Social media can be a pretty negative space most of the time, but for a small group of aspiring filmmakers chatting on Clubhouse, it became a breeding ground for creativity and encouragement. Sinphony: A Clubhouse Horror Anthology was born out of the group’s love of the genre and a desire to share spooky stories with their fellow horror fans. It’s a unique indie project comprised of 9 shocking stories, filmed across 3 countries, and it hits VOD this Friday, October 21, just in time for Halloween.
For me, the Halloween season isn’t over until I’ve watched at least one horror anthology. Trick ‘r Treat, The Mortuary Collection, the recently released V/H/S/99– they all perfectly encapsulate the bite-sized spirit of the season and this new collection of creepy tales really run the gamut. There’s a slasher story with a killer clown, a horror-comedy about the evil’s of TikTok dance crazes, a supernatural tale of a pregnancy gone wrong, and much much more.
Making their directorial debuts in Sinphony are Haley Bishop of Host and Nightmare on Film Street’s own Kimberley Elizabeth, as well as Jason Ragosta, Sebastien Bazile & Michael Galvan, Mark Pritchard, Jason Wilkinson, Nichole Carlson, Steven Keller, and Wes Driver. I recently sat down with the group, including Wes Driver’s writer Gregg Greene, ahead of their World Premiere at the 2022 Brooklyn Horror Film Festival for a round-table chat about how they quite literally talked each other into making a wholly unique horror-anthology with absolute creative freedom in just a handful of months from start-to-finish.
“…this is something special, because of the ethos behind it. It wasn’t just about doing these cool scripts, it was also about supporting new filmmakers.”
Jonathan Dehaan for Nightmare on Film Street: How did Sinphony come together on Clubhouse?
Sebastien Bazile: A good friend of ours, Dana Melanie, a fantastic actor, reached out to me and said ‘Hey Seb, there’s this new app called Clubhouse and you should get on it because I know you love Insidious and I was actually talking to the writer of Insidious and the director of the Saw films’. She was talking about Leigh Whannell and Darren Lynn Bousman. I had writer’s block and I decided to get on the app but it was like 4:30 in the morning and I ended up in a room with Jason Ragosta, Jason Wilkinson, Steven Keller, Kimmi, and all the other guys aside from Haley and Nichole because they came on later.
We were talking about horror movies, and I couldn’t sleep, and I said ‘You know, if you all write a ten-page script, I bet you I could get my partner Michael on board to get the money to make it. Half-jokingly by the way [laughs], until I got a script by 10:00 AM. And I was like, ‘ I guess we’re doing this’. Of course, I reached out to Michael and he thought I was completely crazy. His first words were “What is Clubhouse?” and “We should Zoom with everybody to make sure that they’re actually real people before we start sending them money”.
Hot at the Shop:
Kimberley Elizabeth: I remember getting off Clubhouse at like 5:00 AM like, I think I’m making a movie [laughs]
Michael Galvan: That’s what was so funny about it, because he was talking to me about this Clubhouse platform and how he met all these people and he was just so adamant and said with such conviction that we’re going to produce this film. Meanwhile, I’m sitting here thinking, “What the hell is Clubouse? Who are these people? Wait, we’re financing this whole project??”. It was a little odd but we have a lot of other people that come to us about other projects too, so for me it’s just this normal process but the way that Seb was pitching this project to me was a little jarring at first-
Sebastien Bazile: And I was like, Yes. Trust me, it will be good [laughs]. But yeah, that’s how it started. I was the one who convinced Mike to come on board and do this because I think Mike was extremely bored and we didn’t get to make the film we [had planned] because of COVID.
Michael Galvan: It came at this really interesting time because, like Seb mentioned, we were in the middle of launching this other project, it was COVID, things shut down, and this was also an interesting opportunity. When I started to read some of the projects as they were coming in, and I talked with [the filmmakers] I was like, this is something special. Because of the ethos behind it. It wasn’t just about doing these cool scripts, it was also about supporting new filmmakers. That’s where the appeal really started to kick in for me.
Gregg Greene: As COVD shut down so much of the film industry at that time, I think a lot of creatives who were used to working in film, or theatre, or any of these group artistic experiences- a lot of them went to Clubhouse and similar places to find each other. Sebastien and Michael are right, this was a random group of people except for that they had this affinity for horror films and independent filmmaking.
We found each other there on Clubhouse and we’re all friends now, and big supporters of each other so while there was a lot of randomness there at the beginning there was a vibe between the different creators and other folks in the Clubhouse community that came around and really cheered us on. I’ve never sensed that sort of energy coming together so quickly. It was really a fascinating time.
NOFS: Well, we know how weird it all was for Michael at first, but what was this whole experience like for you all in those early days?
Jason Ragosta: I think that’s the interesting thing about how this came about organically. There were all these steps along the way where things could have dissolved and fell apart but everybody stepped up. We all had [our scripts] in, in the next few days and then we got responses from them, we did a writer’s room, we got notes, we turned around the notes and got the scripts approved. There was a whole checks-and-balances process where both sides could see, oh- this is really going to be something. And then also Mr. Mark Pritchard and Jason Wilkinson saying “Give us the money, we’re ready to shoot,” [laughs] and they shot in like two weeks!
