Today I will be continuing my series of post and interviews concerning the subject of
Found Footage film making. I realize that there are many film makers who look down upon the genre of found footage films in the same way that horror and sci-fi has been looked down upon for decades. Like all other genres of film when these films are done well they can stand side by side with films from any other genre. When done poorly, usually for the money, they can turn out as bad as films in any other genre.
Keep in mind that there is no one great genre of film making that towers over the others nor should you ever feel as if you are slumming it because you are doing a film is a particular genre. Dramas usually win the big awards, but I would argue that they are the ones most likely to bore an audience to tears. I believe that films should be entertaining. Going out and shooting a film on purpose that is not entertaining is like making a meal that is not tasty. Found footage can, in the right hands, be very entertaining. The short film that is the subject of this interview is just that.
The award winning short film Night of the Vampire from the talented film maker
Owen Mulligan is a great little horror film.
This is my interview with Owen.
Q) I suppose the first and most obvious question has to be what is Night of the Vampire about?
A) Basically, Night of the Vampire follows two guys who go on an overnight hike in the remote wilderness of Vermont but end up fighting to survive after encountering a strange creature with an appetite for blood.
Q) Seeing a short and tight film in the found footage genre is the exception and not the rule. Tell me what made found footage the choice?
A) I’m a huge fan of found footage. I think that most found footage is horrible though but when it’s done right, I really love the genre. Anyway, this was my chance to do one of my own and see what it would be like and if I’d be any good at it. I really enjoying shooting found footage and especially because I can shoot without a crew and with a minuscule budget. The pseudo-reality of it all is what really excites me though.
Q) I have always been a fan of the vampire film. For the sake of chasing huge profits the classic vampire film has been replaced by brooding teenage boys covered in glitter. The short glimpse of your vampire looks like you went back in time to the classic look favored by F.W. Murnau. If you had gone feature length would you have shown more of your vampire or would you have left it mostly to the imagination?
A) If Night of the Vampire had been made as a feature, yes, I would have shown more of the Vampire but very carefully with only glimpses. Our vampire was definitely inspired by Nosferatu and creating an animal vampire that was the opposite of the Twilight monstrosities. Anyway, I could definitely have a lot of fun making a full length found footage film about vampires. I’d love to expand the lore.
Q) I am doing a series of interviews and post on the subject of found footage film making and the question that seems to get different answers each time is about rehearsing the cast. Did you spend much time rehearsing before shooting or did you jump right in?
A) I always rehearse the cast and I always leave room for improvisation during the actual shoot. We will do one rehearsal and then I go back to the screenplay and make adjustments because a lot of issues and ideas always surface during that time. This is a must for me when doing found footage or any film actually. It also saves a lot of time during actual production.
Q) The found footage genre has become a part of the film making world largely due to the possible return on investment. When these movies hit they hit big like in the case of The Blair Witch, Paranormal Activity and The Devil Inside. Having shoot a short on that has won awards. Do you plan on returning to the genre with a future project? Also do you believe that the genre can survive if it does not expand to include comedy, action, suspense and even straight drama?
A) Yes, I have a new found footage film coming out to our YouTube channel this October 27th, 2014 which I collaborated on with Haunted Vermont and Obscure Vermont. It’s called Dead Static which is an anthology containing three pieces of footage recovered from some of the most haunted places in Vermont. The tales include Emily’s Bridge, Green Mount Cemetery and The Pittsford Haunted House. I shot all three tales on location, which was creepy as Hell. I also tried a lot of new things with this film so we’ll see what happens.
I think the found footage genre can definitely survive without expanding into other genres. It has a huge following of dedicated fans just like the slasher genre does. In my opinion, it’s not going away.
Q) What did you use to shoot the film with? How did it handle the job and have you continued to use that camera?
A) I used a Panasonic HMC150 which is a great camera with good low light sensitivity but for doing found footage out in the middle of nowhere it was simply too big and heavy. At the time, it was all I had access to but the Canon XA10 would have been the camera of choice. On my upcoming film, Dead Static, I was able to finally get access to that camera and it definitely made shooting found footage easier due to its small, lightweight design.
Q) One of the biggest problems encountered by indie film makers is the problem with capturing quality sound especially outdoors, what did you use to record sound with and did you have to do any cleaning up in post?
A) I used a variety of mics during production. A Sennheiser ME66 shotgun and a Sony lavalier mic. I also used a Zoom H4n to capture some audio as well depending on the scene. Sound was extremely difficult to say the least. I did have to clean up some audio in post here and there but a lot of sound design went into the film, which also helped.
Q) Thanks to the drop in the cost of quality equipment such as cameras and editing software the over all cost of indie films is dropping. What was the budget for this short film?
A) The budget is estimated to be about $400. It was one of our least expensive films.
Q) Are you a formally trained film maker or did you learn as many of us have learned, through actually shooting and cutting our own projects?
A) I’m a self-taught filmmaker with a strong distaste for film schools. I’m all about education and learning the rules just not the way many people are brainwashed into thinking it must be done. I’d rather read and study at my own pace from all the information that is freely available via the Internet. There are also so many great books out there you can learn from, it’s endless. Why drop God knows how much money into a film school? In this day and age, it doesn't make sense to me.
Q) Being an indie film maker means wearing all of the hats that we cannot find someone else to put on at any given moment. I looked at the credits from your new short film. I see that you were nearly a one person film crew?
A) Yes, and not something I will repeat again. With future projects, at least ones that are shot in a traditional style, I will not shoot unless I have enough help on crew.
Q) Is there a feature film in future?
A) That is hard to say. The landscape seems to be changing and not into one that seems favorable to that format at least at the independent level. I’d do one if a larger production company or producer was to hire me though. I think at my resource level right now that I would not attempt one but I would love to do a feature at some point in my life.
Q) Any final thoughts or advice for the beginning film maker?
A) Make shorts, experiment and don’t be afraid to fail. Learn everything you can and always work to improve. Patience is key.
Thank you Owen for doing this interview. I look forward to seeing your next project. If you would like to see and to learn more about Owen's work you can click here.. To conclude I would like to offer your last short film, with director’s commentary. I wish more indie film makers would post versions of their work with directors commentary. There are so many little trick of the trade and shortcuts that are learned during a low budget shoot that you can share through a commentary track.
Okay that will be it for today. Please take a moment to share this post with a friend and to add me to your google plus. Again I am looking for trailers to post in my trailer park. If you have one for your upcoming film or know of one you can let me know about it by leaving a comment or contacting me through google plus.