Interview - Willy's Wonderland : Let’s talk with David Sheftell

By Mulder, Los Angeles, 12 february 2021

Willy's Wonderland is a horror comedy directed by Kevin Lewis based on a script by G. O. Parsons and produced by Nicolas Cage, Jeremy Davis, David Ozer, Mike Nilon and veteran actor/producer Grant Cramer. The film stars Nicolas Cage, Emily Tosta, Ric Reitz, Chris Warner, Kai Kadlec, Christian Delgrosso, Caylee Cowan, Terayle Hill, Jonathan Mercedes, David Sheftell and Beth Grant. We have a great opportunity to talk with the David Sheftell—actor, voice-over artist, writer and producer—about his work on this movie and about his career.


Q : today, I waited ‘til midnight until the movie came out so that I could watch it before our interview.

David Sheftell : and what'd you think ?

Q : i have to say, i enjoyed it despite the genre because I get a little bit you know with the (dog cries)

David Sheftell : i have a shih-tzu his name is Chewy, little chewy

Q : so cute yes oh that's a great manageable size

David Sheftell : yeah so I grew up with Goldens all my life so they were big dogs and it was always tough but Chewy if anything goes wrong you just pick them up and take them where you need to go, so…

Q : Right, well thank you so much. So, as we were saying, you know, I found it to be very well done within the genre

David Sheftell : well thank you.

Q : you know,I have some questions for you so about—It’s such a minimalistic movie in terms of dialogue, so I wondered did you find that the directorial style was also quite different ?

David Sheftell : You know it was in a way. You know Kevin Lewis who's the director is a phenomenal director. We loved working together and he is just great and you know to have Nicolas Cage who really doesn't have much dialogue in this but everything he makes such amazing choices with what he's doing and then that gives you stuff to play off of because everything is a reaction and it really sets a tone and a mood. At one point, as you saw, I had to tie up Nic Cage and you know it's scary just tying him up because you don't know what he's going to do as the character; as the actor you know exactly what he's going to do because he’s such a professional, but it's you know —your character is tense in that moment because this guy is beating up all kinds of animatronics, and then you have to tie him up, so you don't want to get uh beat up yourself

Q : Did you find so was there a great deal of improv involved ?

David Sheftell : so you know we stuck to the script pretty well, and then after several takes—like i said Kevin Lewis the directo—said all right we've got that in the can let's improvise the scene we know where it needs to go let's try some new things. One night he came to us the next day he said i was up all night i had this dream and I thought of this you know scene between myself and Emily Tosta, let's just try it this way we'll do it the way it's written and then please try it this way; so we got to have a lot of fun. There was a lot of leeway, a lot of choices. There was a point where I’m annoying Beth Grant's character who's my sheriff and Kevin Lewis and i was like let's come up with stuff to annoy her, and I said i feel like I’ve waited my whole life to do this; I’ve got a younger sister —I know exactly how to annoy somebody so…

Q : oh that's really fun—so there was a lot of opportunity to do things that were outside of the script then ?

David Sheftell : for sure so yeah but we had so much fun making this film

Q : you know also i was watching you know your final scene where the creature is reaching in and how so logistically were there some special things involved? like with some of it done you know in post through you know computers or was that or do we see exactly how it was filmed?

David Sheftell : so we used a lot of you know old style filming techniques, classic film making, classic horror types of filmmaking, and if i'm correct, i don't believe there's much if any CGI in this. so we had someone on top of the car he was a wonderful performer and he was doing all of it and we were all doing our stunt work we had a wonderful stunt team and coordinator and so what you see on film is what we shot.

Q : So you did your own stunts for this ?

David Sheftell : I didn't have a lot of stunts done stuff, but i did my action stuff and my killing stuff for sure so.

Q : that's great. Was there a moment during filming that was particularly memorable for you or that you found something surprising in ?

David Sheftell : Well, the whole experience was memorable just because i got to work with such wonderful co-stars Nicolas Cage was wonderful, Beth Grant and i had such wonderful chemistry together we became very good friends off screen just from working together so i went to lunch at her house in between scenes. I met her husband and her daughter and Mary and we played with her dogs and they made me lunch so we've worked on zoom play readings together since then Emily Tosa and i after one day we were the only two who were done with our scenes we had a lovely dinner together and we spent hours just getting to know each other and chatting with each other so it's one thing to act for hours alongside each other and then getting to spend time with each other so i would say the most memorable thing is getting to make these wonderful relationships with such talented kind wonderful people

Q : absolutely, you know i noticed too in looking at your IMDB you've done a lot of voice overs ?

David Sheftell : i've done a fair amount so i'm actually on the vote right now with Will Wheaton. It's a voiceover show on facebook it's called rival peak and it's a game mixed with a show so you can play it it's sort of like a sim style game mixed with uh show lost in the show survivor so all of our characters are trying to survive the craziness of this mountain called Rival Peak and then Will Wheaton hosts the after show and speaks to our characters so we're about nine weeks into our 12 week run and my character who's an Australian Larikan, his name is Christopher Saabun and Saabun is his spiritual name which he didn't realize until after he got it means soap so it's very funny so he's trying to win 10 million dollars and one of my characters one of the final four so who's up to win the grand prize so if people want to go and play on facebook go to Rival Peak and they can play as my character or any character they want and then vote for me

Q : so it's live right now

David Sheftell : it's interactive happening right now so and then the after shows come out every wednesday I think at 6 p.m pacific time and 9 00 pm eastern time and Will Wheaton host those shows and interacts with our characters so that's exciting yeah three more weeks of that so that'll be great

Q : and is there uh is there an actual winner in the very end ?

