Christopher Micklos and Jay Sapiro are making their directorial debut with the chilling supernatural thriller The Nursery. So I sat down with Micklos and Sapiro to discuss their film, how it came to be, and what’s next for the duo.
In the film, “When Ranae, a college student babysits for a family with a tragic history, she finds herself stalked by a sinister presence and haunted by ghosts from her past. Soon, she and her friends must confront the angry, evil spirit hunting them down one-by-one on a deliberate march towards its ultimate prey.”
Emmaline Friederichs, Madeline Conway, and Carly Rae James Sauer star.
Horror Fuel: “How did you two get brought together for The Nursery?”
Jay: “Chris and I have owned a media firm with our third partner and fellow filmmaker Glenn Chung for about twenty years. We’ve made countless ads and videos. We’ve always talked about making a film together on some level. But we kept putting it off. Off and on, we’ve had a couple of different ideas about documentaries and other types of movies. Finally, in late 2015or, early 2016, we said, ‘We’re gonna do this.” we sat down, annotated, produced, and directed a feature-length film. We met regularly while we ran our business, and we still run our business. We made this a priority. It was quite a passion project, CT, and we loved every moment. The three of us worked day and night on this while we worked on our business day and night. And it turned out just fantastic.”
Horror Fuel: “What inspired the story in the film?
Chris: “Two things, when we were starting to develop the concept for The Nursery, I was a new father. I had a relatively young daughter,r, and spent a fair amount of time in her nursery, especially at night. You’d be sitting in this dark room when you’re trying to get her back to sleep; This little turtle-like thing cast this blue, hazy-like light around the room with this twinkly music that was sweet. It’s a lovely atmosphere, but there is also something very creepy about it. It made you feel like something could go bad at any minute. I felt like there was a nugget there. When we were coming up with the concept, Jay and I and our partner Glenn spent hours and hours and hours brainstorming. We knew we wanted to make a horror film; we weren’t sure where to start.
I grew up with horror movies in the late seventies and early eighties. I love the babysitter in peril sort of horror concept. We knew we wanted to use a lot of technology, iPads, and screens and integrate that into the story in a way that we haven’t seen done before. After hours and hours of brainstorming, we eventually came up with once, pt, and then we moved on to hammering out the story,ry, and the script went on from there.”
Jay: “As we go through how the story came together, remember that it is not a low-budget film, this is a no-budget film. We started with the strongest concepts we could come up with, but we would start tempering them with ‘Can we produce this on a micro-budget?’ shaping our thinking a bit as we refined our concept and treatment. We felt our way through that thinking, ‘Okay, we don’t have the budget for fifteen locations and a cast of dozens”. I think that made the script better. With what we had to do and what we had to work with, we had to infuse the characters with a lot of odimensionson and add to the visual work that we knew we could do with our budget. We had to dig deep to ensure that we came up with excellent scares in the writing and the action on the screen because we had those restraints.”
Horror Fuel: “You did a fine job with that, Jay. Chris, Is that blue light in the film the same one from your daughter’s nursery?”
Chris: “It is indeed. We used a lot of practical lighting in the film. We used what we had on hand. It casts such a creepy light. We [laughter] stole it from my daughter’s room for shooting. Whenever she saw h, she asked, “When will I get my turtle back?” [laughter] Eventually, she got it back.”
Jay: We loved that Chris brought that in. As we planned for the shoot and the lighting designs with our director of photography, Daniel Andera, you’ll remember from watching the film that blue light comes up quite a bit in different areas. We did augment it a bit,t but it set the tone for the color cast of the film.”
Horror Fuel: “That’s such a great touch, and I love that it is so personal. TOnescene in The Nursery involved a mirror that reminded me so much of Poltergeist. Was that what you were aiming for?”
Chris: “It’s funny that you say that. It was not an inspiration, though you never know whawillto creep into your subconscious from old movies. I know exactly what you are talking abo, ut though. We hadn’t thought about that when we made the movie. I will say this, in the lead-up to the scene when he’s going to the bathroom, the camera kind of pans back and forth and reveals the surprise in the shower, we had originally meant to show that in a series of cuts in a different way to get to the reveal, but our director of photography (Daniel Andera) was like “No, no, let’s try and do this in one take.” We had an actor sneaking in and out of the shower when the camera panned away. To me, that’s one of the best scenes in the film because it’s all done in one take.”
Jay: “We didn’t have that scene from Poltergeist in mind when we put that together. Whenever I see that scene in that you, see what I like so much the fantastic color caustic added so much; that home that we shot in was Glenn’s childhood home. You don’t see that the bathroom has shag carpeting on the floor. This great amber colon on the walls with wood tones added so much to the o film. It added that dimension we needed. That was a small bathroom, and we were shooting into the mirror or asked Chris, ” We have that surprise in the shower. Directing that and yelling, “move back, move forward,” happened just right. That was fun.”
Chris: “Even though we weren’t thinking specifically about Poltergeist, it was the movies of that era that we were trying to get at, the seventies, early eighties. To me, horror movies were a little more stripped-down, raw, and straightforward. There was less of this knowing. We just tried to make thishortrd, old-school movie housedog technology, but it felt more like a movie from the seventies and eighties. The house was great for that because it was straight out of the seventies. With our use of practical effects, we think it helped achieve that fee,l and just the very straightforward performances of our case,t helped give it that. We are proud of that. After you mentioned Poltergeist, I realized we have our very own little Carrie Anne.”
