Episode 7: Kendall Whelpton, Vera Whelpton – The House In Between
Kendall and Vera Whelpton are not only robots, ninjas, and filmmakers, but they are also husbands and wife! Dan visits with the couple behind Robot Ninja Media (their production company) and their SVOD paranormal doc smash The House In Between.
Dan visits with fellow Gravitas Ventures filmmakers Kendal and Vera on their unique approach to paranormal genre, and the difference between how film and television view the subject matter, walking the fine line being embraced by both the science and paranormal communities, and the secrets to making sure the Producer-director relationship doesn’t follow them to the grocery store too often.
Dan never misses a chance to talk action sports or music with a guest, and Kendall, a former professional snowboarder turned TV cinematographer turned Director is no exception.
Don’t miss another unique conservation from the world of indie-produced documentaries with Kendall (Robot) and Vera (Ninja) and award-winning documentary director Dan Napoli.
Read the Full Transcript
What makes a real life movement or story interesting enough to become a documentary film? More importantly, how does someone even do that? Let’s find out. Dan Napoli is an award-winning documentary director and also the head of creative and post-production for Hurrdat Films. He sits down with other film directors and discusses the ins and outs of how their latest project went from real world events to the film reel in this limited series monthly podcast. It’s the Reel Life with Dan Napoli.
What’s up, everyone? Welcome to another episode of the Reel Life podcast. I’m your host from Hurrdat Films, Dan Napoli. Very excited, got some Gravitas Ventures family members here, our documentary filmmakers for this week, Vera and Kendall Whelpton from Robot Ninja, maybe the coolest name for a production company ever. Welcome guys.
Vera Whelpton (01:01):
Kendall Whelpton (01:02):
Hey, what’s up?
Vera Whelpton (01:03):
Thank you for having us.
So again, a big shout out to Gravitas distributor that we’ve shared. They kind of put us in touch. Just thought that we were people that were kind of similar, in this similar neighborhood of documentary films and how we produce stuff, which it seems like we super are, even though our genres are a bit different. So yeah, this should be super fun.
The first thing I want to talk about, I really want to start it off with your genre, if you will. Tell everybody a little bit about your films that are out, because you guys are doing a very unique genre for documentary film stuff.
Kendall Whelpton (01:57):
Yeah. So Robot Ninja Media, we’re doing documentaries based in the paranormal, the paranormal genre, which it’s non-scripted, it’s run-and-gun. It’s a lot of, just a lot of adventure and haunted homes and buildings and locations.
So Vera, tell us a little bit too, you guys have a few layers of really interesting working dynamic on how your stuff goes in. Kind of let everybody know what’s your role on the productions. What’s Kendall’s? How do things come together for you guys?
Vera Whelpton (02:45):
Well, what’s our role? We do a little bit of everything. We wear many hats, for sure. It’s kind of difficult to work together sometimes because we’re married. We have to separate that layer and just kind of remember that he’s the director sometimes, and I have to behave, I have to give him respect. I’ve been lucky enough to direct these last two films with him. That was a lot of fun.
Vera Whelpton (03:14):
So we do a little bit of everything. Kendall obviously takes over most of the camera department. He calls the shots on all the look mostly, but he allows me to do a lot of creative vision. We talk about the scenes. What do they look like? What do they feel like? What do I see? Then how do we incorporate our ideas together? What else?
Kendall Whelpton (03:40):
Yeah. Us being a small production company, it’s just us doing this. Our last film, we ran audio.
Vera Whelpton (03:50):
Kendall Whelpton (03:50):
We were media managing in the field.
Vera Whelpton (03:53):
Kendall Whelpton (03:53):
Then we get back, and we prep the footage for the editor. We just kind of whatever day-to-day task each of us needs to tackle, we do and get it done. It’s a really cool creative collaborative.
Vera Whelpton (04:10):
Yeah. So for The Sleepless Unrest, it was just the two of us, just him and I for the whole film on set. So then we would be, film a scene, whatever, and then everybody else would take a break. Then you and I will go to the media production area, and we would start organizing footage and charging batteries and getting ready for the next. Then we go again and repeat it again. Then we will briefly go to bed because it’s a haunted house, and we couldn’t sleep very good, but then you will go it up.
Vera Whelpton (04:42):
Kendall is fantastic with B-roll. He hasn’t allowed me to do much B-roll yet. I want to. I can wait. It’s like his thing, his love, you know, the drone, everything. So all those beautiful B-roll shots that you see in our films is really Kendall. He allows me to give ideas, which is a big no-no for directors, like you don’t tell them, but he’s so nice. I actually gave him a list and said, “You know, I see this. I see that. Let’s do that,” and you were so kind, and you actually-
Kendall Whelpton (05:12):
Which is good too, because she’s more of a paranormal investigator than I would say I am, so she sees stuff that I might not see. I think we have a really good working structure.
Vera Whelpton (05:25):
Yeah. [crosstalk 00:05:26] It’s a dance. It really [inaudible 00:05:27]. You got to learn how to dance.
I definitely want to specifically talk at one point about The House in Between, but for folks that are unfamiliar with you guys, I want to back up a bit because I think it’s interesting. How did you guys come, I guess we’re talking chicken and egg stuff here, right? Did you guys come to Robot Ninja and you have, what is it, including what’s in production, you have three films in the paranormal genre? Is my math right?
Vera Whelpton (06:01):
We have two out and working into [inaudible 00:06:04] post by now.
Kendall Whelpton (06:04):
We have two out. We’re working on two. Yeah.
Were you paranormal folks that got into filmmaking or filmmakers that got into paranormal, or is the answer somewhere in between? I think that’s kind of interesting.
Kendall Whelpton (06:15):
Yeah, that’s good. I would definitely say I came from filmmaking and then got into the paranormal in TV and then went back to filmmaking. But I mean, for a while I was working on a few of these ghost hunting shows, so I was working in TV and trying to make the TV shows look like films. I’ve always had that filmmaker built into me, and Robot Ninja came about just because we wanted to express our creative visions together and start doing-
Vera Whelpton (06:56):
We talked about it for years.
