Hi Reddit, director David F. Sandberg here. I started making short films in Sweden with my wife, Lotta, and in 2014, our film "Lights Out" went viral, largely because of Reddit's help. Today, the feature version of that film opens in theaters and I couldn't be more excited.

I'm currently on set of my second feature film, "Annabelle 2," and I'll be back at 2:00pm PT ready to answer your questions so AMA!

Proof: https://imgur.com/a/LxQkr

PS: You can check out a trailer for Lights Out here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H_nTMprod00

EDIT: Alright, lunch break on the Annabelle 2 set. Time to answer some questions. And maybe eat.

EDIT 2: Thanks for your questions! I have to get back to set now, but it was great chatting with you all. I'll be back later to answer any I may have missed. Hope you enjoy Lights Out!

Comments: 87 • Responses: 31  • Date: 

themickeyadolph8 karma

Be honest, which is more fun - directing a Hollywood feature film or creating shorts in your apartment with IKEA lights?

Also, what horror films inspired you to work in this genre?

I hope you realize how many people you've inspired with ALL your shorts. We created a "fan film" remake of your original Lights Out short as a learning exercise in shooting/timing for horror. It was a lot of fun to make and we learned a lot, you can see it here...


Thanks for everything. Please don't stop making shorts.

dauid10 karma

They're both fun in different ways which is why Lotta and I don't plan on stopping making shorts. When we make them it's more personal and in some ways pretty liberating. But of course on a Hollywood film you get to play with some really fun toys and can do things you wouldn't be able to do alone (or with a crew of two).

I'll check out your short when I'm not under time pressure.

SuperVoodoo6 karma

Is it a difficult thing to hand off your own property to someone else and hope that it stays true to the roots of the original? How much of your personal story wound up in the writing, or how much collaboration went on in the early parts of the creative process?

Also, what do you find most difficult about the horror genre in general?

dauid7 karma

When Lotta and I made the short we had no intention of ever doing anything else with it so it wasn't like this was our precious baby that we wanted to do in a very specific way. I think it would have been a lot harder if this was a movie we had wanted to make for years.

The most difficult thing? Maybe to try and stay original. There's been a lot of stuff made. As evidenced by people comparing this to Darkness Falls (and to a lesser extent The Babadook).

local_anonymous5 karma

You've mentioned before that while Annabelle had a few good moments, there were was a lot of room for improvement. Since you're working with the same writer for Annabelle 2 who wrote the first, what kind of conversations did you have about why the first one didn't work and how to make the sequel truly exceptional?

dauid2 karma

We didn't really. I mean we talk all the time but I haven't really talked with him about the first. I really liked the script to this one and since it's more of a stand alone story there the first one hasn't really come up.

klamonic15 karma

Hey David, I truly can't wait to see the film, it looks great! If you had the chance to remake a classic horror film, would you do it, and if so, which film would you want to remake?

dauid6 karma

I've always had a soft spot for day of the triffids. There's the old movie and two british tv-series already though. I absolutely love Village of the Damned too but it's perfect and doesn't need any remaking.

olafsaramel123 karma

What is the hardest challenge you have faced while making a movie?

dauid8 karma

Everything! I'd never been on a film set before and now, the first time I was on a film set I was the director. It's like one of those nightmares where you're naked in front of class. I learned pretty quickly to collaborate and communicate my vision but there was some struggling with that in the beginning. A feeling of "just give me the camera, I know what I want". I was just very unused to working with other people (besides from my wife Lotta).

MrMojoJojo143 karma

Hi, David! I want to make a horror short film for my college final project. Do you have any important advise to give me about making horror?

dauid7 karma

Well my most important advice is don't give up halfway through because that's what I always want to do. Always. I have Lotta to force me to finish things though. Every short we've ever made I've wanted to give up halfway through because o think it's shit. But you never know until you've actually finished it how you will feel. You'll think you'll know but you don't.

For horror in particular I'm not really sure. I try to think a lot of what ifs. Walking around at home thinking "what if this picture was haunted", "what if my phone could see the future", etc. And a lot of "what's the worst that could happen" and then do that.

jmarietto2 karma

Have you ever thought about making a no budget feature?

dauid7 karma

Yes. Before we knew if Lights Out was actually happening Lotta and I started thinking about shooting a feature just her and I. It would have been about an abused woman who hides from her husband in the only place he thinks she wouldn't dare to go. The haunted house where the woman's parents mysteriously died.

cuevacuev3 karma

So can that be your next project pleeeeeaaaese

dauid3 karma

I have no idea yet what's next. I think I'll need a little time to process everything that's happened. And sleep.

SageieGirl2 karma

David, I have always found your behind the scenes pieces to be very informative and love your YouTube channel. I have a few questions. :)

What knowledge did you find most valuable during your experience turning Lights Out into a feature film?

Do you feel that you have you been granted more creative freedom by the studios with your second feature, Annabelle 2?

