Bringing ‘Annabelle’ Home with Director Gary Dauberman

It’s been a long journey for America’s favorite possessed doll, but after 6 years and 5 movies, Annabelle is finally coming home, courtesy of director Gary Dauberman. While the rise and creation of The Conjuring universe has been rightfully attributed to mastermind, James Wan, arguably Dauberman’s work has had just as great an impact on this franchise. Dauberman’s first script in this universe was the first Annabelle, and he’s stayed with the franchise ever since, penning Annabelle: CreationThe Nun, and now Annabelle Comes Home.

However unlike his previous experiences, it’s now his turn to take the reins, as Annabelle Comes Home serves as Dauberman’s directorial debut.  In honor of the highly anticipated horror sequel’s release this week, the Nerds of Color had a chance to sit with Dauberman, and discuss the process of directing, conjuring up scares, and the notion of sisterhood within the horror genre. Here’s what he had to say:

NOC: Hi Gary! Thanks so much for taking the time to chat with us!

Dauberman: My pleasure! Thanks for having me!

So you did a killer job putting this really fun movie together! It fits so perfectly into The Conjuring universe, and it’s genuinely scary. 

Thank you for saying that. I’m very glad you liked it.

You’ve been with this franchise since the first Annabelle. You’ve written so many of the movies in this universe, but this is, not only your first time directing one of the films, but directing a film all together. How was that for you?

Honestly, it was a very satisfying and rewarding experience! Directing was a ton of work with its own unique set of challenges. But because I previously got to work on the past films with so many great directors like David [Sandberg], James [Wan], and [John] Leonetti, I felt very prepared because I got to learn from them, and we’ve seen similar processes at work. I also had the advantage of working with such a great crew that I’ve been working with a long time on the other movies, and my cast was also fantastic. So it made things a lot easier.

It absolutely shows! And speaking of the cast, I really found it refreshing and appreciated that this movie is anchored by 3 very strong female leads. I felt it really promoted this notion of the strength of sisterhood in a very organic way. Can you speak to that?

You absolutely nailed it about the theme of sisterhood. When you take a look at Mckenna [Grace]’s character, Judy, she’s an only child. So she always considered Madi [Iseman]’s character, Mary Ellen as an older sister, the same way Mary Ellen considered Judy a younger sister. They have this bond which we established early on in the movie. Then you take a look at Katie [Sarife]’s character, Daniela, she’s a bit of a lost soul. So when you take a look at her relationship with Mary Ellen, she and Daniela were friends early on, and you can tell they drifted a bit because Daniela was always trying to find her place growing up. But they all have to come together at the end to vanquish this evil. They need to work together to put the genie back in the box.

One of the things that impressed me about the 3 of them was this strength of character. While they’re able to maintain and show vulnerability, there was something about them that showed that strength. Working with them, I couldn’t ask for a better cast to play with for my first time behind the camera. I wanted a collaborative experience, and they were so thoughtful coming up with suggestions for their characters. And they’re such veterans of the genre anyway…so it was really like making a movie with friends.

It absolutely seemed like that while watching the film. Speaking of Mckenna Grace, she’s an absolute revelation in this movie. How was working with her?

She was amazing. Mckenna is almost very otherworldly, and an old soul, and she’s just magic. And for me that was perfect, because Judy Warren, as a character, also has this otherworldly sense to her. So she was great, and really fit the role!

I absolutely agree. She was perfect! Moving on to the other members of the cast, you have some veterans here. Can you speak a bit about working with the two that really started it all–How was working with Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga?

Oh man, I remember watching The Conjuring for the first time was such a huge thrill. At that moment, I knew I was watching a classic. And I was so excited that I was able to work with them! However, as a first time director one of my biggest challenges was even finding any notes to give them because they know the characters so well and they’re so good. Overall, they are so good at what they do, and were so great with me and were completely encouraging and supportive. They also elevated the story with their presence. And though I couldn’t incorporate them physically in some scenes, at the end of the day I still wanted to make sure their presence was still felt. We needed to incorporate the Warrens organically in the movie, and absolutely did not just want to jam them in.

If I can ask one last question – the scene that made me jump so far back in my seat was the Ferryman scene with the coins. How on earth did you pull that off?

Oh yeah! So filming the scene, when Madi picked up the coin, my original thought was that we’d have to do it in CG. But, funny story, what happened was when we had him pop up when she’s holding the coin outward, Madi got so so scared she dropped the coin down her sleeve. This happened on the third or fourth take, and it was perfect because it happened so organically, that I got jazzed about it because we could do it practically. Everything happened the way it was suppose to happen, and we just didn’t expect it. A lot of times shooting a scare on set, you don’t know if that scare will work, but when we shot this on in particular, we absolutely just knew it would.

It absolutely did! And I went home terrified because of it!

Annabelle Comes Home is now playing in theaters!