Peter started his career as a sound recordist at the ABC in Sydney, Australia, where he also practiced stop-motion animations in his spare time. After taking a redundancy package from the ABC, he was able to finish his animated short Ward 13 which went on to win 17 awards internationally and was also shortlisted for an Oscar nomination.
In this audio interview, filmmaker Peter Cornwell talks about the making of the supernatural horror The Haunting in Connecticut and how he came to direct it.
Take a look at the trailer for Ward 13:
Through the success of Ward 13, Cornwell made a number of connections which eventually led him to direct The Haunting in Connecticut, which was actually filmed in Winnipeg, Canada, to maximize tax incentives. Cornwell, who enjoyed horror films, was drawn to the script not just because of the genre but of the possibilities in using the camera to tell the story visually.
The budget didn’t allow him the luxury of having a set built for the film, so they had to film in a real house which meant having to readjust the storyboard. A lot of time was spent preparing and discussing the project with his team before the shoot so that they were able to move quickly on set. Post-production took quite some time, mostly because it went so well in test screenings and they wanted to finesse the edit to get a PG-13 rating (as opposed to an R) whilst maintaining the same audience response. Since post-production is quite cheap compared to shoot days they could afford to take their time to edit.
Peter Cornwell on ‘The Haunting in Connecticut’
Cornwell stressed the importance of making sure the film was marketable, and making the jobs of the marketing department as easy as possible by ensuring that the film itself had some good ‘hooks’. The script was based on a popular documentary called A Haunting in Connecticut, and Cornwell was shown pictures from the 1920s of ectoplasms emerging from the mouths of mediums which inspired the film’s distinctive poster.
The Haunting in Connecticut Trailer:
Thinking back on his past experience and successes, Cornwell realised that the greatest satisfaction comes from making a film that he’s happy with.
Top tips from Peter Cornwell:
- Don’t skimp on post-production; it’s very cheap and you can keep improving it until you’re happy with the result.
- Learn about acting and how to talk to actors.
- Visualising the scenes ahead of time.
- The performances are ultimately what makes a good horror film, not the gore and effects.
- Films without big movie stars make more money.
The Haunting in Connecticut is available on DVD/Blu-Ray and is currently streaming on Netflix.
For The Haunting in Connecticut website, go here.
For Peter Cornwell’s IMDB filmography, go here.