How does it feel directing a piece you yourself haven't written?

dauid6 karma

Just a lot of stuff about how movie sets work. The storytelling aspects are the same and even things like lighting are the same principles as when you're lighting with ikea lights.

Before we started shooting I had to take the assistant director aside and ask him "so when do I say action?". I just didn't now. There's like all these things before then like "roll sound, sound speed" etc.

The answer is after the camera operator says "set".

Creative freedom feels about the same. I was surprised by how much freedom there was on Lights Out though. It's still a low budget by Hollywood measures so I guess they don't worry too much. I'm sure it's crazy doing a $200m Marvel movie or something.

Since this is a franchise there are things they don't want to change. I wanted to shoot Annabelle 2 with anamorphic lenses but was told no. None of the other ones were shot that way.

Directing scripts by others feels great. If people hate the movie I'll just blame the writer :-)

YesImAnAddict2 karma

What is your favorite thing James Wan has taught you while working with him on set?

dauid12 karma

To not take no for an answer. In one scene I wanted Martin to only be lit by candle light. The crew was like "No, you can't do that. You have to light it". Then on the day we shot the scene James came by the set and was like "you know, you should light that with just candle light" and everyone was like "Yes! Great idea James".

As a director you can actually ask for things from the crew and you probably won't achieve great things if you don't push a little bit.

lesterpurplington2 karma

Do you have any tips for a 17 Year old aspiring writer/director, looking to elongate the inspiration to write, or at the very least tips on how to cultivate the discipline to write without inspiration?

dauid7 karma

With writing I find that I only get writer's block if I'm not writing. If I'm just trying to think of ideas it doesn't usually get me anywhere but if I sit down and start writing it keeps coming.

It's basically forcing stuff out even if it's nonsense. I have a lot of saved screenplay pages that are just profane nonsense but it helps to get going.

EDIT: Here's an example https://www.dropbox.com/s/jzkdetno2osryw0/Blabber01.pdf?dl=1

evanfx1232 karma

I'm so excited to see Lights Out, everything looks incredible! Did you ever get paranoid or freaked out back home as a result of working on the film?

dauid4 karma

Only from the stress of making a Hollywood feature. I have this thing where I wake up in the middle of the night and I'm still half asleep. I hallucinate these things and my wife Lotta has to wake me up and tell me I'm only dreaming.

During Lights Out I constantly woke up and thought I was on set naked. There's only been a couple of those moments on Annabelle 2 so far.

rambopandabear2 karma

Hi David,

I thought Annabelle was entertaining, and can't wait to see Lights Out. There are some good questions on your process and filmmaking in general elsewhere so I'd like to ask a more general question:

Are you more a mimosa or bloody mary at brunch kinda guy?

dauid5 karma

I don't drink alcohol. I only drink Coke Zero. And lots of them. Here's a photo of empty cans in my office: http://imgur.com/a/z4KgY

Foureyedlemon1 karma

Just saw the film today, loved it despite sitting near noisy people. What was your inspiration for the original short?

dauid1 karma

Lotta and I tried to come up with the scariest thing we could shoot in an apartment with just one actress. The idea came from something I'm sure many have experienced. You turn the lights off at night and you think one of the shadows looks like a person standing there. Well what if there actually was something there in the dark every time you turned the lights off?

24cool1 karma

I saw the movie today and loved it! Would you be interested in making a sequel to the film, and if so, what direction would the story go?

dauid2 karma

Maybe. It would have to deal with the aftermath I think. I would assume Sophie would be blamed for everything that went on in that house. But we'll see what happens. There's certainly more fun that could be had with different light sources and gags.

FlamingOtaku1 karma

Do you ever get creeped out by the sets you film on? Even though I love horror, and would love to act in a horror movie (yes, I know there is a difference between acting and directing, I prefer acting) I am also easily scared, but love te adrenaline, so I would probably be creeped by the set!

dauid2 karma

Not really. There's so many lights and people around that you just lose the scariness. It might be creepy to have a sleepover in the Annabelle 2 set we're currently shooting on. It's an awesome set.

The_Swarm_Hut1 karma

If Annabelle was a true story is the second movie a fictional story?

dauid1 karma

First one wasn't a true story either. The only true part is that there's a doll named Annabelle that people claim to be haunted. Personally I don't believe in the supernatural so to me it's all fiction.

nnn15991 karma

Hi, David. What is your favorite modern horror movie?

dauid6 karma

Most recent ones I've loved have been Green Room and The Invitation. The Witch was good too.

Thedingoatethebaby1 karma

Did you have an imaginary friend as a child?

dauid3 karma

No, more like imaginary worlds. I was awesome in all of them.

rhuevyk1 karma

Is this a good first date movie?

dauid1 karma

I think it's a great first date movie. I mean Star Trek isn't going to make your date curl up against you in terror and squeeze your hand :-) Although to be fair I haven't seen Star Trek yet...

suaveitguy1 karma

How did you post it to reddit? I have graphic novels and short films I have been dying to share freely on here, but there's no subreddits that allow self-promotion is there?

dauid3 karma

I didn't. I was browsing reddit and saw that someone had linked to our short. Awesome, I thought and went to check the stats. 8000 views! Cool! Then all of a sudden it was 70000 views! And a million!