Kendall Whelpton (06:57):
Vera Whelpton (06:59):
But him being on the road and I was working full time as well as a nurse, and it just, it was work, work, work, work, work, and it just literally took us to just sit down and be like, “It’s time. Let’s do what we love. Life’s too short,” and we took the step and here we are almost five years later.
Kendall Whelpton (07:19):
Kendall, I want to go back to and explore something that you just said, which is I think really fascinating. I’m pretty sure I know what you mean, but I think it would be something really fascinating for listeners. You just made a statement like, “I’m working on TV and I’m working on all these Ghost Hunter type things but trying to make them look like film or trying to make them feel like film.” Expand on what that means a little bit. What is that difference from your perspective as a DP and director, because you come more from the cinematography side than as an editor or writer.
Kendall Whelpton (07:59):
Yeah. Yeah. Let’s see. Well, early on, for Ghost Hunters, I worked on a show called Ghost Hunters for many years, director of photography. So putting a cinematic element to the show, bringing a drone for the first time on set and getting those nice dramatic wides. I’m talking 2006, I think I brought the drone. I actually mounted the drone, mounted a camera and a gimbal on the DGI. Before they even had, the Phantom had a camera and gimbal, I learned how to solder and put it, and it worked, put the gimbal on there.
Vera Whelpton (08:46):
He was obsessed with it.
Kendall Whelpton (08:48):
I was obsessed. So bringing the jib and the drone and treating my B-roll shots like they were cinematic. Now, TV, it’s a lot of run-and-gun, you’re falling the action, so it’s very hard to make that look cinematic, but there’s ways to do that. I found that not over-lighting, a lot of TV when I was first starting out was very over-lit. That was because of the cameras that were using. They weren’t good in low light. Well, fast forward a few years and you have better cameras that are better in low light. So the lighting was a little more strategic. Then just your lens options for following some of the run-and-gun stuff. I started using some prime lenses and just getting a little more shallow depth. It really started bringing the shows that I was doing from flat to more dynamic, and you were starting to see some more cinematic elements to it.
So I’m really interested, when you first started twinging that in that area of it’s like, “Hey, I want to shoot with the prime.” Like, “Hey, I cobbled together this gimbal that’s not really,” what was the reaction from producers or team as to, were they like, “Oh my God, this is awesome,” or did you get some like, “What are you doing, bro? This is television. We don’t do that here.”
Kendall Whelpton (10:17):
That’s a very good question. I was very lucky with Ghost Hunters. It was my creative palette for a long time, and they really did trust me to bring some of those. Now, I wouldn’t bring it in and make it all like this. I would test it and then I’d give it to them and they’d use one and then be like, “Okay, well the drone’s working. Do it again.” I slowly marinated those things into the show, so it was an easy transition for them, but all that stuff I brought on my own, and it was just out of the sheer passion of wanting to make stuff look cinematic.
So I’m curious then too, and again, either of you guys can sort of chime in here, what motivated you to go to documentary and to go to cinematic instead of… Even though you guys are kind of like, “Dude, this is our gig. Let’s take the leap,” you could have theoretically looked at what’s going on out there and been like, “Hey, there’s a billion paranormal shows. There’s not a lot of docs. Let’s pitch episodic, whatever television is now, which that’s probably its own podcast, right? Like, what is a TV show or a TV series this year, but what attracted you guys to doing it and long-form documentary?
Vera Whelpton (11:49):
Well, for me, the creative freedom. It’s simple for [crosstalk 00:11:55].
Kendall Whelpton (11:55):
Yeah, for me as well. TV, you’re locked into a format and you produce that format every episode that you shoot, which is cool and it’s great, but documentary, you can embed yourself a little deeper. You can take more time. For us, we started Robot Ninja so we could be in control of our own edits. That just in itself was taking the whole vision all the way from start to finish. That’s where we wanted to go.
Vera Whelpton (12:32):
And this place, the way you were saying just before, because you have no idea how many times I saw him throughout the years almost in tears because he spent so much time doing this amazing B-roll of time lapses or whatever, and then he finally sits down and he’s like, “Am I about to enjoy what I did, my hard work,” and then nothing, zero time lapses, or the one that he wanted didn’t even make it in. [crosstalk 00:12:53]
Kendall Whelpton (12:52):
They’re on the cutting floor somewhere.
Vera Whelpton (12:52):
They’re gone forever.
Kendall Whelpton (12:52):
I get it. We overshoot everything in TV. It is the nature of the beast. So I think for us it was actually just natural for us. It was like kind of where we’re supposed to be. It’s something we’ve been doing together. When I was on these shows, I talked to her every night and we’d be talking about this or that, and she’s kind of producing in the background in my ear about, like, “Well, you should try this and you…” I’m like, “Oh my God, that makes sense,” especially-
Vera Whelpton (13:30):
We’ve been doing this for years really. I just never got paid.
It’s the best reason to be like, “Dude, let’s start this. We’ve been doing it anyways. Let’s actually go ahead.” So guys, talk a little bit, I want to talk a little bit specifically about The House in Between both creatively and just a response. Super cool film. I know it’s done, seems like it’s done really well.
Kendall Whelpton (13:58):
Yeah. We released The House in Between in 2020, and the response immediately was very good for the film. It went to number one film on iTunes and Amazon in multiple genres, so we were very excited about that. It kind of went above our expectations of things, and just a really exciting time for us as new filmmakers with our new company and our first film coming out. Yeah. So The House in Between, it’s on multiple platforms, still performing really well. I think we hit it with the, just a different approach to a haunted house doc. Here you have Alice Jackson, who’s the homeowner of the house and the human interest part of who owns a haunted house. So I feel like the response was towards connecting with the character and the characters and the people around her. The haunting was kind of in the background a little bit. Also, we were trying to explain the haunting with science, which a lot of people haven’t done.
Vera Whelpton (15:12):
Haven’t done that, yeah.
Yeah. Where does that come from? That’s a really interesting element with your guys’ films is that there is science strongly woven in. I don’t know if you want to go as far, if you want to be existential about it to almost say is science a character in these, but it’s cool that there’s an element. Where does that come from for you guys?
