<I>Nightbooks</I> director David Yarovesky
Issue: September/October 2021

Nightbooks director David Yarovesky

Nightbooks is a new Netflix film from director David Yarovesky. The feature stars Winslow Fegley as Alex, a boy obsessed with scary stories, who is trapped by an evil witch (Krysten Ritter) in her magical apartment. As a prisoner there, he must tell a scary story every night in order to stay alive. Yasmin (Lidya Jewett) is also being held captive, so the two team up in an effort to try to escape.

Here, Yarovesky (pictured) answers a few questions about making the film

Tell us a little about the shoot? Who was your DP?

“We used the large Alexa LF. Robert McLachlan was our DP. I wanted to use the Alexa LF because it has better color science than any other camera. 

“I knew Nightbooks would be complicated in the DI, not just because of the black-light sequence, but because the whole movie pushes color in exciting ways. It was very interesting to explore colorful horror. The goal was to find a look that felt like classic Amblin but became a total nightmare.”  

Photo: David Yarovesky; credit: Eric Blackmon

How many visual effects are there and which studios contributed?

“We have close to 900 VFX shots, I believe. Mr. X was the main studio behind all of the work. 

“The movie was tricky because of all its creatures and fantastical environments. We were not a huge, blockbuster-budget film, but we wanted it to feel big and expensive, so we had to be creative.  

“Matt Glover, our VFX supervisor, was incredible. He and I were cut from the same cloth, and we would both get so excited about everything. One example was designing the shredder in Unreal Engine. It was amazing we were able to create this horrific thing, and then our makeup FX team at KNB 3D printed and painted it. We used that as our on-set reference, and now it’s in my living room.”

Who handled the edit and how did you collaborate?

“Peter Gvozdas was our editor. He also cut Brightburn, so we had a good rapport. Unlike with Brightburn, we had to work remotely (on) this one because of COVID, so I rebuilt my office into a dream remote post facility. I set up a projector that was hooked up to my computer, which ran Evercast. I then put a webcam with a zoom lens under the projector screen, facing me, and installed a great microphone so I could watch the movie from my office and speak with Peter in realtime. His disembodied voice would come out of the speakers like Hal-9000. The brain of my studio was built around a Microsoft Surface Studio 2, so I could draw on the screen when I needed to.”

Can you talk about the importance of the feature’s soundtrack?

“Michael Abels did an incredible job with the score. For years, Tim Burton and Danny Elfman have defined the dark fantasy look and sound. I love those guys, but I wanted to make my own movie that looked and felt new and different from other dark fantastical worlds we've seen before. 

“Michael got that immediately. He really brought the threat from his other movies, like Get Out and Us, but added some magic and excitement. His music is sophisticated and elevated, which is exactly the experience we wanted to create for families to enjoy together.”