of relatively unknown actors. That being said, many of the supporting roles are played by locally well-known actors. Jim Korinke (who plays Walter in the film) and Cathy Barnett (who plays Meredith) are both extremely familiar faces in the Kansas City theater community, so it was great to have them as part of the team and get all the support they brought along with them.
Do good reviews still mean something to filmmakers or is the cinemagoers opinion more important?
I’m not sure about all filmmakers, but good reviews definitely still mean something to us! This was our first movie, so we had no idea what to expect. We also are incredibly hard on ourselves and have a lot of doubts, so getting good reviews has been extremely encouraging (we’ve gotten a few not-so-positive reviews as well…it was hard at first, but we’ve gotten used to it by now). Negative reviews can completely sink a film, especially for first-time, unknown filmmakers, so we are very thankful that the critical response has been as positive as it has been. With a ultra-low budget film such as ours, positive reviews can go a long way toward getting more people interested in seeing the film, so the reviews we’ve gotten have been very important to us as we feel they’ve definitely pulled in a larger audience for us. That being said, the audience reaction is definitely more important. Hearing the opinions and thoughts from people who have just watched your movie is so cool, and we’ve been able to talk with such a wide array of people with completely unique theories and reactions to the film. It’s been very eye opening, and very rewarding.
You recently screened the film in L.A. Do you expect this to be followed by a general release?
We are currently working with our sales agent (Raven Banner Entertainment) to secure distribution. Nothing is set in stone yet, but it looks like we’ll be seeing a general release of some sort early in 2016. So keep your eyes peeled!