Kendall Whelpton (15:40):
Well, our partner, Steve Gonsalves, who’s been on, he’s been a cast member on Ghost Hunters and in the paranormal field for many, many years. He’s very, very science based-
Vera Whelpton (15:53):
Kendall Whelpton (15:53):
… and oriented, and his investigation techniques are very science based, so it kind of naturally formed through the mutual partnership of things with the storytelling to bring science in. Once we started knocking on doors of science, we found that it wasn’t that easy. Science isn’t really like, “Oh, yeah, you’re doing a paranormal doc. Hey, yeah, let’s talk.” They kind of slam the door in your face.
Vera Whelpton (16:25):
They kind of? They did.
So how did you turn them? How did you convince people to participate?
Vera Whelpton (16:33):
We kept calling and calling.
Kendall Whelpton (16:34):
We didn’t give up. We didn’t give up.
Vera Whelpton (16:38):
I had to use my sweet voice.
Kendall Whelpton (16:40):
Yeah. I try. Sugar over here. [crosstalk 00:16:44] more sugar.
Vera Whelpton (16:45):
It didn’t work half of the time, because as soon as you say, if you said documentary, that’s respected and everybody was interested. As soon as you said the word paranormal, they will be, “No. I don’t care.”
Kendall Whelpton (16:56):
Vera Whelpton (16:56):
Kendall Whelpton (16:57):
A lot of the people, like geologists, for example, they work for the US government. They have positions in the government and this and that, and they don’t want to be… I mean, their community is much like all of our community. It’s like they don’t want to be looked down upon in their community or be called a crackpot.
Vera Whelpton (17:15):
There’s a stigma.
Kendall Whelpton (17:15):
There’s a stigma.
Vera Whelpton (17:16):
There’s a stigma within this field. I don’t blame them. There’s a lot of campy, silly stuff out there, and they didn’t know. We didn’t have any work prior to this to prove other than your show that you’ve done, but it wasn’t even good enough, because they just didn’t know what it meant or what we were going to do, and that was that. It was one of those really difficult things.
Kendall Whelpton (17:41):
Yeah, but we did get people.
Vera Whelpton (17:42):
Kendall Whelpton (17:43):
We got people to come talk to us and to… I mean, our goal was to show some evidence that we had captured at the house and just get their take on it.
Vera Whelpton (17:52):
[crosstalk 00:17:52] expert’s opinion. There was something simple. For instance, there’s a light that just goes on and off. It scares the lady there, and they think that the light responds, or they’d ask questions and they flickered and things like that. Well, for us, that’s like, “Well, let’s get an electrician.” He was a little bit like, “Eh,” when I called him. He actually said, “Is that the haunted house on [inaudible 00:18:16] Street?”
Kendall Whelpton (18:17):
The house is known in-
Vera Whelpton (18:18):
[crosstalk 00:18:18] I’m like, “Oh, maybe.”
Kendall Whelpton (18:20):
Contractors won’t go there. That’s what the lady’s dealing with, and that’s the story we told. She’s dealing with that. That’s our story, is like, look at what she’s got to deal with.
So yeah, really quick, give us like the, not the elevator pitch, but we’ll call it the elevator synopsis of The House in Between.
Kendall Whelpton (18:39):
Yeah. So Alice Jackson built her dream home in 1990, so it’s a newer home. The house became active paranormal wise immediately when construction started. She moved into the house with her family, had a wonderful few years there, but started experiencing activity that elevated, had this major experience with some lights that she just could not explain, and she moved out of the house.
Vera Whelpton (19:15):
Eleven years later.
Kendall Whelpton (19:16):
Eleven years later, she moved out of the house, handed the keys over to paranormal investigators, local paranormal investigators. They moved all their gear in, and they documented the house for 10 years. So we have 10 years of evidence and documentation from what we think is the longest investigation ever done on one location.
Vera Whelpton (19:37):
She won’t live there.
Kendall Whelpton (19:38):
She will not sleep there. She’ll go there during the day but scared of the place.
So then how did this get on your radar? Where did you guys, where did Robot Ninja Media intercede into this?
Vera Whelpton (19:49):
Steve Gonsalves called Kendall.
Kendall Whelpton (19:52):
Yeah. So my friend Steve Gonsalves-
Vera Whelpton (19:53):
Kendall Whelpton (19:55):
Yeah. He had been to the house. He’s well known in the paranormal world. He went out to the house to go check it out. He saw the story there and the possibility of a doc. Vera and I had just started Robot Ninja, so it just kind of all fell into place. The story fell in our lap. We got on the phone with everybody, started hearing the stories and the experiences there, and we knew that we had to do this. So yeah, we jumped head first in.
Vera Whelpton (20:26):
It wasn’t like a plan like we’ve just created Robot Ninja to do paranormal. It just kind of happened that way.
Kendall Whelpton (20:32):
Vera Whelpton (20:34):
But it made sense because we’ve done it for so long.
I think doc world is a bit like that one way or another, right? I don’t think that you see a ton. So we had Billy Corben on maybe a couple of, two or three or four episodes, which I have no idea why he agreed to do the show, but I was like, “Oh, that’s so awesome.” For listeners, if you’re not familiar, super prominent doc director, Cocaine Cowboys. He’s done three feature length films, Cocaine Cowboys. Kings of Miami was number one on Netflix forever. He’s got three 30 for 30 on the U Part 1, the U Part 2 on University of Miami, Screwball, which was about the Alex Rodriguez and the steroid situation out of Miami. I’m listing all those so I can rattle off the commonality, which is Miami. Billy’s from Miami, Florida, and every single one of…
I remember, we were talking and I was like, “Hey, after your first success, did you guys ever contemplate leaving Miami?” He’s like, “Never, but everybody asks us,” and he’s like, “Dude, but this is like my muse.” He’s like, “Look at this. I’ve got a billion films,” and he’s like, “I could probably make 30 more.” He’s like, “Miami’s insane.” He’s super fun to follow on social, all of his stuff. He does #BecauseMiami. It’s just this bizarre-
Kendall Whelpton (21:59):
Right? Docs kind of start, and maybe you don’t start out like that, but whether it’s your interest or what you get kind of grooved into. So kind of off of that, if you’re watching this on video, there’s the beagle in the background that I was telling you guys about earlier.
Kendall Whelpton (22:16):
[crosstalk 00:22:17] messing around, like, “Bro, you got to go outside.”
But now that you’ve done a couple of these, have those doors changed? Do people react to you a little bit differently now that you’ve got a couple films under your belt, a couple more? If you’re trying to reach out to somebody to participate in the doc, and then even is the community, because you guys have mentioned it a couple times. There is a community and a world of paranormal folks. I’m kind of curious, has their perception of you guys changed as you’ve made a couple films?
Vera Whelpton (22:57):
Thankfully yes. Thankfully yes. This time around the people that we struggled in, there was a particular branch of science that we were reaching out to during the first film. We were so sad and crushed because nobody wanted to talk to us. Then weirdly, strangely, later on, that same branch of science, somebody within the brand reached out to us because they wanted to talk about it, and they were willing to be part of that interview. We were like, “What? Yes.” So yes, it did change. It did.
Kendall Whelpton (23:31):
Yeah, so it’s getting easier.
Vera Whelpton (23:33):
I think it comes with trust.
Kendall Whelpton (23:35):
It does, yeah.
Vera Whelpton (23:38):
I don’t blame them. Nowadays how many producers have twisted words and images and stories. There’s a lot of people have been taken advantage of, so I don’t blame them.
Sure. Well, and-
Kendall Whelpton (23:52):
Yeah, and then…. Oop, sorry.
No, no, Kendall, you go, please.
Kendall Whelpton (23:56):
You asked about the paranormal community, which it’s been overwhelming supportive for us. [inaudible 00:24:07] really, I didn’t know, being behind the scenes of filming some of these shows and stuff, I wasn’t in front and kind of on some of these podcasts, and just in front-
Vera Whelpton (24:20):
Kendall Whelpton (24:21):
In contact. I feel like it’s been a neat experience meeting the people that watch our film. They’re just so faithful to our films and really appreciate-
Vera Whelpton (24:38):
Kendall Whelpton (24:40):
The support, yeah.
Vera Whelpton (24:43):
We’ve learned so much too from them.
Kendall Whelpton (24:43):
Vera Whelpton (24:44):
The comments are sometimes harsh but good.
Kendall Whelpton (24:46):
Yeah. I have to go on that then. If you feel like sharing, what’s one of the harshest comments, pieces of commentary that you got that you were like, but that you actually said, “Damn, you know what? They’re probably right.” Not just the ridiculous mean stuff or whatever, but something that was a little tough to take but you were like, “You know what…”
Kendall Whelpton (25:16):
Man, I got like-
Vera Whelpton (25:17):
I wouldn’t say tough. The first one that comes to mind you can think when I talk. The first one that comes to mind is they wanted it more scary, many people, many people. We thought that we were sort of protecting that theme, that by not making it too scary because we want it to be taken serious. Yet people were like, “Well, I wanted to be scared, more scary, still too serious, too…” And-
Kendall Whelpton (25:46):
It’s tough because we’re up against-
Vera Whelpton (25:51):
Kendall Whelpton (25:52):
… horror. It’s tough, because Hollywood has made this perception of what a ghost is and what it does. All these things float. Stuff goes flying across the room and people fly up in the air. Well, that doesn’t happen in our world. So when you bring somebody from horror into the paranormal and show them what real paranormal is, sometimes it’s a little boring. It’s a little underwhelming because they’re used to, they’re waiting for the monster. Sometimes we don’t have half monsters, don’t have [inaudible 00:26:28]. We’re just-
Vera Whelpton (26:30):
Kendall Whelpton (26:31):
… documenting. So for us, yeah, it’s not being scary enough. Well, we can’t control that. We’re not scripted. If nothing happens, we can’t help that. We’re not going to go and fake something. That affects their credibility.
Vera Whelpton (26:47):
That’s one of the challenges of this topic. It’s different if you’re telling the story to somebody in your area. Like sports, you kind of can predict some of the things. Here it’s completely just, you’re blindfolded really. You’re just kind of just waiting.
Kendall Whelpton (26:58):
Yeah, you don’t know.
Kendall Whelpton (26:58):
It’s a gamble,
Vera Whelpton (26:58):
It’s a gamble. It is.
Well, you guys made a good… Well, shoot, there’s two things I want to rap on there, but we could relate to that, Vera, from our sports stuff, because you know why? For us, it’s the difference, and we’re on one of those projects right now. Actually, so we’re literally, I just got back from Milwaukee. We were shooting Monday on, one happens to be a sports doc. I go to San Francisco next week for a different sports doc, and they’re totally different. The one that we’re going to San Francisco for, it’s already happened. It’s something that’s from 20 years ago and some influential folks.
Vera Whelpton (27:40):
The thing in Milwaukee, we’re working on a really cool project. It’s an amazing story, amazing person, this MMA fighter. I think we were talking last time, Raufeon Stots. He fights for Bellator, but we’re covering that as he goes. We don’t know where… So in the micro we do. It’s like if he’s supposed to fight in Connecticut on Saturday, he will be there, but the arc, you don’t really know.
Kendall Whelpton (28:14):
Yeah. That’s tough.
Vera Whelpton (28:14):
It is tough. That’s the tough part.
Kendall Whelpton (28:15):
It’s very similar, yes.
Vera Whelpton (28:16):
In that little area.
Vera Whelpton (28:20):
Kendall Whelpton (28:20):
I want to go back to something else you guys said too, though, that I think’s real interesting I want you to speak on more is that you guys getting lumped in sort of with horror or people having horror expectations, but paranormal’s really not the same thing, right?
Vera Whelpton (28:38):
Kendall Whelpton (28:40):
No. There are jump scares. Sometimes you get scared, things happen, and it’s startling. Sometimes it’s loud but it’s never as dramatic as horror, so somebody coming from horror-
Vera Whelpton (28:59):
I mean, it could be.
Kendall Whelpton (29:02):
Vera Whelpton (29:03):
It could be. You never know.
