EXCLUSIVE: New Line Cinema has quickly flipped the switch on a sequel to Lights Out, the $4.9 million-budget genre film that already has grossed $27 million domestically and $35 million worldwide after opening Friday. David F. Sandberg confirms he will return for an encore of his feature directorial debut. The genesis of the film was a no-budget short Sandberg made with his wife Lotta Losten back home in Sweden, and their sudden rise is an empowering tale to any aspiring filmmaker looking for evidence that miracles can happen.

The only reason Sandberg and Losten made the film in the first place was that the usual ways Swedish filmmakers get a leg up just weren’t happening for the duo.

“My wife and I tried to get money to do movies in Sweden, applying for grants, and we got turned down,” he said from the set of Annabelle 2, which he is now directing. “I said, screw it. I have a camera and she’s an actress. I got lights from IKEA, we built our own dolly and made Cam Closer, this short where a phone allows you to see the future, and a woman sees her murder and then tries to stop it. We put it online, didn’t get a huge response, but we thought, this is great, let’s keep doing that. And then this British online collective Bloody Cuts had this competition for a three-minute short film, and we made Lights Out.”

They didn’t win the contest, but he won Best Director. “I figured, that was fun, we’ll keep doing it, but then a couple months after, it started spreading online and suddenly it was getting millions of views and I was getting emails from managers, agents, producers and studios. The whole plan was to make no-budget shorts to get the Swedish Film Institute’s attention to get a grant, but then New Line called.”

lights out
Warner Bros.

Eric Heisserer will return to write the sequel and Sandberg will direct it. James Wan will be back as producer through his Atomic Monster banner, and so will Lawrence Grey through his Grey Matter banner.

And what about the seven other shorts he directed? Sandberg said he’s in talks with New Line to acquire one of them, and he hopes to turn several others into feature films and owns rights to all of them. “I will also keep creating shorts, because they’re fun and there’s less pressure.”

Sandberg said he and his wife will write some of them, and she will have bigger acting roles in some of them, after she starred in Lights Out opposite Maria Bello, Theresa Palmer and Alexander DiPersia, and has a role in Annabelle 2. Sandberg and Losten have been sweethearts since age 11.

“This has been such a crazy trip, we are still trying to process it all,” he said. “It was only a year and a half when New Line called us in Sweden and said, this is happening, be here next week. When people ask for advice, I tell them this all happened because we decided to make a short in our little apartment. Just keep following your passion and making things and putting them out there, because you just never know who will be watching and what might happen.”

Sandberg is repped by Gotham Group, Paradigm and Jackoway Tyerman.

Below is the short that got it all started: