Horror Factoid: In The Orphanage (2007) Laura's necklace, a St. Anthony medallion, makes a clever reference to her plight. In Catholic religion, St. Anthony is a doctor and patron saint of lost items.






« Sinkhole Interview with the Director Eric Scherbarth »

What inspired Sinkhole?

Eric Scherbarth- The location of Centralia, PA where we filmed was a huge inspiration for the story. It was real town that had to be abandoned in the 60’s when the coal mine underneath it caught fire. I heard about the town through a friend and decided to take a look myself. With all the smoking sinkholes and crevasses and abandoned buildings the area was just so inherently creepy and I thought it would be perfect for a horror film. 


What type of camera did you use?

ES- We used a Sony EX1 with a 35mm lens adaptor.


How did you film the driving sequence? How long did it take to film?

ES- We had a car mount that suctioned the camera to the roof of the producer’s car and we basically just filmed on one our many drives from New York to Centralia, which takes about three hours. We didn’t want the camera to be on the whole time, so we choose specific stretches of roads that we thought would work and would shoot for 5-10 minute segments. It took about half a day total.


How long did Sinkhole take to shoot?

ES- It’s difficult to tell exactly because we ran into a lot of problems with our locations and the schedule we had planned just fell apart. We had to scramble to pick up shots here and there when we could. All the shooting took place over two weeks, but many of the shooting days were half-days or shorter. If you were to combine them I would say it took around 4 1/2 to 5 days total.


How did you achieve the smoke effects in the holes?

ES- If you were to visit Centralia when it is cooler and more humid, it pretty much looks like it does in Sinkhole. It is really creepy and dramatic stuff. The problem is that it’s actually mostly steam coming from the sinkholes, so when it is warm and dry you just see a little bit of the smoke. We were shooting in September, but it was unusually warm, so we augmented the natural smoke with smoke pellets that we threw down the holes. The pellets would burn for three to five minutes, so we could usually get a couple of takes in before it would burn out. I would say that the smoke you see in the film is about 60% fake smoke, 40% real.


What was the most challenging part about making Sinkhole?

ES- As I mentioned above, we had a lot of problems with our locations. In our last day in Centralia we were shooting in an abandoned building that didn’t have a roof and it rained all day, so we lost a whole day of shooting. We couldn’t afford to put the cast and crew up any more so we had to move the shoot closer to New York City where everyone lived. We were smart enough to have a backup location in New Jersey for the one we lost, but, incredibly, an arsonist happened to burn down the building the day before we were to shoot there. I laugh about it now, but I nearly had a nervous breakdown because of this during the shoot.


The last shot of the film was very unique, how difficult was this shot to set up?

ES- Funnily, the last shot was improvised on the spot. The one I had planned was not working and we were running out of time, so I just said, ‘let’s try this,’ and that was that. We did maybe four takes of before we had to call it a night. I could not have pulled that off without my great crew and cinematographer, Jaron Henrie-McCrea. 


Is there anything you would change given the opportunity?

ES- Sinkhole was a real run-and-gun shoot and we really didn’t get much coverage or takes of any of the scenes. Even now it’s tough for me to watch certain parts of Sinkhole because I wish I had this or that covered, chose another camera angle and so on. But the reality is I didn’t have the time or money to re-do any of it, so I had to settle with what I got. That was hard to take at first, but the flipside to that is that I began to love the challenge of working with what little I had. It’s like working on complex puzzle or math equation. So I guess I’ve just taken on a sort of deterministic outlook on the whole thing.


Do you have any plans for your next project?

ES- Well I just shot another short horror film called THE VISIT. I’ve just finished writing two feature-length scripts as well - a feature version of SINKHOLE and a modern re-telling of Algernon Blackwood’s THE WENDIGO called DARK WINTER. The plan is for me to use both shorts to help pitch myself as director on one of the features.


Interview by Melanie Kester

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