A Ghost Waits Interview With MacLeod Andrews - Taylor Holmes inc.

A Ghost Waits Interview With MacLeod Andrews

There are so many brilliantly creative people in the world. And I started this little blog to find each and every one of them. And today, we talk to the gentleman who created one of my favorite movies in the last few months – A Ghost Waits. MacLeod Andrews, the co-author of the screenplay, and lead actor for the film joins us today. But we have a lot of history with MacLeod Andrews and his movies: The Siren, They Look Like People, now Ghost Awaits, and a new movie that MacLeod announces is on its way in a month here in this interview. I cannot wait. Each and every time I talk to Mr. Andrews (all two times, okay, but it sounds a lot cooler to say each and every time, you guys are such sticklers for like the truth, thhpt) I learn something new. And this goes doubly for the conversation we have today. So excited. Thanks for taking the time out to chat with me sir!

If you haven’t seen this movie yet, A Ghost Waits, you can find a location to watch it right here. But if I were you, I wouldn’t watch this trailer. Just, go, get the movie… and watch it. Thank you. Wow, that was much easier than normal… thank you. Also, do not continue on and read this interview without watching the movie. Just don’t … there may or may not be spoilers here. I’m not saying either way. Just go watch the film. THEN come back and read the interview. (I gotta do what I gotta do to get my guy some watches here!)

Interview with A Ghost Waits Writer and Lead – MacLeod Andrews

THiNC. – “Love your involvement in small indie films, how did the idea for the screenplay come to be. And how did you get a screenplay credit? What did you write, how did it all come together?”

MacLeod Andrews – “Thanks so much. My screenplay credit came about mostly in post- and re-shoots. We learned fairly early that the 2nd half, and especially the ending, was working the strongest but that we had work to do to get there. Adam and I had some big discussions about some major threads from principle photography that needed to go. And then we collaborated closely in figuring out what was missing. A large majority of the first 30 minutes of the film are from re-shoots.”

THiNC. – “In other interviews, I got the idea that this film had been sort of kicking around a little while, and took a little bit to really get finalized in the form that’s now released? I seem to recall 5 years? Maybe I’m remembering incorrectly. What happened?”

MacLeod Andrews – “Nothing really “happened” per se, no direct obstacles other than lack of resources and an unwillingness to stop without a good film. As with most assembly edits we learned a lot about what the film wanted to be. We learned a good deal about what needed to go and a looser notion of what it might be missing. It’s funny, 5 years feels like a really long time, right? But most films take that long or longer, the time is just front-loaded. Years of what’s called development. Rewrites and looking for financing and then losing it, and looking for more and then shopping it to talent, finding a studio. It’s often longer than 5 years all together. While there’s a lot that’s really hard about micro budget film-making, what’s addictive about it is how quickly and thoroughly you jump right into the creative process. 90% of your problem-solving is oriented around story telling rather than say putting together a marketable or attractive package to sell. There’s very little compromise in that regard. The other side of that coin, of course, is that while you have great creative freedom you still have to live, and so post has to happen on stolen days off work, long nights after, and weekends. Which extends the process purely because there’s a lot of time you can’t spend working on it. Also you have to teach yourself a lot of new skills because anything you can’t afford to pay someone to do, you better figure out how to do yourself. That time can be a creative gift though, allowing you to think about what you really want to say, to reevaluate what’s resonant about your story, and not just how to make it better but why.”

THiNC. – “Love the scrapiness of that answer. And it’s an answer that is so good it makes me want to find a movie and help make it come to life. Thanks for the inspiration. I gotta ask, when did that glorious ending come to be? Who thought the suicide ending up?”

MacLeod Andrews – “That ending came up I believe as Adam [Adam Stovall] was talking the script through with a friend. The script had a different ending in an early draft that, as odd as it may sound, was darker, or at least more cynical. Once Adam struck upon the idea for the current ending with his friend it felt like the right choice for the script and resonated with Adam as something important he needed to express about his personal experience.”

THiNC. – “I was shocked by how much of this movie was just you. I mean, don’t get me wrong, love your movies. You were magical in They Look Like People and The Siren. But I’d say the entire first third is you being completely ignorant of what is actually happening all around you. That must have been tricky to pull off. Looked easy… but I highly doubt that it was.”

MacLeod Andrews – “From an acting point of view it wasn’t particularly difficult. In many ways having lots of screen time allows you to relax into a part more and simply be, because the audience will have lots of time to get to know you. And you have lots of opportunities to uncover different nuances of a character. Whereas if you have just one scene, where you have to come in fully charged and nail that character, but also seem as full and effortless as the lead, but you have only that one shot, that can be far more stressful and challenging. What was tricky about all the screen time was the storytelling. Most of that time alone with Jack is footage from re-shoots and Adam and I had to do a lot of rewriting and puzzle out how to set up the building blocks of the story in so that the end would pay off. We had to find engaging, character-driven set ups that would address aspects of the film test audiences for earlier cuts were having trouble with, down to the minutiae of ‘I don’t get why Jack isn’t sleeping in the bed.’ Our answer to which became the phone call at the toilet.”