David Sheftell : i believe there's going to be an actual winner so we'll see what happens but you got to watch Rival Peak and Rival Speak.

Q : oh that's awesome thank you so much. i don't know how much time we have I think we might have been allotted 10 minutes, i'm not sure .

David Sheftell : Oh, we can keep going, we're good

Q : Are there any other upcoming things that you would like people to know about that you’re—obviously you've got a lot already that we know about ..

David Sheftell : for sure i've actually got another movie that's coming out today as well it's called Show me what you got so that's on vod as well it's an interesting story. The director Svetlana Cvetko she is a very well-known cinematographer and this is her feature film directing debut and it's about a store. It's a story about a young gentleman from Italy who's trying to make it as an actor and he's looking to up his social media game that's where he meets i'm a character who just tried to help him navigate sort of an agency type person and then he ends up falling for a a couple and they start forming a throuple in a way and sort of discovering what it's like to be in that type of a relationship so it's a really beautiful film and so that comes out today as well so after you watch Willy's Wonderland, watch Show Me What You Got.

Q : that's great and where and what venue is it

David Sheftell : i think is it through i think it's on all vod, so any anywhere you can find on vod is a great place to start

Q : wow this is this is a very big day for you, very big weekend,

David Sheftell : i'm having a great weekend so far so this is great and the last thing i'll say is i just joined i'm part of the writers guild of America and i'm a host on their podcast called third and Fairfax where we interview other writers and my first interview is up on all podcast platforms and i interviewed Judd Apatow about his new movie The King of Staten Island starring Pete Davidson so that was pretty awesome as well so i'd love people to go check out that interview he's incredibly open about his writing process what it's like to write with somebody else what it's like to write by himself how it was to work with Pete Davidson on such a personal story as The king of Staten island is for him so i would love people to go see that as well and wait for my upcoming interviews that i have with people.

Q : that's wonderful, it's so great to be familiar with your work and really to you know dive in; i think that you've got so many exciting things in the works, and obviously your you know your work history. You know you have a very long IMDB but i think, i feel like this stuff is you know you're you're at a point where i just feel like you're really launching it's quite exciting for me too

David Sheftell : i really appreciate that. hopefully there’s a lot, lot more; because this is the most fun i've had so i'm enjoying every minute of it.

Q : well thank you so much David i really appreciate your time and thank you for your patience with our little puppy here

David Sheftell : i love the puppy so at any time. i want if we ever chat again—and I hope we do—i hope the puppy is a dog by that point and we can we can have him again so

Q : Yes, she’s about to go to puppy training next week where i think they're gonna teach her maybe you know like not to bark so much i'm hopeful

David Sheftell : well no you're growing up i did have a pug her name was zoe and she was the love of our lives and uh she went to training and she was the first dog at that school to ever fail training so i don't wanna, i don't wanna harm you, it's a pug specific thing apparently but while all the other dogs were training she was sitting up in the instructor's lap having treats so I think she trained the trainer

Q : so cute

David Sheftell : so but she was the love of our lives. she was fantastic .

Q : yeah they're so wonderful it's just i'm used to small dogs so the opposite of you i went from just small dogs to this giant girl and it's like a whole new

David Sheftell : they're the best well

Q : i so appreciate you. Before we go is there anything else you'd love to share and that you want us to include you know

David Sheftell : i guess i can i'm happy to share all the social media stuff if people would like to follow me yeah, that’d be great so i'm on instagram and twitter @DavidSheftell so my name's spelled specifically it's D-a-v-i-d S-h-e-f-t-e-l-l and on facebook i'm just DSheftell.

Q : oh beautiful thank you so much well

David Sheftell : you're great, thank you so much

Synopsis :
A lonely man (Nicolas Cage) finds himself stranded in an isolated town when his car breaks down. Unable to pay for the repairs he needs, he agrees to spend the night cleaning up Willy's Wonderland, an abandoned family recreation center. But this Wonderland has a dark secret that this janitor is about to discover. He soon finds himself locked in an epic battle with possessed animatronic mascots wandering the halls. To survive, he must make his way through each of them.

Willy's Wonderland
Directed by Kevin Lewis
Produced by Nicolas Cage, Grant Cramer, Jeremy Davis, Mike Nilon, David Ozer, Bryan Lord
Written by G. O. Parsons
Starring Nicolas Cage, Emily Tosta, Ric Reitz, Chris Warner, Kai Kadlec, Christian Delgrosso, Caylee Cowan, Terayle Hill, Jonathan Mercedes, David Sheftell, Beth Grant
Music by Émoi
Cinematography : David Newbert
Edited by Ryan Liebert
Production company : Saturn Films, JD Entertainment, Landafar Entertainment, Landmark Studio Group, Foresight Unlimited
Distributed by Screen Media Films
Release date : February 12, 2021 (United States)
Running time : 82 minutes

We would like to thanks AJ Feuerman for this interview and David Sheftell for answered to our questions.