SXSW 2015 Interview: Barbara Crampton and the Cast of ‘We Are Still Here’

Ted Geoghegan got his directorial debut, We Are Still Here, into the SXSW film festival but it was not his first time at SXSW. As a publicist, Geoghegan has represented many films at SXSW and other festivals. The horror film stars Barbara Crampton and Andrew Sensenig as Anne and Paul, a grieving couple who move to a snowy New England house. When they meet neighbor Dave McKay (Monte Markham) they learn a horrifying legend of their new home. Psychics Jacob and May (Larry Fessenden and Lisa Marie) come to help. I got to speak with the whole gang from We Are Still Here in Austin. Look for it from Dark Sky Films.


CraveOnline: Barbara, when we met in Toronto for You’re Next, it was an accidental comeback. You weren’t thinking about acting again but they asked you to be in the film. Was this your first chance to further the comeback with a lead role?

Barbara Crampton: Yeah, Ted and I met during You’re Next because he was doing the publicity for it. We just became friends. You meet people and certain people you like instantly. Ted is one of those people. We’d chat on the phone, text message each other and e-mail each other. Then he said to me, maybe two years ago, “I wrote this script and I kind of want to know what you think of it. Would you mind reading it and telling me what you think?” So I read it and I said, “It was great. I loved it. It’s awesome.” He goes, “I’m going to see if I can make it.” Everybody says they want to make a movie and it’s really hard to get a movie made.

Then a few months later he calls me and says, “You know, I’m thinking of you for the part of Anne. What do you think?” I said, “Oh, you are? You didn’t tell me that the first time I read it. That would be great.” He said, “I think we actually might be able to make this movie.” I said, “Ted, that’s awesome. That’s wonderful. I really hope it happens,” thinking it’s never going to happen. Six months later, he calls me and goes, “Yeah, this movie’s definitely happening. Travis Stevens is involved and Dark Sky.” Then I said oh my God, this is really a real thing. I think it was a couple years later it really happened and here we are.

I’m definitely surprised that I was offered such a big role because I’m in my 50s now and I’ve been doing this a while. It’s not often that you actually get a leading role at my age, seriously. To think that there’s a small possibility that I haven’t peaked is of great comfort and solace to me as I crawl myself through menopause.

Larry Fessenden: That’s the TMI.


That’s the quote. Are Anne and Paul a couple who really see the best in people, even creepy Dave McKay?

Andrew Sensenig: I think they almost need to because in particular, Paul spent so much of his time trying to just get Anne out of this funk. They’re both grieving for the loss of their son, so anything that can come in that might change the pace, do anything to get her to smile is a welcome relationship. They knock on the door the first time and okay, great, here’s something that might actually help. It continues, even bringing up the friends. What can we do to try to get Anne to smile?


The dialogue is so sparse so much of the scene work is silent behavior, did all the actors enjoy performing that way?

Monte Markham: I think the editing is that way too. The quality of the cinematography and wonderful sound design and editing, I didn’t feel cheated. I didn’t feel manipulated.

Andrew Sensenig: Quite honestly, we did have a lot of very heavy dialogue scenes. I was so impressed with the edit because it moves and it moves, and then you’re done. It’s 84 minutes and then you sit back and realize they didn’t even talk that much.

Larry Fessenden: Well, I feel like they cut some of my lines so I was actually horrified by the edit.

Andrew Sensenig: I think there’s something to the filmmakers that are willing and want to use silence, use moments where you’re not telling the audience something, but just cherish those. So many of the moments with Anne and her grief, just look at her and feel it.

Ted Geoghegan: Don’t Look Now not only uses silence but it also uses its editing very methodically. That was a big inspiration on the way the film was cut.


Andrew Sensenig: Yeah, the use of practical effects helped on the performance side because it’s right there in front of you.

Monte Markham: Rather than working with a green screen and follow the tennis ball.

Andrew Sensenig: It became such an adrenaline rush. The scene of the four of us in the living room, we had to do it 50 times.

Larry Fessenden: And I get to spit at Lisa Marie over and over.

Ted Geoghegan: Monte’s history in film and television, was it your first horror film?

