Fear Actually

Unable to compete with the horror of cable news, Pennywise the child-eating demon clown struggles to find his purpose and discovers that the only person he has to scare is himself.

Director’s Statement

I don’t know anyone whose core wasn’t shaken by the 2016 election, (for better or worse.) We could have made a fundamental statement about women, their capabilities and their deservedly equal place in today’s world. Instead, America put a child in charge. So when Kyle Sullivan (Writer) approached me with a rough draft of Fear Actually in 2017, an absurd and funny take on the political climate from the perspective of Stephen King’s IT, I jumped at the chance.

When Kyle and I were going through rewrites and coming up with one-liners, I remember thinking how absurd each situation was. Manatees going extinct? Jared Kushner handling all government responsibilities? New York City getting a plague of explosive brain AIDS? That’s just too crazy to be real! How funny!

Making the film itself was an amazing experience. The whole cast and crew were extremely talented and a thrill to work with. We flew out one of my good friends from DC, Shawn Leister-Frazier, to be our DP. He and I have been doing film production together since high school and his sense of humor is unmatched. Between him, me, Kyle, and well, everyone, all three set days were hysterical.

The funniest moment though had to be when we were filming Pennywise (Robert Walters) standing outside Effie’s (Tory Taranova) window. Kyle and Regan Young (Assistant Director) were crouched behind two cars on either side of Robert with portable spotlights, coordinating with me, Shawn and the crew over walkies inside. Because we didn’t have permits, they were keeping the lights off until action. Just as we were about to shoot, this car drives by with a guy in it and stops. It’s a completely deserted residential neighborhood at who knows what time it was o’clock in the morning. Action. The lights flash on and suddenly out of the pitch dark, a fully lit, completely somber and glaring Pennywise appears right across from this random dude in his car. This poor guy, probably waiting for a lyft passenger or something, sitting there, suddenly a menacing grown-man clown appears, spot lit from seemingly nowhere, frozen and looking like he was about to murder. Dear god, his face. I am still laughing out loud thinking of it.

There were of course hundreds of other great moments like essentially airlifting Kim Vruggink (Carrie,) onto set after she got drenched in fake blood, or when my boyfriend (& now fiance,) Vince Yearly (Babadook,) completely surprised me with that Harvey Fierstein voice. The most poignant moment for me was when we began the support group rehearsal and I had all the actors go in a circle and talk about how the 2016 election had personally affected each of them. It was obvious, but still disarming to hear how everyone’s grasp of reality had been so fundamentally shaken. In 2019 after Kyle had moved to Florida, the film had become essentially vaulted. But when the pandemic began, I knew that now was the time to release it. Right now, like myself and the actors then, the entire world is trying to reconcile the absurdity of what’s going on with their own realities. What better way to help overcome this horrible situation than finding laughter in it. I hope that’s what Fear Actually can bring to people. A reminder that even in the worst of times, there is always hope & maybe even some compassion for those unlike ourselves, to be found through humor.