I recently had the pleasure of sitting down with the gang that brought us such gems as Casting Couch: A Hollywood Horror Short, Sunday Driving, and Foodoo Doll.
While they all produce them, the four creators and co-founders of Sinisisters Productions all bring something unique, and fun to the process of creating these Spooktacular shorts.
Now let’s meet the team, shall we?! While they all collaborate to create these shorts, Millie Sanders and Jessee Foudray can usually be seen in front of the camera (while Millie also does a lot of the writing), Justin Lee and Matt Thiesen tend to stay behind the camera, directing and editing.
Let’s find out where all the magic started, what inspires these devilishly fun shorts and what other twisted treats we can expect from these talented horror buffs.
1. Where did it all begin? And how did you guys come up with such a kick-a** name?
Jessee F. “It started with Millie and I taking an acting class together, and we became good friends through that, and we were both like, “Hey! You’re cool let’s go to lunch and talk about something that we could work on together”, and Millie came to me and said, “Girl! What do you think about making some horror shorts?”, and I just flipped my lid because that was exactly what I wanted to do! Then she told me that she had two guy friends who are really great with technical stuff. So, that’s where it really started, with Millie asking me out to lunch.”
Matt T. “Well, we’re all obsessed with puns, and… we kind of collected it from the ether. Then we did a little research to make sure it hadn’t already been established as a short film conglomerate. And when we realized that we could make our mark with it, it was off to the races!”
2. What’s your process in creating a short?
Millie S. “We have a very collaborative process. So, somebody can come to the table with an idea, like when I really wanted to do something with a doll, and I brought a script to the table that had this spooky doll… we all started talking about how we could have a different kind of a voodoo doll. We’ll come to the table with some ideas, I’ll go do a draft come back, get notes, maybe do another draft. But what’s amazing is that we’ll end up doing several rehearsals and stuff will change, dialogue will change… Then we might see that there’s some blocking [issues] and then we’ll do a totally different plot point because of that. So, it’s something that’s always evolving from the very beginning until the very end.”
Matt T. “Justin and I will always force it more into the disgusting/comedy spectrum. And usually [Jessee F. and Millie S.] try to go beyond, to the more creepy, atmospheric stuff. So, hopefully, when those two storms collide, something good happens.”
Jessee F. “We have a great time, and we hope that comes across because there’s nothing like getting together with your friends and doing this stuff. With these guys, it’s just always fun. And with [Foodoo Doll] we were trying to think of issues that women face. And we just thought: body. We all always have this pressure to be thin, and we thought, “how can work something like that into [the story]?”.
3. What project was the most difficult to work on?
Jessee F. “I guess with Casting Couch, I had kind of a moment where I said: “I don’t know guys, this might be too sensitive of a topic”. I got so scared about what the internet would say, how they would judge this sensitive topic that I wanted to pump the brakes. Luckily, we just kept talking about it, kept reshaping it. These guys were super, super encouraging and brought me back around. That one was the most challenging for me personally. But I’m really glad that we powered through because now what we have is so special. It’s positive and it’s empowering and it’s exactly what I hoped it would be.”
Millie S. “In Bleeder, we were going to do the shot with the blood, and ideally it was going to come down the toilet and go into the next stall, but it didn’t because the floor was kind of tilted and the blood spurt went the other way. So, then Jessee was pushing all the blood because we only had one shot at this since we couldn’t clean the blood up and do it again.”
