Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Part 2, Found Footage 3D Interview

To learn how to support the Indiegogo campaign for the film Found Footage 3D  please click here.

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No preamble today, this is the second part of the interview with Steven DeGennaro.

Q) Clearly Scream was an influence on the making of this film. The reason I have gone down this road with found footage films is that just when I am ready to throw in the towel and move onto a subject like fan films a movie comes along and gives me hope that there could be something special here. Movies like End of Watch which is not a found footage film, but mimics elements of one and shows me a possible future path for the genre. There are films like The Frankenstein Theory that was fun to watch up until the young doctor Frankenstein decides that it would be a good idea to go and try to talk a ten foot tall homicidal monster out of murdering the rest of his friends. (Spoiler alert, talking softly to someone nicknamed the Monster usual ends badly.) Recently I saw a great film titled Out of Control from the UK. It was shot in the found footage format, but it was a domestic drama instead of a horror film. There is always something like Cannibal Holocaust or Rec 2 to show how good it can get when done well. What found footage films have influenced you?

A) There’s nothing quite like the granddady of them all, The Blair Witch Project.  One of the most effective horror movies of all time, and a completely new experience.  There are people who claim now that it’s only really remembered because it was the first, but I re-watch it once a year or so and it’s just a really, really well-told story and so effective.

For my money, the greatest found footage film of all time is Gareth Evans’ segment from V/H/S/2, “Safe Haven”.  That is as nearly perfect as a short horror film can possibly be.  I love The Sacrament, which has a very similar feel in a lot of places.  I’ve never really understood all the hate that Ti West’s segment in the original V/H/S gets.  That short, to me, really nails what I love about found footage, which is how completely real it feels.  So when you realize that really awful things are about to befall a very real couple, it’s a thousand times more terrifying to me than every ghost story that Hollywood has ever put out combined.

There’s a really obscure film called Skew that also does the same thing very effectively.  This movie was actually made before Paranormal Activity, but didn’t get picked up until much later, which is a shame, because it’s so good.

I totally agree with you about The Frankenstein Theory, which was really well done up until the last ten minutes or so.

Overall, I like movies that really commit to the premise.  I enjoyed Cloverfield and Chronicle and [Rec] and movies like that, but they don’t have the same sort of visceral punch as a movie that really works hard to convince you that it’s real; not necessarily on an intellectual level, but on a visceral one.

Q) In your videos for your film you talk about practical effects. I have always thought that if it is real on the set then it looks real to the audience. I believe that is laziness more than money that makes beginning film makers use cheap CGI for blood, bullet wounds and even scars. I don’t mind CGI for background, it was done well in Gladiator to reproduce ancient Rome and it is done well in the tv series Gotham for making elements of a city that does not exist. How important were practical effects to the making of your film?

A) There’s nothing at all lazy about making any movie, I can assure you, especially a low-budget one.  It’s a grueling process that often takes years to bring to fruition and requires dozens if not hundreds of people working together seamlessly as a unit to pull off.  So I certainly understand where filmmakers are coming from when they decide to use CG instead of practicals a lot of the time.  It’s not about laziness.  It’s definitely about budget, and about control over the final product.

Actually shooting the film is the most costly part of the process.  Every hour you spend on set you are paying dozens of people, most of whom are sitting around waiting at any given time.  So a practical effect that takes time to set up or reset between takes can get very costly very quickly, completely independent of how much the effect itself costs. When you compare that to one or two guys pushing pixels in a studio four months later, you can often get much more bang for your buck with digital.

But as will all things in filmmaking, it requires talent, planning, a lot of work, and a little luck to make any effect work.  Ultimately, CGI is a tool, and like any tool, it has its uses.  I wouldn’t use a hammer to cut a piece of paper, and I wouldn’t use a wrench to drill a hole in something.  It’s all about figuring out which tool works for which problem, within the confines of what you can afford.

So yes... it was very important to me to do as many of the effects practically as we were able to do.  But I didn’t let that stop me from deciding to use CGI where appropriate, either by itself or to enhance the practical effects.  Gore effects rarely look good when they are all CGI, unless you are wiling to spend a lot of money.  But practical effects sometimes don’t work right, and you end up having to fix it later because the sun is coming up and you have to get your shot, one way or another.  That’s a big part of the reason we are doing this Indiegogo campaign: to fix one practical effect that looked awesome when we tested it, but—through no fault of anyone in particular—just didn’t work on the day.  So my choices were either: a) live with the really bad practical effect, b) do a really cheap CGI effect that would look just as bad, or c) spend the time and money to do the CGI right.  I want (c).

Q) You are in the Post stage of your production. This is the most overlooked part of the film making process. Only when the final shoot has been recorded do many first time film makers realize that the hardest part is actually ahead of them. This being your first 3D film were you prepared for the challenges that you are now facing?

