Interview with “Noise in the Middle” Filmmaker Marcus McCollum

Terror Films has acquired the worldwide digital rights to Marcus McCollum’s feature film debut, “NOISE IN THE MIDDLE”.

After the sudden death of his wife Sara, Richard, a grieving and emotionally ill-equipped father, is left on his own to care for his severely, non-verbal autistic daughter Emmie. Before her death Sara had arranged for Emmy to partake in an experimental therapy and rented a house near the facility where the treatments would take place. Little does Richard know the house has a haunted history. While Richard struggles with his wife’s death he soon realizes he has no patience, skills, or even any empathy to deal with Emmie’s condition and begins to find solace in drinking and drugs. As the spirits in the house grow restless, so does the noise in Emmie’s head, awakening her psychic abilities along with Richard’s personal demons. When visions of his dead wife begin to appear, Richard is convinced she has returned to help him. But is the spirit really his wife or something more sinister sent to take them both?

Written by McCollum and Glen Kannon, the film stars John Mese (Night of the Scarecrow), Tara Buck (True Blood), Tom Konkle (Hornet), Juliette Jeffers (Lemon), Jim Holmes (How to Be a Vampire) and features Faye Hostetter as Emmie. The film was produced by McCollum and Mark Conley under their Whiskey Tango Films production shingle.

The film will make its exclusive, worldwide premiere on the premium AVOD Horror Channel, Kings of Horror Thursday, October 29th and will include a live stream chat with the filmmakers and several cast members. It will remain on the platform exclusively for 6 weeks before launching onto multiple digital platforms beginning Friday, December 11th.

-PH: How did you get you start, Marcus? And is there a film or filmmaker that spurred your decision to follow filmmaking as a career?

-Marcus: Well I took pretty non-traditional route. I was always into film and grew up in Germany in the eighties on a military base – It was fantastic. I had a massively diverse friend group and no one was from the same place. I was in a perfect incubator. I was privy to so many fantastic stories and humans and started shooting shorts with my buddy. Of course, all we had was a giant VHS camcorder and two VCR’s we rigged to make edits. I then joined the U.S.Coast Guard and spent my tour on a Polar Ice Breaker. I traveled around the world and when my tour was up I knew what I wanted and headed to film school with the G.I. bill. After film school, I was able to work at one of the best Ad Agency’s in the country at the time: Ground Zero. It was there that I got the chance to direct my first comedy campaign for ESPN. From there it was 15 years of commercials and shorts. I made the leap to features and television about 3 years ago and here we are.

-PH: Are you a fan of the horror genre? Tell us about some of your favorites…

-Marcus: Yes, I’m a fan for sure. I got my start in comedy so you can imagine that just like Jordan Peele, I love to play in the razor thin line that separates the two. I love the classics the most, but recent films such as “Get Out”, “A Quiet Place”, “Us” have delivered much of the quality, intelligence and nostalgia of horror films of the past. I gravitate towards films that have a cultural metaphor or delve into the deep psyche where real horror lives. I also gravitate toward characters that are marginalized or have disorders. To me they represent that part of the human condition that wills life into the most hopeless situations.

-PH: Any of those films intentionally or unintentionally serve as an influence on the film.

-Marcus: Yes of course there are influences and some clichés which are done on purpose. I want the audience to see that the clichés are crumbs that lead to the real horror. It’s a genre film so there is somewhat of a path to follow, but we took a respectful step off that path and I think the audience will appreciate that.

-PH: This looks slick. Can I ask what you shot on?

-Marcus: Thank you for that. Yes, our Director of Photography Doug Hostetter went above and beyond to get the look of this film. It’s a fun story to tell since the entire process was derived from using as little light as possible. We were really just containing the light that existed. He used the Panasonic Varicam LT with Ziess primes. And due to its low light capabilities it’s perfect for the Horror genre and we spent more time containing light than producing it. Doug really did the research on this and if you look at the quality of the film he nailed it. He also loved the camera so much he bought it for his personal use on the next shoot.

-PH: Did you do a Hitchcock and cameo in the film?

-Marcus: Indeed, I’m the voice of Richard’s boss, Seth. I almost had to cut myself, so I’ll let you be the judge.

-PH: How do you think you’ve improved as a filmmaker since the shorts?

-Marcus: Fortunately I was able to shoot everything from big budget high concept to handheld comedy during my career. The massive continual learning for me was how to apply the tools of filmmaking appropriately keeping the audience focused on the moment. People love gadgets and gizmos and they love to use them as a character. My shorts made me focus on character and emotion. With limited funds and tight schedule shorts allowed me to focus on the scene and let it breath with limited mechancical enhancment. Commercials taught me how to tell a story in the quickest possible timeframe. Thirty seconds is a tough box when you have a client barking over your shoulder to “MAKE IT FUNNY!”. The combo of the two gave me a large quiver to pull from for my first feature. I also strive my best to avoid hiding behind the camera. Asking myself every time, “Why do I need a dolly?”, “Why do I need a crane here?” does it make the scene cooler? Or does it distract from the emotion because I haven’t done my job with the characters. So maybe it’s been more about how not to use tools in an effort to carve out my story, but instead how do I use the tools to simply capture the moment. In commercials, it was all slick all the time. Everything is hyper corrected to the point you lose context. I didn’t want to do that to my films.

-PH: Can you explain how the release works? Its first on your YouTube channel, I believe?

-Marcus: It’s actually on the “Kings of Horror” website. Basically, we saw this as an opportunity, in the current COVID climate, that will allow us to capitalize on a potential audience that would have been lost in a quick sale/lease to a major streamer. I’m incredibly grateful that Kings of Horror, with over a million dedicated viewers, loved our film and understood what we are attempting to do. They love the film and were just as excited to premiere it before Halloween as we were. We will likely be on most platforms by the end of this, but we want to see if the audience will try this with us. We feel our film is worth the swing, it’s well reviewed, has a great cast, excellent acting, shot beautifully, fantastic original score, quality script, and I hear it’s scary. So, a non-traditional release is probably a good thing right now since “the traditional release” is being reinvented every two hours.

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