Something special exists in the reaches of the ArieScope web series tab: a series called 20 Seconds to Live. As an 8-episode anthology counting down to the death of an unknown person in each episode, every story is short and sweet and often very funny.
I love short horror stories: all the scares with a small time commitment. Each episode is only a few minutes long and all have an amazing twist in that small period of time, as well as its own little mystery about who will die and in what way.
I had the pleasure of speaking with the show’s writer/co-creator Bob DeRosa and director/co-creator Ben Rock to talk about new episodes, filming and their influences.
Thank you both for doing this interview with me. I am a big fan of 20 Seconds to Live. Ben, you’ve worked in horror before, but Bob, this looks to be your first foray into the genre. How did you come up with such a new and interesting idea for the stories?
BOB: Ben pitched me the title and overall concept, and I worked with him to develop it into a show. We both grew up loving horror anthologies and the appeal for us was immediate. Ben calls it a sandbox: we get to play in a different corner of the horror universe every time, all linked by the fun of trying to guess who’s going to die and how.
It truly makes it an experience with each episode. Ben, was it easier or harder to direct for a web series vs. a full-length movie?
BEN: A web series such as this is way easier to direct than a feature, because it’s so spread out. Every once in a while we’d shoot two episodes in a weekend, but most episodes were shot over the course of one day and those days could be very spread out. There’s an old saying: “Quick, cheap, good: pick any two.” We picked “cheap” and “good” so we knew we had to be patient.
How did you end up streaming your episodes on ArieScope?
BOB: We shot our first five episodes with our amazing producer Cat Pasciak, and the three of us were debating the best way to release them. Then I heard an episode of “The Movie Crypt” podcast and co-host/director Adam Green (the Hatchet movies, Holliston) was talking about looking for cool new content to host on his website. I knew he and Ben were friends, and Ben had been a guest on the podcast before, so I suggested Ben give Adam a call.
BEN: ArieScope has been an amazing host, and Adam is one of the good guys in the business. We’re lucky to call him a friend, and luckier still to partner with ArieScope to present the series.
I bet! I am a big fan of Adam Green’s work, and he seems really genuine. It’s great how that all worked out. What other platforms can we find 20 Seconds to Live?
BEN: The most obvious one is on our Facebook page, where every episode streams. And then, very recently, we partnered with seeka.tv, a new web series streaming platform created by some seriously smart people who want to figure out how to make the web series thrive like never before. We hope that platform really takes off, not just for us but for all the amazing creators who’ve already signed on.
Congratulations on your new partnership! What is your favorite 20 Seconds to Live episode?
BEN: Each one was an adventure into a fun genre for us, but “Anniversary” really sticks with me mostly because of how it ups the stakes of its own wrongness over and over. It might be one of my favorite things I’ve ever directed in my life.
I’d also like to mention “Astaroth” – I’ve always wanted to see what would happen if poorly researched people tried to summon a demon.
BOB: Well, we have to say we love them all, but we really do! “Anniversary” was the second one we shot and I think perfectly solidified everything that makes a good 20 Seconds To Live episode: it plays with a known horror trope, has a fun reversal, spills some blood, and is just oh so wrong. Plus, it’s a love story! I also love “Evil Doll” because it really made me laugh on the page and the final product is every bit as funny as I hoped it would be.
“Astaroth” is definitely my favorite. For any Friday the 13th or Holliston fan, it features Derek Mears in the episode and he is hilarious. I hear you have another episode coming soon; can you tell us a little bit about that?
BEN: The most exciting thing about the new episode, “Medium,” is that we shot it two totally different ways – both conventionally and in VR. I’d never directed anything in VR before and it was (and still as, is we’re in post right now) a huge learning experience but it was a lot of fun. We hope people will enjoy watching the regular version and then dropping in and living inside the same story!
I bet the VR version will be fun and terrifying. With VR always getting more realistic, it will be the full experience. For both of you, what is your favorite horror movie? Did it influence how you made 20 Seconds to Live?
BEN: There are so many, it’s hard to count. I always say my favorite horror film is John Carpenter’s The Thing, but there are still so many great horror films out there from Let the Right One In to The Witch to The Legend of Hell House…
But to fixate on The Thing (as I often do, and reveled in doing so on Alien Raiders), the centerpiece of that movie is the guessing game – who’s an alien and who’s a human. We didn’t necessarily set out to do so at the beginning, but every episode of 20STL is a guessing game about who’s going to die and how. That quickly became the hardest part to get right and the most fun part to play with. We try to stay a step ahead of the audience and tell a satisfying (and hopefully funny) little horror story.
BOB: I love the original Halloween. Besides being just a stone-cold classic, it also mastered the “someone is secretly watching you” POV shot that I loved playing with in “Anniversary”.
Will there be the ability to purchase a hard copy of the episodes?
BEN: We have always given every episode away online, but the idea of bundling together a bunch of them sounds great. We will talk amongst ourselves…
Well, if you release a hard copy, it’s definitely going in my collection. Are you doing any events for us to look forward to?
BOB: Yes! We’re launching an Indiegogo campaign in May to raise some funds to shoot our second season. We completely self-financed our first season and it’s time we tried to pay our talented crew and maybe spring for a location that’s not my backyard. We’ll also be releasing our newest episode “Medium” around the same time. Keep an eye on 20secondstolive.com for more info and you can follow us at @20STL on Twitter and 20STL on Instagram.
A giant thanks to Bob DeRosa and Ben Rock for answering my many questions. I can’t wait to watch “Medium” and more future episodes and again, if you haven’t seen 20 Seconds to Live yet, Netflix bingeing can wait. It’s time you watch this series.
If you’d like to check out “The Movie Crypt” or similar podcasts, check out our favorites in horror/paranormal podcasting.
Featured image: Derek Mears and William McMichael incorrectly summoning a demon in “Astaroth”
(All photos courtesy of Bob DeRosa and Ben Rock)