Kendall Whelpton (29:06):
There’s attachments. You don’t get attachments in a horror film. This is like real stuff. I think the real is scarier. It’s just, unless it’s happened to you personally, it might not be as scary for you or somebody who’s just watching it, you know?
Vera Whelpton (29:24):
Who’s just watching.
Kendall Whelpton (29:25):
But I think for us, and I go back to the community, they’ve been in the trenches, so they know what some of this stuff is like, and they know it’s serious when things are going down. There’s a little bit of appreciation from people who have been on a ghost investigation of some sort to somebody that might see the paranormal films as they come in and are expecting a horror film, and that’s just not the case. But I will say, I think it’s funny because horror films base themselves off of what we do, so it’s kind of interesting.
Vera Whelpton (30:10):
Kendall Whelpton (30:10):
Paranormal activity, look at the whole franchise of that, like The Conjuring. We just did the Con-…
Kendall Whelpton (30:17):
What is really happening, what we’re documenting the real, and-
They’re just amplifying.
Kendall Whelpton (30:22):
They amplify it so it’s hard. It’s easy to go up, but it’s hard to go back down from that. You know what I’m saying?
No, for sure.
Vera Whelpton (30:31):
It is a big challenge we’re facing definitely.
Vera Whelpton (30:34):
That’s one of the comments that we’ve-
Vera Whelpton (30:37):
We kind of phase that is. It’s like, how do we fix it unless we end up doing this case who ends up being super horrific and terrifying.
Vera Whelpton (30:48):
And you start flying around.
Kendall Whelpton (30:50):
I think it’s just the uniqueness, you know? We’ve gotten real good at capturing evidence.
Vera Whelpton (30:55):
Kendall Whelpton (30:57):
That just comes down to putting cameras up that are rolling 24/7 at every angle. Our last film, we had, I want to say 16, 17 cameras rolling all the time for two weeks straight, so that helps a lot. We have that wide, and then if something happens, if we’re not on it, we have the ability to run in and start covering it. At least we got it.
Vera Whelpton (31:25):
Like that particular. Go ahead.
I was just going to ask for House in Between, what did you guys mostly shoot on? What was the camera department like?
Vera Whelpton (31:35):
That was a beautiful red.
Kendall Whelpton (31:37):
Yeah. So for that, we had one red on set. I had an a7R II for a secondary camera. Then we relied a lot on the house DVR system that the paranormal investigators had set up, so we would do that technique that we’re talking about. We’d use some shots from the DVR and then go into that. But yeah, there-
Vera Whelpton (32:00):
A lot of iPhone footage delivered.
Kendall Whelpton (32:02):
Some iPhone footage. Yeah. We were kind of mixed format as we have to capture it with whatever camera’s on hand. I think there was a GoPro that caught the main paranormal activity in the house. Yeah, it just depends, but I’d say 80% is shot on the red.
Vera Whelpton (32:23):
Super intimidating working with him, because it’s like he wants all cameras on, all cameras available, and then in post, I’m like, “Why?”
Yeah. Your poor editors. It’s like, “What?”
Vera Whelpton (32:38):
[inaudible 00:32:38] Like, uh.
Kendall Whelpton (32:38):
Yeah, we just recently started… Go ahead.
I was just going to say, for your process, how do you guys, how do you media manage? How do you go through that? Vera, is that on you to go through all of that footage first? How does that work for you guys?
Vera Whelpton (32:54):
Like right after we wrap or during filming?
Either or both really, yeah. I’m just fascinated on the process.
Kendall Whelpton (33:03):
In The House in Between, Vera wasn’t on set.
Vera Whelpton (33:05):
I had to come home.
Kendall Whelpton (33:09):
We would shoot. She was producing from home. Then I had a camera operator/media manager/AC on set. So he would organize everything and just media manage everything for us. We had producers on set that were taking notes the whole time, so we’d have our notes. We’d have our daily logs of what the footage was, what the bins were. Then once we finished and wrapped in the field, it’d come back, and Vera would start going through it all, and not just our footage, but she would go through all the DVR footage looking for paranormal as well.
Kendall Whelpton (33:52):
I mean, she spent a month reviewing.
Vera Whelpton (33:56):
No, I spent months on The House in Between.
Kendall Whelpton (33:58):
Months on The House in Between.
Vera Whelpton (33:59):
On The Sleepless Unrest, just two months because we had a deadline.
Kendall Whelpton (34:02):
Kendall Whelpton (34:04):
It is so much footage that we’re going through, because we’re looking for paranormal activity and we’re looking for A grade shots and scenes and what content is. So it’s a lot. I think we balanced it well. I would go through the scenes and organize that, and she’d go through the DVR and look for paranormal. We’d start getting burnt so we’d switch off. Then-
Vera Whelpton (34:30):
Whatever, you don’t like to watch the DVR.
Kendall Whelpton (34:32):
Yeah, I don’t like to watch the DVR.
That’s not as appealing for the DP’s eye, right?
Vera Whelpton (34:41):
Kendall Whelpton (34:44):
Thank you. That was a good save there for me. Yeah, it’s a lot. We take shifts. The House in Between, we were talking about earlier, we have kids, so somebody’s got to tend to the kids while we’re-.
Vera Whelpton (35:03):
We take turns, yeah.
Kendall Whelpton (35:04):
… going through footage, and we find that nice-
Vera Whelpton (35:06):
It’s been fun. It’s been fun.
Kendall Whelpton (35:06):
It has been, yeah.
Vera Whelpton (35:08):
And painful at the same time.
Kendall Whelpton (35:08):
Have you guys changed-
Kendall Whelpton (35:12):
You’re not a filmmaker.
I’m curious, a couple of films in now, have you guys changed up some of your process again? I’m curious for House in Between, did you have a really long cut at first and cut down, or did you get more, kind of work by the scene? I’m kind of curious on that.
Kendall Whelpton (35:35):
Vera Whelpton (35:35):
He added more cameras.
Kendall Whelpton (35:38):
No, I went back and, I went back and-
Vera Whelpton (35:41):
[inaudible 00:35:41] a little bit. I’m sorry. I feel like I’m talking to a therapist.
