Award-winning novelist Andrew Klavan wants to turn your iPad into a house of horrors.
Klavan, whose novel True Crime was brought to the big screen by Clint Eastwood, has penned a new horror story delivered as an app. The Haunting Melissa app and the story’s first chapter are both free, as is the second chapter should you spread the word about Melissa on Facebook. A season pass is $6.99 for standard definition and $14.99 for HD viewing.
Klavan checked in with Big Hollywood about his groundbreaking project as well as why he resisted giving too much information away about his ghastly tale.
Big Hollywood: Had you thought of creating content for an app before being approached about Haunting Melissa? What convinced you the format would work in the horror genre?
Andrew Klavan: No, the project was the brainchild of my friend, the producer, Neal Edelstein. In fact, when he came to me and asked me to write it, I said no at first, thinking it was too far out there, too unlikely to reach fruition. Then, literally, I went home and lay awake nearly all night, thinking to myself, “You know, you always talk about innovation, the opportunity of new technology, originality … and here’s a real shot at it, and you turn it down because of the risk? No way!” The next day I told Neal I was reconsidering. I’m really glad I did, because the app is amazing. I’m so glad I was part of it.
BH: How different was the writing process behind the project? Any changes you had to make along the way?
AK: Definitely. The big thing for me was that I sort of had to invent a new kind of structure for it. The three-act movie structure didn’t work–the thing was too big and was delivered in such an original way–but it wasn’t a TV show either. This is technical writer stuff but it involved where to put the big moments, how to keep the story compelling over a longer period of time and so on. Then, at the same time, Neal had all these fantastic ideas for dynamic content–surprises and twists that you could only do with the ios technology. So we had to keep going back and adding things, changing things. It was a challenge, but also a delight to work on.
BH: Horror films of late are in a rut. Is part of the appeal to Haunting Melissa to shake things up by embracing a new delivery service?
AK: Well, the new delivery service is important because of the way it affects story–that it gives you fresh angles on how to deliver plot and character and scares. But let’s face it, with horror, no machine can replace a commitment to originality and good storytelling. That’s why Neal and I have always worked so well together. We met because he worked on The Ring, and I loved that movie, its subtlety, its intelligence, its scares. We’ve done a couple of screenplay projects together and it’s always been a joy because we both really care about being scary in an honest, non-exploitive way. We both hate the overuse of boo-scares and gore. We both love the subtle, out-of-the-corner-of-your-eye ghost moment. There were times when we were working on Haunting Melissa, where I would go home and think, “I’m scared!” because the ideas we’d been tossing back and forth were so cool and spooky!
BH: What lessons did you learn along the way as a writer–are there new rules that need to be followed when writing for the app format?
AK: Yeah, we’re just breaking the surface, just getting started. There’s so much that can be done. The thing is to stay flexible, keep thinking, to not let things congeal into any kind of format formula or rut. I mean, this is a genuinely new direction–it’s not just a new way of delivering old-style movies or TV content. This is actually a new kind of content with new kinds of story opportunities.
BH: Very little information is being released about the story, and viewers won’t even know when the next chapter will be released or how long each new segment will be … is this a response to our spoiler-saturated age, when we know almost everything about a film or TV project before it actually launches?
AK: Yeah, I really have to sing Neal’s praises here. Time after time, I saw people say to him, “You can’t withhold anything. People want everything now, now, now. You can’t delay content.” Time after time, he stood fast. He understood what he wanted, he stuck to his vision. This isn’t choose-your-own-adventure or binge viewing or anything like that. When, where and how the app delivers the story is PART of the story, part of the fun. It’s like having a haunted iPad. I mean, come on, how cool is that?