Ravenswood: Cast & Crew Interviews

By Eddie on 26/05/2017

Low-budget independent horror film Ravenswood has been creating quite a name for itself around the globe as one of the years must-see locally made features.

Shot in Sydney, primarily at the infamous Callan Park’s abandoned Hospital for the Mentally Insane in Lilyfeid in Feb 2016, Ravenswood is a sure-fire scream inducer as JD Cohen’s feature follow’s the exploits of 4 American tourists who get more than they bargained for on an anything but typical ghost tour.

After a string of strong festival showings and numerous awards, The Movie Guys were lucky enough to catch up with a few key cast and crew members of the film to offer us and our readers an insight into what makes Ravenswood one of the year’s must see horror flicks.

Happy reading and happy watching!

Ravenswood will be released on digital platforms June 13, 2017 and is currently available for pre-order on the iTunes store.

Adam Horner (actor/producer):

Things take a turn for the worse for Horner’s character of Carl

Q: Adam could you please give us a little background on yourself and how you came about being involved with Ravenswood, not only as a producer but also a cast member?

I started acting around the age of 15. At the time I was really only doing it for fun, local theatre productions mainly.

I don’t even remember how, but I ended up doing a screen acting class with an Australian Casting Director who quickly became a fan and put me in touch with an agent I haven’t stopped auditioning and working since. I was 16 when I landed my first film role. It was a really cool experience, we shot on an Island off the coast of Brisbane, shot the movie on film, the crew was super cool and I just remember having the best time. From that point on I knew there was nothing else I wanted to do.

I really had no idea what went into making films until I literally turned up on that set. I remember being fascinated with everything that was going on around me so being the nerd I am, I started reading articles online and over the years, literally taught myself the ins and out of making movies.

In regards to getting involved as a cast member, JD and I had been in contact for a few years. We both always sort of knew we wanted to work together at some point, but were waiting for the right project to come along. He told me he had this ‘small’ horror film that he was looking to shoot. He sent me over the script and I read it. I saw huge potential for sales and told him that I wanted to come on as an Executive Producer and help make it happen. I also loved the role of Carl. I ALWAYS seem to get cast as the nice guy and Carl was so funny to me. He’s such a douchebag and reminded me of so many people. So I asked JD if I could play him.

Q: Director of Ravenswood JD Cohen is one of the countries up and coming filmmakers, what was the experience like working with him in your dual roles?

It was a super tough shoot. We shot out 90 pages in 12 days. There were stunts, Steadicam shots, drone shots, scenes with 30+ extras and basically no money. It’s almost unheard of. But we knew we had something with huge potential, and decided against playing it safe and just really went for it.

We cast the film in Sydney in December 2015, and then I had to fly back to LA for another project, and then flew back into Sydney in February 2016, about a week before the shoot. So JD handled most of the pre-production.

When we got into production, neither of us really slept the entire time (our make-up artists Donna Kirk and Isabelle Arzoumalian worked wonders on the bags under my eyes). Not many people could have handled the long hours we had to endure to get this movie finished. There were lots of 7am phone calls between JD and I after 12-14 hours of night shooting, just to make sure everything was in order the next day. I don’t think there are many directors out there that would have been able to pull it off the way JD did.

While I was bouncing between the Actor/Producer roles, he was bouncing between the Director/Producer roles. It takes a special kind of person to balance their right brain to their left-brain so flawlessly especially under the pressure we were under. It really wasn’t easy at all. But I know both of us would do it all over again.

Q: What were some of the biggest hurdles you faced getting Ravenswood made considering the roadblocks that often hinder local productions that are as ambitious as your film is?

We had a key member of the crew drop out after our first or second day at Callan because he claimed to be hearing whispers from ghosts and told us ‘You don’t know what you’re dealing with’. That was interesting… Other than that, because the film was so ambitious, there were a few days that we were just way over schedule. And being such a low budget, the schedule was packed and we didn’t have the luxury of cutting shots or anything like that. We had committed to shots, and knew that we had to shoot everything in that schedule.

Coverage wasn’t a word used on the set at all. It helped that JD was also the editor of the movie. But after 2-3 days of pushing shots to the next day, we knew we were going to have to figure it out and make it work. So it resulted in a lot of late night/early morning phone calls, trying to re arrange the schedule to make it work. It was quite stressful at points; there were time when we were really worried if we were going to have enough footage come the cutting room. I take my hat off to Daniel Lyons and his camera team. Without their efficiency and ability to work under pressure, we would not have gotten the movie finished.

