Juan Gonzalez’s new horror film, The Ghost Hunt, will begin filming this fall. The film, based on true events, follows five friends who go on a ghost hunting tour, then are followed home by one of the spirits they encounter.
Today I had the opportunity to speak with Gonzalez about his upcoming project, The Ghost Hunt, and his first horror film The Awakened and about his life. I learned a lot about his writing process, his hopes for his film and his dedication as a father. I have to admit, it was a very pleasant conversation. Gonzalez was friendly, funny and eager to talk about his projects (That’s always a good sign). His enthusiasm about The Ghost Hunt and filmmaking were refreshing.
Juan Gonzalez’s debut in the horror genre was with 2013’s The Awakened, which he produced and received story credit for. The film follows five friends who decide to wait out a hurricane in Miami and throw a party. When the friends begin drinking, things become more terrifying than the weather outside.
The Awakened premiered at Elvira’s Horror Hunt Film Festival. It was one of only 7 films to be chosen that year.
KM “How did The Ghost Hunt come to be?”
JG “I had hit a brick wall. I could not come up with an idea for my next movie. We had just watched ‘Paranormal Activity’ and thought ‘Let’s do that’. So I asked my daughter, who was 11 at the time and was really into a show called ‘Ghost Adventures’, what scares her. She told me that she found the Spirit Box really scary. Of course, I had no idea what a Spirit Box was. So, I started looking into it. I decided to take a ghost tour and googled tours in the area. Ghost Tours by David Sloan was the first to come up. I took my cinematographer with me to Key West for the tour. Sloan handed out the ghost hunting tools to everyone on the tour, I’m usually skeptical, but it was great. When I heard those voices through the Spirit Box, I then realized it’s the unkown that is scarier than anything out there. On the tour he told us about how Key West got its name. When conquistadors landed, Native Americans were using the island as a burial ground. The Spanish name (Cayo Hueso) for Key West translates to “Island of Bones”. I thought that would be great to include in the story. I talked to Sloan and told him I wanted to make a movie about what he does and offered him the executive producer position. After all, he knows far more about ghost hunting than I do.”
Gonzalez and Sloan
Gonzalez told me that in The Ghost Hunt, “Five friends are haunted by an evil spirit while on a ghost hunt in Key West.” He also mentioned that the film will be found footage and is set to begin filming this January with Halloween 2017 as the target release date and the hope is that the film will be shown in horror film festivals across the U.S.
He has really dedicated himself to the film and making it the best he can. He spent nine months dedicated to writing the script. When I say dedicated I mean it. he told me he didn’t go out, that he basically lived in his office until the script was complete. He then spent “three months researching ghost stories and reading reviews,” because he really wants to “entertain horror fans”. Few people put so much effort into a film these days.
KM “How did you get into screenwriting?”
JG “It all started when my father took me and my brother to the theater. It wasn’t like theaters now, the rows were all the same height, so, if someone tall sat in front of you you couldn’t see. They turned down the lights and I remember the opening sequence and I thought ‘I’m in for it.’ It was The Terminator. I remember thinking ‘Boy, I would love to do that one day, make movies.’ 30 years later…”
KM “How old were you when you started writing?”
JG “I am glad you asked that. The other day I was looking through some things in my office and came across an old orange folder, you know the kind you buy in the school supply section. It had been years since my first horror film, I’m an action film guy, and I was doubting myself. I opened the folder, it was filled with awards from middle school. I had completely forgotten, there was a certificate for a ghost story I wrote when I was 11 or 12 for a haunted house saying that I was officially a ghost writer and I realized, I am a ghost writer.”
One of the things that really impressed me about Gonzalez his determination to share his projects with his daughter Saphie. She starred in first film The Awakened and now she will earn her co-director credit with The Ghost Hunt. She will actually be directing several scenes in the film. The proud papa went on to tell me that his “greatest gift” is his daughter and what’s the point if he can’t share films with her. He said that he wants to teach her everything he can about the industry. How many young women can brag that at 13 they make films with their father? When talking about his daughter Gonzalez went on to mention the injustice of the way that women in the film industry are treated (he’s right). He brought up all of the negative things being said about the women in the Ghostbusters reboot and how it wasn’t right. He said that if his “daughter continued in the movie industry” he doesn’t want her to have to deal with that.
David Slaon, The Ghost Hunt’s executive producer, is not only the owner and guide of the Haunted Key West Ghost Tour for the past 25 years, he’s also a published author of three books, Ghosts of Key West, Haunted Key West and the biography of Robert the Doll.