Josh Burnell Visits House By The Lake Exclusive Interview
Josh Burnell is a Writer, Actor, Producer with industry experience spanning over six years. Burnell co-wrote House by the Lake. Directed by Adam Gierasch the film tells the story of a young girl and her fixation of a creature called The Fish Man.
House by the Lake released on Video on Demand October 10th 2017. In our interview Burnell discusses his contribution on House by the Lake and the vision behind it.
DecayMag: Tell us about your background and how the story of House By The Lake was gestated.
The initial idea for House By The Lake came from the producer, Mike De Trana. He suggested a story about a little girl that has an imaginary friend that may or may not be real and I just loved the concept.
And I was curious how that would affect the child’s parents. There’s so much pressure on parents right now to be constantly watching, constantly vigilant, but also, not to suffocate their kids, let them grow into their own people, and all the while these adults are supposed to be individuals and a couple and “keep the magic alive.” And then you throw in a daughter that may or may not actually be talking to a monster? As a grown-ass man, that’s what scares me.
Kids minds are amazing and unpredictable and often scary. They make connections and fill in blanks in ways you can’t foresee and I really wanted to explore that.
DecayMag: How was working with Adam Gierasch? Did you have input throughout production?
Adam’s fantastic. He came onto the show pretty late, actually, and showed up fully invested and filled with ideas. He got the parents, he got the little girl and he embraced the limitations of the production. We shot the whole thing in ten days in a house in Big Bear. And I was on-set for the whole production. We all were. My wife did the catering and the producers moved props… it was a real team effort and we embraced it and Adam set the tone that kept it all moving.
We put the micro in micro-budget and yet, he never seemed held back by it. He felt that if we could make the characters work, we could make the movie work and he was right.
DecayMag: The film has a beautiful story revolved around the character of Emma and her Fish Man almost like Beauty and the Beast but with a coming of age twist… was it intended from the beginning to push the film more of for a drama than horror?
I’m stoked you caught that! There’s even a Beauty and the Beast reference in the movie. It comes just after my favorite joke in the film where James Callis, as Scott, derides the musical Disney version. I always though the character would find musicals absurd, whereas, personally, I can watch that movie all day. This little girl trusts an imaginary friend more than anyone else around her and even if it’s entirely in her head, it’s telling her to do things and she trusts it.
But yeah, the connection between Emma and “the Fish Man” was always the center of the story to me, so while the film is largely rooted in the family drama, that particular connection is pretty terrifying.
DecayMag: You never really explored the theme of autism, was it intended as well or were you afraid it could get out of hand from the purpose of the story? How autism came as a subject for you?
I never really saw autism as a theme in the movie, but rather just a fact of the Emma’s character. What it does, narratively, is it introduces us to a little girl who’s mind works in a distinctly different way than her parents and they each deal with it differently: Her mother is desperate to connect with her, but she only knows how to make that connection in her own way, whereas her father is more laid-back, but, as a result, gets distracted and detached. Once again, the only thing that can really connect with Emma on her own terms is that thing she calls “the Fish Man,” and it only makes their dangerous connection stronger, leading to a really disturbing end.
I have several people in my life that are on the spectrum and so it never really seemed like a big deal to me to have a character in a film with a similar condition.
DecayMag: Can you tell us more about the upcoming projects you are in and if they are still a mixture of drama and fantasy?
I’m moving away from the fantasy for a little while, actually, but sticking with a lot of the themes from “House By The Lake.” I have a novel coming out in 2018 called “Never Tear Us Apart.” It’s about a serial killer, but it involves another troubled marriage and another child in danger. I guess that’s kind of my brand.