Kendall Whelpton (35:46):
I went back. I had to go back to the house to shoot more B-roll because my B-roll days got squashed by content, which is fine, I get it, but you still need the B-roll, and we found that the B-roll wasn’t there in the edit. So I went back to the house and shot more and I shot-
Vera Whelpton (36:00):
I came back with [crosstalk 00:36:02]
Kendall Whelpton (36:01):
Yeah, you came with me, yep, yep. Yeah, we went back and we did some scenes. We find that works best for us, is to go and shoot. We’ll go for two weeks, three weeks, we’ll shoot, and we’ll get the meat of the story, get the meat of it.
Vera Whelpton (36:18):
If you’re missing something, you can always come back.
Kendall Whelpton (36:20):
Then we leave some room to go back and do cleanup. That helped us a lot on The House in Between. That helped us a lot on the last one that we’re doing here.
Pickup shots are huge, dude. I know coming from more of an editor background and doing this for a long time and that, sometimes it’s like, I don’t know I want it till I don’t have it, right?
Kendall Whelpton (36:48):
Vera Whelpton (36:49):
Yeah. Yeah. Oh my goodness, there’s so many things on pickups, but you know what I’m thinking about? The House in Between was such a bigger, bigger budget production too. You had an audio guy, you had producers, you had more people on set versus The Sleepless Unrest with a super much smaller budget, and it was you and I, so I feel it would be nice to compare the two. I haven’t really.
Kendall Whelpton (37:16):
Yeah. It’s two different beasts for sure, like two different working-
Vera Whelpton (37:20):
Doing audio was scary.
Kendall Whelpton (37:21):
Vera Whelpton (37:23):
By ourselves. It was very scary.
Kendall Whelpton (37:25):
We had to trust it. You have to trust a lot.
Vera Whelpton (37:28):
We lost one clip, one clip out of-
That’s it? Dude, that’s not bad.
Vera Whelpton (37:32):
Yeah. He heard, it’s like, “Oh my God.”
Kendall Whelpton (37:36):
I’m proud of that. We pulled it off.
Kendall Whelpton (37:39):
That’s the thing, you can put things in your way. You can say, “Well, I don’t have an audio guy,” or, “I don’t have a budget for an audio guy. I don’t have a media manager.” You can put stuff in your way and not do it, or you can just go and do it. I’m lucky I got an awesome wife that wants to do it with me.
Vera Whelpton (37:55):
Yeah. On some levels, that must be super fun, though, to have another person. Because I think another thing that’s like another person that’s in, if I may, the weirdo gang with us, because we’re all kind of the weirdo tribe. This is just, you know, to be wired like this and to do this, and I always wonder for folks that probably tolerate folks like us, and you’re talking about [inaudible 00:38:22] significant others, instead of understand what you’re doing, you know what I mean?
Kendall Whelpton (38:26):
Because it’s just like what? So I mean I think that that would be pretty cool to have somebody that gets the… Maybe they have ground you down back a little bit and be like, “Hey, I know, but let’s dial it back,” but they understand that perspective, especially right, because when you get clicked into something and you’re like, “Oh, I have to tell this,” you’re just all into it, right? You just have to go.
Vera Whelpton (38:50):
Kendall Whelpton (38:51):
Yep, that’s it, yeah. That was our last film, the Conjuring house. We got the call that there was the possibility for us to stay for a couple weeks at the real, the house that inspired the Conjuring movies, and we saw that opportunity. We were like, “All right, we got to…” We actually stopped production on one film and jumped at that opportunity and went straight in full bore.
Vera Whelpton (39:15):
Kendall Whelpton (39:15):
Yeah. We didn’t even get a chance to do pre-pro on it. We just grabbed the gear really and got a babysitter and went.
Vera Whelpton (39:23):
Said, “Let’s go.”
Kendall Whelpton (39:24):
That film was all about documenting our experience at the house, so we could go in and not do the pre-production that we usually do, so it was all about the experience.
Vera Whelpton (39:35):
On that note, that’s another challenge we face. I didn’t know it was going to be so difficult being on camera.
Kendall Whelpton (39:39):
Oh. Yeah. Turn the camera on yourself and filming.
Vera Whelpton (39:44):
And film and then be part of the story.
Kendall Whelpton (39:46):
Gosh, that was my most difficult challenge, I think, I’ve ever been a part of, is having to worry about being on camera and run the show and also get it. It was just another hat that we had to wear on top of things.
Vera Whelpton (40:04):
Yeah. It was a fun one, but it was challenging.
Yeah, but that’s interesting too, because when you do, even when you turn it back one layer of, so there’s a hiphop docuseries on Netflix, and I can’t remember, it might just be called The History of Hiphop, and I really like the technique they use, where they’re not really breaking the fourth wall, but they’re immediately, your guide is on camera. That’s what a documentary does, one way or another, whether it’s historical or not, is it’s like your guide onto somewhere.
They just were very upfront that this guy’s on camera. So you start out with the VO and whatever it is, 30, 45 seconds into his VO monologue, now he’s on camera, and he’s like, “I’m going to take you around,” and he goes to all of these different… He goes out to the West Coast to talk about gangster rap. He goes into New York and is doing these interviews on camera, but that changes the story a bit, right? From documentary that’s back. Then you guys took another level where you’re like, “Oh, we’re also actually the filmmakers.” Was it just necessity that was-
Vera Whelpton (41:23):
Kendall Whelpton (41:24):
It was, yeah.
Vera Whelpton (41:25):
It was. We knew we had no choice, because we had DVRs, like the DVR cameras, all over this house.
Kendall Whelpton (41:32):
We’re in it.
Vera Whelpton (41:34):
Imagine we’re sleeping there. Like how are we going to, “Oh, no, let me get back here.” There’s no way. There’s no choice.
Kendall Whelpton (41:41):
Vera Whelpton (41:41):
It could be real as real as possible and real, real experience, because were going to film behind some screens, behind [inaudible 00:41:48].
