Exploring a New Kind of Religious Folk Horror: A Chat with Andres Rovira
Come, Said the Night is a faith based folk horror that sets itself apart from other films in its genre. I was lucky enough to talk to Andres Rovira about his film, his personal faith journey, and why he chose Greek mythology as the backdrop of this unique, strong debut from this up and coming genre director.
Without further ado, here’s the interview:
Hey, thanks for taking a few minutes to chat Andres. I just finished watching the film and was immediately interested in talking to you about it. Let’s start with brief intros for the readers. Who is Andres Rovira?
I’m a cinephile, whiskey lover, theme park enthusiast and storyteller. I’ve been writing since I was a child, from prose to screenplays. I also like to turn those written works into living, breathing things on the big screen and I don’t plan to stop.
This is your feature debut, correct? What else have you worked on prior to this project?
It was a gradual climb from short film to short film, each getting longer and more expensive. I played with each genre up until my last short film No Stranger Pilgrims, a sci-fi drama that changed my life. It was that film that opened the door for me to direct my first feature. I owe a lot to that weird 30 minute film about inter-dimensional travelers.
Come, Said the Night is a unique film with a unique voice. What inspired this vision?
I tend to gravitate toward coming of age films. I attribute that to Spielberg, who crafted my childhood experience through his films. I also attribute that to my own childhood that I often look back upon to answer questions about my life now. Our childhoods are the foundation that built who we are today. For this reason, I am drawn to child protagonists and the harrowing challenges, the fear, the anxiety and the discovery of being a kid. With “Come, Said the Night,” I wanted to capture a pivotal moment of development — the moment when a young girl transitions from kid to woman. In the case of young Sprout, she was forced to come-of-age quicker than usual because of the horrific circumstances that befall her family. Kids see monsters in all types of anxieties and fears. In this case, I wanted the monster to represent the confusing anxiety that accompanies puberty and shifting hormones, while also acting as a metaphor for coping with the loss of a loved one. Toss religious dogma into the picture and a secluded location in the woods, and the result is a fascinating childhood that I think all audiences will relate to. No matter the creed, or background, we were all children once.
Having a penchant for folk horror and religious horror, I was certainly drawn to several aspects of this film. I found your choice to steep the film in Greek Pantheism a really interesting choice. We see Pagan religions and “old gods” in folk horror a good bit, but I can’t think of even a single other horror film with Greek mythology/religion at its base. How’d this come about for you?
I’ve always been fascinated by Greek mythology and was glad to finally integrate the mythos into a film. It was important for religious dogma to play a role in the story because a belief system can often be manipulative and used to justify dark deeds. In the film, Roy Grady instills polytheism within his family through homeschooling of many gods and monsters. He believes in them and so do his children. But like all religious beliefs, there is always the radical side that misinterprets the core beliefs and skews the original teachings. As we see with the Westboro Baptist Church, who misinterpret the teachings of Jesus for that of hate and anger. So is the case with Greek mythology, which is used by Roy Grady to shelter his children from “the otherness,” a concept that refers to a progressive society. He lives in his own little reality, his sanctuary of gods and mythical creatures, as a misguided way to keep his children safe. We often see Catholicism and Christianity used in horror films, painting the religion in a negative light. I wanted to do something different. Greek mythology also gave me a bigger sand box to play in with that of monsters and dark gods which was perfect for a horror film.
You got to work with genre stalwarts Lew Temple and Danielle Harris in this one. How’d you get hooked up with them and what were they like to work with?
