John McPhail knew he wasn’t going to be able to please everyone with his new movie Dear David, which tells the story of BuzzFeed reporter Adam Ellis’ viral 2017 Twitter thread about his New York City apartment being haunted by the ghost of a mutilated little boy.
So, McPhail decided to put the internet’s infinite opinions and attachments to the Dear David lore aside, and just make the best horror movie he could.
John McPhail on Making Dear David
“Obviously, there’s a lot of pressure because there’s already a fan base, and I know I’m gonna disappoint some people because it’s not exactly what’s in their head and how they wanted that story to go,” McPhail told MovieMaker.
Dear David came out on Friday, Oct. 13 in theaters, on demand and digital, starring Augustus Prew as Ellis, Justin Long as his hilariously blunt BuzzFeed news editor, Bryce, Andrea Bang as his BuzzFeed co-worker, Evelyn, and Cameron Nicoll as David.
“You just have to Google it and sit and watch the videos of people telling you the story and their conclusions of it. There are about 50 different variations [from] while this was happening of what was going on, and you’re never going to please all of them,” he said.
So, instead of trying to predict what ending the hardcore Dear David fans would like the most, McPhail decided to focus on the smaller details.
“What we can do is we can build a set that you can recognize,” he said. “I can give you all these other little things. Me and Olga [Barsky], my costume [designer], obsessed over Adam Ellis’ Instagram to get what he was wearing that year.”
“We’ve tried really hard to sort of, as I say, cater for them. Because, again, I know I’m going to disappoint them story-wise, because it’s not their story. But I’ve done these other things in the hope that it’s going to bring you in, and you’re going to get those winks and nods, you’re going to recognize Adam Ellis’ [cameo] in the film and go, ‘Gasp!’ And that’s for you. These things out there are for those people. So as I say, the pressure is there. But what can you do apart from try your best?” he said.
McPhail and screenwriter Mike Van Waes definitely took some artistic license with the events of Ellis’ Twitter threads, adding in more supernatural and science fiction elements to spice things up. You can read all of Ellis’ Twitter original threads about Dear David, including videos of the rocking chair that rocks by itself and of his cats gathering at the door at midnight, in one place here.
“We’ve taken a lot of license for it to make it a little bit more cinematic and a little bit bigger for us to work in. But there was, as I say, a lot of aspects of those apartments, furniture and things like that, that I wanted to get right. And Adam gave give us loads and loads and loads of photographs,” McPhail said.
Internet citizens aside, one entity that McPhail does want to please is the ghost of Dear David himself.
“I don’t want to get haunted by him,” McPhail laughs.
Main Image: Augustus Prew as Adam Ellis in Dear David