In 1993, Charlie Grimille died accidentally by the noose in a high school play production of The Gallows in the small town of Beatrice, Nebraska. Twenty years later, students at the same school revive the play in honor of the tragedy. On the eve of the play, four students find themselves trapped inside the school after hours with no way out and no way to call for help. It looks like Charlie will finally have his curtain call.
We caught up with the cast and directors of The Gallows to talk about casting the actors, its rating, and having two directors for the production.
Can you talk about finding your cast?
Travis Cluff: We had limited resources. We had a friend of ours who came down to Fresno, Carollyn DeVore, who did casting. She set up something and we came down to Hollywood to cast our four main characters. We saw over 200 people in two days. We really were looking for people who could relate to the characters, just automatically, so that it wouldn’t be that difficult of a transition into their character. We knew some of them right away, and some of them we had to look back at the tapes.
Ryan Shoos: Which one was I?
Travis Cluff: You know what Ryan? Right away. The moment you asked if you could point the camera at yourself, we knew you were the one for us.
Ryan Shoos: Can I point this at myself?
Travis Cluff: We’re like “Yes!”— Reese, I remember Reese as someone who caught my attention and Chris was like “I don’t even remember…we saw so many people, lets watch it back.” I showed him the tape and we saw Reese and we knew right away that he was a strong actor. Pfeifer, she was just too cute to pass up.
Pfeifer Brown: Aw thanks. No, really!
Travis Cluff: No, seriously, we thought she was great. She had a great personality and we thought you were great. There was nothing to it. Cassidy, on the other hand, oh my gosh! There’s a story there that goes with it.
Cassidy Gifford: They actually don’t want me here.
Travis Cluff: We love Cassidy and I will tell you that she is a tremendous actress in this film. In the original version of this film we have a different person…we looked her up online and saw all these picture with Kathy Lee Gifford–are they friends or something? Turns out that was her daughter. There’s no way she could be the one we’re looking for. We have to see people to make sure. We met with her that night. She was great, and her mom was there. We still saw more people. And we ended up coming back to her. She was great and she earned it. She really did a great job.
Cassidy Gifford: Well it’s funny, when I met them I had gotten a call from my manager and he said “even if you only have five minutes.” It really ended up being five minutes. I went home and taped an audition and I didn’t hear anything for two weeks…then I went in for a callback with these three. You guys all lived together, and I was already nervous from the callback, and you guys are all best friends, but we hit it off immediately.
How much are you like your characters? Were you these types [of people] when you were in school?
Ryan Shoos: Let’s keep in mind that we started filming this four years ago. I was much more immature then than I am now. It was so easy, because as soon as you tuned into being that jerky jock, making fun of people, it was so easy. Surrounded by all these people, it became easy. You have material here and there, I fed off of it for days, weeks, apparently years. It kinda seeped into my real life, but now I feel like I’m changing a little. I’m becoming a man.
Travis Cluff: Congratulations.
Ryan Shoos: I mean this is the Boyhood of scary movies.
Cassidy Gifford: I hope I’m nothing like my character. The way I describe her is the kind of girl we all knew in high school, but didn’t necessarily like. I think ultimately the only similarity is fear is fear when it comes to human nature. We all started out as completely different characters and we were all faced with the same things and that is what brings us together. It’s human nature to be terrified.
Pfeifer Brown: My character was head of the drama department. I can relate to that. I was never head of the drama department, but I was always artistic and singing and on the dance team and in school plays. And I was able to kind of feed off of that relation but my character, Pfeifer, is a complete perfectionist, and I’m not those things. I’m horrible at being on time. Organization is not one of my strong suits. I’m more laid back in real life. I can relate to my character because I’m passionate about acting and singing in real life, just as I was in the movie.
Reese Mishler: Yeah, I can relate very well to my character. I played football and ended up breaking my pelvis, so I didn’t play anymore after that. When I started acting, I was very shy; when I was a kid, I actually got held back in school because I didn’t speak. Playing someone who was extremely nervous, had incredible stage fright, I understood; it made total sense to me. And when I started doing theater in high school, I was the exact same way. I would walk onto the stage and hide behind the tree. They’d say “get out there!”
Travis Cluff: I’m realizing that you guys kind of grew up on set with us. I feel like I was the dad on set. It’s Boyhood, the horror version. I would say they are similar in ways and different in other ways. You guys have seen this: we were going for a PG-13 with this, but the fact is it’s too scary. That’s literally it. The funny thing is that the least likely person to cuss in this group is Cassidy and we kept her F-bomb.
Cassidy Gifford: I tripped and I ate it. I tripped and I F-bombed. I was so nervous.
Travis Cluff: She starts laughing and apologizing.
Cassidy Gifford: I was mortified. I thought you guys were gonna hate me. You never hear these two say anything bad. Most wonderful people in the planet and here comes the new kid, I ate it on camera and on the first take.
Travis Cluff: It made the trailer and the movie, but yeah, I felt like I was the dad for a lot of you guys. Like, “hey, watch your language.” I had my kids come to the set once in a while too. “Hey, PG-13 around my kids!” But it’s very cool that we outdid ourselves on the scary scale. We take it as a compliment.
Were you guys wanting a PG-13 or did you want to make it scarier?
Chris Lofing: We wanted it to be PG-13…but we were truly surprised that it was an R, because it got the rating because it was truly terrifying, and it’s because these guys have really out done themselves.
Having two directors…
Chris Lofing: By the time we started shooting this, Travis and I had known each other for about a year, two maybe. In the beginning I was working more with the actors and then throughout the process Travis became more involved and we kind of became co-directors. We would always have different ideas and the best idea always won. It was always for the betterment of the movie; even if it took a while to figure it out and try things both ways, the better idea always won and made the movie better for it. The actors got through those times, even though they were pretty frustrating.
Pfeifer Brown: As you guys know, this is our first big project. To say big project sounds silly because it was done on a small-scale, but this is the first thing I’ll have to compare the rest of my projects to. So it’s great. I hope I have two directors in everything. Chris and Travis were just a team. In the beginning we looked at Chris as more of a director, but then the more involved we became with a project, the more Travis and Chris became two peas in a pod.
The Gallows is a Tremendum Pictures Production and hits theater July 10th.