Q: Ravenswood’s growth from a small independent horror to a film that’s been shown all over the world with some exciting release schedules incoming must be incredibly exciting, are there any festival showings or audience reactions that have been a particular highpoint for someone as invested in the film as you are?

Well, I’m very happy to announce that we have our new release dates for the US release! Originally slated in March, we had some back and forth with the distributor who advised us that if we held it off a few months, there was potential for a bigger buy. So we delayed the street date. But we can now tell everyone that Ravenswood will be released Digitally on 13/6/17 and physical DVD will be 8/8/17. It is currently available for pre-order on iTunes. Now we have our US dates, we have starting the lock in the rest of the world. Our sales team are currently at Cannes with the project.

In regards to festivals, we have already seen quite a bit of success. We won the best horror film at the ‘Los Angeles Independent Film Festival Awards’ a few months ago. Recently our camera team won best cinematography at the Amsterdam International Film Festival. These are literally the first few festivals we have entered in. There are much more coming this year, so I have my fingers crossed that the awards keep coming!

The highpoint has been without a doubt the Jan 8 premiere. We premiered to a sold out, star studded audience at the Hoyts in the Entertainment Quarter. The last premiere I had attended in that cinema was the Star Wars premiere, so just to see a movie that I had involvement in premiere in the same venue was a pretty damn good feeling. Everyone had such a great night. I think that night was the high point for most of us.

Q: We often hear of particular films being shown to casts when filming a movie, were there any horror films yourself or fellow cast members used as a touchstone for Ravenswood?

I went back and watched a lot of movies between the time of casting and the shoot. Being a Kubrick fan, the first one I went back and watched was The Shining. I watched a lot of fellow Aussie James Wans films. I’m a big fan of the Insidious and The Conjuring movies. But there was a smaller movie he had some sort of involvement in called ‘The Taking of Deborah Logan’. That movie kind of flew under the radar but was incredibly well put together. ‘It Follows’ was another huge inspiration and is one of my favourite films to date. I also went and watched some more recent films that were made on low budgets like The Babadook, V/H/S, Contracted and The Den.

Q: Filming at Callan Park (an abandoned psychiatric hospital in Sydney) must have been quite the experience, any spooky on set experiences you can recall?

I think the scariest thing I experienced was the possum I named George who lived in the hospital. George jumped out at me quite a few times whilst walking around the dark hallways at night. He also jumped out at me once whilst using the bathroom. So that was fun. I think I was so focused on getting the movie done, and in-between those moments, trying to learn my lines for the next scene, the ghosts and sprits were the last thing I was thinking about!

Shane Savage (plays Michael):

Savage and co-star Isabel Dickson in a scene from the film

Q: Shane, could you please tell us a little bit about yourself and your background in the industry?

I’ve been working full time in this industry for the last 5 years, after completing my bachelor of creative arts (Deakin University) and full time acting training at the Howard Fine Acting Studio. My main focus is my acting career, but I have also developed other skills that help me support that career and create my own work including producing, writing, directing, coaching and running my own studio (Studio Sonder). I often joke that I work 6 full time jobs to survive off one part time wage, but that’s very much the case of the industry here in Australia. To actually make a living off the arts, you have to hustle. And hustle I do.

Q: What were you most impressed with when you first read Ravenswood’s script?

I have two answers for this one. I was definitely impressed with the twists that the script took. I remember being surprised just reading it and couldn’t wait to see how it translated to the big screen.

I was really impressed by the pairing of heart with horror. Particularly my relationship (as Michael) with Belle. It’s often hard to find heart in a horror film, but I loved that they took the time to establish these relationships and characters before the (SPOILER ALERT) bloodbath begins.

Q: Can you fill us in a little bit about your character Michael?

Michael was such a fun character for me to delve in to. A good, kind American boy on vacation in Sydney with his girlfriend Belle, her brother Carl, and Carl’s girlfriend Sofia.

You could describe Michael as a little dorky, but witty and loveable that tries hard to keep his group happy. The most interesting part about this character was exploring what happens when push comes to shove in a high pressure situation and seeing what happens when the nice guy is suddenly not so nice anymore.

Q: Were you a big horror fan before taking up your role in Ravenswood, if so any personal favourites?

I love horror movies! When I was a kid, I would hire VHS videos from the local blockbuster (showing my age now) and watch them repeatedly. Favourites include the original IT, The Candyman, I Know What You Did Last Summer, and Scream. The Australians are doing horror really well now, I absolutely love Wolf Creek, The Loved Ones and recently saw Scare Campaign by the Cairns Brothers. Local horror done well, I want more!

Q: How have you found it being a member of the local film industry in Australia, with the increase in high quality TV as well as feature films is there enough work to sustain the local actors that are working in the country?

