Pareidolia Horror: Aaron and Aiden Truss Interview

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Pareidolia is an acclaimed short British horror film, directed by Aaron Truss and written by Aiden Truss. The filmmakers talk about their work with guest writer DAVID GELMINI for Spooky isles

Aiden and Aaron Truss - Pareidoila filmmakers
Aiden and Aaron Truss

The acclaimed short film Pareidolia recently had its world premiere at FrightFest 2023, in addition to also being screened at DarkFest last year. Critics also awarded Pareidolia highly positive reviews, making it something you really cannot afford to miss.

The short film was directed by filmmaker Aaron Truss, with his father, Aiden Truss, providing the screenplay. Throughout the following interview, the father and son duo provided us with an in-depth account of the making of Pareidolia, with everything from how the idea came about down to the visual effects being discussed in great detail. Needless to say, you absolutely need to read this interview if you would like to learn more about how Pareidolia came about.

Pareidolia was produced by Misty Moon alongside Q Cumber Films, with Misty Moon founder Stuart Morriss being deeply involved with every stage of the production after he initially contacted Q Cumber Films and asked them to come onboard. And the incredible cast includes Diane Franklin, Dawn Perllman, Joe Acres, Carolyn Pickles, Sandy Johnson, Graham Cole, Lee Jones, and Kathy Wieczorek. Without going too deeply into spoilers, the plot focuses on a sinister entity which was unwillingly awakened by an overeager university lecturer. If you would like to watch Pareidolia for yourself at a prestigious horror festival, it will be playing at Horror-on-Sea on January 14, so make sure to purchase a ticket before they sell out.

DAVID GELMINI: Firstly, Aiden, how did you come up with the idea for Pareidolia?

AIDEN TRUSS: This was an idea that I’d jotted down in my notebook quite a while ago. As things pop into my head, I like to keep hold of them. I’m always seeing faces in objects and just hit upon the idea of them being the manifestation of something real that was watching people (or certain people). Of course, we took it to the next level, where there really is something evil behind these shadowy images.

And were there any themes you particularly wished to touch upon?

AIDEN TRUSS: No themes in particular, just the notion that what’s not seen – or only half seen – is often more terrifying than seeing what is tormenting the protagonist. I also wanted it to buck the trend of psychos chopping up obnoxious twenty-somethings who we have very little sympathy for. In Sinead, we have a mature, intelligent woman who is struggling to cope with something terrifying that she doesn’t understand. She’s not sure if she’s being pursued by an entity or whether she’s going mad.

Since this is your first screenplay, did you find the experience of writing a film to be different from writing a novel?

AIDEN TRUSS: It’s a very different experience and discipline, especially as it was a short film. I had to rein in my instincts to flesh out my characters and just sketch things to give the bare bones of a backstory and keep the dialogue more snappy. We had Jake West helping out in this regard and his suggestions injected a bit more pace into proceedings.

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Aaron, how did you approach directing your father’s script?

AARON TRUSS: Firstly, with excitement! This was my opportunity to bring a story and characters created by my father to life! I would make sure I kept in touch with my father during most stages of production – sharing thoughts on how we could keep to budget, how things were going on set and sending him sneaky early scene cuts for his approval. Every time I was on set, I always had Dad in mind – especially when it came to character motivation. I wanted to make sure that whatever was in Dad’s head, appeared on the big screen.

The film features a unique group of characters, who were all played by an assortment of talented actors. Was it a challenge to showcase so many unique and interesting personalities within a relatively short runtime?

AIDEN TRUSS: I knew that Diane Franklin and Graham Cole were going to be playing the two major characters, and so I visualised them as I was writing. I knew they’d be up to the task of portraying memorable characters whatever length the film would be.

AARON TRUSS: Exactly, and with the short run time, it was certainly a challenge! I knew that the shorter the run time – the more chances we would have of appearing at film festivals. Festivals like to go for shorter films in this case as it means they can programme more content. Thirteen minutes is still a challenge for festivals, but if I’m honest – it’s perfect the way it is. The pacing, the mood, the character screentime, everything works!

To shorten it further for festivals would just be a mistake – if it means we don’t play as many festivals, then I’m absolutely fine with that. It would be like making “Bohemian Rhapsody” (5.54 mins) shorter for the sake of radio airtime (3mins) – yet people love that song (and so do I) despite the fact it rarely gets it played on FM radio.

Aaron, how did you find the experience of working with such a large and talented group of actors?

AARON TRUSS: I will admit, I was nervous about directing Diane Franklin. I’d met Carolyn Pickles before and immediately hit it off with her during a lunch in London. Joe Acres is a lifelong friend and collaborator, and Graham Cole is a patron of the Rob Knox London Film Festival, so I’ve known him for many years.

