Todd Spence and Zak White on their horror short, “Your Date Is Here”

"...Take from what you know and I knew sleepy little towns..."

Your Date Is Here is a recently released short horror film that is already winning awards. It is a brilliantly constructed story that turns the generic board game into a nightmare. And as soon as I saw it, I knew I had to learn more about this movie and its two creators, Todd Spence and Zak White. As such, I am thrilled that Spence and White have allowed me to interview them for ScifiPulse.

To learn more about Spence and White, check out their homepages (Zak White and Todd Spence) and follow them on twitter at @TheZakW and @Todd_Spence.

Nicholas Yanes: Growing up, what were some films you two loved watching?

Todd Spence: I remember always heading to the horror section at the local video store but loved comedies as well. I pretty much loved anything by John Landis and his Making of Thriller is really what peaked my interest in making movies early on.

Zak White: I was very much a child of the 90’s, so I was always rewatching Jurassic Park or Wayne’s World or Batman. My taste really hasn’t changed all too much.

Yanes: Are there any films you two re-watch when developing a movie idea?

Spence: I like to go to films that are great character studies. I re-discovered The Verdict recently. Great drama and character film. Especially for when you’re writing something horror because a lot of writers are pretty lazy when it comes to developing anything but scares. We want to avoid that as much as possible.

White: It all depends on the project you’re working on. I like to watch films with a similar tone and really study what makes them work so well, or not work. Sometimes watching other filmmakers’ missteps can be just as valuable as putting on a masterpiece like The Thing for the 735th time.

 

Yanes: You two are from the Midwest and I lived in Iowa for eight years. How do you both think growing up in the Midwest shaped the types of stories you two want to tell?

White: I grew up in a small Midwest town so when I was just learning to use my imagination, that was the location I had to play with. Take from what you know and I knew sleepy little towns.

Spence: Same. Big stories, big characters set against a small background is always a lot of fun.

Yanes: You two recently released the horror short, Your Date Is Here. What was the initial inspiration for this story?

White: We wanted to make something we’d watch ourselves.

Spence: Absolutely, that’s key. But also we wanted to do something we hadn’t seen before. Something different.

 

Yanes: Are there any classic films or TV episodes that influenced this project?

White: We read some Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark, as well as maybe some Tales From The Crypt and Are You Afraid Of The Dark. A lot of those take a simple premise and really juice every ounce of tension they can out of it. They also knew when to alleviate that tension and never took themselves too seriously.

Spence: Absolutely. Horror filmmakers tend to go for the gore and guts a little too easily these days. We wanted to do something that could scare kids and still be pretty clean for them to watch. Especially since the short was heading to the internet for anyone to enjoy.

Yanes: Due to never winning a game of Monopoly, I have never liked board games. Why did you two select a board game as the focus on the story? Also, what’s wrong with dweebs? I’m asking for a friend.

White: We wanted to take something that appeared innocent and non-threatening and make people rethink their assumptions. Also, as far as dweebs go, they’re just not as dreamy.

Spence: There’s only Ouiji as far as a board game for the horror genre so a board game actually meant for children, something like Mystery Date, was something cool that hasn’t really been tapped into yet. As for Dweebs, nothing at all wrong with Dweebs! They’re hip now! However, Your Date Is Here is a game made in the 1950’s so we had to think in those terms as far as what kind of date a lady of that era would not want to go out with.

Yanes: The creature looks amazing. How did the look of this character develop? Was Beetlejuice an influence?

White: We actually took from the illustrations in Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark, although Beetlejuice is never far from our thoughts so he probably slimed his way in there somewhat. He’s a slimy guy.

Spence: The more human-looking monsters is what creeps me out the most. But we also wanted to make the person look like a date from the 1950’s with a scary spin.

Yanes: What would it take to develop Your Date Is Here into a full length movie?

White: Money for a proper budget.

Spence: And getting our feature script into the right hands.

Yanes: Lights Out was an excellent short film that was stretched into a full length film. What concerns do you two have when discussing how Your Date Is Here should be turned into a movie?

White: When adapting a short into a feature, you have a great opportunity to blow out that world and really delve into some new ideas. Our concern is with so many possibilities, are we going down the right road? Is this the best avenue for this concept? So many stories you could tell, but what’s the most effective?

Spence: The thing with Lights Out is the filmmaker, who admitted this himself, he didn’t have an idea for a feature after that short was made. With Your Date Is Here, we’ve talked at length what else we could do with it. And I think we really landed on something not only horror fans would love, but also commentary on today’s social climate and female empowerment. Your Date Is Here is a game made for young girls, expecting these gentleman, these well-dressed strangers, to arrive at their door and sweep them off their feet, and that’s just not how the real world works. It never really did. So we touch on that quite a bit in the feature script.

Yanes: Finally, what are you two working on that people can look forward to?

Spence: At the moment, we’re taking meetings and talking with people regarding that very same question. Now that the short film is public after doing the festival thing for a year, we’re enjoying what the next step could possibly be. Too early to tell but excited about the possibilities.

Remember, you can learn more about Spence and White by checking out their homepages (Zak White and Todd Spence) and following them on twitter at @TheZakW and @Todd_Spence.

And remember to follow me on twitter @NicholasYanes, and to follow ScifiPulse on twitter @SciFiPulse and on facebook.

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