I thank a great man for introducing me to Lew Temple. That man is Robert Zuckerman, a brilliant set photographer who has worked with the likes of Ridley Scott and Michael Bay. I highly believe in the power of relationships and this is one relationship that changed my life. I will thank Zuckerman in my Oscar speech for introducing me to actor Kenny Johnson for my last short and Lew Temple this time around, a chain reaction that has led be to becoming a feature film director. Lew was an absolute joy to work with. The best actors hijack a character written by somebody else and turn them into their own. Lew did just that with Roy Grady. As soon as he got his hands on the role, he brought Roy to life through a layered backstory, character quirks, and even chose his own wardrobe to make the character totally his. A liberating experience for a writer is to relinquish their character to a person that gives it a pulse. What Lew delivered on the screen was beyond anything I ever imagined when I wrote his character. And it helps that Lew is a patient, thoughtful, kind and stand up gentlemen who collaborates and has fun doing it. Due to the low budget and tight schedule, we made Lew undergo a rollercoaster of emotions, from sweet to salty with no preparation time and monologues constantly interrupted by noisy elements in the background. It was a lot to ask out of a professional, but he handled it with class and grace.
For Danielle Harris, we went the traditional route of reaching out to her manager, Judy Fox, in order to bring Danielle on board. Because of our tight schedule, we could only have Danielle for one day. We called it “Danielle Day,” one of the most challenging days of my life because we had to fit in so many different scenes from different locations into a 9 hour shooting day. We had to make night look like day. We had to jump through hurdles to ensure we got every Danielle shot in our chaotic schedule and we couldn’t have asked for a better actress to embark on that madness with us. Danielle was zen, patient and a consummate professional. While we scrambled and brainstormed and shifted scenes around last minute, Danielle waited patiently and when the time came to deliver, she delivered all her lines in a natural, likable and relatable way that brought a much needed tenderness and maternal energy to the story. Danielle has been working on set since she was a kid. You don’t need to direct an actress like that. You just sit back, watch, and smile.
Nicole Moorea Sherman as Sprout Grady is the true standout here. She delivers a truly great breakout performance from a young actor many of us had never seen before. What was her process like? Is she as natural as she seems on screen?
I wrote the role of Sprout Grady specifically for Nicole. Knowing her level of talent, her sensibilities, how mature she is for her age, her intelligence, her sense of humor — all of these factors helped me write a character just for her. In many ways, Nicole is very similar to Sprout. She’s silly, playful, has a way with words, she’s active and genuinely a good person. It was a role that came naturally to her. Beyond playfulness, the role demanded some physical performances, stunts, and acting out sleep paralysis. It’s difficult to act out this very unusual condition. Because it’s something that I struggle with, I was able to coach her into the proper positioning and breathing patterns and together with her research, she nailed the paralysis. When I watch her, I get chills because it reminds me of my own chilling experiences with the condition. What blew me away about Nicole was her ability to juggle school time on set with acting. She’d have to shut off from panic mode in order to take a math test, switch on her academic brain, then instantly re-activate her running from monsters mode. That takes a special skill.
Returning to the religious themes a bit, this website was created with one of the goals being to explore faith in arts and culture. This films shows some really interesting tensions between the faith of the Grady family and the beliefs of the outside world. How has faith played a part in your life? Were you brought up in some form of faith? And, how has that morphed and grown into where you are today?
I was brought up Catholic. I went to a Catholic elementary school and was taught by nuns. Then I went on to a Jesuit middle school and high school where I was taught by Jesuit priests. I never felt that I truly connected to the Catholic faith. I prayed every night, not because I wanted to, but because I was told to. I went to Church every Sunday and rather than paying attention, I was brainstorming my next novel or short story. I think perhaps I was turned off by religion and chased away from it due to the aggressive nature in which it was taught to me. As I felt with a lot of my peers, too much religious teachings backfired and resulted in many atheists. I was turned off by the rules, the guidelines, the incessant voice that kept telling me I had to pray or that I had to confess or the outdated and inherently unnatural rule that forbids priests and nuns of engaging in sex or being able to partake in the beautiful sacrament of holy matrimony and then giving marital advice to those in their community. I grew up in a religious bubble and then I moved out and leaped into the real world, where I met other people with different outlooks on life. It wasn’t until I was free of the institution of religion, that I really felt that I became the man I wanted to become and live life by the values that I find to be important. The truth is, I am a very spiritual person. I believe in a God, a creator, whether that be another word for physics and matter that we can’t explain yet, or an actual divine energy. There’s enough evidence to suggest that there are energies and powers that are beyond us. What’s to say that very energy is not God? So I would say that I am very spiritual, but I am not religious. I believe in the basic teachings of Jesus Christ, which are to be a good person and I believe in the teachings of the Jesuits which are to be a “Man for Others.” I just don’t feel I have to be a part of an institution to do these things. I’ll use Joshua Tree National Park as a place for prayer and spiritual fulfillment over a Church any day.