Diane is a different breed of actor and has over half a century of knowledge and experience under her belt – so I was a little worried about how to approach her and if she would take a little guy from Bromley seriously. But she was absolutely passionate about Dad’s script and was incredibly professional, despite the fact this was an indie film shoot and that all her scenes had to be done in one day. The reason for all this amazing casting is down to our producer, Stuart Morriss, who knew exactly who would be best suited to play each character.

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I also wanted to ask you about the film’s visual style. Pareidolia certainly has an interesting look and feel. Can you discuss this?

AIDEN TRUSS: This was purely down to Aaron’s direction and James Dean’s camera work. I made the odd suggestion here and there, but the visual style was the result of their creative decisions. I do tend to think quite cinematically but kept to my lane and stuck to scripting and rewrites.

I understand that you filmed in some very interesting locations?

AARON TRUSS: Most of our primary locations were in Robertsbridge, East Sussex. This is the home of our producer Stuart Morriss (and his wife Jen). My father and I had been for meetings with Stuart there in the Summer, had recces there with Q Cumber Films and then eventual filming in the fall. Over each season, Robertsbridge has a different character to it. It’s gloriously tranquil in the summer period and then unforgivingly eerie in the winter. It was perfect for our needs on Pareidolia.

The pub used in the film, is actually a local of Stuart’s – The Ostrich. Some of us stayed there during production too. Scrimm Cottage is Stuart and Jen’s house – allegedly haunted, but you’d have to speak to them about that. The old, abandoned Mill was a bonus and was never featured in the original draft until I’d seen it on a walk with Stuart. It’s absolutely spooky and I immediately asked Dad to add it to the script.

And can you talk about the visual effects?

AARON TRUSS: I’m very proud of the VFX for the film, this was headed up Ignacio Mazuecos and Dan Grant. Dan Grant in particular is responsible for the last shot of the film, which took him months and months – in fact he began his work on that shot before a frame of film was shot. I saw him agonising for months on it until it was perfect, and it still gives me chills when I see it. Other shots in the film that required VFX took much less time, but Dan and Nacho did a wonderful job.

Pareidolia 2023

What about the soundtrack?

AARON TRUSS: The soundtrack was written and performed by Infra Violet, an up-and-coming synthwave band that also did the soundtrack to my previous short film, The Understudy. I wanted to pay homage to John Carpenter in this film (aside from the inclusion of Sandy Johnson’s involvement – which was down to Stuart), and I knew Infra Violet would meet the challenge and excel. We all love John Carpenter, and it seemed like a good fit for the film. The soundtrack is also available to stream on all major music platforms.

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And how were you able to convey the supernatural elements without explicitly showing them or giving too much away?

AARON TRUSS: Well, that’s the key, isn’t it? Don’t show the golden goose! Our fragile minds are far more interesting when it comes to the realms of imagination. Horror, when done right, is a perfect combination of what you reveal and what you hold back from the audience. Audio is the way you convey supernatural elements, not visuals – this is purely my opinion. This practise was applied in Pareidolia. The real credit goes to Mario Vidali and Dan Yates, our dubbing mixers and sound designers.

What do you both hope horror fans will take away from Pareidolia?

AIDEN TRUSS: I like to think that we’ve made something a bit different that might give people pause for thought the next time they see a strange shape in the shadows. We also give the odd tip of the hat to some of our favourite horror heroes and tropes, so the horror fans should have fun spotting them.

AARON TRUSS: I hope they enjoy it! It’s a ride! A horror fan’s stamp of approval is hard to come by because they’ve seen it all. Being a horror fan makes you numb to some scares, because you know when to expect them. You get used to the template. So, I hope we brought something new and exciting to the table.

And would you both also like to continue the story of Pareidolia in the future?

AIDEN TRUSS: We are sketching out a feature-length version of the film at the moment, but I’ll leave it to Aaron to elaborate on this in case we’re supposed to be keeping it under our hats!

AARON TRUSS: Myself, Dad and Jake West are indeed working on a feature script for Pareidolia – but that’s all I can really say for now. We’ve been hard at work behind the scenes to adapt this short into a more expansive story for the big screen, something that has been reported on a fair few times through our media coverage.

Can you talk briefly about any other projects you might be working on?

AIDEN TRUSS: I’ve just republished my first novel, Gape, and am working on the sequel. I’ve also got a collection of short stories that I hope to have finished soon.

AARON TRUSS: The feature script to Pareidolia is my main focus this year, alongside another feature script that moves away from the horror genre slightly. Both are exciting projects, but that’s all I can say for now!

Have you seen Pareidolia? Tell us your thoughts in the comments section!

Listen to our Spooky interview with producer Stuart Morriss about making Pareidolia

Watch Pareidolia Trailer

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