“I see the film industry becoming more independent-focused” (EXCLUSIVE) Interview with Colin Denhart

2023 August 14

“I see the film industry becoming more independent-focused” (EXCLUSIVE) Interview with Colin Denhart

-Who is Colin Denhart?

Colin Denhart is an award-winning independent filmmaker and television producer based in
Indianapolis, Indiana, USA. His debut feature film Sister has been in film festivals worldwide
including countries such as the United States, Spain, India, Italy, and France, receiving accolades for Best Independent Film, Best Director, and Best Actress (Vasudha Krishnamoorthy)
among others. Sister is a black-and-white spiritual horror film about a nun haunted by evil
spirits and incorporates real-life haunted locations in the production. Outside of Sister (and its
sequels in post-production), Denhart has produced several short films and music videos. He
recently has delved into songwriting, collaborating with the R&B artist Shakeeda on the song
“Black Widow,” which just won the Gold Awards for Music Video and Original Song at the International Gold Awards in New York.

-What inspired you to become a filmmaker?

I have been fascinated with film and filmmaking’s creative aspects from a young age. Growing
up, my family and I watched many great movies, and I saw them as the ultimate audio-visual
medium for experiencing a narrative story. I would play with my action figures as a kid like I
was the director and the toys were my actors. When DVDs were the popular medium for
watching films, I would study the behind-the-scenes features to learn how movies are made
and listen to audio commentaries to learn the advice filmmakers and actors would give on the
audio tracks. On “future career” day in middle school, I dressed up as Steven Spielberg and
explained his film work and my desire to be a successful filmmaker just like him when I grew
up. I studied filmmaking and photography in high school and college where I developed my
artistic skills and made some of my earliest film projects, some of which won awards at student film festivals.
After graduation, I got my first job at a TV station in Indianapolis, and when I wasn’t working, I
made music videos with my close friends Jordan and Adrian for their rock band Borracho
Caddies in their garage (kind of like how Steve Jobs started out with computers). I went on to
make indie short films including a counterculture drama called “Double Cloud Nine” (2016), a
sci-fi mystery “Caïssa” (2017), a sci-fi thriller “The Girl in the White Room” (2017), and an animated short “Halloween Cat” (2018). These shorts were featured in various film festivals to
great success. Around this time, I became friends with the folk-rock band Ross Hollow and
produced several music videos for their songs. I also became reacquainted with my film
school classmate Anza, who has become an internationally successful pop singer-songwriter,
and the two of us have collaborated together on projects, and she has become one of my
closest friends.
Once I had several short films and music videos under my belt, I felt it was time to expand my
filmography to feature-length films which led to the development of my first full-length spiritual
horror film Sister, which has had more success than I could ever imagine. I was going through
a theological program at the time of writing the script for Sister in the summer of 2019, so I
incorporated some of the biblical ideas and concepts I was studying at the time into the story.
I also was undergoing the Transcendental Meditation Sidhi program at this time as well, so
the creative ideas that came about through meditation also were key in the development.
Every night in the middle of the night (I worked a late shift), I would go jogging and listen to
scary songs to put me into the appropriate mindset for writing a horror film. I also was re-
searching the haunted history of Indianapolis, such as murderous cult leader Jim Jones, serial
killer H. H. Holmes, and murder victim Sylvia Likens, and I incorporated some of the real-life
locations related to these people into the film, which proved to be quite haunting during filming, especially a ghostly experience outside Jim Jones’ former church as window curtains
were moving when no one was present in the building.
I met actress Vasudha Krishnamoorthy when casting the film and wrote the main character
Sister Jowi to better fit her Indian background. Vasudha is an incredible actress, and I enjoyed
her warm, positive presence on the set. She always would come up with creative suggestions
while filming and showed me how I can be a better director to get the best performance out of
her and the other actors. Other actors include my Freemasons Lodge brothers Matthew Davis
and Jody Fedor, local Indianapolis talent Katie Harbridge, Joshua Scantland, Jada Bueller,
and Mauricia Cortez, and most prominently, pop star Anza in the role of the deity Sophia.
We started filming at the beginning of 2020, but the COVID-19 pandemic put a halt on production for some months. We initially thought we would have to cancel production or edit what
we had already shot as just a short film or demo film, but luckily we were able to continue filming that fall once health conditions were safer. We completed principal photography in November 2020, and then I spent most of 2021 editing the film and adding special effects, with
the demon creature designed by my former high school classmate Derrick Childers who
makes props professionally in Hollywood. We shot and edited the demon sequences in a similar way to how George Lucas did the spaceship and alien effects in the original Star Wars. I
also recruited music composer Kunda Yu to score the film, and his spectacular soundtrack
definitely adds to the eeriness of the film. The film first screened in November 2021 at the
Madrid International Film Festival where it won best independent feature film and has since
performed well at film festivals around the world. Sister has been my greatest film accomplishment thus far!
Since completing Sister, I have collaborated closely with Vasudha on multiple short films and
an indie-comedy feature film currently in production called Frieda from Attica. We also have
shot a sequel to Sister and a third film, both in various stages of post-production, with talented
up-and-coming stars Andi E. and Gabrielle Bousum joining the main cast as new nun characters. They all have been an absolute pleasure to collaborate with, and I am beyond excited for
the prospects of these films and our future projects to come!

Do you think cinema can bring a change in the society?

Cinema absolutely can bring about change in society, especially in the medium’s ability to
move and reach viewers on a deeper level. A film can make audiences feel one way or another about a subject matter and influence how they perceive that subject in real life or get
them interested in exploring it further. One of my hopes with the Sister films is that they will
inspire viewers to explore the deeper spiritual themes of the series much like how The Exorcist got audiences interested in the esoteric aspects of Catholicism or Jurassic Park got audiences interested in dinosaurs. A good movie also can uplift an individual making him or her a
better person. One of the overall themes of Sister is how inner light can overcome outer darkness, and I really hope audiences take that message with them when they see the film.

What would you change in the world?

What I would change in the world is the overall state of happiness and the creative abilities of
individuals. Society is filled with too much divisiveness and hate for one another, making it difficult to solve problems or build up creative endeavors. It is necessary that we as a people
strive to uplift humanity by creating as much love and happiness as possible. In terms of the
film world, mainstream movies seem to conform too much to the trends of the time instead of
being original works. The film industry needs to focus on the independent works of creative
individuals or small groups rather than the output of big corporations/film studios (i.e. factory

-Where do you see the film industry going in the next 100 years?

The film industry is constantly changing and evolving. Look back 100 years ago, and see how
far the film industry has advanced! Audiences and filmmakers in 1923 likely would never
dream movies would get to the state they are in today. Advances in filmmaking technologies
definitely have allowed low-budget independent creators the ability to make high-quality films
that used to be made only by big Hollywood studios just a few years ago. I see the film industry becoming more independent-focused with it being easier than ever for indie artists to get
their work created and shared with the world. Regardless of what happens to the film industry
over the next 100 years, I hope my close collaborators and myself are positive contributors to
the medium. I see us as part of a greater movement in the film industry to put quality feature
films in the hands of independent creatives instead of the Hollywood system. I am excited to
see where our filmography goes and what other creative indie filmmakers make as we revolutionize the concept of what filmmaking can be. The possibility are endless!