FOUND FOOTAGE 3D had its world premiere Saturday, September 20th at the 2016 Bruce Campbell Horror Film Festival in Chicago, IL and by all accounts they tore the roof off the place. Contrary to popular belief, there’s more to making a found footage film than just a handful of friends wandering out into the woods with a camera and hoping for greatness. Turns out it takes a village, or in this case a family, to make the world’s first 3D found footage film. I was lucky enough to be able to review the film leading up to its premiere last night and to get the opportunity to sit down with that family, the cast and crew of FOUND FOOTAGE 3D and pick their brains while the stellar reaction from the horror diehards at the BCHFF was still sinking in.
Below, I speak with writer-director Steven DeGennaro, producers Charles Mulford, Scott Weinberg, and the cast of the film, Carter Roy (Derek), Alena von Stroheim (Amy), Chris O’Brien (Mark), Tom Saporito (Andrew), Scott Allen Perry (Carl), and Jessica Perrin (Lily).
Nathan Steinmetz, DG: First things first, I just wanted to congratulate you all for making a hell of a movie.
Scott Weinberg: Thank you, Nathan.
DG: I’m going to be completely honest, my two favorite horror films are SCREAM and THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT so this movie was kind of tailor made for me.
Scott Weinberg: You’re our demographic, man.
Steven DeGennaro: Those are my favorite scary movies too, so.
DG: My first question is pretty straightforward. Found footage and 3D movies are probably the most maligned of all horror sub-genres, but I think when they’re done well, like in FF3D, they can be pretty amazing. How did the idea for FOUND FOOTAGE 3D come about, and was it always going to be both found footage AND 3D?
Steven DeGennaro: Yeah, it started off as found footage. My two favorite Scream and Blair Witch. It was one of those out of the blue moments where I realized, “Nobody’s done that yet for found footage.” It was probably time because we were starting to get to the point, and this was four years ago, that it was starting to wear thin, or starting to get to the HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME versions of found footage movies. I wanted to make the SCREAM of the found footage genre and that was sort of the genesis of the idea. When it came down to writing that script, the structure felt very obvious to me. You need people who are making a found footage movie and we’re sort of seeing them make the found footage movie inside of the found footage movie. Once I established the relationship between Derek, Carter’s character, the producer and Tom’s character Andrew, the director, almost any ridiculous, weird, or stupid idea I had about how to market the movie, was something I could get away with doing by making my characters do it. For example, I realized I could write a horror blogger character in the movie as himself and then I get to cast to cast somebody that has forty thousand Twitter followers…
Scott Weinberg: I’m not a blogger!
Steven DeGennaro: Right, well a film reviewer, in the script it was a blogger. But then we found Scott [Scott Weinberg, producer/actor/real-life film critic] and…
Scott Weinberg: I’ve never written for a blog.
Steven DeGennaro (laughing): Okay. Alright. So the 3D, we were three of four drafts into the script and I was watching JACKASS 3D and realized, they shot these movies on 3D camcorders and these were things that existed…
Charles Mulford: And it looks good!
Steven DeGennaro: Exactly, this is the kind of thing a jackass movie producer would think to do. So, I’ll have my jackass movie producer do it! And maybe that makes me a jackass movie producer as well but like I can get away with it.
Scott Weinberg: Because you’re mocking yourself.
Steven DeGennaro: Right. Now 3D is organic to my story even if it’s not organic to their story. That’s when I called up Charles (Mulford, producer) …
Charles Mulford: He called his jackass producer.
Steven DeGennaro: …and went, “Is this crazy?” We started crunching numbers and trying to figure out if this would cost us a lot more to do that and it turns out it really wouldn’t, so it’s like, “Let’s do it!”.
Charles Mulford: I production managed a movie with Kim Henkel in 2010 [BUTCHER BOYS] that we talked about doing in 3D, that was a much more composed, we were going to shoot on the RED but we just couldn’t do that on the budget we had. With the found footage movie, we could do that we; we could shoot on a prosumer camera and all of a sudden it became really attainable.
Steven DeGennaro: What I didn’t expect when I made that decision was how well the two things would work together. The immersiveness of the 3D and the immersiveness that’s required for found footage worked together really well, and as I saw that it worked its way more and more into the story and the way we planned on shooting this movie.
DG: That is something I was pretty surprised about. Considering I do think of found footage as very immersive and 3D is also very immersive but you tend to see in these huge, gigantic productions. You see in things like PACIFIC RIM which are elaborate and beautiful but also border on cartoons and so it was really interesting seeing those two things mesh so well. Especially with certain elements like the depth of field, it really amps up the immersiveness of the found footage and puts you inside this world with the characters as the story explodes.
Scott Weinberg: One of the first things Steven (DeGennaro, director) and I talked about, you know, he said he’d read a lot of my reviews and said, “You’re a defender of found footage and you’re not a fan of 3D.” and I said, “Precisely right. To this day it’s the still the same, found footage has a lot of potential that people don’t give it credit for and in many cases 3D is kind of just window dressing.
DG: It’s tacked on.
Scott Weinberg: It’s like they’re saying their movie isn’t interesting enough but if they put it up there right in your face, maybe you’ll want to come see that. I could not be more impressed with the way the 3D looks in this movie and that it fits so well. It’s such a ridiculous idea but it works and it looks like a million bucks, and that’s a testament to Steven’s ideas.
DG: It’s about intimacy, both being found footage and in 3D. There are a lot of people who believe that found footage is just some friends wandering out into the woods with a camera and having kept up with the production via your YouTube channel that is clearly not the case.
Scott Weinberg: We are not friends.
DG: It was great seeing behind the lens like that. I was wondering if you all could elaborate on what some of the biggest obstacles were in getting this movie made?
Steven DeGennaro: Charles and I spent two years writing the script and trying to raise the money. It was very much one of those things were there were a thousand doors closed in our faces. Charles has produced a couple of movies before, and production managed movies, but you know this is my first feature as a director. I have a short that I think turned out pretty well [2011’s FIRST DATE, below]. So I had that in my corner but I’m just going like “Give us a bunch of money to make this movie that could turn out just completely terrible if I don’t know what the fuck I’m doing.”
DG: Is that when Kim Henkel came onboard?
Steven DeGennaro: Having Kim onboard, having his name, having the brand of THE TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE helped us get investors, but what I was not expecting when we got Kim involved was how having him as a person was going to end up helping to sort of shape the movie and the script. One of his conditions to coming onboard was that he had some issues with the script as it existed when he came on and he and I spent seven or eight months while we’re still trying to raise money going over draft after draft after draft. Kim is amazing, insightful, just amazing. He read every draft with such care. If I cheated on anything, if I smudged anything. If there was anything in that script that I was hoping people wouldn’t notice he would hone in on it, if the logic didn’t make sense, and the first thing he’d say when we sat down would be, “This doesn’t make any sense.”
Scott Weinberg: A lot of people see a name like Kim Henkel, co-creator of TEXAS CHAINSAW and think, “Oh, a well-known filmmaker from 30 years ago threw his name on the movie.” That happens in a lot of cases but it did not happen here. When Steven started telling me how involved Kim was on the creative side, on the script note side, I was really impressed that he cared that much.
Steven DeGennaro: He believed in me as a filmmaker. We did this little proof of concept, this little four-minute movie with a different set of actors just to show everyone what it would look like, and we showed that to Kim and we showed that to the audience and we had that to show to potential investors. Once they’d seen that they could see that I knew how to take this from the script to the screen.
Charles Mulford: Kim’s a super humble guy, he kind of hates going up in public and being recognized. He’d rather kind of be the unsung hero than in the spotlight. That he came to that event, to see what we had done, that was really, really moving for me. That he believed in our project really inspired us and let us know that we had something here.
Steven DeGennaro: To have a guy whose career began with Tobe Hooper and THE TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE, to have him say he has complete faith in my abilities, and that he believes in me as a director, it’s like, “Well shit.”
Scott Weinberg: One speed bump that we hit early on, not so much now, was the name. One well known film critic on Twitter, when he was asked about the name said and I quote, “Burn it in an incinerator.” Before it was even shot! We’re really trying hard, and the name is meant to be ironic. We get that the idea of a found footage film in 3D outside the realm of this movie is ridiculous. That’s what makes it funny. It’s ridiculous, and these guys shouldn’t be doing this, and that’s what makes it so much fun. We’re hoping that people get like, the innate irony of the title.
DG: My next question is for Alena. Your character Amy has some pretty emotional films throughout the film. I know that this question is a little bit meta because your character literally gets asked this in the film, but I figure with the meta nature of the movie we’re allowed to go a little meta in the interview. So, how does acting in a found footage film differ from more traditional roles like in your film THE ACTIVIST?
Alena von Stroheim: Oh, gosh. There were a lot of unknowns, and it was terrifying in many ways, because I felt a certain responsibility to give a very naturalistic performance. We were given a lot of freedom on set, but I had some amazing cast-mates and a wonderful director. Everyone on set was very respectful and very protective of the work that we were doing. When we needed quiet, when we needed a show of respect we were given it. I didn’t feel bullied or pushed to produce something if it wasn’t there.
