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That's really just how the film starts. What it's really about is what happens after that—in many ways, it's the point of the film: What would happen if you subvert some of the standard conventions of a horror film? The first act of our film could be a standard home invasion horror, [but] I wanted to find out what would happen if you turned that kind of a construct on its head. Instead of the monsters wear[ing] a mask through the whole movie, what happens if you de-mask the monsters much earlier and you end up seeing the world through their eyes? I think that was what I was found interesting: How do people who do bad things deal with the ramifications of their actions?
TribecaFilm.com: This is your first feature film. What's the craziest thing that happened while making the film?
AP: We had some crazy good luck with casting. Brian Geraghty's manager invited me to go and see a film that I knew nothing about—he was actually the first actor I met with on the film—and I went to the screening of a movie [sight unseen]; all I knew was the name. It was called The Hurt Locker. So I went to the screening and was kind of expecting to get a sense of what Brian's acting is like. Instead I'm blown away by this movie. Brian being in Hurt Locker and then playing the role of David was fantastic, so that was a great outcome for us.
Also, we shot the film in my house...
TribecaFilm.com: That was your house??
AP: Yeah! So I didn't plan on sleeping in my house as we were shooting, but we shot a lot at night, so obviously... I would just be so tired at the end of the day I would oftentimes just creep into my old bed[room], which was turned into a production office, so I'd wake up the next day with the craft services person rattling coffee makers downstairs and stuff as the next day would start.
TribecaFilm.com: What's the biggest thing you learned as a first-time filmmaker while making this film? Any advice for aspiring filmmakers?
AP: I think the privilege of getting to make a film is working with a lot of experts, so I think any advice that I have would simply be about active collaboration. You have to guide people with a clear vision, but I think more than anything you have to simply understand how to enable people who really know what they're doing in an expert kind of way. And I think the more you can do to unlock everyone else's potential, the better [off] you will ultimately be, because you can't know everyone's job... They will inevitably run into road blocks, so if you can help them solve the problem that's in their way of doing their job well, then that will make what you're doing better. So it's kind of I think helping everyone do what they do very well. Part of that is providing a vision, is being clear with people.
TribecaFilm.com: When I was watching it, I'd just watched Paranormal Activity, so just thinking about the claustrophobia of being in the same place that whole time, which you talked about already, your house—can you talk about filming in such a tight location?
AP: What occupied a lot of our time [was] pre-production, because part of the challenge is to keep it visually interesting. You don't have a lot of space, you don't get to [go] outside, you want to maintain this claustrophobia, and so we spent a lot of time looking at other films that were shot inside, and not just horror films, either—a lot of dramas. In fact, American Beauty was a film that I looked at a lot in trying to find inspiration for maintaining a visual interest, and so that was something we were very, very aware of. There was some stuff that we actually cut out of the film—just because [they] were some visually really cool sequences that were kind of our favorite shots [wasn't enough]. They ultimately just couldn't make the cut, because they didn't serve the story.
TribecaFilm.com: That's a good lesson for filmmakers, too.
AP: You've got to kill your darlings. That definitely speaks to the value of trusted advice. We had small screenings during the editing stage, as, I think, everyone does, but knowing no one will ever have the perfect set of comments. But you do spot trends, and so when people keep saying, "This is problematic," they're probably right. [laughs] So even if you're really married to a shot because you love it and because it took forever to set up, it doesn't necessarily have to be there.
TribecaFilm.com: If you could have dinner with any filmmaker, alive or dead, who would it be?
AP: The Coen brothers... A film of theirs that everyone knows but I really love is No Country for Old Men. And one of the things that impressed me about that film is it works absolutely and yet it works within many genres. It does not fit into any one genre and yet it still is of a piece. That is impressive.
TribeaFilm.com: Along the same lines, what piece of art—it can be a book, a movie, a TV show, whatever—do you find yourself recommending most often to your friends?
AP: Can I say something ridiculous? Because I'm about to have a kid. Goodnight, Moon. I just keep getting this book from [everyone] so now we have like six copies of it.
TribecaFilm.com: What would your biopic be called?
AP: I've definitely dabbled in several intense interests [laughs] and I don't know, "Work in Progress"?
TribecaFilm.com: What makes Open House a Tribeca must-see?
AP: It's a scary movie with great performances.
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