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Behind the Scenes of SonScreen-Winning Film “The Hideout”


Daniel Wahlen has directed The Hideout, which won the most awards at the 2014 SonScreen Film Festival: Best Dramatic Short, Audience Choice Award, Best Cinematography, Best in Fest Sonny Award. The film is currently making its rounds in the film festival circuit and will be released to the public afterwards. The trailer, screening dates and other information can be found on the film’s website ( 

Q: Your film The Hideout premiered in March and has currently been making the film festival circuit rounds. Can you please tell us what the film is about?

A: The Hideout is about a young girl who is molested by her favorite teacher—through the help of her best friend, she finds the strength to tell her mother. It is a story of pain and of hope, with the aim of encouraging survivors to break the silence about abuse.

Q: The subject matter of this film is pretty heavy. What made you decide to broach the issue of sexual abuse?

A: I woke up one day to find out that not only was my grandfather a convicted child molester, but he had abused several of my close friends as well. A whirlwind of emotions sought to consume me, and looking for an outlet, I created The Hideout. It was a way to process the shock. Working closely with victims of abuse and their families, I sought to craft a film that was both unsettling and hopeful, authentic and bold. In every screening of The Hideout so far, a survivor has approached me afterwards with their story; it’s incredible really. This is why I got into film, and I hope to continue to make a difference.

Q: How long did it take to film and what sort of budget were you working with?

A: We shot the film on a very packed schedule of four and a half days, but that’s just the production phase. I began developing the story around the beginning of August 2013, and we ended up holding our premiere on March 12. So around 7 months—4 months of pre-production, 5 days of filming and 3 months of post-production.

As far as budget, we were helped immensely by many factors. Because this was my senior thesis project at Southern Adventist University, we were able to use all of their high-end production equipment including filming with a RED Epic camera. Additionally, the crew was comprised of friends and fellow students donating their time to the project and I can honestly say we could not have made the film without them. The cost of crew and equipment alone would have nearly tripled our budget. As a result, we were able to use the ~$10,000 budget on areas that really took the film to the next level: hiring professional actors, creating a beautiful original score (available to download soon!), and having the film professionally colored.

We are very grateful for our generous sponsors who helped make the film happen: North American Division (NAD) Education, General Conference (GC) Family Ministries, GC Women’s Ministries, and NAD Women’s Ministries, as well as all the individuals who contributed to our fundraising campaign.

Q: Some of the most pivotal scenes take place in a tree house, the film’s namesake. Was this built specifically for the film? If not, how did you find the tree house?

A: Finding the perfect treehouse was a Godsend. We were looking at a locally based option for a while, but not only did it fail to really fulfill my vision, but it required some safety renovations prior to filming that would have eaten away at our budget.

Time was marching on closer to our filming dates and we still didn’t have a location; I was getting nervous. Miraculously, a colleague of the producer’s girlfriend had somehow heard that we were looking for a treehouse to film at and mentioned a place to her. Matthew Disbro, the producer, followed up on the lead and wound up in Ringgold, Georgia, scouting out what turned out to be The Hideout. The treehouse fit exactly what we were looking for, and to top things off the folks who owned the land were the most helpful property owners I have ever worked with.

Q: How did you go about casting for the movie?

A: As I am typing this out I am constantly reminded of how each stage of the process was so amazing in how it came together. We knew that in order to adequately serve the heavy material, we needed to hire professional actors. Thankfully, Southern is close to Atlanta, Georgia, a film production hub. We reached out to several casting directors in the area, to no response. Just when we were worried we would have to cold call agents ourselves, we heard back from an excellent casting director named Carolyn Jenkins. She got the word out in ways we never could have hoped and had over 500 responses to our casting call. I then sat down and watched each actor’s reel and looked over their résumés, gradually narrowing it down to the 50 who I felt would be the best fit.

We then held auditions over two days, all wonderfully coordinated by Carolyn. She absolutely contributed to the film’s success, and I am so happy and blessed to have found such talented actors who brought the film to life with their spark and chemistry.

Q: What was your favorite part of making the film and why?

A: I love the production phase—collaborating with actors to make this story more than just words on a page is so exciting. All the months of preparation paying off in those few days is such a thrill, and it’s amazing how magic can happen. The 16-hour days fly by because it’s really a whole lot of fun.

I think my favorite moment was the premiere—after working nonstop on the project for the last seven months it was such an incredible feeling to release my baby into the wild, and better yet that people loved it. I still get excited every time I have the opportunity to share in the cinematic experience.

Q: “The Hideout” recently won four awards at the SonScreen Film Festival. What was the cast and crew’s reaction?

A: We were overwhelmed by the response and thrilled to see all of our hard work paying off. However what really makes it all worth it for me is hearing the stories of those who come up afterwards. To know I have touched their life in even a small way makes it all worth it.

Q: After the film is finished with the film festival circuit, what are your plans for distribution? Do you have any future projects we should keep a lookout for?

A: We plan on having an online release through our website as well as DVD packages with the film, behind-the-scenes featurettes and interviews, and information and resources for discussion provided by the Children’s Advocacy Center. Both of these will be available through our sponsors as well. I have several projects in development, including a feature screenplay that I am hoping to produce in the next few years.

Q: Anything else you would like to add?

A: I hope to meet you all someday and pray that The Hideout reaches those who need it most. If you want to keep in touch with the latest updates including screenings near you, please like us on Facebook or check out our website. If you’re interested in a closer look at the behind-the-scenes process, I have been writing some blog posts on my website. Thanks for reading!

More interviews can be found here and here.

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