The haunted love story, A Ghost Waits (read our review – HERE), a special film, unlike anything I’ve seen before. I recently had the chance to chat with the director of this unique story, Adam Stovall, and learn all the awesome details that went into the making of this film. Learn about how he got involved in this industry, his favorite films, the inspiration behind A Ghost Waits, and much more. A Ghost Waits is now streaming exclusively on ARROW in the US, Canada, and the UK.
PopHorror – It’s great to talk with you, Adam. How is your 2021 treating you so far?
Adam Stovall – Hi! It’s so nice to finally get to talk with you, too! 2021 has been bananas so far. We signed with Arrow late last year, and they were already wanting to make A Ghost Waits a key title in the launch of ARROW, their streaming app. So I basically have been underwater for months trying to get all the special features ready for the digital and Blu-ray releases. That’s finally winding down, so I’ve been able to get back to writing and putting some stuff together so we can do it all again.
Also, I’ve been so exhausted at the end of every day that I haven’t had the bandwidth for a lot of new movies. I’ve mostly just been revisiting stuff I’ve already seen, but I watched Promising Young Woman a couple weeks ago and have become a little obsessed with watching their interviews and hearing them discuss the decisions that went into making it. It’s been sublime to get that spark from a new thing that inspires you and gets you ready to create again.
PopHorror – I really need to watch that. I’m behind, haha. I saw in your BIO that you’re a comedy nerd, so I got to ask what are some of your favorite comedy films? Also, do you have any favorite horror-comedies as well?
Adam Stovall – Oh boy, where to begin…
Gremlins 2 is legitimately one of my top 5 movies of all time. A Fish Called Wanda for sure. M*A*S*H is probably the film most responsible for what I find cinematic, and it’s a comedy so it goes on the list. A Serious Man hits a very specific part of my funny bone and I love it. I highly recommend The Apartment if you haven’t seen it, Arrow put out a great blu of it. I really like movies that flitter between comedy and drama, so The Graduate and In Bruges are ones I revisit often. Tropic Thunder still makes me fall off the couch laughing.
My favorite horror-comedy is probably Shaun of the Dead, I have no idea how many times I’ve watched that movie. Bubba Ho-Tep is a blast. The Cabin in the Woods is great and hilarious and relentlessly inventive. Scream wears its rightful crown. Does Hausu count as a horror-comedy? Because I really want it to. And Colossal! That movie has meant a lot to me since I first saw it in the theater. Evil Dead 2 and An American Werewolf in London have to go on the list, obviously. Oh, the What We Do In The Shadows film and TV show are just flawless. Young Frankenstein is a classic, and any time I’m out somewhere and “Putting on the Ritz” comes on the radio I will start singing as Frankenstein’s Monster.
Ooh, have you seen The Final Girls? I went into that movie having no idea what it was, and it just blew me away. I really like moments that shouldn’t work but do, and it has an all-timer.
I could really just keep listing movies I love, but we’ll be here all day if I don’t put an end to this madness.
PopHorror – Okay we legit have the same taste in movies, we should probably become besties, haha. I LOVE everything you mentioned. And yes, Final Girls is brilliant. I saw you were from Kentucky and I have a lot of indie friend directors from that area as well. How did get you involved in the filmmaking business?
Adam Stovall – I knew from an early age, sitting in my basement in Erlanger, KY, watching the network premiere of Back to the Future, that I wanted to make movies. But growing up in Northern KY, I didn’t know anyone who had ever made one. Shoot, I barely knew anyone who’d ever *worked* on one! So I spent a lot of time trying to do other things, but I always had that background desire to find a way.
When I was 29, my dog died. She was 16 years old and her name was Lizzie. It’d just been the two of us living in a 1-bedroom apartment in Cincinnati for a few years, so when I went home and she wasn’t there, I decided I needed a change. I got rid of a lot of stuff and moved to Los Angeles.
