David F. Sandberg

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David F. Sandberg
Sandberg at the 2019 WonderCon
Born (1981-01-21) 21 January 1981 (age 42)
Other namesponysmasher
Years active2006–present
Known for
(m. 2013)

David F. Sandberg (born 21 January 1981) is a Swedish filmmaker. He is best known for his collective no-budget horror short films under the online pseudonym ponysmasher and for his 2016 directorial debut Lights Out, based on his 2013 acclaimed horror short of the same name.[1] He also directed the horror film Annabelle: Creation (2017) as part of The Conjuring Universe, and the DC Extended Universe films Shazam! (2019) and Shazam! Fury of the Gods (2023).

Early life[edit]

David F. Sandberg was born on 21 January 1981 in Jönköping, Sweden. In the 5th grade, Sandberg says he transferred to Torpa School in Jönköping, where he met his future wife Lotta Losten, and they later both attended Junedal School in the same city.[2][3] According to Sandberg, he grew up watching films and making his own using his dad's VHS-C camera. He worked in a video store as a teenager, and saved up money to buy his own camcorder for filmmaking.[4][5]

Sandberg was diagnosed with atypical autism when he was a child, but has said he is unsure if the diagnosis was correct.[6][7]


Beginning with animation and documentaries (2006–2013)[edit]

In his late teens or early twenties, Sandberg began working at Film i Jönköping, a local film center in Jönköping, initially as an intern. He learned more about filmmaking from Svante Rosberg, the film commissioner who ran Film i Jönköping when he started, and whom Sandberg considers his mentor.[5]

Starting in 2006, Sandberg found moderate online success making animated short films; according to Sandberg, his first online successes were his films För Barnen and Vad Tyst Det Blev, the latter of which garnered 1.7 million views on YouTube. As a result of his increased visibility, he began to receive offers for animation work; his first job was working as a consultant on the TV show Myggan [sv] on the Swedish Channel 5.[8]

He continued working at Film i Jönköping, primarily working on documentary projects. From 2006 to 2009, he worked on several documentaries for the Swedish Inheritance Fund.[9] His last collaboration with Rosberg before his retirement was Animera = Göra Livlig, a 2010 documentary about senior citizens creating animated films.[10]

In 2009, he moved to the city of Gothenburg. He continued working on animation and documentaries, and began collaborating with producer Claes Lundin. In 2011, they completed and sold an animated documentary series called Earth Savers, and in 2013, their documentary short Ladyboy premiered at Cinequest Film Festival.[4][11]

Shifting to feature films (2013–present)[edit]

In 2013, he began to shift his focus away from animation and documentary works and towards horror short films. According to Sandberg, his original goal with filmmaking had been to make horror and sci-fi films, and he felt he needed to have some existing work in that field in order to get funding for future work. Lacking any funding of his own, his shorts were made with no budget—his equipment and props consisted mostly of items he already had or could buy very cheaply, and his only cast and crew were himself and Lotta Losten, his wife. He released his films on both Vimeo and YouTube, using his alias ponysmasher.[5]

In 2013, he released his second horror short, Lights Out, which centered around a monster that only exists when the lights are turned out. The film was a viral success, and quickly garnered millions of views. According to Sandberg, his life changed "in every way imaginable" after Lights Out; he began receiving tons of messages from film industry people who wanted to work with him.[12]

One of these contacts was Lawrence Grey, a producer who wanted to adapt Lights Out into a feature-length film. Grey brought screenwriter Eric Heisserer and producer James Wan on board to collaborate and produce a script with Sandberg, who would also direct the new feature.[13] The film (also titled Lights Out) began production in mid-2015, and premiered at LA Film Festival in June 2016. The film was a massive box office success, grossing $148 million on a $5 million budget,[14] and a moderate critical success, earning a 76% approval score on Rotten Tomatoes and a 58 out of 100 score on Metacritic.[15][16]

Sandberg next directed Annabelle: Creation, a prequel to supernatural horror film Annabelle and the fourth film in The Conjuring Universe. The film was released in 2017 to positive reviews and box office success.[17][18][19]

In 2019, Sandberg directed the DC Extended Universe superhero film Shazam!, based on the DC Comics character of the same name. The film received positive reviews.[20] In April 2019, TheWrap reported that Sandberg would direct a sequel for New Line Cinema called Shazam! Fury of the Gods.[21][22] He is set to direct and produce the horror film The Culling with his wife Lotta Losten through their production company Mångata. The film will be distributed by Lionsgate.[23] He is set to direct the film adaptation of Cullen Bunn and Jack T. Cole's "The Unsound" graphic novel[24] and thriller film Below,[25] both for Netflix.

