Last month, Robert Rippberger released his latest film Those Who Walk Away, which he worked on during the pandemic and co-wrote with Spencer Moleda. The horror film stars Booboo Stewart as Max and Scarlett Sperduto as Avery, who meet on a social media app, which leads to a first date at a haunted house. Previous films for Robert have included his 2019 releases of Strive and Public Enemy Number One, which have both won a number of awards at film festivals. Robert is currently writing a new film with Booboo Stewart, and is producing The Inventor – a stop-motion animated film about Leonardo da Vinci, which is set to release next year. We talked to Robert about writing Those Who Walk Away, working on the release during the pandemic and his upcoming projects.
You’ve recently released Those Who Walk Away, can you tell us about the film?
Those Who Walk Away came out February 11th and is available to watch theatrically in select cities and VOD. After Max and Avery meet on a social media app for a first date, they end up at a haunted house only to realise the trauma they share may either save them or erupt into an unforgettable nightmare.
What lurks in the house is a monster named Rotcreep that rots you from the outside in, once you’ve been touched. The metaphor is about those whom have experienced sexual assault and the film takes you deep down the rabbit hole of what it is to cope, escape, and confront that.
What’s the response been like to the release so far and why would you recommend watching it?
The response to the film has been very strong. At the premiere there were laughs, screams, and even tears – not what you would expect from a horror movie. Filmed as one continuous take, film lovers have been complimentary about what we were able to pull off and frankly, even I am amazed at what we were able to capture. One shot films are very hard to make, while also keeping the audience’s attention, and we knew ahead of time it would be an extremely challenging task.
For others, the film has been described as cathartic, with a very satisfying ending. Given the intense subject matter that lurks beneath the surface, I’ve been very happy to hear this. I know it was cathartic for me to make it, and it’s great it has a similar effect for those watching.
How was it seeing the completed film for the first time and attending the recent premiere?
Seeing the film at the premiere among friends and family was quite nerve-racking, to be honest, but ultimately very worthwhile. The story is very personal, it’s about coping with my own experience of sexual assault, and so showing the film turned into being vulnerable in a very public, somewhat uncomfortable way. Those who have shared a similar experience came up to me after the screening and said immediately, I understood this film and I feel like this film understood me. That made it all worth it.
How did Those Who Walk Away come about and what was it like co-writing with Spencer Moleda?
I really see films presented in one continuous shot as a sub genre unto themselves. There’s Hitchcock’s Rope, Iñárritu’s Birdman, 1917 by Sam Mendes, Russian Ark, Victoria, and a handful of others. I knew this was the type of film I wanted to make in order to challenge myself as a filmmaker, and also as a way to put an interesting spin on a horror film. Working with Spencer to help pull that off was very rewarding. He has a knack for dialogue and I’m strong on plot so it was a good dynamic.
Do you have any favourite memories from working on Those Who Walk Away?
My birthday happened to fall on one of our off-days while filming, and Booboo (Stewart), Grant (Morningstar), Scarlett (Sperduto), and Nils (Allen Stewart) woke me up at 6am that morning with probably 30 cartons of milk stacked in front of the door as a prank. We drank most of it at breakfast, and donated the rest later that day. Overall it was a very fun, playful, collaborative set among newfound friends.
What is it like working on projects during the pandemic and how different have you found the experience?
The pandemic has nearly killed independent film. It’s hard enough to make a movie, let alone adding COVID costs, and all that goes along with that. It was a challenge, but we tried to make the most of the situation – all staying in one hotel, quarantining together, and keeping a relatively small crew size to minimise exposure risk. Certainly the one shot format of the film helped a lot as well, in that the movie already was pretty contained.
Is there anything you enjoy most about working on horror storylines?
I love horror movies – being scared, unnerved, or creeped out. So being able to lean into that genre and add my own take has been very rewarding.
Your 2019 releases of Strive and Public Enemy Number One have won numerous awards, what is it like having your work be recognised and can you say more about the projects?
I’ve been really fortunate to have received a number of accolades over the years, in addition to having my films shown at Parliament to Britain’s House of Lords, to senior members of the United Nations, and been championed by people like Angelina Jolie, Ice-T, and George Clooney. I’m a firm believer that when you begin to act, you find your hidden allies – and that recognition has been tied to people passionate about like causes, and feeling the films I make can help elevate them. I’m extremely grateful to these individuals, and for the awards that have been bestowed.
Where does your love of filmmaking come from and how did you start?
Storytelling is in my blood. I’ve always been a writer, an author, and a director. In kindergarten I wrote a 100 page self-bound book, and when camping with friends in elementary school would extemporaneously come up with ghost stories that would terrify – sometimes leading to their parents saying I couldn’t do that anymore. As I’ve gotten older, these stories have grown in nuance and complexity, and the teams behind them have expanded as well.
What are some of your stand-out highlights from your career so far?
Anytime I complete a film, and I’ve directed six at this point, I feel like I’ve witnessed a miracle. While I’ve been making movies for some time, I’m still early in my career, and I hope to witness many more miracles in the coming years.
Do you have any favourite films and TV shows to watch?
I’m a sucker for the classics and generally watch all of the films by one director at a time. Lately I’ve been watching those by Luis Bunuel, not only his experimental works but those like Belle de Jour.
The directors I usually spend the most time with are Frank Capra, Preston Sturges, Billy Wilder, Mel Brooks, Stanley Kubrick, David Lean, Steven Spielberg, and William Wyler.
I also love tracing influences, like that of Max Ophuls on Kubrick’s eye for cinema. Or early Italian cinema in regards to Martin Scorsese’s films.
How do you like to spend your time away from your career?
Last month I got married to my amazing wife, Monica Geraffo. I’m also really thankful to have an amazing group of friends and am close with my family. When I’m not working, I’m usually off adventuring with them.
Have you been given any advice over the years that has stuck with you and what advice would you give someone starting out in the industry?
It’s been said an innumerable amount of times, but there’s a reason it’s the continued trope: just get out there and start making movies. Richard Linklater’s first film is called It’s Impossible to Learn to Plow by Reading Books. The same is true of film: It’s impossible to learn to make films by reading books and simply thinking about it. It’s a skill after all. Get out there.
What upcoming projects do you have that you can tell us about?
Booboo Stewart and I are writing a new film that we’ll announce in the coming year. He’s phenomenal to collaborate with and we both inspire one another a great deal. I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s the first of many films to come together.
In addition, I am producing a stop-motion animated film about Leonardo da Vinci called The Inventor starring Daisy Ridley, Stephen Fry, Marion Cotillard and Matt Berry. Set for release late Spring 2023, it’s written and directed by Ratatouille writer, Jim Capobianco. You can follow along with behind the scenes access by subscribing here: https://www.theinventorfilm.com/
To watch Those Who Walk Away you can visit our website or search all major video on demand platforms.
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