Allen Wolf talks about IN MY SLEEP


In My Sleep, Marcus struggles with parasomnia, a rare sleepwalking disorder. After Marcus wakes up with blood on his hands and a knife at his side, he is startled to hear that a close friend has been found stabbed to death. Marcus frantically tries to put the pieces together – could he have murdered his friend in his sleep to hide a dark secret between them?

The police close in as Marcus investigates his own nocturnal activities, desperate to figure out what happens after he goes to sleep. His journey to uncover the truth leads him to a shocking revelation.

Allen Wolf, director of InMy Sleep, began making films at an early age while growing up in Dayton, Ohio. At age 9, he wrote his first screenplay and soon after began creating short films with his uncle’s Super 8 film camera. By age 17, he completed his first feature length Super 8 movie, GREGORY FINCH, which he financed by selling ad space in the program he distributed at the premiere.

At age 19, Wolf created and produced a television show, TEEN TALK, which aired on PBS. Wolf wrote, directed and produced HARLEM GRACE as his senior thesis film for NYU where he graduated summa cum laude. HARLEM GRACE was based on a true story about a man who graduated from Harvard Law School and moved to Harlem to start a housing program for the homeless.

Relocating to Los Angeles, Wolf created shorts and commercials and established Morning Star Pictures as his production company. He was inspired to write IN MY SLEEP after reading accounts of people who committed murders while sleepwalking.

Bijan Tehrani: Can you please tell me how you first encountered this subject and what encouraged you to make In My Sleep?
Allen Wolf: I had read about people doing all kinds of crazy things when they were sleepwalking, from eating things to an extreme case of murdering someone. So just that idea of someone doing anything while they were asleep and having that sort of alter ego was very fascinating to me and that was sort of the seed in creating In My Sleep.

BT: What kind of research did you do while you were writing the screenplay?
AW: I did a lot of research about the subject, I did a lot of reading, I talked to doctors and I talked to actual sleepwalkers about their experiences with sleepwalking.

BT: Did any of the stories of the sleepwalkers further inspire you during the making of the movie?
AW: Not really, the only moment was when the character Lacy talks about the woman who used to eat a lot of pies while she was sleepwalking so I decided to put that in the script.

BT: How did you go about casting In My Sleep?
AW: The casting process was very rigorous, I didn’t just want to look at people on tape, I wanted people to come in and read for their parts, because I wanted to see what their chemistry would be like. I casted Philip Winchester to play Marcus before anyone else because he used to be one of my closest friends and I was already familiar with his ability as an actor. I started with him and then I casted Tony Hale to play Ben because he was also a really good friend and I wanted him to be apart of the movie. From there I brought in the different actors through my casting director; my casting director, Alyssa Weisberg, had actually won an Emmy through casting LOST and she cast the latest star trek movie and the film Cloverfield. She brought me some really wonderful people to work with and I workshopped them and gave them adjustments and just saw how they responded to that.

BT: How do you work with the actors?, do you go through a lot of  rehearsal sessions before filming?
AW: For me it was very important to have performances that were very fresh, honest and raw, so I didn’t want to over rehearse anything in the film. Instead what I did was rehearse scenes that were not in the movie and were instead only referred to in the movie. I would have them improvise the memories that they had, so it was very intense improvisational period. We then went about what I like to call, figuring out the characters core lies, and the core lies are basically the things that the characters believed about themselves that were simply not true. Through all of that we formed the core of each of the characters.

BT: Did you allow any kind of improvisation on the set?
AW: Absolutely, as a writer I spend a ton of time forming and crafting the words in a particular way, so I appreciate when the actors respect what I have written and come to the set with their line memorized. But I also appreciate them bringing in their own experiences and their feelings and thought. For the most part I put a lot of work into crafting the scenes and allow breathing room for myself and the actors to be allowed to collaborate together as well.

BT: You have a background of making short films and commercials, how much did those experiences help you in making your senior film?
AW: Most of the shorts that I made happened when I was s student at NYU, so most of my training as a filmmaker happened when I was there. I was always a long form filmmaker but making the shorts did help refine me as a filmmaker and a storyteller.

BT: How challenging was it to make In My Sleep?
AW: It was definitely a challenge to make this film and create a story where you are just trying to give little pieces and clues and not give away too much, but giving away enough where the audience feels like they are apart of the journey. First of all, we have the challenge of making an independent film, and then secondly the subject matter that we are tackling is in itself difficult.

BT: Hitchcock is one of the masters of suspense films, are you a fan of his work and who is your favorite filmmaker?
AW: I’m a huge fan of Alfred Hitchcock and I watched many of his films prior to making this movie. I would study the way that he would compose his shots, the way he would develop characters, the colors, the symbols and shapes all the way down to what the characters were wearing. I felt that there is no better place to learn than from the master of suspense himself,  Alfred Hitchcock, and I greatly respect him as a storyteller.

BT: How did you come up with the visual style of In My Sleep?
AW: It was important to me to tell a very visual story, from what people are wearing to reoccurring symbols throughout the film. I actually storyboarded much of the film through a 3-D storyboarding software. I also worked closely with our Production designer, and we came up with a plot where each character has certain colors or shapes assigned to them, we worked very closely to build the environment that the characters live. It was important to me that we communicated where the story was going on multiple levels.

BT: How have the audience reactions been to the film?
AW: It has been such a thrill to watch the movie with the audiences that have screened it so far. To see people jump out of their seats and scream during the scarier, moments. There is also comedy in the movie and it feels good to see people react to the comedic moments as well as the scarier moments in the film.

BT: Do you have any new projects lined up?
AW: I’m working on a story called Man vs. Life and I hope that this will be my next film.

IN MY SLEEP opens on Friday, April 23 in Los Angeles and April 30 in New York, and will expand to additional markets throughout May. For more information please


About Author

Bijan Tehrani

Bijan Tehrani a film director, film critic and writer, works as editor in chief of Cinema Without Borders while teaching Language of Film and Film History at workshops nationwide. Bijan has won several awards in international film festivals and book fairs for his short films and children's books.

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