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Why It Took Housesitter 30 Years To Escape Production Hell

Film production involves a lot of moving pieces. From casting to shooting to editing, there is massive work involved, and many people with their own stakes in the end result, which is why it can take years for a movie to go from screenplay to screens.  

30 years, though, is a really long time. 

Back in 1987, two 29-year-olds named Richard Gasparian and Robin Nuyen wrote, directed, and filmed their own personal horror flick, Housesitter: The Night They Saved Siegfried's Brain. At the time, according to an interview the duo did with Syfy Wire, the two men were just beginning to build their Hollywood careers, when they came across an old pedestal hairdryer in a soundstage — and immediately unified around the fact that it looked to them like a "brain transfer machine" that a mad scientist from a fifties B-horror movie might use. From there, they co-wrote the script for Housesitter: The Night They Saved Siegfried's Brain — a story that merged old-school sci-fi tropes with eighties slasher ones, as an Elvis-loving med student and his college friends get picked off one-by-one by a lunatic scientist who wants to harvest their brains — and from there, they successfully cast the film, shot it in Kalamazoo, Michigan, wrapped up filming ... and then, the movie sat on a shelf for three decades. What happened?

The Housesitter creatives didn't have enough money for post-production

As you might've guessed, it was a matter of money — namely, that they went over-budget on filming, and couldn't afford the post-production expenses. In the Syfy Wire interview, Robin Nuyen said, "We spent, when all was said and done, about $300,000."

Richard Gasparian elaborated by saying, simply enough, "We ran out of money. We wanted to make a low-budget horror movie — put 13 kids in a house and chop them up. But it grew." As he tells it, they were new to the craft, ambitious, and couldn't find a company that would help them in the way they needed. "As first-time filmmakers, it is a treacherous world out there," he said. "We would go around looking for finishing money, and we would either find companies that loved our movie but couldn't help us financially, who told us when we were done, come back to them; or we would find companies that would help us finish the movie, but we would have to sign it over to them. Our investors were family and friends. We couldn't do that. It was a struggle. Both Robin and I were beat. We had taken a lot of punches on this."

Sadly, after all that effort, it seemed that Housesitter was dead. As the decades passed, the pair occasionally discussed the idea of going back and trying to finish the movie they'd started so long ago, but it wasn't until 2016 when Nuyen took the heart-stopping step of making sure that the negative still existed. It did. And Nuyen knew, right there, that it was time to finish it off. "I knew I couldn't do it without Richard. You couldn't get more simpatico than the two of us."

They talked to Paramount Pictures. They talked to Skywalker Sound. Both companies loved the story behind the production — the fact that, 30 years later, the two men still wanted to bring this dream to life — and the old footage was restored to a 4k print. 

Now, Housesitter: The Night They Saved Siegfried's Brain is available on Blu-Ray and VOD, where it finally has the chance to become the cult classic it always could have been.