Mark Pritchard: I’d like to add that I started getting relieved when I got a side email from Mike saying “Hey, have you directed anything before? And could you show me it?”. Like, oh good, okay. There’s some logic and sanity here, and I was lucky enough to have a couple things to show. But that attitude, that ‘we’re going to finance it and we’re going to be responsible for taking it to the market for you-‘ that kind of courage is always going to get my best response, and I’m going to call in every favour I’ve got and really lean into it.
“There were all these steps along the way where things could have dissolved and fell apart but everybody stepped up.”
Kimberley Elizabeth: Yeah, it was magical. Especially all of us- we’d been trying to become filmmakers on our own independently. We all had different projects in different stages of development and I think being part of the cog in the machine for however long we’ve each been in it, you’ve kind of learned that every Yes in this industry is a Maybe, and every Maybe is likely a No. So you’re keeping your expectations even keel and leveled but this was so unique in that there was this weird synergy [where] every green light, we blazed on through. Everything that could have been yellow or red, it was just green all the way. And then, I think, three weeks later we were shooting.
Jason Ragosta: And then 7 months later we had a movie.
Jason Wilkinson: Yeah, it’s pretty unheard of. And I love the connection between Nichole and your film, Jason. They met her on your set! That’s just a brilliant story.
Jason Ragosta: Nichole was working with someone that I knew and she asked for a mentorship session to talk about horror because she was doing her first horror film. I forget is she asked me or if I asked her to be a Production Assistant but she showed up. And so, I’m looking around at my crew and half of them are sitting around the whole time and I see this blur, and it’s Nichole doing the job of twelve Pas. She just works so hard on set and I think she caught the attention of Mike and Seb.
Nichole Carlson: I could not believe my dumb luck that all of this happened, one thing after the other.
Kimberley Elizabeth: And you had crowdfunded yours, right? You were going to do yours as a separate project but you got sort of absorbed by Sinphony almost [laughs]
Nichole Carlson: Yeah. I was working with a coach who was teaching me the financial aspects. I’ve made a lot of very small projects but this was like, ‘Prove to yourself, Nichole, that you can get out there and start meeting more people and bring it to the next level’. I heard Jason talking in a room on Clubhouse and reached out to pick his brain, and Jason was so generous with his time and advice. And then to go on his set, I got to meet a lot of amazing people that he knows that were there working and ask them questions. It was wonderful, and just the comradely there and the energy was amazing.
I was just chit-chatting constantly about my film at that time [laughs] so if you were in my sphere you were probably hearing about it. But I just feel super super lucky to not only have met Jason and his team but incredible luck to be pulled into this thing [because] I had no idea about any of it, really.
NOFS: And Haley, you were recommended to the project by Jed Shepherd, right?
Haley Bishop: Yeah, I got really lucky actually because everyone in the group knows Jed Shepherd, who was in the [Clubhouse] room originally when all the conversations about Sinphony happened. I’ve worked with Jed and I’ve known Jed for a really long time and as soon as he heard that there were these guys that were looking to fund some short films- in lockdown, like many people had done, I tried to spend some time just writing because I finally had the time to do it. I wrote [my segment] a little while ago so it probably isn’t as applicable now, but it was the time when TikTok was really blowing up and all the teenagers were on TikTok, and I started to see all of my friends, who are in their 30s, on TikTok doing the dances and doing all these things.
At the time I just thought it was really funny to see all these grownups doing all these things trying to emulate teenagers. So I had this idea- What if you got punished for doing that as an over-30-year-old? I had just quickly written this 2-minute short film for something else and sent it to Jed. Jed gave me some notes on it and then Jed said, ‘you need to send this to Seb and Mike because they’re going to fund some films. I did, and they liked it, and then they said ‘can you make it in four weeks? And can you make it ten minutes? I said yes- you always say yes in these situations [laughs].
I was really hesitant, I will say but I jumped on a Zoom with Mark and mine’s now producer Tim, and Mark was like, ‘You’re doing it. I don’t know why you’re worried, I don’t know what you’re scared about, you’re doing it. This is a great opportunity. You’d be crazy not to do this”. And he was right. I think the most grateful thing I’ve ever been a part of is getting to know this group of people, being a part of this project, and getting to make my film. Thank God I had my producer Tim and this group of people to be sounding boards, to give encouragement, and help in any way possible.
It was a wild four-week turnaround but it has been really fun though. I think doing the film has been one of the most rewarding things I’ve done in my career. I’m just really glad my film is a part of this and I like that it’s the comic relief at points and still has a couple of scares in there. And also the total fear of having to re-live your youth. It’s a different type of fear then some of the other films [laughs].
“I think doing the film has been one of the most rewarding things I’ve done in my career.”
Tune in this Friday for a bonus episode of the Nightmare on Film Street podcast, wherever you get your podcasts, to hear more about the making of Sinphony including how Jason Wilkinson ruined a car with fake blood, how Steven Keller was improvising practical effects props with dog toys while on set, and how Kimberley Elizabeth had to keep her cool when the cops showed up on her set during Canada’s second (third?) COVID-19 lockdown. Things got a little scary…
Sinphony: A Clubhouse Horror-Anthology celebrated it’s World Premiere at the 2022 Brooklyn Horror Film Fest and will be available on VOD Friday October 21! Click HERE to follow our continued coverage of the festival and be sure to let us know if you’re dying to see Sinphony over on Twitter or in the Nightmare on Film Street Discord! Not a social media fan? Get more horror delivered straight to your inbox by joining the Neighbourhood Watch Newsletter.
And don’t forget to enter the #31DayHorrorChallenge giveaway HERE.