Exclusive Interview: Terry Jarrell (Harlow’s Haunt)
HARLOW’S HAUNT is your first Directed feature film and is very much your movie as you did pretty much any role you can think of in the making of the film. What did you learn as you was going a long in the making of HARLOW’S HAUNT?
Yes, it’s true that I wore quite a few different hats during the making of Harlow’s Haunt! Coming from a background in writing and technology and how it relates to filmmaking, efficiency was a fundamental point that I revolved most everything around. Of course, as things evolved and the project grew larger in scope, I learned better ways to adapt everything from off-set production tasks to on-set shoot days to keep things flowing while minimizing downtime or other obstacles. All along the way, I also built a deeper awareness of engaging our supporters and others through interaction via social media, in-person events, conventions and other direct contact to make our audience a part of the process. My appreciation for creativity not only on both sides of the camera, but also in building a strong community around Harlow’s Haunt was, and still is quite important.
Without giving anything away, how would you describe HARLOW’S HAUNT?
Harlow’s Haunt is loosely based on various legends and lore from the backwoods and swamps of Florida, long ago. The centerpiece is a particular location – a spot of land – which has seen many wicked events transpire over the centuries. Cursed? Dark forces?
The story begins in the 1920’s with some evil deeds at Harlow’s rickety cabin. This is before bringing us to present day where a group of friends are trying to reunite after dealing with their own demons, only to find something much, much worse at The Haunt. The Haunt is a local haunted attraction sitting on the plot of land where Harlow’s cabin once stood a century ago, and who knows what else sinister things were there before then even.
Who or what was your inspiration into getting into filmmaking?
As a kid of the 70’s, I grew up sitting in creepy old movie theaters watching the greats such as Vincent Price, Christopher Lee, Hammer and Hitchcock movies. Then in the 80’s after seeing the magic of Tom Savini and George A Romero, I was hooked. ‘Life’ took me in a different career direction but I found ways to parallel my work with filmmaking and working with creatives in film, videography and cinematography. I was also very interested in writing with much inspiration from Poe, Peter Straub, Clive Barker and of course, Stephen King. Along the way I became fascinated with David Lynch’s filmmaking style and immersed myself in everything Lynch as well as the rawness of Robert Rodriguez’s El Mariachi. I love the long single-shot scenes and handheld camera work that translates into such a different energy to watch.
You got a horror icon involved in this movie in John Dugan who most genre fans would know played Grandpa Sawyer in The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974) and Texas Chainsaw 3D (2013). When did you first meet John and how was he to work with?
First of all, John is a dear, dear friend and I absolutely love him! I have been associated with an online network originally titled ‘Romero Pictures Indie Brigade’ which is now known as ‘The Indie Escape Network’. I’m sure you recognized the ‘R’ name there. RPIB was hosted by George C Romero, the son of George A Romero. I hosted a show there for a couple of years titled ‘The Drone Cav’ which centered around drone cinematography and small camera systems for indie filmmakers. John was a fairly frequent guest on various RPIB and Indie Escape shows, which is where we first met. Lots of chat along the way, and then we attended some conventions together where we had time to hang out and chat about movies, the film business and you name it. Here’s a fun fact: When I was writing Harlow’s Haunt, visualizing the characters during the writing process, I envisioned John from the very first word of Harlow’s dialog. Once the script was nearing a lock and I was beginning to look at casting, I just took a deep breath and called my buddy and he graciously agreed to bring Harlow Greer to life. John is an absolute treasure to work with and everyone on set loves him. He is the greatest, most fun person you could ever meet but when you call ‘Action!” he is all business and a total professional. It was a surreal lifetime highlight to be honored to work with him on set of Harlow’s Haunt and something that I will remember for a lifetime.
How did you go ahead with casting the rest of the cast? Did you have anybody else in mind that you wanted in HARLOW’S HAUNT?
We had a good number of cast members but another actor that I had in mind from the start was Braille Babcock who plays ‘Christina’ in the movie. Braille is also the ‘scream’ face in our poster. I have known Braille for many, many years and she brings a wealth of experience to the table as a stage actor and also a classically trained vocalist. Another great actor is a good friend, Dylan Intriago who I had worked with on another movie, ‘The Beast Comes At Midnight’. Dylan plays ‘Ben’ and he is an up and coming talent here in Florida and just shines on camera as well as being an incredible musician.