Monte Markham: I did, believe it or not, William Castle’s last movie, Project X. Three years ago I did the Saturn Awards and awarded the best film to Inception. They were giving a lifetime award to Frank Darabont. It was so collegial. There was a community I was brought into that I hadn’t expected since because I’d been out for so long.

Larry Fessenden: I always say the horror community are the warmest, friendliest, kindest people. It’s just funny. You go to a horror festival, my favorite is in the U.K. They’re like, “Hello, Larry. That was lovely. We just saw this lovely picture. The family was completely murdered.” They’ll take their entire week vacation to go to Frightfest. It’s just the most warm, great people. I think it’s because they’re there to deal with whatever their relationship to death and horror is. Whereas you go to a convention of comedians and they’re all bitter. Not that we don’t like comedians, but they can be a prickly lot. Horror fans are dedicated.

Ted Geoghegan: I’ll say too when you go to these conventions, you’ve got these kids with mohawks covered in tattoos and piercings. They’re just these people that on the street my parents would cross over to the other side to keep away from these thuggish people. Your’e at a convention and they’re so excited, they’re just like the kid in the candy shop. They’re meeting all their heroes. It’s this big monumental moment. I feel like so many horror fans and the community are so friendly and so nice because I feel like they have something to prove. There’s that stigma that goes with horror. I find a lot of horror fans go above and beyond that to be extremely polite and nice.


The crazy thing about those stereotypes is when someone does commit horrible crimes like serial killers, what do they always say?

Larry Fessenden: “They were the nicest people.”


Check Out: Larry Fessenden’s Monster Agenda in The ABCs of Death 2


So why would you think the people who actually express those feelings would be dangerous? We should know by now it’s the people who are repressing it all.

Ted Geoghegan: That are the scary ones [sic].

Barbara Crampton: It’s true. As an actor, I feel like my therapy bills go down when I’m working because I’m working out all my crap that’s bottled up in side.


What did you work out with You’re Next and We Are Still Here?

Barbara Crampton: Well, I have children now. They’re 11 and 13. Fortunately I was able to use the image of my children not being with me for both of these parts. I tear up just talking about it now. In You’re Next, there’s that scene where I actually see my daughter being killed right in front of me. I use the image of one of my children dying and not being there. That was very strong for me, still is obviously because your children mean so much to you.

For the part of Anne, there was two women that I interviewed who had both lost their children in auto accidents. One was the mother of a very good friend of mine and the other was a woman who was helping me decorate my house. The mother of my girlfriend I actually know very well and she lost her daughter maybe 20 years ago. I wrote down a series of questions and she answered them very plainly and very openly. I kept that to myself and I actually would read it on set before a scene so I could just get into the mood and feeling of the depth of the loss that she endured.

The other woman that I interviewed was really interesting. In my mind when I was working on the set, there was one moment that I had with her. It was the quietest moment, when you talk about having no dialogue in the movie and you really get the sense of what’s going on just by how the people are interacting. She was in my home and she was talking about the drapes and the carpet and this and that. I hadn’t known her for very long so I looked at her and I said, “You haven’t told me, do you have any children?”

The look that she had on her face when I asked her that question was sadness, grief, anger, remorse. I didn’t know what her answer was, but when I asked the question she looked at me and just kind of went [choking up]. Something was going on and it freaked me out and hit me on a deep, deep level. All I had to do was recall her face when I asked her that question and just that image of her in front of me would just bring me to tears.



I’m sorry I made you cry. Now I’m Barbara Walters.

Larry Fessenden: But it does speak to the potency of horror. I think that it does work on many levels. Of course there’s the vicarious pleasure of these absurd practical effects and hands going through chests and all of that, but I think the movie is genuinely haunted by this terrible reality that some people do lose their children and then they are truly haunted. That’s what I think works for the film. Of course the setting and this coldness outside and the snow and landscapes. There’s a real melancholy under there, and then there’s the more gratuitous if you will, more explicit violence and shenanigans going on that are familiar to horror fans like hands coming through the glass. Stuff that you’re pleased to see again but there is a melancholy underneath and I think that’s what draws the audience in. I think Barbara’s engagement with her character, by definition you’re being supportive. There’s a real struggle at the beginning of the movie that I think settles you in. Then the clowns show up.