In 2023, when Shazam! Fury of the Gods was released, Sandberg said he was done with the superhero genre and wanted to return to horror.[26]

Personal life[edit]

Sandberg married actress, designer, and photographer Lotta Losten in 2013. She has featured in many of his short films, including Lights Out.[27] Sandberg and Losten moved to Los Angeles around 2015.[28]

His younger brother is Joakim Sandberg, creator of the Iconoclasts video game.[29]

Sandberg has been open about his struggles with depression.[30][31]



Year Title Notes
2016 Lights Out Directorial debut
Based on his short film
2017 Annabelle: Creation
2019 Shazam! Also voiced the uncredited roles of Travis[32] and Mister Mind and performed the Crocodile-Men[33][34]
2023 Shazam! Fury of the Gods Also uncredited voice of Mister Mind


Year Title Director Writer Producer Cinematographer Editor Composer Actor Notes
2006 Vad tyst det blev... Yes Yes Yes No Yes Yes Yes Role: Boy (voice only)
Also sound department
2011 Animera = Göra livlig Yes No No No Yes Yes No Documentary short
2012 The Drawing Box Yes Yes Yes No No No Yes Role: David/David's Brother
2013 Ladyboy Yes No No Yes Yes Yes No Documentary short
Cam Closer Yes Yes No Yes Yes No No
Lights Out Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes No
2014 Pictured Yes Yes No Yes Yes Yes No
Not So Fast Yes Yes No Yes Yes No Yes Role: Man
Coffer Yes Yes No Yes Yes No No
See You Soon Yes Yes No Yes Yes Yes No
2015 Attic Panic Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Role: Ghost
2016 Closet Space Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes No Yes Role: David
2020 Shadowed Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes No
Not Alone in Here Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes No


Year Title Director Composer Animator Notes
2011 Earth Savers 6 episodes 5 episodes 2 episodes Documentary series


