Behind the Scenes of Horror Films with Chad Archibald

When our goosebumps rise while watching a horror film we can’t help but wonder, “who thinks of these terrifying stories?”  The answer is Chad Archibald. Chad’s had his writing, directing and producing debut in 2005 with Desperate Souls which lead the path for his successful career in fright. After his triumph with his first film, Chad founded Black Fawn Films which has released over 20 terrifying films.  We were lucky enough to get a glimpse into Chad’s horrific mind.


Start from the beginning–growing up were you a horror film junky?

I always loved horror films. I started watching and got hooked in grade 2. My mom would call ahead to the movie rental store and say I could rent the horror rated R movies.  They all knew me at the video store.  I couldn’t watch with my friends because their parents wouldn’t allow it. But I couldn’t get enough.  I would have nightmares but wouldn’t tell my parents for fear that they would stop letting me watch them.


How did you get into horror film making?

When I was young I wasn’t into film making at all.  It was the early 2000s, pre YouTube. At school I studied multimedia design.  In one class they instructed us to plug our cameras into a computer to capture footage.  I started playing around and thought- I can make something with this.

No one I knew had made a movie and no one from my hometown Guelph had ever made a film so there was no one to ask for guidance.  So me and my buddy Gabriel Carrer bought Script Writing for Dummies book and wrote our first script, Desperate Souls.  After the content was complete we casted the movie with people from town.  Ryan Barrett, a buddy of mine got cast at the lead.  He was the best looking guy we knew, he had an acting class under his belt. We thought, why not?   He’s been in almost every movie I’ve done since then.  We’ve both been growing into our roles.  Everyone that got involved in the movie was and is a friend of mine.  The movie took us three years to complete. I learned more from that movie than anything we had ever done. After that, I had the bug. From that moment on, we knew this was exactly what we wanted to do.


What’s the secret to Black Fawn Films success?

We look at ourselves like slow burn.  A lot of people get agents and go off on their own. With us every movie we do has a lot of the same group of people.  We love our jobs and collaborating together. Every day we get to work with our best friends.  Every year we get bigger and better. At some point we are hoping to get something huge out… together.  We are the Black Fawn Family.


How do horror films differ from other genres?

A horror film needs to stand without the horror. If you don’t care about the characters, you aren’t going to be engaged or invested when they are in danger. Also in the horror world the fans are generally more interested in the content than the cast.  Since the main focus is on content, it doesn’t always matter if the movie has any big name actors. Big names help, but it’s not always necessary to build a fanbase.  We love working with union and non-union actors. We all respect each other to make sure everyone’s taken care of and happy. I think that our camaraderie is essential part of the production of our films.


Have you ever directed a scene and think it’s too disturbing for an audience?

I don’t think so but the viewers may have a different opinion.  We made the movie, Bite, which is based on a woman who gets bit by an insect and starts to turn into a bug.  While there is no blood, it’s a really gross and gooey movie. The woman lays eggs, she converts her home into a hive, she raises her eggs until they hatch. It was so much fun to shoot- so gross!  I was so excited to see this with an audience.  We had the world premiere at Fantasia in 2013.  At the premiere two people threw up.  One audience member got up to leave, passed out and hit their head. An ambulance had to come to the premiere.  It went viral. A falling ovation!  It’s our claim to fame.


While onset has anything happened off script that terrified you?

Well I definitely creep myself out all the time.

Years ago I was working on a television program called Creepy Canada, it reenacted different hauntings around the country.  We were on location in Hamilton.  The scene included a séance around a haunted mirror with a headpiece.  Suddenly the top part of the furniture fell off and  hit the camera guy in the head.  No one was near it. This was all captured on camera and no one could explain it.

On another shoot at an old abandoned house, a guy was looking at a photo.  In the background there was a door with a mail slot. No one at the house had touched or even gone near the door.  It was a long push in on the guy thinking.  Suddenly the envelope flipped out of the mail slot with the name Rachel on it.  I watched it at least 40 times.  There is no explanation!


 Can you elaborate on how you create the content for your films?

Cody Calahan, one of my closest friends and co-owner of Black Fawn Films, mainly work on content development.  Once a month we rent a cottage, take everything off the walls and cover them with paper. Like madmen, we write down a million movie ideas. Then tear them all apart. We pick our favorites and work through them trying to see what ones stick.  If the storylines don’t work through easy and clean we pass it and go to the next one. We continue this process until we have something that really works. We don’t want our movies to seem regurgitated.  We always try to improve and diversify our storylines. We’ve explored evil twins, cults, haunted dead, postpartum depression.   From TV shows, to movies, long form, short form.  At the moment, we are really concentrating on a television series.


Article by Lauren Frances Stannard

Blog Content Developer. Lauren, when not chasing her three sons, writes. Her experience includes work in marketing, education and screenplay writing.  She’s been known to ditch the carpools and escape to the nearest mall, concert or comedy show.

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