A)We did a proof-of-concept in 2013 to test out a lot of the really difficult stuff, especially with regards to the 3D aspect.  So we really worked out a lot of the kinks by going through that process.  We made a ton of mistakes and we learned from them, so we went into the feature with our eyes open.

That said, we still have a long way to go before we’re done.  But I’ve found in making my movies that my complaints in post-production are rarely technical, but usually artistic.  I find myself wishing I had directed an actor differently, or shot something from a different angle, or gotten more coverage of a scene.  Some of those things can be fixed with reshoots and ADR and visual effects, but some of them you have to live with.

I’m getting to the point now in editing the film, especially with the ability to take a few weeks away from it while I concentrated on the Indiegogo campaign, where I’m starting to forget the movie that I intended to shoot and starting to see the movie that I actually shot.  So instead of being about, “Oh, I wish I had done this thing better,” it’s more about “How do I make the best film possible with the materials I have at hand?”

I’m usually my own harshest critic.  But overall, I’m very happy with how the movie is shaping up.  When we’ve shown it to people, they’ve largely laughed in the right places and gasped in the right places, they like the characters, and they come out of it satisfied.  So I think we’re on the right track.

Q) Film makers do what has been done before because it is easy to market. You open a pizza shop and sell the same kinds of pizza as all the others because you do not have to educate a public about a new thing. Found footage shot as 3D is a new thing. You are basically going to be the first person to market stuffed crust pizza. How long did you prep for the marketing challenges?

A) Ugh... this has been the greatest blessing and the greatest curse at the same time.  So many people see the title and they assume that we are making a gimmick, not a movie.  They expect Sharknado, which is a funny concept that’s basically unwatchable as an actual film.  So we have a real uphill battle trying to educate people about what we are trying to do.

We started our marketing efforts very early, and I’m really glad we did.  Aside from amassing more than 25,000 fans before people had even seen a single frame of the finished film, we’ve also been able to really hone our message and figure out how to sell the film to audiences.

I decided to make this movie because I love found footage, and I hate the way that it has become a bit of a joke because there are so many people who are so bad at it who keep flooding the market with crap.  I really feel like it’s exactly the right time for a movie like ours, and that it will appeal to people who love found footage, as well as those who think it’s overdone.  If I can get that message out, I think we’ll do fine.

Ultimately, the movie will speak for itself. If it’s good, people will tell their friends and more people will see it.  Hopefully, it will be good when we are done.

Q) Any advice for future film makers? Particularly those who are going to attempt to jump the found footage hurtle?

A) Don’t.  Found footage is a really tough sell these days precisely because so many people are trying to do it, and so many of them are failing at it.  So unless you have a truly killer idea for something new and original, it’s probably a genre that, at least for the next few years, it’s better to stay away from.  I realize that may sound a little hypocritical coming from a guy who is making a found footage movie, but it’s the truth.

Ultimately any movie is about telling a good story.  And if you are a good storyteller, you will find people who are willing to go along with you on a journey, whether they be actors, investors, crew, producers, etc...  So the best advice I can give—if I’m even qualified for such a thing—is to hone your craft.  Work on as many movie sets as you possibly can and watch and learn from people who really know what they are doing (as well as from the people who clearly don’t know what they are doing).  Go out and make short films.  Get good at it, first.  Then try to make a feature.

Found footage is so tantalizing to first-time filmmakers because it looks easy.  It’s not.  Found footage is not some shortcut where you get to bypass all the essential things you need to know to make a decent film—acting, writing, pacing, camerawork, editing, sound, etc.  There’s a reason why you have to prove that you are good at those things before anyone will give you money to make a real feature.  So get good at those things.  If you think you are capable of making a good feature film, and you have a story that you think is worth telling, then it doesn’t matter whether it’s found footage or not.  It doesn’t matter whether it’s going to cost ten thousand, a hundred thousand, a million, or ten million.  If you’ve proven that you are capable of pulling it off, then people will help you achieve that goal. If you haven’t proven yourself capable of those things, then you have no business wasting everyone’s time and money.

I just happened to want to tell this story, and it happened to be found footage.  If I’d had a more traditional story to tell, I would have worked just as passionately to make that happen, and probably a lot of the same people would have come along for the ride with me.

Ultimately, there is no substitute for hard work, talent, and experience.  If you don’t have those three things, wait until you do.  Because you rarely get a second chance in this business.  Make it count.

Thank you again Steven and good luck with the campaign and the film.

     Okay guys that is it for today please take a moment to like this post on Stumbleupon and to share it with a friend. In closing I would like to add Steven's award winning comedy short film First Date.

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