Movie Fanatic was at a private party at the Geisha House in Hollywood for the release of the House at the End of the Street DVD and Blu-Ray and caught up with director Mark Tonderai as he took us behind the making of a hit movie.
The U.K. born director -- son of African parents -- was more than proud of his film's finishing at first place at the box office when it debuted back in September. Something that wasn't a given, especially given the initial news on how it did that first Friday.
"The tracking was really good for the film. It was almost too good. My expectations were high. Then on Friday night, I called the studio and they said that the box office was very bad," Tonderai recalled. "They said we’d be looking at a $5 million weekend. I thought, 'Oh no!' When your first film flops, it’s not good."
Out of the blue, things rapidly changed. "Then a call came through that night at 9:30 p.m. and suddenly people were buying tickets! By Sunday, it had just gone off. Suddenly we were number one. It was extraordinary."
Tonderai is especially proud that the film scored based solely on the story and the House at the End of the Street trailer. "We didn’t have stars on talk shows. We were a real David versus Goliath," he said.
His film ended up tying the heralded and big-star headlining End of Watch. "Jake Gyllenhaal was on all the talk shows! I couldn’t believe it that we came in first too. We ended up closing at $32 million in America and $42 million worldwide. It only cost $6 million. The film stood on its own legs."
As the film arrives on home video, Tonderai is bittersweet when it comes to having a whole new audience being able to check out his vision. "If I’m going to be honest, it makes me kinda sad. The film was designed to be shown in the theater. Through the framing I use, it’s geared towards a theatrical release," he admitted.
"It’s ridiculous what I’m saying! But, because films now are like CDs, films are almost disposable now. I remember when I was a kid and my father would get a VHS or Laser Disc, we treated them like gold. Now, they’re more easily available -- heck, people even watch them on their phones."
Don't get him wrong, anyone watching House at the End of the Street is a good thing -- regardless of the means of viewing. "I am really glad that people are finally able to get to see it. But, the other side of me feels the audience really missed out on seeing it how it was meant to be shown. There’s a yin and a yang there."
Besides scoring his first big hit, Tonderai emerged from the process of filming House at the End of the Street with two new best of friends, star Max Thieriot and his producer Aaron Ryder, the latter serving as the inspiration for his child's middle name.
"I met Aaron and Max with this film. These guys are really close friends of mine. My boy has his middle name," Tonderai said and smiled. "For me, it was about getting to know these people for a long time. Usually you finish a film and you go your separate ways. Not here, I feel like I have lifelong friends."
As told to us in our Max Thieriot exclusive interview, the actor clearly cherishes his director's friendship as well.
Having a hit based solely on the merits of the film itself, Tonderai reported, is also largely due to the effort the studio put behind his film.
"It’s tremendous when you have people who believe in your film. Relativity Media was awesome. They put it on a lot of screens. Their marketing campaign was amazing and it’s a really wonderful feeling that you made this thing and people take it on and treat it like their own," he said. "I’m really humbled by how people have embraced it. I’m very grateful to this film because it does everything I needed to do."
As Tonderai sets off into the future, he is shooting a pilot (which he couldn't divulge the information on) and looking for his next film projects. Whatever comes his way, he has the confidence in what he does as a director, largely due to the success of House at the End of the Street.
"I know that I am confident in terms of how I make films in terms of how I storyboard, in how I color… all these things. I know the right way to make films," he said. "It might not provide me with hits, but that is what came about with this: I really trust myself."