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There Will Be Blood: Interview with ‘Sinister 2’ director Ciarán Foy
21 Aug 2015 : Paul Byrne
Ciarán Foy’s ‘Sinister 2’ is in cinemas now
Having made quite an impression with his 2012 feature ‘Citadel’, Irish filmmaker Ciarán Foy now makes his Hollywood debut with ‘Sinister 2’. Paul Byrne goes down into the basement for a chat...

Traditionally, getting a gig on a major Hollywood film meant doing one of two things - creating a body of independent work that caught a major studio’s attention, or sleeping with some very creepy but influential Tinseltown scorcer. Luckily for Irish filmmaker Ciarán Foy, he found another way of landing the directing job on a major Hollywood movie - Twitter.

Having made his directorial debut with the 2012 cult horror hit ‘Citadel’, when Scott Derrickson, the co-creator and director of the international 2012 hit ‘Sinister’, caught it on Netflix, he just had to tell the world how great it was. Foy tweeted ‘Thanks’, and a beautiful friendship was born. As Derrickson questioned the young Irish filmmaker about the making of ‘Citadel’ - the budget, the schedule, working with kids - he soon realised that he had found his director for ‘Sinister 2’, which hits cinemas around the world this week.

“Who says fairytales don’t happen anymore,” laughs Foy. “I know ‘Citadel’ played a big part, but I think luck, and modern technology, also share some of the glory here. Ten years ago, I wouldn’t have been able to just casually send a major Hollywood director a message. And get a reply. Networking has never been so easy...”

And it’s going to get a lot easier for Foy, now that he’s got a major worldwide box-office contender under his belt. And if ‘Sinister 2’ fails to surprise, as it takes kiddie killers story one step deeper into its origins, it will undoubtedly make a nice big chunk of change for everyone involved by the time its cut its way through all its markets and platforms.

Paul Byrne: So, Ciarán Foy and horror - what’s going on here? Citadel was an exorcism of sorts for you, as you dealt with a random late-night attack near your home, but your spooky shorts, such as ‘The Puppet’ (2002) and ‘The Faeries of Blackheath Woods’ (2006), and now ‘Sinister 2’... you’re a troubled man, right?

Ciarán Foy: ‘Not that I’m aware of. The funny thing is, if you ever travel with a horror film on the circuit, the horror filmmakers are the most balanced. Peter Jackson said early on, after being asked about something being wrong with him, and he replied, everyone’s got a B-side of the brain. I get to exercise that on screen. It’s the little granny with the digestive and the cup of tea who’s more likely to stab you. In truth, comedy filmmakers are the scariest. They’re a truly troubled lot...’

You shot ‘Citadel’ in Glasgow over 23 days, in minus-19 conditions most days, on a €1.2m budget - I’m guessing this shoot took a little longer, and might have been a tad more glamorous, and warmer?

‘A little bit different. We had a quite a bit more money here, and 40 days, five ghost kids and two protagonists. It was mainly dealing with the kids that was the issue here. So, you get half a day with kids, and then you’re doing filler-in stuff. Incredibly challenging. Coming off ‘Citadel’ was a great training ground for this. If I’d come off a luxury shoot, that would have been tough. When you’re on a timescale like that, you almost have to cut your film in your head. To make it interesting, you really need to be able to commit, knowing what you want beforehand.’

Do you feel you’ve moved up the food chain now...?

‘The shoot didn’t actually feel all that big, to be honest. Certainly a few more crew on the ground, and given that we shot in Illinois, we were based out of Chicago. So, we didn’t feel too Hollywood. When I first got there, I had to slightly change my accent a little bit, so people could understand me, but, once the train is moving, you’re dealing with the same people day-to-day on the set. The rest is just happening in the periphery. I just felt, okay, I’ve done this before, so, no sweat. It only felt bigger when we started editing and test-screening. Also, we had three test screenings altogether, each one with 350 people filling out survey cards. That was brand new, and something of an eye-opener.’

With ‘Sinister 2’ fighting it out with the big boys at the box-office this coming weekend, it must be easier right now for Ciarán Foy to get in the room...?

‘Certainly, yeah. They may not want me in the room for very long, but they’ll certainly let me in. I’m here a little bit over a year, and I had managers who wanted to meet with me, eventually signing with two, and they put you in rooms with lots of people you recognise. Big producers you’ve heard of. A lot of it is relationship building, many of them waiting to see how your first big film plays out. A lot is riding on ‘Sinister 2’ - mainly on how well it does at the box-office, of course. I had done a Playstation ad that was a Cannes Lion winner, and in the studio system, that’s a big deal. That got me in a few rooms too, but ‘Sinister 2’s run will be the big test. For now.’

And what do you think of ‘Sinister 2’? Can you see the wood for the trees...?

‘Hard to judge when you’ve seen it hundreds of times. Watching it with an audience is the kick, on those test screenings, and seeing how audiences react. It’s a movie that’s very easy to watch, and it’s tremendous fun to watch with an audience. Lot more humour than in the first one, and a lot more than in ‘Citadel’. There’s levity there, and a drama that works. That’s a great thing to witness.’

Scott Derrickson has something of a rabid fanbase when it comes to horror - heavily involved here, or happy to give you his and C. Robert Cargill’s script to run with?

‘When I was first asked to consider it, getting the job back off of Twitter, my brain was divided - might this just be a quick cash-in, scribbled on the back of a napkin? And I read it thinking it was going to be more of the same. But the script gave me the confidence to go for this, because it expands on the mythology of the first, and puts the first movie into a deeper perspective. You get into the process that leads this kid to becoming a killer. And I thought the story of these two brothers, and their mother, I just thought that was great drama. It was really when I read that script that I felt, okay, that this could be cool. Talking to the guys about ideas, and polishing scenes, doing what a director does, and they were open to me making this my own, that was all a major bonus...’

Last time I spoke with you, you had planned a New York-set identity theft sci-fi thriller with the lads behind ‘Moon’ - still in the works?

‘Still bubbling away in the background. One of those things where, when we broke it down, it required a bigger budget than we thought. We were going to do it independently, and so now, the plan is to see how ‘Sinister 2’ performs. This town works on box-office, and if this movie does well, we’ll have a chance to make our next one. Would love to make it...’

You’ve said your heroes are Spielberg, Lucas, Cameron and co, and that sci-fi is a big passion - is that where you hope to head next?

‘If I look back at what my shorts I made, or the movies I’ve loved watch, there’s always been an element of the extraordinary in them. The ordinary doesn’t interest me that much; I want to see what I couldn’t see in real life. So, sci-fi is there, whether it’s a thriller or a drama or whatever. The sci-fi element is a big plus for me; I’m not a romantic comedy kind of guys. These heroes, their movies always have a sci-fi element, and that’s the magic for me. Not everyday things.’

You gradually brought the fada back into Ciarán - patriotic, or just artistic?

[Laughs] It’s funny, it’s always with a fada... I think it’s because no one pronounced my name right over here. Starbucks is a nightmare over here - I’m now ‘Max’. Or I’m a Japanese beer. I just thought the fada would help them realise there’s a different emphasis.’

Finally, how’s your sleep right now...?

‘Well, this is out on the 21st, after the cast and crew screening on the 18th. I’m just looking forward to it, to be honest. The billboards, the posters, the marketing machine - what’s not to love...?

Sinister 2 hits cinemas worldwide on Friday August 21st.

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