  1. ^ Slotek, Jim (July 21, 2016). "'Lights Out': David F. Sandberg goes from YouTube to Hollywood". Toronto Sun. Retrieved July 25, 2016.
  2. ^ "About". David F. Sandberg. Archived from the original on August 3, 2021. Retrieved July 31, 2022.
  3. ^ Shazam! Fury of the Gods - Trailer Trivia. ponysmasher. July 24, 2022. Archived from the original on March 20, 2023. Retrieved March 25, 2023 – via YouTube.
  4. ^ a b "10 things you may not know about David F Sandberg". Warner Bros. UK. Warner Bros. July 21, 2016. Archived from the original on August 23, 2016. Retrieved November 6, 2017.
  5. ^ a b c Sandberg, David F. "More than you ever wanted to know about David F. Sandberg". dauid.com. Archived from the original on March 31, 2014. Retrieved November 6, 2017.
  6. ^ "Shazam! Director David F. Sandberg Has Uplifting Message For Aspiring Filmmakers". ScreenRant. January 3, 2021. Retrieved January 10, 2021.
  7. ^ Can You Be An Introvert Director?. ponysmasher. January 3, 2021. Archived from the original on March 20, 2023. Retrieved March 25, 2023 – via YouTube.
  8. ^ Astfors, Nicklas (December 20, 2011). "Vad Tyst Det Blev - Långfilmen". MrFilm (in Swedish). Archived from the original on November 7, 2017. Retrieved November 6, 2017.
  9. ^ "Filmproduktion" (in Swedish). Region Jönköpings län. Archived from the original on November 7, 2017. Retrieved November 6, 2017.
  10. ^ "Animera=göra livlig (2010)". Swedish Film Database (in Swedish). Swedish Film Institute. Retrieved November 6, 2017.
  11. ^ "Ladyboy". Cinequest. Retrieved November 6, 2017.
  12. ^ Thompson, Simon (July 21, 2016). "'Lights Out' Director David F. Sandberg Talks Going From Zero To $5 Million Budgets And His Hollywood Horror Story". Forbes. Retrieved July 25, 2016.
  13. ^ Zeitchik, Steven (June 8, 2016). "How David Sandberg turned a viral-short sensation into a horror feature with 'Lights Out'". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved July 25, 2016.
  14. ^ "Lights Out (2016)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved November 6, 2017.
  15. ^ "Lights Out (2016)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango. Retrieved November 6, 2017.
  16. ^ "Lights Out Reviews". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved April 9, 2017.
  17. ^ "Annabelle: Creation Is a Potent Prequel". Retrieved August 13, 2017.
  18. ^ Kit, Borys (July 21, 2016). "How New Line Cinema Is Making a Killing in Horror". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved July 25, 2016.
  19. ^ Walker, Kristine (July 2, 2016). "'Annabelle 2' Release Date, Latest News & Updates: 'Annabelle' Sequel Bringing More Evil Dolls To Haunt Orphans? Instagram Photos Hint Start Of Filming". Parent Herald. Retrieved July 25, 2016.
  20. ^ Kit, Borys (July 2, 2016). "'Shazam!' Is Next DC Movie to Shoot (Exclusive)". Hollywoodreporter. Retrieved July 25, 2016.
  21. ^ Gonzalez, Umberto (April 8, 2019). "'Shazam!' Writer Henry Gayden Will Return to Write Sequel (Exclusive)". The Wrap. Retrieved August 24, 2020.
  22. ^ Ramos, Dino-Ray (August 22, 2020). "'Shazam!': Zachary Levi And Cast Reveal Title Of Sequel, Remain Tight-Lipped On Details – DC FanDome". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved August 24, 2020.
  23. ^ Fleming, Mike Jr. (June 22, 2020). "Lionsgate Lands Horror Spec 'The Culling' For 'Shazam!'s David F. Sandberg To Direct". Deadline Hollywood. Penske Media Corporation. Retrieved April 7, 2021.
  24. ^ Fleming, Mike Jr. (November 7, 2019). "Netflix Wins Horror Package 'The Unsound' From 'Shazam!' Helmer David F. Sandberg, BOOM! Studios & Skylar James". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved February 25, 2022.
  25. ^ Kroll, Justin. "Netflix Lands Greg Weidman and Geoff Tock Spec 'Below' With 'Shazam!'s David F. Sandberg Directing". Deadline Hollywood.
  26. ^ "David F. Sandberg Stepping Back From Superhero Genre After 'Shazam!' Sequel".
  27. ^ Mintchell, Fredrick (July 22, 2016). "Lights Out's David F. Sandberg and Lotta Losten are living their own Hollywood rags to riches story". World Tech Today. Retrieved July 25, 2016.
  28. ^ Sandberg, David F. (February 25, 2016). "The Making of Closet Space". Vimeo. Retrieved November 6, 2017.
  29. ^ Sandberg, Joakim [@konjak] (January 23, 2018). "🔧ICONOCLASTS🔧 is now available on PC and Playstation 4/Vita!! $20, 20€, £18, JP¥2000 (NA Playstation a bit later today) I hope you enjoy my mix of things I've loved as a youngster, coming together in this narrative-driven action adventure game! Love y'all. 💛 t.co/9H3R0jTRB6" (Tweet). Archived from the original on January 21, 2022. Retrieved March 25, 2023 – via Twitter.
  30. ^ "Lights Out director David Sandberg defends the ending of his horror hit". The A.V. Club. July 30, 2016.
  31. ^ "A Conversation with David F. Sandberg About Creativity in Filmmaking". February 9, 2022.
  32. ^ Sandberg, David F. [@ponysmasher] (April 2, 2020). "Travis, the asshole boyfriend, is played by yours truly. #QuarantineWatchParty #Shazam" (Tweet). Retrieved April 3, 2020 – via Twitter.
  33. ^ Patches, Matt; Polo, Susana (April 5, 2019). "Shazam director reveals the voice behind his post-credits scene tease". Polygon. Vox Media. Retrieved April 3, 2020.
  34. ^ Sandberg, David F. [@ponysmasher] (April 2, 2020). "I played all three crocodile men. It was extremely uncomfortable . #QuarantineWatchParty #Shazam t.co/nZGW0Az23y" (Tweet). Archived from the original on August 22, 2022. Retrieved March 25, 2023 – via Twitter.

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