Sean Branney – The Whisperer in Darkness


In 2005, the H.P. Lovecraft Historical Society released The Call of Cthulhu, a 47-minute adaptation of the classic Lovecraft tale of cosmic horror. Shot in a mock-1920s style, dubbed ‘Mythoscope’, the film was extremely well-received by fans and was subsequently shown at a number of film festivals, including Slamdance 2006. The Society’s next major project is an adaptation of another Lovecraft story, The Whisperer in Darkness, which should be released late 2010 or early 2011.

Below is a transcript of an email interview that I conducted with Sean Branney, the co-producer of both films:

FAN FILM FOLLIES (through John Walliss): Looking at the trailer for Whisperer in Darkness, you’ve gone for a different look and era of filmmaking than you used in The Call of Cthulhu. Why is this?

SEAN BRANNEY: We felt that because Lovecraft’s stories were grounded in the 20s and 30s, shooting them in a style reflective of that era was a good approach. After making The Call of Cthulhu, we were interested in producing a feature length talkie. We realized The Whisperer in Darkness was a good candidate. It was written in 1931, the same year that Dracula and Frankenstein came to the screen and synch sound became the new standard. The bold visual style of the classic horror films of the early 1930s inspired our approach to the photography. On the technical side, we moved from a rather low-end camera which we used for The Call of Cthulhu to a very high-end HD camera for Whisperer. It creates an image that is drastically better than we could create in our previous movie. And, of course, the addition of recorded dialogue fundamentally changes the set of tools we use to tell the story.

FFF:After The Call of Cthulhu, what drew you to making another film, and why this particular story?

SB: The Call of Cthulhu wildly exceeded our expectations. When we made it, we made it just because we wanted to. We hoped someday we’d make our investment back and we hoped someone, somewhere would want to watch it. We discovered that there were a lot of people out there eager to see this kind of film and we thought it would be fun to make another. We chose Whisperer because the story itself has a lot of dramatic potential in it and it’s structure lent itself to cinematic storytelling. That said, we felt in order to make it into a feature film, we were going to have to flesh out some of the elements of the story. Whisperer is one of Lovecraft’s great stories, a favorite of many readers and we thought it could be an equally pleasing movie.

FFF: What are the particular challenges of bringing HP Lovecraft to the screen?

SB: Lovecraft’s stories are often not dramatic in their nature. The story of The Whisperer in Darkness, for example, consists in large measure of two fellows writing letters back and forth. A purely literal adaptation might come across and dry and static on screen. But, of course in adapting is writing, it’s also easy to move so far away from his source material that the resulting film bears little resemblance to the story being adapted. His stories often tend to eschew characters and relationships in favor of cosmic themes and atmospheres. While that can be very effective in a short story, movie goers are accustomed to interesting characters who engage with other characters in relationships. So, it becomes a challenge to present a Lovecraftian protagonist in a manner that’s keeping with the source material, but which will entertain and engage an audience.

FFF: Producing a fanfilm takes a great deal of time, effort and money, what do you think it is that inspires fans such as yourself to do this?

SB: We’re inspired to try and make great movies. We don’t really look at ourselves as fans – we’re filmmakers who are not just doing some job for hire but are working on a project that we’re personally invested in. Nearly everyone who works on our films are highly qualified professionals. People work with us for very modest compensation because they believe in the projects that we’re trying to bring to the screen. Like most filmmakers, our goal is to tell our audiences a story that they’ll enjoy. I suspect that’s the driving motivation behind most filmmakers who create their own projects. We’re fortunate that we’ve found a commercial market for our films and we’re able to make our living from our very small production company.

FFF: Fanfilms have been around for years, but have achieved a degree of prominence in recent years (with, say, the media interest in The Hunt for Gollum). Why do you think this is and what do you think the future holds for fanfilms?

SB: Independent producers are now able to produce sophisticated movies that tell stories in a manner that used to be outside the reach of multi-million dollar productions. Some small producers have made some films that have really resonated with audiences and left people realizing that big budget, heavily marketed films are not the be-all and end-all of entertainment. I think these types of projects will only serve to excite new filmmakers who will find ways to bring exciting, imaginative entertainment to the wide variety of screen sizes currently available.

For more information on the H.P. Lovecraft Historical Society, see its webpage, or for specific information on Whisperer in Darkness, see its blog and facebook group.

THE WHISPERER IN DARKNESS TRAILER

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