I had also been struggling with very severe depression for a few years at that point, but when I moved I had the thought “I’m going to feel pretty stupid if I move 2500 miles and then sit in my room.” I was a big fan of the Creative Screenwriting podcast, where they’d screen a movie and then talk to the filmmakers afterward. I would listen to it while working my data-entry job and wish I was there in the room, so once I was living in LA I decided to ask if I could volunteer and help out with the series. I did that for about 8 months, at which point Jeff Goldsmith, who hosted the podcast and was the Editor of the magazine at the time, asked if I wanted to try my hand at writing an article for the magazine. I said, yes, of course, because when someone asks you if you are a god, you say yes.
They liked the article and I wrote for the magazine for a few years, eventually becoming Contributing Editor, before it shuttered and became a blog. At that point, I switched my focus to production and took whatever gigs I could get on TV and film shoots. My first gig on a feature was 2nd AD — that wasn’t the original plan, but through a lot of battlefield promotions I ended up doing that job — was actually where MacLeod and I met! Anyway, I got some PA and Camera Operator gigs here and there, but nothing that was really sustainable. I was crashing with friends and family wherever I could and finally decided to go all-in on making a movie by any means necessary.
PopHorror – That’s awesome. I loved that you worked your way up in the filmmaking world. Learning different areas. Your directorial debut is for the film A Ghost Waits. I remember reviewing it for Screamfest 2020 and loving it. How does it feel to have your first film be so successful and loved by critics and fans alike?
Adam Stovall – I’m still getting my head around that. When you make something so small and so personal, you really never know how it’s going to be received, or even if it will be received. On the day of our world premiere, I had a panic attack in my hotel room. Fortunately, my friends Rachael and Telma messaged me and told me to get out of my room and meet them at a sports bar. That got me out of my head for a few hours, and I got to taste IRN BRU, a Scottish soft drink, for the first time. Then it was time for the screening, so I sat down — near the exit, in case I needed to flee — and watched the film with 400 strangers. They laughed, they cried, and they applauded at the end. And then after the Q&A, people approached and thanked me for the movie. They said it made them feel seen and heard in a way they hadn’t before. One man, in particular, told me he was excited to show it to his spouse, as he felt it would allow them to have a conversation they’d never really been able to have before. I was overwhelmed by the honesty and vulnerability in the room, so I just cried and thanked and hugged a lot of people.
Then I went out with a bunch of the other filmmakers, as well as one of the festival directors, and had a couple drinks and basked in the night I’d been dreaming about since I was a little boy. While I was doing that, MacLeod was at home with his newborn, watching the reviews and audience feedback start to come in. He was sending me messages so I knew it was good, but I didn’t really look at anything until the next day. I remember specifically sitting in a pub with Telma when Anton Bitel posted his review and crying as I read it, because it felt like someone had really heard what we were trying to say.
And then that just kinda kept going. That’s not to say that everyone who has seen this movie has loved it, but a lot of people have, and that reaction of “I feel seen and heard in a way I haven’t before” has continued, which is the absolute best thing about creating art. It still blows my mind to see the film reviewed in The Guardian or mentioned in Radio Times or winning awards at these festivals, but when I think about the success of the film, I go back to those wonderful folks in that auditorium in Glasgow. It’s all been amazing, but that’s what it’s all about.
PopHorror – That’s so wonderful. Thanks for sharing! Can you tell the readers what this film is about?
Adam Stovall – Jack works for a real estate company, cleaning and fixing up recently-vacated rental units. One day, he is sent to a troubled property where everyone always breaks their lease, and tasked with determining why they all leave. Once there, he discovers the place is haunted and falls in love with the ghost.
Or if you mean thematically, it’s about depression and alienation and the power of connection.
PopHorror – Both work! What was the inspiration behind this film?
Adam Stovall – My friends Brian and Jenn Price invited me over to play a video game called P.T., which is a first-person haunted house puzzle game. They started cracking up laughing at how I reacted to the game – like I’d go into the creepy bathroom with flickering lights and then the sound of a baby crying would come from an empty sink and I would just say, “Nope, not doing that,” and leave. Their laughter got me thinking about how I’ve never seen a haunted house movie with a character like me in it.