The rest of the cast formed sort of organically. I put out a couple small casting calls locally and there was an avalanche of resumes submitted. So many talented folks! The cast that you see in the movie just embodied their respective characters during auditions and table reads with them and you can see the chemistry in the movie. They filled the shoes of the characters very well and just sort of slipped into their roles naturally.
HARLOW’S HAUNT has been selected for a fair few film festivals. What has your reaction been to getting your film received in so many festivals?
It has been a bit surreal receiving the feedback and awards at the film festivals already. Having wins including Best Horror Film, Best Poster, Best Indie Feature, Special Mentions and Official Selections… just wow. My main goal was to make a movie that would be entertaining and fun for the audience but also play a bit of a guessing game and throw some twists and turns without explaining everything along the way. This seems to be resonating with the festivals and for that I am deeply appreciative and grateful for the responses. We are excited to be hosting fan panels at two upcoming conventions and a film festival here in Orlando, Florida this month with more down the road.
What was your biggest challenge filming this project?
Tricky question! There are always so many challenges for any level of filmmaking but for smaller indie projects, I would say budget is the biggie. I was fortunate in having years of experience in the tech and writing sides of things so I could personally handle most of that which was a huge level of efficiency. Everything from scripting, camera work, editing and marketing fell into my wheel house. Lots of long hours were involved with no days off for weeks but you sort of have to marry yourself to the project to see it through, which even adds to the challenging level.
What are your top 3 films of any genre from any decade?
Oh wow, I could probably list my top 30 but I’ll pare it down here! First for me will always be Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho. I cannot tell you how many times I have watched Psycho and I still watch it every couple months to find some little thing that I have not noticed before. Hitch set a very high bar in so many movies but the nuanced performance of Anthony Perkins and the pacing of the dialog and scenes always left a huge impression on me. Second would be (not surprisingly) The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) with my buddy John Dugan. I remember seeing this movie as a kid and still recall the gutted feeling after watching it. I had a funny conversation last summer at a charity event that I attended out in Kingsland, Texas at the original TCM house with Allen Danziger who played ‘Jerry’ and Edwin Neal who was the Hitchhiker in TCM and some others. We were talking about how relatively little blood and chainsaw killing you actually saw onscreen but how the amazing direction by Tobe Hooper and the sound design painted this picture in your mind of searing horror. To me, that is the mark of astounding filmmaking, when you make the viewer paint an even more grisly picture in their mind than you actually see on the screen. Third would be The Blair Witch Project. I adore this movie not only for the whole indie filmmaker vibe but you get lost in it as if you were right there with Heather, Josh and Michael. You ‘feel’ like you should not be there, you know there’s unknown trouble all around but you can’t put your finger on it. Subtlety works. It is like being blind yet with full vision. Plus, you never do see a witch, but again, the idea and image that your mind creates is what makes it so disturbing.
For any budding filmmakers out there, what is the best piece of advice that you could give them?
After working with and coaching newer filmmakers for quite a while, my number one bit of advice is always the same. Don’t wait… don’t wait for a better camera. Don’t wait for more money. Don’t wait for this or that. If you have an idea in your head, use whatever resources you have to start creating. Sure, you may only have the camera on your smartphone, but that’s enough to start at least fleshing out your vision and if you are determined, then it will grow from there. Of course you will eventually need the other things and better gear, but I guess my point is to not let anything hold back your creative vision. Doing anything is better than doing nothing and it’s one more rung up on the ladder for you. Go out and make your movie and don’t get too hung up on waiting for the perfect set of circumstances!
Finally, what projects do you have coming up?
Without giving too much away, the cat is sort of out of the bag that there will be a Harlow’s Haunt 2. We are in the scripting stages of the story now but boy, do we have some excitement in store! No spoilers, but WOW! We do have some related ‘top secret’ projects that we will be rolling out along the way as well, very unusual and engaging in ways that I have not seen before, so stay tuned for some fun stuff this summer!
Interview by Peter ‘Witchfinder‘ Hopkins
BayView Entertainment have released the horror film festival Harlow’s Haunt on Blu-ray (Region Free) in the USA.
Harlow’s Haunt is also available to view now on VOD/SVOD such as Prime Video and on AVOD from 5th December 2023.
Harlow’s Haunt is out now on Blu-ray (Region Free) in the USA from BayView Entertainment.
Available to order on Blu-ray (Region FREE) now at: