Meet John Simpson, SVP, Creative Director and Award-Winning Film Writer

John Simpson, SVP, Creative Director, is an Arnold veteran, having worked at the agency for a total of 16 years on clients such as Jack Daniel’s and Fidelity Investments. He has recently taken his craft of writing outside of the work place, collaborating with two friends, director Nick Spooner and writer Guy Benoit, on a horror/comedy short film, “The Call of Charlie.” We sat down with John to get to know him, learn about the process involved in creating and producing "The Call of Charlie," and chat about the benefit of working on a side hobby.

What’s your favorite thing about your hometown?

JS: I really like a lot of things about Providence, but probably my favorite is that it was founded by Roger Williams, who I think was one of the greatest humans who’s ever lived. Way, way ahead of his time. If he were alive today, he’d STILL be ahead of his time.

What book would you suggest to a stranger?

JS: Strangers on a Train by Patricia Highsmith, especially if we were on a train.

Would you rather fight 100 duck-sized horses or 1 horse-sized duck?

JS: One hundred duck-sized horses without a doubt. I’d just keep kicking. I think a horse-sized duck would actually be a pretty formidable adversary.

What inspired the “The Call of Charlie“?

JS: The work of H.P. Lovecraft, an early-1900s horror writer from Providence, served as the main source of inspiration for our film. One of Lovecraft’s short stories, “The Call of Cthulhu,” has to do with a global cult that believes in an underwater deity, Cthulhu, who is the very embodiment of evil. That led us to think, “What would happen if this monstrous manifestation of evil showed up in a modern setting?”

How did you get to writing it?

JS: Two friends of mine from Providence, Nick Spooner and Guy Benoit, worked on this project with me. Nick is a director that has shot a few Boston Bruins spots for Arnold, and he knows a lot about the horror genre and movies in general. He told us about an idea he had about the mythical creature, Cthulu, being set up on a blind date. Guy and I were immediately on board, and wrote a script around that concept, which was in fact the longest script I’ve written in my career.

The process of writing the script, getting the right actors/actresses for the roles, and shooting and editing took about 13 months. We worked around our work schedules, since this was a side project for all of us, so that led to the process being a bit longer than originally expected. However, I’m really thankful that everyone involved believed in the film and what we were trying to accomplish.

What has been the general reception?

JS: People have really liked it, which has actually been a bit surprising. It’s definitely not for everyone, considering the subject and genre. We knew horror film festival judges would enjoy it based on production value alone, but people whose opinion I really respect, like Arnold’s Wade Devers and David Register, have given “The Call of Charlie” their stamp of approval so that’s been great.

The cast has also received a positive reception. They’re really good and legit actors/actresses, including Brooke Smith, who played the abducted young girl, Catherine Martin, in Silence of the Lambs, and Evan Arnold, who played Leonard in the finale of Mad Men.

Are there any award shows that “The Call of Charlie” has been entered into?

JS: Yes, it’s been accepted into more than fifty festivals all over the world over the past year, and it’s received more than twenty wins and other distinctions. It’s at the point now where some festivals in Europe that we weren’t even planning to enter have called us to ask if they can include it. It’s done better than I think any of us dared hope.

Have you written other short films?

JS: Apart from the long-form scripts that I’ve written in my career as a copywriter, this is the first script for this kind of short that I’ve been a part of. Guy has written a few other shorts, and working with him on this was great. A lot of fun.

Will you continue to write short film scripts in the future?

JS: I’ll definitely keep working on scripts, but I don’t know how short they’ll be. Guy and I are working on a feature project that’s going to be in the same horror/comedy genre, and it will probably take a lot longer to write and produce, but we wanted to have another project to talk about when “The Call of Charlie” was brought up.

What was your favorite thing about writing “The Call of Charlie” script?

JS: It’s gratifying to make something that’s simply meant to entertain. Advertising is a means to an end, so if you entertain the audience while you’re at it, that’s great, but there are a lot of other things to consider. This project was different because we were creating something where the only people who had to approve anything were the three of us. That was a real pleasure.