Chris O’Brien: Even when you were hopped up on Benadryl.
Steven DeGennaro: She got poison ivy super early in the shoot, but even when she was hopped up on Benadryl, if I asked her to bring it, she brought it.
Alena von Stroheim: I think it was just feeling very supported. There were some unknowns. There were times when the lines were as they were written on page and sometimes they meandered but I always felt like I was being supported by both cast and crew and that was very freeing. I think the final scene, which was very challenging. It was four in the morning, we were tired and Steven had a lot of faith. He was like, “Don’t push it until you’re ready, and then give it.” I felt very respected as an actor, as though I’d been given permission to whatever it takes.
DG: I definitely think that that “permission” paid off. Especially in that last scene, which is very powerful. You can feel a lot of things working and coming to a head.
Steven DeGennaro: About that scene… I had to trust her. We more or less shot in order. That was the very last thing that we shot. I couldn’t see her, there was no way to see her because the cameras were facing each other. I could see Chris’ face, because I’m hiding in the back of the van, but I couldn’t see her. I could just hear her performance. It was a testament to our relationship, and to my faith in her abilities. By that point in the shoot I completely trusted her, and I knew that I didn’t have to see her to know I was getting a really good performance. I didn’t see her performance until like two weeks after we were done shooting.
Scott Weinberg: It also helps that Alena is, in every sense of the term, a world class actor. She could do anything. I watched her for a week and a half and I’m still impressed, I’m still amazed by how good of an actor she is.
Alena von Stroheim: Oh, thank you.
Scott Weinberg: They’re all good but Alena had a lot of heavy lifting to do in this movie.
DG: I’ve got a question for Carter next. Derek is a pretty interesting character. He’s charming, he’s believable, he’s naturalistic, but he’s also a bit of a sleaze. Without naming names, does your portrayal of Derek have any specific inspirations?
Carter Roy (laughing): Well, I definitely can’t name names but I’ve been on a number of sets, and that’s not to hide names, but I’ve been around that energy. Making films in particular, with that sort of sixteen hours a day obsessive nature of some people in charge of the shoot means they have a different sort of ethic than everyone else. Everyone else can be sensitive about themselves, about their boundaries, and an independent film can fall apart if everyone is like that. Sometimes it takes someone to push past that to get the job done. I think that’s kind of what I had in mind, generally.
DG: I think that reads; he can go full on into that shyster filmmaker territory but you still feel for him.
Carter Roy: It’s funny with him, because his act is sort of the “nice guy”.
Steven DeGennaro: He wants to be liked.
Carter Roy: Right, he wants to be liked. So that anger, that stuff that’s not nice, that’s his vulnerability, that’s when he gets nasty: when he cares about something. When he’s acting nice that’s the stuff he doesn’t care about.
Steven DeGennaro: What makes that character work is so much about Carter. Throughout reading the script over and over again, you just kind of think, “This character is really a dick. Maybe we should soften him or tone him down or whatever.” Knowing it would be Carter doing it, I knew it would work. Carter is so charming naturally that even though you hate him, you can’t help but feel for him.
DG: Specifically, on that front, the scene I think that shines through the most, that sort of vulnerable aggression is when Derek is confronting Carl about his equipment.
Scott Weinberg: When Derek says to Carl, “Your equipment belongs to me.” and he has no response for it, that just really breaks my heart.
Steven DeGennaro: I don’t know if you remember this, you probably do, but Scott (Carl) had a great note for Carter in that scene. This one of those things I really loved about working with these actors, that it really felt like they were working together on their performances without stepping on each other’s toes. At one point, in the first couple takes of that, Scott was like, “Come at me with anger.” Which was not a thing that Carter was sort of doing naturally at that point. That allowed them to sort of get to that much more vulnerable place. The dynamic of that scene just shifted.
Scott Allen Perry: I feel like that was throughout the entire process. I think everyone was really comfortable, maybe not so much as a group, but you’d find one of the other actors and go to them and ask, “Does this feel weird to you?” or “Does this seem like a good idea to you?” We all had that sort of comfort zone where you could get to places you had no idea you wanted to be with that kind of freedom.
Steven DeGennaro: I believe in casting good actors and then getting out of their way. That’s my directing style. Maybe you just nudge the steering wheel this way or that way.
DG: Scott, as I said in my review, Carl is basically everything I aspire to be in life.
Scott Allen Perry: Yeah, what does that mean? I read that and wondered what that meant.
DG: He just reads as this sort of put together badass, but he’s also clearly got an emotional and vulnerable core. There’s just something intangible about him that I really relate to. Plus I mean, he’s a snarky dude with a beard. So how did Steven’s experience as a bearded sound guy (Steven DeGennaro, director) color your performance of Carl, a bearded sound guy?