How do you think your personal journeys in faith and spirituality have shaped your art and how do you think you art has challenged your beliefs or worldview?
I am always on a hungry quest for knowledge and the world as we know it, has so many unsolved mysteries. To me, fear of the unknown is the greatest fear and an unsolved mystery will eat at me. So these themes will always appear in my films. I made a film about alternate universes, in my quest to understand the very real possibility that multiverse theory is not just a theory, but a shocking truth that they are other versions of us out there making alternate decisions. Themes of the afterlife pop up in my art often because I am a strong believer in the energy that takes residence in our bodies and how in death, that energy remains. I’ve had enough paranormal occurrences in my life that leave me gasping with questions about the afterlife. My art has challenged these very ideas because I paint them in a made up and fictional manner for the sake of entertainment. The question always remains however…are these fictional and imaginary things that I’m writing about actually real?
Thanks for indulging me with those questions. I find looking at the intersection of faith and art to be fascinating. I grew up in the Christian church and was exposed to a lot of “Christian” music and film, as well as “secular” forms of this art. From an early age I found the art in the “secular” world that tackled faith and spirituality far more interesting and complex. I really love looking at how religious, faith, and spirituality are depicted in film, particularly. Your film was a really interesting look at a different type of faith, so I appreciate your willingness to share a bit about your personal faith and life, as it sheds an interesting light on your film. Before I veer this conversation away from faith, is there anything else you’d want to add about how the film uses faith or explores faith?
It’s important to note how the film uses Greek mythology in the form of patron gods. The Grady kids are tasked with choosing a patron god that represents their values and personalities. Sprout is thinking about Artemis, goddess of hunt, because she loves the outdoors and considers herself part of the wild. Roy chose Harpocrates, the god of silence, as a way to reflect. Magda chose Aphrodite, the god of sexuality, because of her repression and sexuality that is begging to be unleashed. This should ring true in real life. There are so many different gods out there and some might choose Buddha over Jesus, even after being raised Christian, because that’s the god that speaks to their values and beliefs. God is who you make Him or Her to be. The God that gets you through the day and allows you to live the life you want to live, not the one other people tell you to worship. We should all search deep within ourselves and find out what we truly want out of life, what belief system, if any, is true to ourselves and not just the one our parents told us to worship.
As we wrap up our chat, let’s talk about how folks can see your film… when and where it is available, etc.
Our sales agent is currently taking the film to market, trying to find a distributor. In the meantime, we are working on securing a theatrical deal in select theaters in NY and LA. We hope that within the next couple of months it can be shown on movie theater screens. As for the rest of the distribution (online, VOD, DVD, Blu-ray), that will all depend on the distribution deal that we secure. We are all confident that it will get the best possible deal and become available on platforms everywhere.
Thanks again, really appreciate you taking some time out to talk. Any final thoughts about the film and the experience you had making it?
Making Come Said the Night was the best experience of my life. It was ten fast paced days on set where I was challenged in every way possible, then 5 months of hardcore post production which came with its own challenges. I made it out alive and I delivered on making the film I set out to make. I learned that no matter how stressful and chaotic, no matter how many obstacles are thrown your way, if you stick to your guns, stay true to your vision and keep your head in the game, there will be a happy ending. Your story will live and breathe on a screen and it’ll be the most rewarding feeling of your life.