THiNC. – “I had heard you mentioning the movie several different times on your twitter feed before it came out, how has the reception been? Hopefully it’s getting found? How can we help get the word out?”

MacLeod Andrews – “Folks have been really positive and supportive on the whole. And we’ve gotten really strong reviews as well, which goes SUCH a long way in helping little films like ours along. I think people are finding it, but there’s a whole lot of excellent content out there, and honestly a quirky, lo-fi, haunted house rom-com in black and white can understandably be a tough sell. Thank you so much for wishing to help us spread the word! You’ve already done so much but for your readers, if you love a film and want to support it, rate it on IMDB, Rotten Tomatoes, and letterboxd. Leave a review. Tell your friends. Watch with friends. Post about it. Let the filmmakers know by @ing them. All that stuff helps and means the world to us.”

<pause> – did you hear that? the man literally gave you homework to do. I did the work, and added links to each of the pages for A Ghost Waits. Do me a favor, rank the film a five. Lie through your teeth if you have to. I literally do not want to hear your grumbling. Let’s get more indie movies made people. But that starts with 1. reviews. 2. views 3. money 4. more movies 5. more reviews… are you picking up what the man is putting down here? Great. Go do your homework then. </pause>

THiNC. – “Are you working on anything new? Maybe something with Perry or Evan again? Or are you and Adam working on another project together?”

MacLeod Andrews – “Perry, Evan, Libby Ewing, Margaret and I – the whole team plus – in fact have a new film that I’m proud to say will be having it’s world premiere this August at Fantasia International Film Festival! It’s called When I Consume You. It’s a bit grittier than our other films, but still firmly relationship driven, about a close-knit brother and sister confronting a mysterious stalker. I love this movie and hope it means as much to folks as it has to us. Adam and I have two projects in the development stage that we have some good momentum for. One is a cosmic horror in which the world disappears and then the void starts emotionally and psychologically testing the set of family and friends we’ve chosen to follow. The other is a Sci-Fi, Disaster film, romance. It’s got some elements of road movie in there for good measure. I’m very excited about it, Adam is doing such beautiful work with the script right now.”

MacLeod, Perry, and Evan… the triptych of indie film making.

THiNC. – “Hey guys… I get it, you do this indie thing part-time. You see something clever, you roll with it in between doses of the latest Marvel movie and big budget Hollywood blockbuster. That’s great – no worries. But we just listed off a few names fairly casually… but these are some amazing people that could help add some amazing movies to your not long enough indie movie list. So let’s adjourn for a second – (Mr. Andrews, we’ll get back to you in a moment, just stay right there.) and do a quick primer (no, not the movie, look the word up guys) on a few of these names:

Perry” Blackshear- Perry is the über elusive, totally tech averse, brilliant brain behind They Look Like People, and The Siren. I’d probably give a leg to interview Perry. Maybe two possibly. They Look Like People was that good. I know absolutely nothing else about the man. And would prefer to keep the weird halo I wrap him in in tact, thank you.

Libby Ewing – Got a degree in Performance Art from Ohio University, then dove into the deep end in New York to chase a dream as an actress. You might know her from </scorpion>, or maybe the short film Oh Em Gee, or all female created Grow the F*ck Up.

Margaret” Ying Drake – You know Margaret! She played Nina in The Siren – or, better said, she was the Siren, in The Siren. She also played the role of Mara in They Look Like People. Margaret studied at Skidmore college, and then returned to NYC to take on voice acting roles as well as acting. Particularly niching as a children’s voice expert.

Adam Stovall – A Ghost Waits (obvs.), but before directing AGW, Adam was a journalist over at IndieWire and The Hollywood Reporter. He then moved on to production, and worked on shows for NBC & TLC. He also directs audio books – and I’m wondering (MacLeod chime in here, is this how you and Adam met??).

MacLeod Andrews – guys… THIS GUY. The one we are talking to presently! He was in Doctor Sleep, They Look Like People, Siren, and about a billion audio books. But we’ll get to that in the next, and final, question.

THiNC. – “I’m sure most people on my site don’t know this about you – but you are quite the narrator of audio books. I listened to your Reckoners books before I knew it was you. And then I started actively listening to books you had recorded because you narrated them… for example, your Dean Koontz books, and The End and Other Beginnings, etc. Can you tell us a little bit about what being a book narrator is really like? Or crazy story from the front lines? I’m just really curious about all of it really! Hahah. (If you’d like to see what I mean, all of MacLeod’s audible audio books can be found right here.) 

MacLeod Andrews – “Well, you’ll be pleased to know there’s a new series of Reckoners books on the horizon. I just love that world that Brandon Sanderson created.”

