This post was written by Allisyn Snyder.

I have a complicated relationship with the internet and my cell phone.

At the age of twelve, my employers at the Disney Channel provided safety training for my family, teaching us about privacy settings and geotagging. Unfortunately, our precautions weren’t enough, and with a quick search of our family name, a man discovered the location of the bungalow I grew up in.

He showed up at my doorstep claiming to be my guardian angel, and explained to my nervous father that he had a van full of barrels of gasoline to help our family escape the apocalypse. Since he hadn’t broken the law, there was nothing the police could do. I moved in with a friend while my parents packed our things and left in the middle of the night.

When my former Disney cast mate, Matthew Scott Montgomery, pitched the idea for Howdy, Neighbor! to me, it wasn’t difficult to imagine how a story about childhood fame could transform into a horror film.

Howdy_neighbor_allisyn_snyder_matthew_scott_montgomery_shayne_topp_damien_haas_0'Howdy, Neighbor!'Credit: Exit Strategy Productions

Howdy, Neighbor! stars Matthew Scott as Ben, an actor famous for his work on a children’s sitcom. When his new next-door neighbor reveals himself as a massive fan, nowhere feels safe. The film is shot in the style of screenlife, with conversations playing out over FaceTime calls in single takes.

I wanted to bring my own flavor to the screenlife genre made popular by innovative films such as Unfriended and Searching. It was important to me that the video calls felt real, and I didn’t want to cut between the shots. I achieved this by recording the cast’s rehearsals, then creating audio tracks for each actor with their scene partner’s dialogue. The call scenes were performed to tracks like a musical, so that timing would be consistent across takes.

Howdy_neighbor_allisyn_dylan_snyder_0'Howdy, Neighbor!'Credit: Exit Strategy Productions

Both the cast and crew are filled with former child actors, including my husband, Dylan Snyder, who is the cinematographer on Howdy, Neighbor! We test shot on various cameras and phones, and ultimately decided on the Black Magic Pocket Cinema Camera.

We attached an Aputure MC light to imitate a phone screen, a lav, and a handle to the camera to create the lightest build we could. It was still too cumbersome to hold comfortably in one hand as you would an iPhone, so Dylan was off-camera to help support the weight. In certain scenes where actors get in and out of cars or elevators, Dylan worked with the actors to choreograph natural blocking where he could quietly walk with them and avoid being seen.

Howdy_neighbor_allisyn_dylan_snyder_2'Howdy, Neighbor!'Credit: Exit Strategy Productions

I worked with a tiny VFX team to reimagine what Ben’s digital world would look like.

We wanted it to be recognizable as a modern iOS, but to fit all the necessary information within the cinematic landscape rather than cropped vertically. It was a decision we made before filming, that, in this world, everyone FaceTimes and types with their phones turned horizontal. Because of the consistency, I believe our choice works well.

I’m thrilled with the look of the film, and appreciative of the work of our editor, Bryan Morrison, who has a timeline made up entirely of After Effects comps.

This truly is the perfect directorial debut for me and I can’t wait for audiences to giggle, scream, and get a peek behind the curtain of what it’s like to have your privacy invaded both in person and online.

This post was written by Allisyn Snyder.