Filmmaker Tommy Stovall gives the terrifying tent subgenre a new lease of life via new thriller “Room for Rent”, opening May 3 in theatres and May 7 On Demand.
In it, Lin Shaye plays a widow who, after the death of her controlling husband, decides to rent a room out. The person who answered the ad soon wishes they hadn’t.
Tommy recently discussed this movie and movie via an exclusive interview.
Meagan Meehan (MM): I assume you’ve a history of renting?
Tommy Stovall (TS): I do, though I haven’t rented a lot of B&B type places.
MM: And did any of those real-life experiences seep their way into the screenplay for Room for Rent?
TS: No, but I did have a rather weird experience once with a vacation rental. A group of us rented a house from a guy and unbeknownst to us, he still lived there. He just simply moved out temporarily during our few days rental period and didn’t even bother to empty his washing machine or dish washer of dirty dishes.
MM: Did you research or read up on any real-life rental horror stories?
TS: A read a couple of things, but nothing quite like what happens in Room for Rent. If anything has actually happened similar to it, I would be interested in knowing.
MM: Is renting dangerous, do you think? Is that the message here?
TS: I don’t think so, for the most part, but I do think people need to be cautious in general, especially if you’re renting from someone who occupies the house. It’s good to know a little something about someone before you rent from them. That’s where reviews and referrals come in handy.
MM: How do you see Lin Shaye’s character?
TS: I think she’s a very lonely woman who has been repressed by her controlling husband most of her life. When her husband dies and she has a newfound freedom, she starts to come out of her shell, though awkwardly. Because she’s never been allowed to do things on her own, there’s a lot she doesn’t know about navigating much of the world that’s really unfamiliar to her. She makes a huge transformation in the film, but because of her abusive past and the regrets she has, it’s a dark one.
MM: What did she bring to the character that wasn’t on the page?
TS: She brought so much. Lin comes up with very detailed backstories for her characters in my experience working with her, and for this project the backstory for Joyce was immense and complex. I think she gave Joyce so much depth and you can see in her performance a bigger, more nuanced transformation than was on the page originally.
MM: Does she stay in character between takes? What’s her method?
TS: No, she doesn’t stay in character. She’s fascinating in her detail, though, and she does a lot of homework before it’s time to shoot. With this project, she analysed everything the character does and says and knew exactly how she would approach everything we would be doing. She also worked a lot on clothing with the costume designer and came up with an entire detailed costume arc, which is a very important part of her character.
MM: Did you have time to get to know Lin before the shoot?
TS: I worked with Lin twice before as she was in two of my other films. But this time she’s the main character and is in almost every scene, so I got to know her much more. We worked together a lot on her character in the few months before the shoot and the whole experience was very fun and meaningful collaboration.
MM: Where did you shoot? Whose house was it that you used?
TS: We shot the film in Sedona, AZ. The house was actually one that was empty and for sale and we knew the owner, who allowed us to rent it for the shoot. It was an unusual house in the way it was laid out and ended up being great for the film.
MM: The film is headed to theaters in May. Do you feel this is a movie you have to see with an audience?
TS: Not necessarily, but I think it would be better with an audience. It’s been fun to hear audience reactions when we’ve screened in theatres.
MM: Where would you like to be in ten years?
TS: I hope I’m still able to enjoy being creative and perhaps I’ll be in the middle of making another movie ten years from now.
MM: Any advice for any budding filmmakers out there?
TS: My advice is, just do it. Go for it. With all the equipment we have nowadays, it’s easier than it once was to make a decent quality movie. It’s still challenging though, and the marketplace is more crowded than ever, but if you do it because you love it and you enjoy the process, it’ll be worth it regardless of what else happens.