CAMERA OBSCURA is a horror-thriller film about a veteran war photographer with PSTD who sees imminent deaths in his developed photos, which makes him question his already fragile sanity and puts those he loves in danger. Director Aaron B. Koontz, who cut his teeth in the Austin film scene making shorts, keeps the suspense going and the gore strong in this tense, quick-plotted genre movie. He took some time to chat with Daily Grindhouse about the idea behind the film, making the leap from directing shorts to a feature, and more.
Daily Grindhouse: How did you come up with the idea for this film?
Aaron B. Koontz: A co-worker of mine was talking about how they wouldn’t let him take pictures of the locals. This was something I’d heard before. Then the goal was trying to tie in PTSD and create an unreliable narrator of sorts. We tried to make in interesting from there and take it in different directions.
Daily Grindhouse: What was the leap like from directing shorts to directing a first feature film?
Aaron B. Koontz: Well, it was scary at first, but everything is the same except the length. You have to come prepared and really concentrate and focus. But then you jump into an atmosphere I can’t quite describe — it’s really magical.
Daily Grindhouse: What was it like working with your writing partner, Cameron Burns?
Aaron B. Koontz: There’s a threshold where we both know what ideas we’re going to like. It’s a strong partnership and works out well. You just have to understand that sometimes you’re going to propose ideas that aren’t going to work. We would schedule time in the day from 10 to 6, and even if we weren’t writing we were having discussions about the plot, exploring characters, things like that.
Daily Grindhouse: How was working in the Austin film scene a formative influence on your work?
Aaron B. Koontz: I love Austin, there’s so many talented filmmakers in this town–we formed a group of genre filmmakers here where we all support each other’s successes and failures. Some of us have other features coming out this year. It’s a great group and I couldn’t imagine working without them.
Daily Grindhouse: The music and sound effects really add to the impact of the film. What was it like working with musician Steve Moore?
Aaron B. Koontz: Well, Steve was one of the first people I contacted. He worked on V/H/S and THE GUEST and I just fell in love with his music. Steve loved the script and got behind it and really stayed behind it all the way. And I’m very much in love with the music. I feel like he really influences how people feel with the score.
Daily Grindhouse: What was it like working with the cast, which included some pretty big names, as compared to working with the cast on your shorts?
Aaron B. Koontz: It was definitely daunting. We had members directed by Scorsese, Affleck, and Mike Nichols, and cast members who had been on Broadway. But Christopher Denham was so intelligent and so smart. I was nervous, but that just washed away. They all spoke my language. And Nadja Bobyleva, I was just in awe to watch her work. We were all friends, which helped. You find yourself appreciating actors much more.
Daily Grindhouse: The gore effects are quite impressive in the film. What was it like creating those on a limited budget?
Aaron B. Koontz: Well, all the credit goes to Barry Aslinger and the effects crew. They came up with a lot of hacks like particular angles, and the lighting was very important. They were rock stars, and I couldn’t have made the movie without them.
Chiller Films will be releasing CAMERA OBSCURA in Theaters on June 9th and on VOD / Digital HD on June 13th.