David Erickson talks about “Out Go The Lights”

David Erickson tells, in his own words, the recent adventure of shooting his film “Out Go The Lights”

I have spent approximately half of my 2010 McKnight Screenwriter’s fellowship award shooting my feature film “OUT GO THE LIGHTS”, during 10 days in November. The availability of an abandoned, empty house in a major state of disrepair – recently purchased by a personal friend for the astounding sum of $17,000, and essentially free for me to use and abuse – compelled me to commit to the project in late July, without a script or even an idea. Though it would have made for an interesting variation on my McKnight-winning script, BILL-LAND, the logistics of re-writing, casting, and shooting such a complex story discouraged me from taking it on. Instead I hastily pounded out a screenplay based on the fact that the house was both empty and creepy – coming up with the cliched “low-budget horror film shot on digital with no-name actors” storyline, hopefully with enough spin on the usual horror tropes to make it interesting. I cast M. Scott Taulman and Wini Froelich, whom I’d met and used on previous projects (McKnight winner Karen Frank’s “DEAF BE NOT PROUD” project, as well as a web series still in post) in the bickering lead roles as well as Sasha Andreev, well-known indie film star and working actor in the moody and dangerous second lead. Ashley D. Hall, Ladonna Craelius, Heidi Pitts, and Miki Louise rounded out an amazingly talented cast. We had a great time knocking around the old place and creating some truly dramatic as well as comedic moments (after M. Scott and Sasha fixed my third-act problems!). I’m currently sequencing the clips, turning it into something resembling a feature film and hope to go flogging it at festivals and other channels of exploitation in Spring, 2011. It’s not an experience I’d recommend to every screenwriter, but it’s a real education in what happens at the other end of the screenwriting process. As a director on set, if the scene isn’t working, 10 to 1 it’s because the actors are wrestling with poorly written pages and I have no one to blame but myself. And meanwhile, the camera’s rolling and the scene needs to get fixed NOW …