Finding the Next James Wan: Interview with ‘Lights Out’ Producer Lawrence Grey

David F. Sandberg might just be one the luckiest guys in the world. From being deeply in debt to a becoming a Hollywood director, he is the main character of a rags to riches story. After winning Best Director for his short film, Lights Out,  he thought that was it for that film. However, after someone linked his film on Reddit, he noticed the views kept increasing day by day. Little did he know that Hollywood producers were watching it as well.

On a bright, sunny California day, Lawrence Grey stumbled upon Sandberg’s two minute horror short. As soon it was finished, he knew he had something big on his hands.

“I went to bed that night and had images of that creature tormenting me..I had to find the sadistic dude behind this,” Grey says.  He was immediately on the phone  to find out how to reach out to Sandberg and get this film on the big screen. Before he knew it, Sandberg’s short was circulating around Warner Bros and creating a big commotion. Grey thought that if  this was causing a big stir, then maybe James Wan, the biggest horror director in the business,  would be interested in producing. As soon as he watched it, Wan simply asked him, “Is this guy as good as his short?”

Grey and Sandberg then went over the mythology and character design of the monsters and hashed out a cohesive storyline for screenwriter Eric Heisserer. By the time Heisserer went to script, they already knew the story beat for beat and finished the script in two weeks.

“I have never seen something go from conception to a finished film with the best people this quickly, ever.” Grey laughed.

The whole process was a dream come true for Sandberg, who was completely new to the big studio environment.

“David [Sandberg] had never been on a feature film set before this film. His experience is visual effects and short films but nothing like this,” Grey said, “ It’s a real Cinderella story.”

And, for his first time on set, he exceeded everyone’s expectations.

“We really believed in David from the get-go,” Grey pointed out, “Whenever you work with a first timer, everything is a test. Not only did David meet those, but he went above and beyond.”

And of course Wan contributed whatever he could. Lucky for the crew, he was just finishing up Furious 7 at the time and was able to spend more time on the film.

“James [Wan] had just finished Fast and Furious,” Grey said, “ He was able to contribute so much because of the inertia in his life. James is able to impact things in such a large way because of who he is. We had a $5 million dollar budget with a $20 million dollar crew, thanks to him.”

And he even helped Sandberg with some of the shot positions. Grey recalled a time when Sandberg  set up a beautiful shot, and Wan came over and suggested to move the camera a bit down. All of a sudden, he has a tracking shot and the house looks wider and scarier.

According to Grey, Sandberg could turn out to be the next James Wan. Like Wan, he had a short turned into a feature film which, in turn, has introduced him to Hollywood. Now, Sandberg will be directing Annabelle 2 with the possibility of more horror pictures in the future.

Lights Out is in theaters now.

Yasmin Kleinbart is a 20 something hiding in Orange County, California. She loves to watch movies with a craft beer in one hand and pad thai in the other.When she's not writing about entertainment, she's participating in nerd trivia at the bar or trying to beat the Water Temple in The Legend of Zelda.