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Q&A with Julie Sharbutt, Director of “3 Days”

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Name a Horror character you relate to on a spiritual/personal level?
Grace from THE OTHERS. I’m loving and take-charge, but I can be a little high strung, especially if I’m in an old mansion and a door swings open by itself.

You’ve gotta go through some bad ideas to get to the good ones. Tell us one of your bad ideas. How do you get past the bad ones to find your spark?
These days, with more work under my belt, I’m less concerned with being “bad” than I am concerned with looking at something in a new and novel way, a way that requires that story to be told. I’ll sometimes get an idea for something BRILLIANT, but I have to really turn it over in my mind for a while. I’ll bounce it off friends, look for it in articles, do some research, and then examine its storytelling angles, characters, and tone to see if it’s a story that NEEDS to be told, or at least needs to be told by me. Whatever it is, the idea has to sustain my curiosity and make me want to know more and invest time into creating it.
I had an idea for a short once, based on a true story, of someone I knew well who passed in an unexplainable, slightly magical way. It’s a sad, strange, beautiful story, but I couldn’t figure out how to make it a compelling film. I might someday, or it might continue to exist simply as a story we who knew her tell to each other.

Do you consider yourself part of a horror community?
Yes! I have always been drawn to tension in film, especially in comedy and horror, and in particular have always loved psychological and supernatural thrillers. In the last year, visiting dozens of festivals with 3 DAYS, I have seen so many brilliant horror films, broadening my love of the genre as a filmmaker. As one of the programmers of the Portland Horror Film Festival said, horror has long been where indie filmmakers could produce disruptive, interesting, brilliant and original works, so it’s no wonder then that the horror community is yielding some of the most interesting filmmakers working today.

When you’re building the world of your film, where do you look for inspiration?
I’m a very atmospheric filmmaker, and draw inspiration from other films, but also from my surroundings. I spend a lot of my time walking, and am struck by what different parts of the country look and feel like. In New York City, I’m inspired by the different color lights: the yellow streetlamps, the white/blue halogens of office buildings and the subway, and the gray daylight bouncing off the sides of buildings. In Los Angeles, I’m interested in the eerie isolation of
walking in a dusty park in the middle of a hot day, in the middle of the city, and only bumping into a coyote. In rural New England or Washington or Tennessee or Virginia I am overwhelmed by the lush greenness everywhere and how both invigorating and scary it can be. So nature, film, and also art, museums, and personal life textures. I take a lot of photos wherever I go. I also love, love, love creaky old historical houses and parks.

What would you do if you woke up inside of your film?
I would grab a blunt object and run the hell out of that tent and back down the mountain.

Who would be on your ultimate horror villain squad?
Ghosts. Lots of ghosts. I am so fascinated by ghosts. I went on a long road trip and made a point to stay at a “haunted” hotel at every single stop. Sadly, I never experienced anything close to a sighting, but my horror squad would be a hollow-eyed crew of nefarious ghosts.

Lightning round: Freddy or Jason? Stephen King or H.P. Lovecraft? Practical or CGI? Post Apocalypse or Pre Apocalypse?
Freddy. I like a face.
Stephen King.
PRACTICAL!
Pre-Apocalypse, with some historical references.

How do you go about creating the props and sets for your film? How do you create objects that are relatable but unfamiliar?
I come from theater, so everything I consider in my storytelling comes from a real, practical place, and elicits a simple, everyday beauty. I prefer to use practical lighting. If we’re shooting in a place without practical lighting, I like to use color saturated props and sets. The tent in 3 DAYS was created from two tents, which we chose for their gorgeous blue color, and then found ways of accenting the tent’s seams to create interesting compositions. When you’re making indie films, planning ahead to incorporate what’s around you can actually become an enormously authentic, creative gift. It took me a while to start writing with story AND production in mind, and once I figured that out it felt like I’d unlocked a world of opportunity.

What scares you, and does it inspire your storytelling?
I feel like we’re living in pretty scary times. I feel very scared that the world is becoming more dangerous and more unstable, so much so that it sometimes makes me question the value of my work. Then I remember how much I love films myself, how much I look to them for a shared experience, for a thrill or a laugh, for something I’ve never seen or felt, and it inspires me.

And finally, Ghostface would like to know ‘What’s your favourite scary movie?’
THE RING. There are classic scary movies like THE SHINING that I would watch a hundred times, there are new scary movies like REVENGE and THE BABADOOK that I adore, but The Ring made me forever afraid to be alone in a room with a TV, and try getting away from that.