Mike Flanagan, the filmmaker known for his horror works such as “The Haunting of Bly Manor,” “Midnight Mass” and “The Fall of the House of Usher,” is returning home Wednesday as the commencement speaker at Towson University, where he graduated in 2002.

Flanagan was born in Salem, Massachusetts (fitting, right?), but grew up around Maryland. Greg Faller, an associate dean at Towson, said Flanagan was a “phenomenal student” and that he’s looking forward to what he’ll share with students.

“It means so much to the College of Fine Arts and Communication that he finds time in his busy schedule to keep in touch with us, conduct master classes, and offer real-world opportunities to students passionate about filmmaking and directing,” Faller said in a statement. “His generosity provides life changing experiences that are invaluable to our students.”

This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.

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I want to start by talking about your first film. You did it while you were an undergraduate, right?

That was 1999; the movie was called “Make Believe.” It remains one of the most incredible educational experiences of my life. I didn’t know how to make a feature film. That’s kind of the point of it.

I had a teacher who kind of dared our class to come up with a feature film. Part of his point was that digital film had become accessible to everyone. You didn’t have to go out and buy a bunch of film. The experience of it was kind of amazing.

A lot of people know you for the “Haunting of Hill House,” “Bly Manor” and especially “The Fall of the House of Usher.” I want to focus in on that one, because of the intrinsic link to Edgar Allan Poe and Baltimore. Was that lineage of Baltimore horror on your mind when you were working on “Usher”?

Absolutely. The first voice that you hear on my show, in the very first episode, belongs to Mark Redfield, who, when I was a student at Towson, was making his own Poe movie, called “The Death of Poe.” He had been doing a lot of Poe onstage in and around Baltimore. I thought he was a perfect way to open the show. He’s a Baltimore artist and filmmaker and actor.

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I first discovered Poe when I was a kid in Bowie, at the Bowie public library. I became obsessed with Poe for all of my life. We visited the grave when we were in college. It’s always kind of been on my mind. Being able to revisit that world, from this particular moment in my life, in the profession that I’m lucky enough to be in now, is a real treat.

Were there any Poe motifs, themes or characters that didn’t make it into the show?

I feel like we got most of what we wanted into the show, to the point that, the question became in the writers’ room whether we were overdoing it. But there’s plenty we never got to incorporate because the show was too large at that point.

I’m satisfied with what we got in there. But there’s so much left in his library. It would be a joy to be playing in the Poe sandbox again someday.

What sort of message are you going to share with the Towson students at graduation?

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One, I hope, of great optimism. But one that’s also as honest as I can possibly make it about my own experience. My hope is that, to talk about a little bit what it was like when I was a student there, which feels like a different world now. I think students today are dealing with things today I couldn’t have fathomed for myself back then.

I want to be very open about that. Then to talk a little bit about where the career took me, and some of the things along the way that I think I can safely say are lessons about life that I believe are true and hopefully useful. That’s kind of what I want to think about.

I never would have imagined that, when I sat where they’re sitting, that I would be back on the other side of the stage. I hope that there’s something in that story that will resonate for them.

Do you think you’ll ever come back home to Maryland to make a movie or show?

I would love, I would love to shoot in Maryland. It’s one of those things that I’ve actually talked about over the years as we’ve entertained projects. But the bosses make the decisions about these things. They have so much to do with financial and tax rebate and all sorts of other elements that are far less compelling to me than my personal connection to a place.

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But, yeah, it’s absolutely on my list of things I’d love to do. I’d love to bring a crew back to the area in which I grew up and be able to soak in what was so special and formative about Maryland and Baltimore and Towson to me.

What was it that was so special?

There’s a unique spirit. When I think back, I was in Bowie, Maryland, as a small child, I went to high school in Severn, so it was always getting closer and closer to the big city, closer to Baltimore.

The Baltimore of my youth and the Baltimore today are very different. There’s been an enormous amount of change in the city itself. I don’t think it’s perfect. I don’t think any city is, but I love it.

And there’s something to me when it comes to genre. My concept of what an October night looks and feels and smells like comes from Halloween in Maryland and comes from the Poe image in that too.

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The chill in the air where you can see your breath, that frosty moonlight that bathes the rural areas in the woods and the suburbs, but also the city in this beautiful, romantic, spooky glow.

What projects coming up do you have that you’re both a) excited about and b) able to talk about?

There are a lot of very big projects in the hopper. Some have been speculated on, reported on, that I’m simply not allowed yet to talk about. I can’t confirm or deny them. I can say, I am very excited about them.

But I would highlight, there’s a movie I just finished called the “The Life of Chuck.” It’s my first non-horror movie. It’s a wonderful and inspiring, very life-affirming story. It’s based on a short story by Stephen King.

It’s very funny, it’s Stephen King and Mike Flanagan, and it could not be further from horror. It’s my favorite movie I’ve ever gotten to work on.

Cody Boteler is a reporter on The Banner’s Express Desk, reporting on breaking news, trending stories and interesting things in and around Baltimore. His work has appeared in The Baltimore Sun, USA TODAY, Baltimore magazine and others.

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