Around the same time, I saw a webcomic called Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal wherein a man asks a woman what she thinks is the most American film ever and she says, “Easy, Ghostbusters! Here’s a movie where you have undeniable proof of an afterlife, but the whole thing is about growing a small business and navigating government bureaucracy.” I thought that was hilarious, but also a really good point. Ghosts do mean there’s an afterlife! I would have so many questions! And that’s basically what formed the spine of A Ghost Waits.
PopHorror – That’s awesome! How did the casting process come about for this film?
Adam Stovall – Jack was always going to be played by MacLeod. He and I had been trying to make a movie together for years, and I tell him about pretty much every idea. I also wrote Ms Henry for Amanda Miller. I’d seen her in a few short films and she was always the best thing in them. I knew I wanted to work with her, and lucky for us she was game.
The roles of Muriel and Rosie were written for a friend and a friend of a friend, respectively, but they both were cast on TV shows and weren’t available. Chenney Chen, the Unit Production Manager on the film, runs a commercial production company in Cincinnati, so she put out a casting call to local and regional actors. That’s how we found Sydney Vollmer for Rosie. Chenney had wanted to work with her for a while, so she made sure Sydney was always in the conversation.
Muriel proved much more difficult. The goal of casting, for me at least, is to find someone who is 100% right for the role. 99% is close and looks really good. Craft and discipline can get you to 99%, but instinct is what makes someone 100%. I remember getting a little worried that we wouldn’t get past 99%. Anyway, I’d been following Natalie Walker on Twitter for a while and thought she was brilliant and hilarious, then I remembered she’s an actor! I went to her website to see if there were any clips from anything she’d acted in, but there weren’t. Her email was there, though, so I emailed her about the project and asked if she was interested in reading it. She was, and she dug it! She recorded an audition and sent it over, and it was immediately clear that we’d found our 100% Muriel.
PopHorror – All of them were perfect. Felt like they born to play those roles. Any favorite scenes?
Adam Stovall – I mean how could I ever choose just one?!? But yeah, I do. The scene after they get rid of Rosie and start talking about feelings. I remember the night I wrote that scene, it was one of the moments when I knew what kind of movie I wanted this to be.
There’s a scene in Walk The Line where Johnny Cash and his band are in the studio for the first time, recording a gospel song, and the engineer stops them and says, “Fellas, no one wants to hear a bunch of guys they’ve never heard of play a song they’ve heard too many times. Let’s say you’re walking down the street and you’re hit by a truck. You’re lying in the ditch, bleeding out, and you have time to sing one song that speaks to your unique experience of this life. What do you sing?” I’ve made that my aim when I write anything, how can I say something that only I can say? That scene was the first time I really felt like I’d said something real and true to my experience of the world.
PopHorror – You’re proving more and more to me that we have the same tastes and love for cinema! Also, I love the poster artwork for the film, who created it?
Adam Stovall – Thank you! I’ve always loved movie poster art, I was that kid whose bedroom walls were covered in them. So even before Arrow entered the picture, it was important to me that the movie had a good poster for the festival run and all that. My friend Julie Hill (julie-hill.com) did that poster. I sent her a picture of the alt poster for The Shape of Water, which was hand-drawn, and told her I wanted something like that.
Once Arrow acquired the film, they commissioned new art for the digital and Blu-ray release. That was done by Sister Hyde (sisterhydedesign.com), who had the brilliant idea to aim for “70s paperback” and nailed it! It was so much fun to work with both of them and see how the final image is shaped by all these small decisions, like using a still of MacLeod with a slight smile on his face in the Arrow art. Initially, it was a much more neutral expression, but once we hit upon switching it out for one that gave the image a bit more warmth. I cannot wait to hang it on my wall!
PopHorror – Both are equally amazing! So… what’s next for you?
Adam Stovall – I’ve been working on a sci-fi script, kind of a time travel road movie with some disaster film sprinkled in. There seems to be some momentum around it, but you never know how that’s gonna go.
Oh, and a crime movie based on a true crime story that happened in my hometown. MacLeod is really excited about that one!
PopHorror – Sounds great. I look forward to all your future projects and wish you the best of luck!