Robbie Banfitch

An Interview With Robbie Banfitch

The landscape of horror and thriller movies has been changing for a while. Sure, the tried-and-true clueless kids at a campground cliché are alive and well. But a lot of new and up-and-coming directors are taking a much more artistic approach to horror storycraft.

Robbie Banfitch is one of them. I spoke [via email] with him to discuss the versatility it takes to be a modern filmmaker, his film industry origin with After Dark, the impact of his breakthrough film The Outwaters and upcoming projects Exvallis and Tinsman Road, and what the future holds for the horror genre.

1) You have so many credits to your name. Producer, director, writer, actor. What’s the biggest appeal about taking part in the different roles of the production process?

“It was just a necessity. I couldn’t afford to hire anyone. That said, I enjoy editing and most aspects of the process, so it wasn’t an issue. It all helps you learn. Getting good at one aspect helps you get better at the others.”

2) How did the experience of working for After Dark Films equip you for branching out on your own?

“Reading so many awful scripts gave me confidence. I was always told that luck and networking were extremely important, and you could have the best screenplay ever written, but it might never see the light of day.

That may be true sometimes, but whenever a good script came along it was noticed. I stopped buying the industry dogma and just decided if something were interesting, it would get noticed.”

Robbie Banfitch 1

3) The Outwaters makes a dedicated effort to let the viewer come up with their own interpretation of the events. Was this an intentional part of the storytelling from the beginning? What did you want the audience to take away from the film?

“If what happened to these people really happened and were being filmed, it would be incomprehensible in many ways, so I just stuck to that idea from the beginning even though every moment and choice had a purpose and was poured over.

To show the events clearer would have been a dishonest way of telling the story in a found footage format. I don’t really have anything specific I want the audience to take away. That’s the fun of this movie, or the frustration for many.”

4) It [The Outwaters] saw the release of two prologue/epilogue short films, Card Zero and File VL-264. A lot of filmmakers would have opted for releasing feature length projects. What inspired this short film approach?

“Since Outwaters was told in three memory cards, I thought a fourth memory card was an interesting and unique way to do a prequel.

If I had filmed the prequel, and it turned out to be feature length, I would have kept it that way, but I didn’t need that much time to tell the story of this particular fumbled romance. I liked the idea of adding another layer to Outwaters and Card Zero with the epilogue through restored, fractured footage. I haven’t seen it done quite that way.

I’ll also be doing that with the in-world detective audio commentary. I’m exploring new methods of building upon a movie that exists in ways that are interesting to me and ultimately will add to a much bigger experience cumulatively.”

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5) The cinematography is one of the best filmmaking elements of The Outwaters. Upside down shots, narrow focus, and the use of the environment all provide a claustrophobic experience, even though the characters are in open desert. Was this contrast a deliberate decision, or did it evolve with the production?

“I hadn’t thought about that, to be honest, so it just naturally evolved from the story and circumstances.”

6) Sound design is another focal point in your work. It adds to the atmosphere and sense of disorientation in The Outwaters and is a story tentpole in the second and third acts. What role do you feel audio plays in the overarching message of a film?

“Each film is different, so it depends on the film. In this one, it begins to take the place of traditional imagery. It takes on the role of vision, which was a fun idea for me to play with.”

7) What is one of the biggest production challenges with using practical effects?

“Some klepto-asshole stole colored contact lenses from my apartment that were meant to be used for a few scenes. So that became a problem because I couldn’t afford to get new ones.”

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8) You have two films in post-production, Exvallis and Tinsman Road. The thriller and horror genres seem to be your niche. What is it about these types of films that resonates with you?

“No idea, I’ve just always loved them, although Exvallis is more of a drama in the vein of Malick. Not much horror to be found there.”

9) Tell me about Exvallis. It’s billed as a “silent odyssey”. Is it a silent film?

“It’s a silent feature. No dialogue. Just music and some impressionistic sound design. It follows a young woman who’s wandering through another plane of existence. It’s sort of like a poem, in many ways.

Technically, it’s my first feature, and I’m very proud of it. Polar opposite to Outwaters in terms of visuals. Classically composed shots. Unfortunately, I can’t afford a proper score at the moment. It will be released when I figure out the music.

Outside of that, it’s been filmed and edited.”

10) Let’s talk about Tinsman Road. There’s not a lot of information available around the plot, but the cover art poem is fittingly macabre. What can you tell us about it?

“I’ll let it remain as much a mystery as I can. It’s also found footage and also much different than Outwaters. Different look, story, subject matter, vibe, etc. It was filmed on mini-dv.

If Outwaters had a touch of Malick, Tinsman may have a touch of Von Trier. Way more a traditional narrative than Outwaters, and there’s more drama and mystery than horror, although you’d definitely find it in the horror section of a video store.”

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11) There are references to Tinsman Road in set props in The Outwaters series. Does that imply there’s a connection?

“There is none, that’s just my apartment.”

12) The marketing around your films is unique, from the cinematic posters to the social media posts. In the age of streaming, with theatre attendance and availability on the decline, how do you feel film marketing has to adjust?

“No spoilers in trailers. Better trailers. Better posters. More art.”

13) Horror and thriller films have seen a resurgence in creativity over the past few years. Where do you see the genre(s) going in the future, considering all of the strikes and media consolidation that’s happened recently?

“No idea, and that’s fun. There will always be independent filmmakers that pick up a camera, so there will always be something new to look forward to, somewhere.”

Considering the variety of streaming platforms and filmmakers with fresh ideas, there has never been a better time to be a horror fan. With multi-hyphenate talents like Robbie Banfitch pushing the new standards of the genre, the future has never been brighter.

Many thanks to Robbie for his time and for this interview!

Tinsman Road releases in 2025.

Byline:
Brandon Stoner is a lifelong musician and audio engineer who owns more guitars than anyone needs. As a lover of all things writing and music technology, he crafts every piece with his dog Max on his lap.
Portfolio | https://muckrack.com/stoner/portfolio
LinkedIN | https://www.linkedin.com/in/brandonkstoner/
Twitter | @_brandonstoner

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