The Australian Entertainment Industry is certainly expanding, but it really does have a long way to go before it can sustain local artists. Very simply put, we don’t have the population to support such an expensive industry. Very fortunately for Australians more and more International projects are shooting on our shores (and New Zealand) but we really do need more locally produced content on a commercial scale.

To its credit, the independent sector of our Industry is absolutely thriving and I think this is what creates the training ground for local artists to produce internationally recognized work. Some examples off the top of my head include Ravenswood (there’s the plug) and also a recent feature called The Legend of Ben Hall which was produced Independently and has gone on to achieve great critical success world-wide.

With the introduction of new technology there is now more work for actors in the form of online content, the challenge now for actors is to work out how to translate online distribution in to rent money, especially as most web-series are accessible for free.

Q: Filming at Callan Park (an abandoned psychiatric hospital in Sydney) must have been quite the experience, any spooky on set experiences you can recall?

Filming at Callan Park certainly helped with the acting side of things. So often we were legitimately freaked out that when the cameras started rolling all we had to do was take in our surroundings.

There were many moments I’d be alone in a room and see something move out of the corner of my eye only to turn around and see nothing there. Many, many eerie feelings of being watched when sitting alone in the green room. It got to the point I needed to find a bathroom buddy, I wouldn’t brave the creepy corridors to get to the toilet alone, knowing that if I was going to get strangled by a ghost it would definitely be on the toilet.

We did also enjoy the creepiness of it too, though. My co-star Adam Horner and I took over some of the behind the scenes footage and created ‘Scare Cam’, playing pranks on the cast and crew. I will admit that Adam was much better at it than me, more often than not I would end up freaking myself out while hiding around the corner to scare somebody and turn off the camera and trot back to the safety of the makeup chair.

Isabel Dickson (plays Belle):

Dickson plays the character of Belle in Ravenswood

Q: Isabel, we’d love to hear a little bit about your background in the industry and what drew you to Ravenswood?

I filmed Ravenswood straight after graduating from acting school in 2016. I’ve been working around the Sydney film and theatre scene since, with my first appearance on a TV series – Janet King, a number of *plug* awesome plays, and I recently wrapped the indie feature, Fragmentary.

I was particularly drawn to the challenge of shooting Ravenswood in the short time frame. With a full-length script and stunts to pull off in just two weeks, it required a committed and close-knit team that I was eager to work with.

Q: Can you give us a little insight in your character of Belle and what type of horror heroine she is?

Let’s just say there’s more to her than meets the eye. Belle is the voice of reason in the group but can often get lost in the group’s decisions. A Harvard student, she’s logical and doesn’t believe in the supernatural. Belle is always looking out for her friends and is very much in love with Michael, played by the ever-wonderful Shane Savage. Belle was a lot of fun to play as she experiences an exciting character arc throughout the course of film.

Q: Your fellow cast members and yourself seemed to be working under pretty intense shooting conditions. Did this affect the mood on set at all, especially filming on a real life location like you all did?

It was exhausting shooting a feature film in 2 weeks, but that just made it all the more rewarding. With long days and a lot of content to cover, we became a close creative family and had so much fun working together. The eeriness of the set made for a thrilling vibe – I was running on adrenalin for the whole shoot.

Q: What can you tell us about your experience working with JD Cohen?

I’ve never met anyone so passionate about horror like JD and that definitely came across on set. He knows exactly how to hold tension and how to pull together something that will scare you.

Q: Any highlights you can share about some of Ravenswood’s screenings? Showing the film around the world must have been a real thrill for everyone involved?  

Absolutely, you always want to be help tell stories to people around the world so to have it playing in different countries is a big thrill. The highlight so far though was the hometown screening in Sydney. It was great to see such strong support from the film industry here.

Q: Filming at Callan Park (an abandoned psychiatric hospital in Sydney) must have been quite the experience, any spooky on set experiences you can recall?

Callan Park was such a fun location to shoot at…during the day. At night it sure tested the imagination. As creepy as the hospital sometimes felt, the spookiest experience I had was Adam with the Scare-Cam! He’d find the most random places to hide and jump out when we were least expecting it – much of which is captured on terribly embarrassing go-pro footage.

Check out the official Ravenswood trailer in anticipation of its upcoming release –

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3 responses to “Ravenswood: Cast & Crew Interviews

  1. The film could be interesting to see. I’m just a bit sceptic over the casting choices since the film was produced and casted by agency Ignite whose head is Michelle Horner, Adam Horner’s mother. Once I see it I’m sure it might be great, but I hope the casting decisions weren’t due to conflict of interest.

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