[Interview] Eric Sheffer Stevens Talks Long Takes, ‘Silent House’ And Working With Elizabeth Olsen

Open Road Films and Liddell Entertainment’s Silent House opens today in wide release. The pic, which premiered at last year’s Sundance Film Festival, was co-directed by filmmaking duo Chris Kentis and Laura Lau, who initially made a splash back in 2004 with Open Water. The screenplay was written by Laura Lau and based on the Uruguayan film La Casa Muda, written by Oscar Estevez.

The film is orchestrated to appear as though it was shot in one take. There’s less than 12 cuts in the film, which means that every scene is a long, challenging prospect for the actors involved. Earlier this week I spoke with Eric Sheffer Stevens (pictured left; “I Hate My Teenage Daughter”, Julie And Julia), who plays Peter in the film, about the difficulties of performing under the conceit’s restrictions as well as what it was like working with the then unknown Elizabeth Olsen

The film “ is a uniquely unsettling horror thriller starring Elizabeth Olsen as Sarah, a young woman who finds herself sealed inside her family’s secluded lake house. With no contact to the outside world, and no way out, panic turns to terror as events become increasingly ominous in and around the house.

The film opens today! Hit the jump to check the interview! Had you seen La Casa Muda prior to your involvement in Silent House? How do you personally feel the films differ?

I haven’t seen La Casa Muda. I’ve heard the song “Hello, Mudda”, but I assume they are not related.

The film appears to take place within a single shot, but is actually broken into several. Did you have any trepidations prior to filming?

I don’t think so. My background is in theater, and Chris and Laura explained that we would rehearse the piece for 2 weeks or so before trying to capture any of it, so it came across to me as an exciting hybrid of a theater piece and an almost art house film. The way they were making the film was the most intriguing part of the project to me.

Once on set, what was the most difficult aspect of the shoot

The most difficult aspect of the process was actually getting a good take at the end of the day. We’d rehearse and work out a segment (and they are LONG segments for film) most of the day, and get down to actual filming only the last several hours of that day. Any little thing goes wrong, it momentarily goes out of focus, something falls over that shouldn’t, a boom comes into the shot for a nano second, and that take is blown and we start all the way back to the beginning. There was no cutting something in to fix it in post. There were complex camera hand-offs, getting in and out of a car, actors responsible for lighting themselves with the way they held the lantern or flashlight… a lot that could go wrong. And considering what could go wrong, it was amazing how much did not. Because of the amount of time spent rehearsing and choreographing the shots before trying to capture them. It was a zen exercise in patience for everyone involved. And for that reason, a great bonding experience between the cast and crew and directors. It was one dance that everyone was involved in.

Do you feel that your TV experience contributed to your preparation for this shooting style?

I think it was the theater experience that we all had come from, including Lizzy, that develops those muscles of being able to rehearse something and perform it in long chunks. Same thing I suppose that makes performing “I Hate My Teenage Daughter” in front of a live audience every week an exhilarating, comfortable experience, as opposed to a vomit-inducing one.

Without giving too much away, there’s more to your character than there initially seems. What was the biggest challenge of playing a multi-layered character that within a largely exposition free construct? The film seems to primarily be about reacting – what was the key to carrying the other elements of your character through those moments?

This is an excellent, well articulated question… that I don’t know how to answer. I think your description of it as being primarily about reacting is accurate… it’s one house (which is itself a character) that we’re thrown into, and stuff happens, to which you try to react honestly, with a backstory simmering just beneath.

This was shot before Elizabeth Olsen was really on the radar, what was it like working with her?

I think she’s fantastic. She’s incredibly grounded, generous, warm, and goofy in the best way. A wonderful actor.

Source: Bloody Disgusting