Lisa, did you understand your character and how to play her immediately?

Lisa Marie: I did. It was sort of an instant connection I had with the character. I kind of went back to my roots and my family, my cousins and my childhood because I grew up with characters like that, like May where it’s love and energy and peace, wanting to do good. It was close to home.


Ted, did any of the skills you developed as a publicist apply on the set?

Ted Geoghegan: Yeah, absolutely. I feel like working in PR, if anything, it really teaches you humility. It teaches you when to speak and when not to speak. I definitely used that to my advantage on the set. Walking onto that set, I won’t deny how intimidating it was, not only just to have this incredible amount of talent around me but also it was the first time I was directing something, really stepping out there and putting on my best face. Realizing that you guys have been directed by Stuart Gordon and William Castle and Shane Carruth and Tim Burton. To step in and go, “Okay, now it’s Ted,” to go in there with as much humility as I could while still steering the ship, which is what I think I have to do with PR as well.

Larry Fessenden: I would like to just speak about the set. I thought the way it was run was so appealing. It is from the top down so there was Ted’s warmth and his real understanding of the script and his passion to put it across and his kindness towards all of us. Then there was Travis Stevens who is your attack dog. He would keep us on schedule. He had a lot of creative opinions as well. He was really by your side and incredibly supportive. It was nice to see that because some producers are more aloof or some are overbearing but it seemed to me a really great rapport. I think it speaks to Ted’s generosity that he didn’t feel intimidated that there was another strong opinion.

Then the third element was of course our DP, Karim Hussain, who has an encyclopedic understanding of all kinds of films. We’d always be riffing on what this shot is from or what we’re evoking in the cinematography or imagery. There was a great love of cinema being bandied about and he moved very quickly because he’s incredibly experienced.

Barbara Crampton: It was a very easy set to work on. I felt comfortable.

Lisa Marie: I felt embraced from the moment I arrived. That’s unusual. Usually there’s a lot of other stuff going on, but it was just presence and focus and creativity, and freedom. It doesn’t get much better than that.

Monte Markham: I don’t think many people realize how fragile it is to make a film. Hollywood is filled, all the labs in Hollywood, the vaults are filled with unfinished films. Europeans for years have come in and talked to the lab which is not getting their money, and they’ll pull stock and look at it. There are other guys that are brilliant editors, producers, directors. The Europeans will look at them and say, “How can I make this a film?” They’ll come in and write the connecting scenes. They’ll say, “We can fake this, we can do this.” They’ll put a film together and the guy gets a film with some names in it and he can release it in Europe. They’ve been doing this for 50 years. When you come in, I’ve spent a lifetime on sets and you can look around and see it’s going in the toilet because that producer doesn’t know what he’s doing. The director doesn’t know what he’s doing. The DP is really trying to make his movie. It just keeps going that way.

The biggest thing is time. As an actor, I know what I’ve got to film that day. You just go crazy, particularly in television, where you have all these lines to learn. As he takes time all day, the production manager is ready to pull the plug. We’re cutting at 7 regardless what happens so your scene’s going to be done in three and a half seconds. This film, because of Travis and Kasim absolutely moving all the time, the crew then fed that same need.


Check Out: Barbara Crampton on You’re Next


Have you been on both ends of those productions, the scrapped films that got completed by Europe, and filming the connecting scenes fro someone else’s film?

Monte Markham: Yes, I’ve never been in the connecting scenes but they’ve put the film together. I did Piranha 9 or something. That’s when they put the girls with the bare tits in and I go, “I didn’t do that.”

Larry Fessenden: Now there’s some connective scenes.

Barbara Crampton: Connective tissue!


So Ted, are you still working as a publicist until your next film?

Ted Geoghegan: Yeah, I’ve still got money to make so I am certainly still doing the PR.

Fred Topel is a staff writer at CraveOnline and the man behind Best Episode Ever and The Shelf Space Awards. Follow him on Twitter at @FredTopel.