Justin L. “The premise of a casting couch that eats people kind of wore off a little bit. But it was “holy sh**” moment on set when you’re seeing someone get eaten by a couch. I think we’ve all experienced [casting] from different perspectives. I know the first official casting session that Matt and I were in as directors, it just felt weird to us. I mean there was nothing nefarious about it. It didn’t involve sex or nudity or anything, it was just an allergy medication commercial, but just the setting of it, being in the darkness, just all in a row, judging people… [actors] just come in and there’s a bright light, and they don’t have much time to make a great impression and you’re with other people maybe from ad agencies or your with producers, and the full experience is just weird. It was weird for us being the people in charge, and then we think about [Jessee F. and Millie S.] having to do that from the other side which just has gotta be way, way worse…”
Matt T. “After experiencing that, and after going through the Casting Couch production process, I’ve made it a real point to bring out what we call our “Midwestern sensibilities” to the forefront and be as nice as possible in those situations. Because it’s terrifying. And we always give people a second take even if we know that they’re not going to be in the production. I think that’s important to bring more of that to Hollywood. It’s a losing battle but we try to do our part.”
4. On the flip side, which was the most fun to produce?
Jessee F. “Foodoo was one of my favorites. I think just because there were so many bodily fluids, and we had to rig Millie up with all these tubes… that one was super fun.”
Millie S. “In [Casting Couch], seeing the actors from the past, the 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s, when they saw the couch, seeing their faces and seeing them come out of the couch was so amazing, it was so fun. Everyone was so excited. I’ve never seen a crew so excited about set pieces like with that couch.”
Justin L. “Bleeder was fun too. I shot that and Matt was there wrangling everybody, and Jessee was crawling around on the bathroom floor… like it should be disgusting by all accounts, but when you’re working with a really small crew, in that confined of a space…it’s kind of filmmaking in its purest form. Like no one can have an ego and no one can get too crazy with it because we’re all getting our hands dirty.”
5. What inspired you to go into horror?
Millie S. “What always inspired me growing up was reading horror short stories, that was my first love. Terri Windling and Ellen Datlow edited a whole series of the year’s Best Horror/Fantasy anthologies, and I have every single one of them. I love them so much, so for me, it was horror short stories.”
Jessee F. “Stephen King… reading his stuff, and he had all those great TV movies when I was growing up. What I love is how he can really get into people’s inner thoughts. He really presents what they’re saying on the outside versus what they’re thinking on the inside and I always loved that about this work. Misery is one of [my favorites] just great film, great book. I would say, overall, Stephen King has been a huge influence on me.”
Justin L. “I’m kind of more inspired negatively, in a way, and what I mean by that is, there’s a lot of trends in horror right now where I think they’re too mean spirited, and they’re getting a lot of reactions because of shock value, but I’m more interested in counter-programming. No matter how dark you can make something go, I think, still having some fun with it and still ending on a good note is kind of the way to go and I see too many things that just hurt your soul, and to me there’s enough of that on the news. Fictionalized murder doesn’t have to hurt you on this level so much because, it really happens. So, I kind of want to provide a counterpoint to that with what we do.”
Matt T. “Also, on top of that, with most of our movies, especially the later ones like Bleeder and Tipzy Tutorials, we try to really think about what we’re leaving the viewer with. And we try to attain this state of being I think Millie coined “Sweet Creep”. Where it’s scary or creepy, but there’s a sweetness or an upswing to it at the end. We want people to feel, even if it’s a bleak ending where everybody dies that there’s some sparkle.”
6. What’s next for Sinisisters Production? Anything in the pipeline?
Justin L. “Yeah. We’re trying to be coy about the title because it’s one we’re kind of saving. It’s about a true crime podcast gone awry.”
Matt T. “[Jessee and Millie] will be true crime podcast hosts.”
7. Any shout outs?
Jessee F. “Well, we’re just amazed and excited that these fun videos that we got together to make have over a million views right now. And that’s kind of blowing our minds and encouraging us to keep going and making more, so I just want to shout out to all the people watching and supporting us because we really, really appreciate it!”
Getting a peek behind the curtain and sitting down with the creative minds behind Sinisiters Productions was an incredible experience. It only confirmed my suspicions that these are an incredible group of people who take the time get together to do what they love and in turn bring us joyful, little spooky shorts that have heart. But most importantly, that make us think and make us laugh.
Check out these links and show these horror badasses some love!
To check out their Youtube page click here.
Follow them on Instagram here.
NB. Responses edited for clarity.