Kendall Whelpton (41:48):
Vera Whelpton (41:48):
Then we were like, we can’t hide. How are we going to-
Kendall Whelpton (41:53):
Well, that’s the thing, shooting these TV shows, they don’t break the fourth wall at all. It’s the camera crew and the crew is like, boom. But things happen to the crews. It’s funny because for years it’s like, yeah, this stuff happens to us too, and nobody’s ever really had gone and flipped the line, because let’s just tell the whole story here. That’s what we started with The House in Between. We actually broke the line, the fourth wall there. Sorry. Then, yeah, we just went full, broke the fourth wall on The Sleepless Unrest, and it felt right. We kind of tested it a little bit, like, we stayed back for first day, and then we were like, okay, I think this, this feels like it should be broken, the fourth wall should be broken.
Kendall Whelpton (42:50):
It wasn’t something we just kind of jumped right into and we’re breaking it, but we kind of did with our travel sequence, because we documented the travel sequence, but we didn’t know if we were going to use it.
Vera Whelpton (43:02):
It’s more like for the specific topic, because in our community, there’s a little talk about people, producers faking things and making somebody else making a noise, knocking on the wall, and then you have this actor reacting or things like that, is that just show how it is.
Kendall Whelpton (43:18):
Vera Whelpton (43:18):
Let’s go all-
Kendall Whelpton (43:19):
Let’s just go full in.
Vera Whelpton (43:21):
This is supposed to be the most haunted house, one of the most haunted houses in the world. Let’s see, put it to the test.
Kendall Whelpton (43:27):
Let’s see what it is, document, yeah.
Vera Whelpton (43:29):
Open up the camera wide and then just-
Yeah. Even if you know it came out of invention, good for you. I think creatively like that, it kind of seems like the right choice about if we’re going to embed, let’s really embed. Let’s show that it’s just us, whatever us is. I’m sure you would love to have at least a third camera person, but that didn’t work out, so-
Vera Whelpton (43:49):
Kendall Whelpton (43:49):
Vera Whelpton (43:49):
So yeah, just go and do it.
Kendall Whelpton (43:55):
Yeah, and then trying to shoot that cinematically like we’re always… Phew, that’s tough.
Kendall Whelpton (44:02):
You end up using a lot of your B-roll and a lot of the, trying to… Yeah, a lot of the B-roll had to be cinematic for the fourth wall.
Sure, to counterbalance that.
Kendall Whelpton (44:11):
Yeah, to counterbalance it.
Vera Whelpton (44:12):
Yes, because sometimes things happen.
Kendall Whelpton (44:14):
It starts to feel like a vlog.
Vera Whelpton (44:15):
Because that is the GoPro.
Kendall Whelpton (44:17):
Vera Whelpton (44:17):
Because you’ve got to hurry up and start filming.
Kendall Whelpton (44:20):
That’s what we didn’t… We didn’t want to feel like a YouTube video, not that that’s a bad thing, but we didn’t want to go and have it be like a POV thing. We want it to feel cinematic and feel like it was shot like a movie, and I’m talking about The Sleepless Unrest. So we had interviews and we put them in at first, but we ended up taking them out because it actually felt more of, it felt more cinematic and movie-like without them. It challenged us to tell the story as it was happening instead of falling on our interviews. I think it’s actually helped the film.
Dude, that totally makes sense, because that, I’m thinking about if you had interviews in there, that would totally break you out, right?
Vera Whelpton (45:10):
If you think about from a writer standpoint and you’re all about the premise and the relationship that you make with your audience and even this is unscripted, right? It’s like you make agreements about the universe, even if the universe is insane, right? It is like, “This guy can shoot fire out of his hands.” You’re like, “Okay, cool. I’m buying into that in the script.” But then if all of the sudden now he shoots ice. You’re like, “Wait, I thought that we had…” and it would have that same, like we’re embedded, but then I think it would’ve snapped me out of it if, oh, okay, now we’re into talking head expert. Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah, this is like… It kind of breaks that first person thing a little bit.
Kendall Whelpton (45:56):
Yeah, it did. We saw it in the edit. You have this momentum, you have these moments, paranormal activities happening, and then you cut to an interview, and it just puts on the brakes, you know? We found creative ways to continue to tell the story and let it unfold without those interviews. That was challenging. I think that was the hardest thing about our storytelling, for it to just have each segment or scene flow into the next. You watch some of these paranormal movies, like Paranormal Activity or Blair Witch Project, they don’t stop on interviews, Blair Witch a little bit, but it was like, they don’t do interviews. We’re really modeling towards having it feel like a real film, a reality film. That was our goal for The Sleepless Unrest, and I feel like we pulled it off.
As much as we’ve chatted a bunch about the genre, I am curious, is there some non-paranormal documentary work that you guys have your eye on in the future? Or just as a general sensibility that you’d like to work outside the genre a little bit?
Vera Whelpton (47:13):
Or do you guys really feel like you’ve found your niche?
Kendall Whelpton (47:17):
Yeah. We definitely are going to do some projects outside the paranormal. Documentary storytelling is our passion. We definitely like to tell stories of things that we’re involved in. I was a snowboarder for many years. There’s a lot of snowboard stories within that community. There’s the true crime stuff that we’ve kind of been eyeballing lately, that kind of feels the same as paranormal. It’s just, the stuff is, the storytelling is kind of very similar. Then, yeah.
Vera Whelpton (47:56):
I have a list.
Kendall Whelpton (47:58):
Yeah, there’s a lot.
Vera Whelpton (47:58):
Lots of film.
Kendall Whelpton (47:58):
Vera Whelpton (48:02):
If time allows, the time and money.
Kendall Whelpton (48:03):
Budget, yeah, yeah.
Kendall Whelpton (48:07):
Yeah. That’s the thing. I think we can’t ever plan on our next story. We could get our next story in our lap tonight.
Vera Whelpton (48:14):
This is the thing happening.
Kendall Whelpton (48:16):
Then it’s like, “Oh my gosh, I never even thought that we were going to be telling stories about cupcakes,” and then all of a sudden it’s like, it’s our passion. So-
Vera Whelpton (48:24):
I feel like we’re on call.
Kendall Whelpton (48:25):
Yeah, we are. We’re on call.
You probably have coming off like a bit of the success, which yeah, I can totally understand. It’s cool. Kendall, I was going to ask you, I’m glad you brought up the snowboarder thing, because gosh, I think it was yesterday, but I don’t know if you saw, HBO just announced, I think it’s in November.