And it just kept going.

Jaytheluckman1 karma

hey david

I just started a film studio in Australia and we are making shorts, with our first in production this week. what advice would you give us if we were trying to use reddit to make one of our shorts go viral? Is most of it down to luck or exposure?

dauid1 karma

In my case it was certainly luck because the only thing I did was upload it to YouTube and Vimeo. Other people shared it. I think the only thing you can do really is follow your passion. You never know what people will eventually respond to. I certainly didn't think Lights Out would be it. That was just supposed to be one short of many.

DaveMcElfatrick1 karma

ADORED your film, and looking forward to the full length. You've inspired me to want to go out and actually create a few horror ideas I have. Thanks.

dauid1 karma

Very happy to hear that!

colbsterking1 karma

Hey David! Could you talk about how the project evolved and some of the different plot lines or plot elements that were thought of and scrapped before you and Eric settled on the final concept/script?

dauid2 karma

The basics of it were there already in my treatment that Eric based the script on. The biggest difference was that originally Diana's backstory was more demonic. James had the idea though to make her into more of a ghost so that she was someone Sophie knew early in her life. I think my original treatment was a bit more arthouse horror, even more of an allegory for depression which I've battled with a lot, but along the way it turned into more of a fun popcorn horror. Nothing wrong with that of course, I love how much fun it is to see it with audiences but that's the biggest change I'd say.

uhhuhnads1 karma

Hi David, I'm looking forward to seeing Light's Out and one of the main reasons is that in the trailer for the film I caught a decent amount of practical effects (a person actually running in the dark rather than a cgi creature). I find that practical effects in horror helps bring a sense of reality and upgrade the fear factor. I was wondering what your thoughts are on using practical effects and how they are used in the movie?


dauid4 karma

I think that with CGI creatures, no matter how well done, there's still a part of your brain that tells you that thing isn't real. In horror movies in particular I think it's important to have a real presence there.

retarded_raptor1 karma

Does it bother you at all that they plaster James Wan's name all over the trailers and marketing material?

dauid2 karma

Only when people think he's the director. That sucks. But I'm very grateful to have had him as a producer and to be able to have his name on it since it's synonymous with quality horror.

Frajer1 karma

What was it like working with Teresa Palmer?

dauid2 karma

Awesome! I had seen Warm Bodies but otherwise wasn't really familiar with her work. I think it was James that suggested her and I'm so glad he did because she knocked it out of the park.

OneLoki1 karma

Hey David , congrats first of all. How do you remember the day you got to know that your movie has been picked up by a studio for worldwide release?

dauid4 karma

Well it was a gradual process. I started getting emails from all these people in Hollywood after the short went viral. One of them was producer Lawrence Grey who wanted to develop it into a feature.

He was the one who got James Wan on as a producer and Eric Heisserer as a writer. Once they were on board Lawrence flew me and Lotta out to LA to meet everyone but we still didn't know if the movie was happening or not.

It was last march that we finally got the call. "The movie is happening, can you be here next week?".

So we just had to lock our front door, Lotta quit her job (I was pretty much unemployed anyway) and we flew over. We've only been home for christmas since. It's all happened crazy fast. We've been in this country for a year and a half and I'm directing my second movie. We still have no idea what our future will be. We're renting out our apartment back home to a friend and are staying in an apartment in Hollywood for now.

[deleted]1 karma


dauid2 karma

It's an O1 work visa that the studio paid for and set up. We're currently renting an apartment here and have rented out our apartment in Sweden to a friend. We'll just have to see what happens next. Our visas expire next year.

DaOskieWoskie1 karma

Hey David, super stoked to see the movie! What was it like working with James Wan?

dauid4 karma

First time I met him was kind of a strange experience. He was coming up with like a million ideas for lights out. Some that were way out there. I walked out of there thinking "does he want me to incorporate all of this? Because that's impossible and wouldn't make sense". But he just has all of these ideas constantly and throws them out there in case there's something that works or could lead to something that works.

The main advice he had for me was to just have fun with it because making Hollywood movies is a crazy process. It was hard to have fun with it though since it felt like this was my one shot at Hollywood and I better not fuck it up. I feel a lot more relaxed on Annabelle 2.

crazyvarga1 karma

Saw it earlier today, loved it. Some teenagers were playing music off their phones early into the film but not very loudly. It was very crowded, great audience reaction. Anyway my question is: What is the scare in the film that you are most proud of/loved to film?

dauid2 karma

Of the scary stuff, probably the neon scene. My very favorite stuff is some of the more action-y fun stuff later on like the gun fire or the car headlights. That stuff was so fun to do.

I'd want to make something with lots of action in it at some point. One of my absolute favorite movies is Aliens. It has horror, sci-fi, action, all the things I love.