Horror Fuel: “Everyone in the film is great. I love that creepy, long-haired, Grudge like looking character. Who played that role?”
Jay: “It’s an actress named Monica Bahr. She did a great job. In real life, she’s a model. She does do some acting. We got her and some of our other actors because my brother Dave plays Roman, but he’s a well-known stage actor in Milwaukee; he gave us names that he thought might fit the bill. Monica was one of them. People were surprised at the friends and family screening because she was beautiful. She had hours and hours of makeup she had to do, especially for the final scene. She was quite a sport. She had those white-colored contacts, so she had to get used to those. She had a lot of makeup. At one point during the shoot, I remember she was quite sick, and Monica went ahead with having all that makeup done and had to hang out a bit and scare people.”
Chris: “What was great with her was that no vanity was involved. She went entirely anonymous for that, behind the makeup, wearing a wig, and just considering that her full-time career is modeling, that her doing that, putting her ego aside, and doing that.
Bureturningck to the original question, the creature design was inspired by the J horror film you are talking about from around 200—the authentic Asian version of The Grudge and Ringu and their American remakes. In terms of how they look, we borrowed a little bit of the mythology of those demons in terms of the violent deaths beginning the evil spirit afterlife. So, we were both inspired by those both physically and in terms of mythology. We are horror fans and want to pay homage to the films we love.
Jay: “With everything in the movie, we tried not to go over the top. Chris said we’re fans of the horror film of the seventies and eighties.
Going back to the special effects, you’ll notice we didn’t go over the top with the special effects. None of the screens you see, from the baby monitor to the phone, is going; we added all that during postproduction. We just wanted to tell a great story. One of the ways to do that is to put together a creature that we know would be effective without being outlandish. We want them to be into the film and enjoy it.”
Horror Fuel: “If you think about it, it is straightforwardly character, bus effective. Speaking of movies and characters, do you plan on making another horror movie?”
Jay: “We’ve assembled a film company called Three Tortured Minds, Me, Glenn, and Chris. The Nursery is flying under that banner. We are in the process of developing a concept for something that we like quite a bit. We hope to put this film into production by the end of the summer and hopefully not take too long to post it. Much like this film, our names are used in the credits over and over because we wear a lot of hats. We loved making this movie so much that we are working now and have concepts for a few films. We would love to keep making feature-length films if we can get the time and pull it all together. Fortunately, we seem to have a pretty good reception with this one so far with some of the reviews. The folks who have seen it seem to be responding well. It’s encouraging, and we’ll use it as fuel to keep making films.”
Chris: “The horror fuel, if you will [laughter].”
Horror Fuel: “Nice! [laughter]”
Chris: “I will say that with Jay and I and Glenn, the idea of making The Nursery was to see if we could do it. We talked about making a feature film for years. ‘Let’s see if we can make a film and remember to get all the scenes and shots, put them together, and see if it came out relatively credible at the end of the process.’ We felt better and better each step of the way, and once we started shooting,g we thought we might have something, a decent microbudget film here. We never, if we’re being honest, thought we would have the chance to get a professional quality distributor like Uncork’d Entertainment; it never occurred to us. We had several offers and ancouldto choose which was the right fit. It was a dream come true. The idea that this little thing that began as a “can we do it” project is now available to tens of millions of people throughout North America and is beginning to be sold internationally is an amazing dream come true for three guys who just wanted to see if they could make it.”
Jay: We started building a presence on Facebook,k doing exactly what Chris said. We made that a priority as we were making the film so that we could build that community in an organic way. Like Chris, we art so thankful and looking forward to what comes next. Uncork’d Entertainment has done such a great job. We’ll see where we go.”
Horror Fuel: “‘d be a great company. We work with them quite a bit. I love your poster, by the way; where did that design come from?”
Chris: “To be honest, the poster design and the recently released trailer are the product of our marketing team. Uncork’d Entertainment and October Coast through some ideas at us, including that poster. Our first reaction was that it didn’t look anything like what we were doing, but it was creepy and unembodied in The Nursery. After an initial “huh,” I fell in love with it. I think that it is extremely effective. It’s great at communicating the creepiness and the mystery of the film. Interestingly, you bring that up.”
Jay: “We are a little different because of what we do for a living, owning an ad agency. Early on, we created all our artwork, but in the deal with Uncork’d Entertainment, they said, “we’ll produce a trailer and artwork” and we thought that since this is not what we do for a living that let’s let them do it. That poster is good. You stop and look at it again. It does its job.”
Chris: “When we first came up with the concept, we were throwing out all kinds of terrible names, Convoluted, Midnight in the Nursery of Evil, all these horrible things, and our partner Glenn said, “what about The Nursery?” All of us were like “yeah, duh.” We thought there was no way there weren’t a thousand Nurseries out there. We went to IMDb, as filmmakers do, and the only one out there is a Chinese movie that was relatively new at the time while we were making this, but it wasn’t being released in North America. So we grabbed it. We couldn’t believe such an iconic title had not been used dozens of times.”