An interview with the Voice From the Stone Director

There are very few films that catch my attention since the first time I see something about them, and there’s an unique magic in upcoming projects. The waiting, the expectation, it’s an experience that I try to enjoy most of the time. The most recent case on this is with Voice from the Stone, a film by Eric Howell.

I was lucky enough to have a part of his time for this interview and, before you read any further, I want to honestly thank Mr. Howell for taking the time for this interview. May many more projects like this come by his hand!

What was the one thing that convinced you to do Voice from the Stone? Was it a concrete idea, a proposal, the potential…?
The script was given to me by producer Dean Zanuck. Written by Andrew Shaw, it was a script that made me want to read under a blanket with a flashlight.  For me it was always a gothic romance which is different than the original book and different than some interpretations.  When I pitched my maternal love story approach to Dean and Stefano they immediately responded.  All of us wanted something different than your typical gothic horror.

Because of the trailer, this seems to be a drama, gothic film, but how would you define it in your own words?
A gothic romance.  I’ve heard others call it a Merchant-Ivory ghost story.  Ultimately, the drive for every character in the film comes from love, even if at times that love is obsessive and unhealthy.  It’s about love, life, death, grief and fear.

Was there any moment when you thought the movie might not happen the way you thought?
Constantly.  Filmmaking is a very organic process and it quickly begins to have a life all it’s own.  However, my producers and me we’re very committed to the specific kind of film we wanted to make.  Our cast and crew believed in our approach and ultimately I feel we delivered the film we intended to make.  Many outsiders felt that we could make it somewhere other than Italy for less money, or that we should add some jump scares, or more blood.  In the end we made a specific movie for a specific audience and I couldn’t be more pleased.

Now that it is almost done, is there anything you would say was the most challenging phase?
Post production was the most challenging.  So much of filmmaking is about what you don’t do, rather than what you do.  Finding the balance between creating a powerful catharsis with enough of a mystery in the end proved to be the challenge.  Put too much information in and we leave no space for the audience to engage in thought – leave too much out and we become incomplete, confusing and frustrating for an audience.

And since challenges also come with gratification, can you say there’s a certain scene in Voice from the Stone you consider to be the best one, you personal favorite, perhaps?
Just getting this finished is huge.  Working with Emilia, Marton, and the whole cast and crew is something of a fairy tale in itself. Maybe the pinnacle of filmmaking for me happens in the sound mix, which we did with Gary Rizzo at Skywalker.  During that process is when I sent the film to Amy Lee (Evanescence) to see if she would be interested in creating a song for the film.  She immediately responded to the film after what was basically a cold call.  Hours later she sent the first 40 seconds of what would become SPEAK TO ME.  She came out to the Ranch and wrote and recorded the song with our composer Michael Wandmacher.  What they made is simply astonishing, and at that moment I realized that our film had inspired another artist to create something, and that may be the biggest compliment I’ve ever experienced.

We know it is impossible for a movie to be completely loyal to the book it is based on, but do you think there are major changes in this adaptation?
We were not loyal to the book in most ways.  The book was the entry point to this amazing Italian story and characters, but the film is very much it’s own take on the story.

Also, since it is based in the novel by Silvio Raffo, how was it to adapt a story from a book to the cameras? Was the author involved in the process?
Most of this work had been completed by the producers and writer Andrew Shaw.  Once I came aboard it was simply about shifting some of the elements in a particular direction to support the kind of story we were telling.

You had the chance to work with Amy Lee, too, for the main song of the movie, How would you describe the experience? Were there problems or an immediate connection between the two?
We had an immediate connection.  Composer Michael Wandmacher and me knew that we specifically wanted a woman’s voice to be the first thing heard at the very close of the film. When you start thinking about voices, Amy Lee is on the top of any list.  She immediately responded to the film and we flew her out to Skywalker to write the song with Michael.  The bond for all of us was amazing and palpable.  This truly was one of those magical experiences that happen only so often.  I can’t say enough about how special the collaboration was.

It could be to early to say that, but are there plans for a sequel or would you rather work in another, different project?
On to new things! I’ve got two personal projects going.  One is a script of mine that’s been picked up as a graphic novel titled The Revolution of Cassandra. Think of it a a contemporary Raider’s of the Lost Ark, but instead of a pistol and whip, the protagonist is a woman with dreadlocks and Birkenstocks who fights for her idealism in the middle of a Central American civil war and inadvertently changes the world around her.   The future is feminine!

The other is a script I co-wrote titled Killing Roma which is going out to cast at the moment.  It’s the story of a meticulous assassin forced together with a suicidal femme fatal who wants him to kill her after causing him to miss his original target.  They spend the night on a journey through a romantic city and fall in love….  Sort of Lost In Translation meets Leon: The Professional.

Alan D.D.
Writer and Journalist.

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