Short horror film ‘BLINK’ director/writer Spenser Cohen, Anna Halberg, producer Scott Glassgold talk conjuring bite-size fear

Noah Levine, Life and Arts Film Columnist

“BLINK” is the first short horror film of Screen Gems’ new Scream Gems Horror Lab partnership with Scott Glassgold’s production company, Ground Control. Now available to stream on YouTube, the short had its world premiere during the Midnight Shorts showcase at South by Southwest. Sophie Thatcher (“Yellowjackets”) stars in this bite-size horror experience about a girl who wakes up in the hospital, forced to only communicate by blinking in the face of approaching danger. 

The Daily Texan spoke with the directing/writing duo of Spenser Cohen (“Moonfall”) and Anna Halberg (“Extinction”), along with producer Scott Glassgold (“Prospect”) about the short film and the new partnership between Screen Gems and Ground Control.


The Daily Texan: Where did you all get your start in the industry, and what drives you to keep pushing? 

Spenser Cohen: My start was seeing “Jurassic Park” when I was seven. Seeing dinosaurs brought to life for the first time, that was the greatest magic trick I’ve ever seen. I remember seeing the name Steven Spielberg (and thinking), “What is the director? Who is this guy? How did you do this?” From that moment, I knew that’s what I wanted to do.

Anna Halberg: I grew up in Minnesota. I started out doing professional musical theatre there. I thought that I wanted to be an actor, and I came out to Los Angeles auditioning during pilot season. I’m half Japanese and half Danish, and at that time, there was a lot less diversity and mixed ethnicity on television and in films. When I would audition for things, there (were) a lot of comments that would come out, that I’m not white enough, or I’m not Asian enough. I really wanted to go to film school to learn how to make films and put people who looked like me, looked like real people (who) came from divorced parents or were adopted, into projects. Then, I just fell in love with the process of filmmaking.

Scott Glassgold: Since I was a teenager, I’ve had some sort of job in this industry. I was in Florida interning for the local TV station, and from there, I’ve always sort of had a job in this business. Now, we live in this great time where we can create content like this, and this lab is a really unique opportunity.


DT: Can you explain Horror Labs a bit more in detail? 

SG: It all grew out of a conversation I was having with Screen Gems. I have a history of taking short films and turning them into feature films, so to me, the best version of that is creating an opportunity for filmmakers to show how talented they are but not just in a vacuum. It’s simultaneously doing something that can be developed further into a feature film. It’s not just, “Oh, that was cool. Get in the back of the director’s assignment line.” It’s, “That was cool. Let’s turn that into a movie.” That’s very much the spirit of this. When we (kicked) off this lab, Spenser and Anna were at the top of my list of people I’ve been dying to work with, so this was the perfect opportunity for us to do that.


DT: What was the seed for the idea of “BLINK’s” concept? 

SC: Anna and I each had sleep paralysis, separately, within a year or two years. I had it one night. I woke up, and all I could do was — like the short — move my eyes. I remember hearing a noise in the room, and I looked over, and I was just trying to will my body to wake up. I couldn’t do it. My heart was beating. The fear that I had at that moment was a 15 out of 10. After that, I told Anna about it, and she had also had a similar experience. We were like, “Let’s not do sleep paralysis, per se, but that feeling of being in a bed.” We spend a third of our lives in bed. How do you make that terrifying? We felt like this was the right concept.


DT: What was it like working with Sophie Thatcher of “Yellowjackets” and “The Book of Boba Fett” fame? 

SG: She made her feature debut in a movie I made called “Prospect.” She is the star of that film and carries it. It’s extraordinary. When this came up, she was the first person I thought of. 

AH: She’s on fire right now. She’s amazing. You can really recognize good talent, even before she had done all the things people know her for right now. Her talent is really unparalleled.