THiNC. – “waAAHHT? Dude, that news made my day. So cool. If you guys do not know Sanderson – you need to get to reading tomorrow. So many great worlds come from that guy’s head. So great to hear he has more coming from that universe.”

MacLeod Andrews – “Surprisingly I don’t get many opportunities to talk about my work and in the rare instances where I do it’s usually some iteration of, “how do you prepare?,” “how do you decide on character voices?,” Or “what books are you reading outside of work?” So because you left me such an open door I’m gonna give you an eyeful. I’ve always loved the spoken word. In elementary school if the teacher asked someone to read a section out loud, I’d be the first to raise my hand. In fact I’d even keep my hand down if only not to seem too eager. As an actor I loved doing play readings. I love the immediacy of that feedback loop from eyes to lips to head to heart. That moment of discovery and living that discovery through your voice.  

“It feels a lot like surfing, I imagine (I’ve never surfed, I’m a terrible swimmer). When it’s good you feel this density of language building beneath you and behind you and when you learn to feel it you stand up and it powers you forward and you ride it as fast as it will take you; and if the wave is well within your comfort zone you add flourishes and make the wave work for you. Or you just feel that massive force build beneath you, it’s a big one, cling on to your board for dear life, trust in the gods and do your best to ride it to shore in one piece. And, of course, sometimes you miss the wave entirely and have to paddle your way back to shore one grueling, distracted sentence at a time. Or things are looking great, you’re riding high, you’re one with the wave, but you catch an unexpected bit of chop in the form of a typo or surprising grammatical construction, or you snag on some odd flotsam in the form of a helicopter, or your stomach grumbling, and you eat it. And try to get back on the next wave. 

“I think it’s both my strength and weakness as a narrator that I don’t think of what I do in literary terms, I don’t approach my work, at least when I’m at my most engaged, in order to be a pleasant conduit for the words. I perform the book as if it’s the way you were meant to absorb it.  As if the audiobook is the chosen form for which the book is the script, as opposed to being an appendage of the literature.  Of course I take my cues from the language, and never endeavor to dishonor it but I’m always exploring the distinction between the written word and the spoken word. I’m always looking for the little nuances where audio can bring out a plainer truth than the page allows. 

“I do characters. I don’t generally subscribe to the “less is more” doctrine unless the perspective of the prose is truly reflective and singular which is surprisingly rare. Most authors, in my experience, are writing fully realized worlds. It’s rare to find a piece so thoroughly written in the storyteller vernacular that the action is actually being filtered through a singular perspective. Even when a book is written in first person, past tense, we’re usually experiencing the world of the book at face value. The difference is “ ‘I’m going to the store,’ she said” and “she said, ‘I’m going to the store’.” The former being how most fiction is written, intended to be taken as an objective occurrence, and the latter being reportage, a storyteller relating their recollection of events…which is actually how a single person would tell you a story sitting in their living room, but that’s almost never how a writer writes. And so usually I don’t deliver it that way. To the best of my ability I try to build the geography and voices of the scene as indicated by the language so that you feel like an eavesdropper, not a listener. If I can, I want you to forget I’m telling you a story and for it to feel like the character just said what they said, right there in the room with you, and for you to feel the full honest weight of that. It’s nearly impossible of course. Native speakers of any given language are intensely attuned to the sound of falsehood and at the end of the day I’m never going to be able to genuinely portray any female character, much less an 8-year-old little girl from Wales. I probably go too far or miss the mark as much as I transcend, but that chase is what keeps me engaged. To put it in pithier terms, I tend to lean into the audio side of audiobooks. 
Now, back to, and in terms of, these films we were talking about – being a book narrator is largely what’s allowed me to make movies like They Look Like People, The Siren, A Ghost Waits, and When I Consume You. Narrating audiobooks offered me a level of financial stability and professional satisfaction that is uncommon for actors these days. And that freedom allowed me to take weeks off here and there to go shoot these films and, in part, finance them. You’re on set, your boom breaks, we need a new mic, I can foot that bill to rent a replacement without worrying about how I’m going to pay rent. Ditto for the airfare to get to set or re-shoots, or props and makeup purchases. It’s not much by film standards but the fact I can pull that off is an extremely unique blessing that I owe almost entirely to audiobooks. And, of course, the years of absorbing stories have helped me sniff out flaws as a creative producer and troubleshoot these stories I’ve gotten to tell with my friends.

THiNC. – “Such a comprehensive answer. So cool. The only other narrator I will just follow around forever – and listen to her read the weather – or the Encyclopedia entry on mollusks, would be Lauren Fortgang. So, between the two of you, you guys need to sign on to some really fantastic books because I’m not learning anything other than what you guys are reading! Anyway, thanks so much for taking the time out to chat with us all sir! It was a fantastic ride. Can’t wait to watch When I Consume You. I will definitely be talking about it here, and recommending it far and wide. Oh, and also rating it as well!! Take care Mr. Andrews.”

Edited by: CY