Kendall Whelpton (48:47):
The Jake Burton documentary.
Kendall Whelpton (48:49):
I can’t wait for that, yeah.
Vera Whelpton (48:51):
Kendall Whelpton (48:52):
I’m so glad they did that, and I think Burton put that together, which they have a really good in-house media team. I’m excited about that one, very excited.
So I had a buddy text me, and I don’t know how… He’s a huge, other than being a huge Burton fan, but he mentioned, he was like, “Oh, I’ve heard about this for a couple years. HBO was working on it actually before he passed.”
Kendall Whelpton (49:17):
Vera Whelpton (49:20):
Kendall Whelpton (49:21):
They have footage from before. Wow.
Yeah, so that could be super exciting.
Kendall Whelpton (49:25):
Yeah, that’s going to be really good then, yeah.
Would something in the snowboard world, like would you be, take a trip back to cover something from that part of your life? Would that interest you?
Kendall Whelpton (49:38):
Absolutely. I have a few stories that I want to tell.
Vera Whelpton (49:41):
Kendall Whelpton (49:42):
It’s just like getting the opportunity for it. But yeah, the snowboard world is very, is very interesting. It went through a lot of growing pains. In the nineties I grew up, I was a professional snowboarder from 2000… Let’s see, 1998 to 2004 I think it was. I did the X Games and Gravity Games. I did anything with games in it. The X Games had just come out a couple years before. So yeah, when I started snowboarding, it was just this little tiny thing. You maybe knew one snowboarder in your town and you’d see their sticker on the back of their car so you knew that they were a snowboarder. Then all of a sudden you see it a few years later and it’s just huge and they’re considering for the Olympics and all this stuff. So there was some growing pains involved in that, and I think there’s a story that lies in there somewhere.
I think where so much of that stuff shifts, and I’m old enough that I don’t say whether it’s a good or bad thing, but you just notice it, right? But it’s where, just because we’ve been talking about them, there was a time where if you saw somebody in a Burton jacket, you’re like, “Bro, Burton? Right.” Now there is a time where you’re like, “Burton,” and they’re like, “Yeah, this is cool.” They just bought it.
Kendall Whelpton (51:11):
It’s an outdoor apparel-
Vera Whelpton (51:14):
Kendall Whelpton (51:15):
Skate surf, like, yeah, that whole world. There used to be a time period where that really meant that you knew that person was a rider and now it had gotten so over, which again, I don’t necessarily think is a bad thing. I’m not saying it from-
Kendall Whelpton (51:32):
… the old school, like, “Man,” complaining. It’s just there’s a story in how that stuff changes, you know?
Kendall Whelpton (51:40):
Yeah. Yeah. I think it’s for the better really. Now it’s cheaper probably for kids to get into it because it’s so big, and gear and mountain passes and back hills are more accessible. I think the growth is probably a good thing. I think it’s probably had its bad, but it’s also evolved enough to where it’s good. But yeah, it’s super, super interesting to see such a small little micro, what do I want to say? Like a micro sport, just blow up, you know?
Kendall Whelpton (52:19):
And skateboarding too. It was kind of held at a level for so many years and then they just allowed it into the Olympics, and it’s just like, I love seeing the Olympics and how well represented everybody was.
Kendall Whelpton (52:34):
I think they were the best dressed athletes in the whole Olympics.
Kendall Whelpton (52:38):
It was pretty awesome to see.
Yeah, it was super cool. Well, guys, this has been super fun. We really appreciate you making some time. Before we go, though, tell us what’s in the can and/or in the edit bay right now. What’s the next thing that people can expect to come out from Robot Ninja Media, and then where can everybody find your films?
Kendall Whelpton (53:05):
Well, right now we have two films available to watch, The House in Between and The Sleepless Unrest. The Sleepless Unrest is our last film that was just released a couple months ago. Both are available anywhere you can buy or rent movies. Yeah, iTunes, Amazon are two good ones to go for, but you can go to our website, RobotNinjaMedia.com, and we have links to everything there. Then yeah, we’re working on a few projects here. Can’t really say much about them, but they’ll be delivered in-
Vera Whelpton (53:47):
Why can’t we? Why can’t we-
Kendall Whelpton (53:48):
I don’t want to get any, I don’t want to be [crosstalk 00:53:53].
Kendall Whelpton (53:54):
We got to get everything locked in.
Yeah. I don’t want all 11 listeners to get you in trouble with the distributor.
Kendall Whelpton (54:01):
We’ve got to get the stuff locked in. You know the process.
Oh, totally. Give us those social media channels. Where can people follow you so that they can finally get those announcements and stuff?
Kendall Whelpton (54:15):
Yeah. Facebook, Kendall Whelpton, Vera Whelpton, Robot Ninja Media. We’re on all the social media platforms, so yeah. The best way is follow us on social and hit us up too. If you watch the film, let us know what you think. Definitely, always appreciate your comments and recommendations.
Vera Whelpton (54:37):
We’re always looking for sound footage, anything spooky, supernatural.
Kendall Whelpton (54:41):
Yeah. If you know a good-
Vera Whelpton (54:42):
Anybody knows any sound footage that was-
Yeah, dude. Also, I have to say, everybody out there, definitely check out their website too. They have a really cool, what we were talking about before it started. They have a really cool store with lots of super fun merch. You guys have a great logo and you guys have some really fun gear, so everybody should check that out. This has been super fun, guys. I really appreciate you guys taking a minute to cruise by. I’m going to go take the dog out now, tell the kids they’ve been super good and let you guys have that hour and a half.
Kendall Whelpton (55:19):
No, this was awesome. I appreciate it, man. Thank you so much.
Vera Whelpton (55:21):
Thank you so much.
Kendall Whelpton (55:23):
I look forward to working with you someday.
Vera Whelpton (55:25):
Yeah, [crosstalk 00:55:25].
Yeah, hope so, man, because that would be awesome, like fingers crossed. All right, later guys. Thanks everybody. We’ll talk to you next time.
A Hurrdat Media production.