Scott Allen Perry: I’m playing Steven! I just realized that! The interesting thing was when I read the, the scenes that I read, I really connected with him. I don’t know how many people know this, but I almost wasn’t even told that I was being considered for this movie. My agent at the time was so shitty, I think they were trying to track me down for like three months.
Steven DeGennaro: You were one of the first people that submitted a video but we didn’t get around to figuring out Carl until quite a bit later. You were always on the top of the pile but I don’t know that we’d ever communicated.
Scott Allen Perry: No, we never did. Our casting director called me, and I was in London at the time, and they said “We’ve been trying to get in touch with you for three months and your agent will not return our emails or our calls.” I apologized and called my agent and was like, “What the fuck?” I thought I was going to get the part, you know, when I auditioned for it. When I did the tape I was like, “It’s mine. It’s fucking mine.” And I stopped shaving. And I started eating a lot of dessert. You know, that’s just how I saw him.
Steven DeGennaro: Trying to look a little more, you know, like me?
Scott Allen Perry: I’d never seen you before but that’s just what I was going for. So when I found that out, you know, I happened to be flying in on the very last day of the casting process. Flying back to L.A. That’s when I showed up and read with Carter, and I just thought. Oh man, they have to cast this guy. I can’t imagine anyone being better than him and if they don’t cast me they’re total idiots!
Steven DeGennaro: We almost didn’t! We had a local actor in Austin, a friend of mine, and he was really good with a totally different take. The producers were like, well, if we cast a local guy we don’t have to spend as much money flying him down to Austin, we probably don’t have to spend as much money. At that point though I’d had conversations with you, I’d skyped with you, and I knew with this other actor that I’d get the Carl I had written on the page but that if we went with Scott he would just take it to the next level, that Scott would just bring so much more to that role than I intended it to have.
Scott Weinberg: I think people love him you know, because he’s a wise ass but then when he starts to be kind of vulnerable –
Steven DeGennaro: He’s the audience surrogate.
Scott Weinberg: Yeah, him and Jess (Jessica Perrin, Lily).
Scott Allen Perry: That was exactly what I thought I could accomplish on a selfish, personal, performance level. That’s exactly what happened through that whole process. I think everybody probably feels the same. You get to a take character that’s already something you’re attracted to, that you think is fun but then you actually get to make it your own, bring everything in that character to the surface. I think a lot of times you see really good performances in really shitty movies because sometimes those performances are showboating. Sometimes that’s in the script, but sometimes it’s just an actor saying I’m going to do everything I can with this. With this I think everybody gave a shit about being the best that they could be and knew that the movie was going to be fucking awesome.
Tom Saporito: The first feature I was ever in, I hated it. I don’t like it. My friend told me though that I’d done the best possible that I could have done with that shitty script. That was not the case on this film, we were really lucky to have the script we had.
Scott Weinberg: I showed up halfway through the shoot and I was so impressed by the chemistry between the cast. Not only are they good actors but they found people who like each other and play well off each other. I couldn’t be happier with the cast; they were all great.
DG: One last question, and this is for anyone. Is there anything you’d like to say about FOUND FOOTAGE 3D that you haven’t gotten the chance to say just yet?
Steven DeGennaro: Buy it!
Charles Mulford: What’s been really encouraging is everyone we’ve shown the trailer to, everyone that’s seen the movie, everyone we’ve told the concept to has been really excited about it and that’s been really awesome. The next step is just convincing distributors of that. So, you know, we’re encouraged and excited to see that process unfold.
Scott Allen Perry: I would just say that the bottom line is it doesn’t matter if you like horror movies or don’t. It doesn’t matter what genre this movie is, it’s a really good movie. That’s why everybody reacts to it positively.
Scott Weinberg: I could not have been more elated with last night’s reaction. It was my fondest dream that people would like it, and they liked it. They liked it a lot. I just personally couldn’t be more thrilled for Steven and for everyone at this table.
Steven DeGennaro: We’re really grateful to Josh and Bruce and everyone at Bruce Campbell Horror Festival and to you for your glowing review.
DG: Thank you.
Scott Weinberg: No, thank you. We’re going to rely on press to champion this movie and to have three or four positive reviews right out of the gate, we’re going to get some negative ones, but to have that reaction right out of the gate is so rewarding and so helpful.
DG: Glad we can help! Thank you guys so much for your time today, I really appreciate it.
FOUND FOOTAGE 3D will receive it’s international premiere August 29th at FRIGHTFEST.