“I knew that I wanted this to be my first short film out of highschool. I knew that I wanted to shoot a supernatural psychological thriller that was very character-driven and that took place in mainly one location. For Sam, the story felt personal, and became more so when he cast Brandon to star in the film.
As a young child, Sam would visit his grandparents home for most summer vacations. "My grandfather found joy in scaring his grandchildren with stories of ghosts and monsters. It didn't take long for the nightmares to begin" says Robles. Sam recalls multiple ghost sightings shared with his brothers and cousins. "Looking back as an adult you think it silly but as a child it was difficult to differentiate reality, imagination, and the 'supernatural'. Back then, for us, 'seeing' was believing."
In 2014, writer/director Sam Robles wrote the script for Ellie and dropped out of college after running out of funds. He continued to attend college "unofficially" after befriending film students and the head film professor who struck a deal with Sam, allowing him to borrow lighting equipment and conduct casting sessions in his film studio in exchange for hiring on his students for the project.
Robles cast child actors Brandon Pentecost and Parker Ray McEnroe in the short film that would serve as a proof of concept for the feature, and his decision reinforced the idea that he might be able to do without big names.
To cover production, Robles pulled from his savings working as a waiter and budgeted $500. Though he knew the initial outlay would only be enough to get him through production. Sam relied mainly on his postproduction skills to complete the film on a relatively low budget.
Securing locations would be another hurdle. In order to nail down a house that he could control completely, Robles asked for a favor from a cast member from his documentary "Before the Encore". The guitarist owned an old house where he planned to shoot. The filmmaker also did an enormous amount of research on the location making sure that it would provide all exteriors within a mile radius.
Ellie shot for 2 days in Houston Texas the fall of 2014. Driven to make the project a reality, Robles had constructed a bare-bones budget that would cover only the essentials. His crew consisted of three film school friends and his brother. “Everyone had put so much into it—it was such a small production that anyone who had anything to do with it had such an integral part in the film. Everybody was doing four different jobs.
Type: Narrative Short
Director: Sam Robles
Producers: Sam Robles, Jared Brighi, Ramiro Robles
Production: 2 days
World Premiere: NiFF Int'l Film Festival 2015
Awards: "Best Short Film" NiFF Int'l Film Festival (2015),
Logline: A young boy deals with strange phenomenons happening inside his house while coping with his sisters death.
Company: Revolta Films
Duration of project: 3 mo.