Lionsgate’s supernatural thriller, The Haunting in Connecticut recently was released on DVD. I had the opportunity to interview first-time feature film director Peter Cornwell about his experience making the film.
SWL: How did you get your start in the film industry?
CORNWELL: I did the film course at North Sydney Tech, and worked as a sound recordist at ABC TV in Sydney. I made a short animated film, Ward 13 in my spare time and that had a very good reception in the festival circuit and got me started with a manager and an agent in LA.
SWL: Talk about the pre-production, production, and post-production processes for the film.
CORNWELL: That is a big question. In animation you have to plan everything ahead, so I did that as much as I could. That ironically gave me more freedom to be flexible on the day, because I’d already thought through what the ramifications would be. And it was nice shooting more than 4 seconds a day! Post production was great because I had a great editor, and composer, and we were given enough time to experiment and get it right.
SWL: Talk a little about the casting process. Was Virginia Madsen your initial choice to play the mom?
CORNWELL: Yes. I was really happy to get the cast I got – Elias Koteas, Kyle Gallner, Martin Donovan and Amanda Crew. Even the little kids are great! Virginia had a great combination of warmth and authority, and she really helped to sell the reality of the family’s experience.
SWL: The Haunting in Connecticut delivers on a number of emotional and psychological levels. How do you as director ensure that those emotions translate from the page to the actors’ performances, and then from the screen to the audience?
CORNWELL: Thanks, I’m glad you thought so; it’s all about having a strong vision and communicating that to everyone in the cast and crew, while at the same time being open to anyone who has better ideas.
SWL: What filmmakers inspire you?
CORNWELL: Too many film makers to mention. It changes from week to week. Ray Harryhausen’s Jason and the Argonauts got me into stop motion. I saw from what he did that in Stop-Motion it is possible to shoot these amazingly complicated sequences all by oneself. I love a wide variety of films, and get inspired by bits and pieces from everywhere.
SWL: What advice would you give to aspiring filmmakers?
CORNWELL: Really learn the craft of storytelling so you have the tools to dissect a story. Stories that work have a form, not a formula.
My thanks to Peter Cornwell for participating in this interview.
Check out my review of The Haunting in Connecticut DVD by clicking here.