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Interview: Eduardo Sanchez and Gregg Hale on “V/H/S/2”, “Exists”

Sanchez and Hale [via Youtube]

Sanchez and Hale [via Youtube]

When developing a found footage anthology film, there are only a select few filmmakers one can turn to for inspiration in terms of successfully executing the format. Of course, one can look at Oren Peli’s one-and-done zeitgeist-capturing Paranormal Activity, Matt Reeves’s perspective-twisting Cloverfield or the terrifying yet inimitable REC. And while exploitation and horror fiends will cite Cannibal Holocaust, Man Bites Dog and August Underground as the boldest entries in the early years of the subgenre, there’s not a single horror fan on Earth who can argue the impact, culturally and commercially, of The Blair Witch Project. And despite distancing themselves from that particular property, including the much-maligned sequel, and working primarily in the independent horror community ever since, filmmaker Eduardo Sanchez and producer Gregg Hale have returned to the subgenre that they helped redefine with a segment in V/H/S/2.

And while fast zombies dominate the box office in World War Z and the zombie apocalypse crushes rating records on The Walking Dead, Sanchez and Hale take a more traditional path for “A Ride in the Park”, a tale of a go-pro equipped biking enthusiast who becomes a zombie while attacked during a morning ride. Sanchez and Hale’s first co-directorial outing creates a fresh atmosphere for the slow zombie by placing the action from the undead’s perspective, so we see panicking victims and violent retaliators through a previously untapped point-of-view. Sanchez and Hale spoke to Diabolique about their venture back into the video aesthetic, and their role in the past, present and future of found footage…

"A Ride in the Park"

“A Ride in the Park”

DIABOLIQUE: In your V/H/S/2 segment, you put a point-of-view perspective into the zombie genre, which has become quite a bit of a hot commodity as of late. Was there anything about the zombie subgenre that you specifically wanted to avoid or embrace in “A Ride in the Park”?

GREGG HALE: For us, it didn’t really start with the zombie idea. It was that we had this opportunity to work on V/H/S/2, and then Jamie Nash, who wrote “A Ride in the Park”, came up with the idea. As soon as he showed us his treatment, we knew that’s what we wanted to do. I’m definitely a fan of the zombie subgenre, but we didn’t go into the segment thinking “Zombies!” The starting point for us was our love for Jamie’s idea and script. When it came to picking what kind of zombie we wanted to do, we saw what Jamie was doing, because Jamie is a huge, huge horror fan. His whole approach to “A Ride in the Park” was deconstructing the zombie subgenre, a little bit. How does a zombie become a zombie? Is there a learning process to becoming a zombie?

For us, we took the basic approach to the zombie because there’s a lot to take from the fast-moving kinds of zombie but if we’re going to deconstruct the zombies, we can’t do anything new with the zombies. They needed to be slow, they had to be half-rotten and their eyes needed to be kind of funky. We didn’t want people thinking too much about the zombies, except for the fact that they’re zombies. Instead, we wanted them to be thinking about how we’re playing with the subgenre.

DIABOLIQUE: V/H/S/2 is your return to straightforward found footage since The Blair Witch Project, and you’ll be using the format again for your upcoming Bigfoot film, Exists. Was the process of using found footage this time around more difficult, as to be cognizant not to repeat anything, or were you able to take advantage of your previous experience with the techniques?

EDUARDO SANCHEZ: It was definitely challenging, although making a film in general is always challenging. But I was more excited about it [this time around]. After Blair Witch, we just didn’t want to follow that with another found footage movie, and this was before Paranormal Activity and Cloverfield. Honestly, we thought that [found footage] was sort of a gimmick. What we shot for Blair Witch worked for Blair Witch because of the story. The story was about filmmakers who had gotten lost, and following that, to do another found footage film would be gimmicky.

So [Gregg and I] wanted to stay away from found footage as long as possible, but once Cloverfield came out, that subgenre became really popular. So, getting back into it, I felt really comfortable working in found footage. I think that I’m pretty good at it and all the stuff we learned on Blair Witch came back pretty quickly, but I love the idea of how [found footage] evolved. Obviously, V/H/S was a part of that evolution. [Found footage] is a very different thing now than it was with Blair Witch.

It was really interesting to go back in there and try to figure it out. Like, Exists has a full score, and it’s not orchestral but it fits in with the found footage thing. That was completely different than what we did on Blair Witch or what other found footage movies did earlier on. To me, I felt more comfortable [with “A Ride in the Park”]. I’d make more found footage movies. I’m not as opposed to it as I was after I had made Blair Witch.

"A Ride in the Park"

“A Ride in the Park”

DIABOLIQUE: One element that makes “A Ride in the Park” stand out is the use of multiple cameras and perspectives throughout the short. Was there anything that you wanted to try to achieve in the short that you couldn’t, either from the limited perspective, the budget of the film or in keeping the short grounded in a sense of reality?

HALE: It was kind of the opposite, really. Ed and I have a fair amount of experience in the low-budget world. We’re pretty good at seeing things on the page and going, “Okay, we have ‘x’ amount of time and ‘x’ amount of money.” We have a pretty good sense of what we can pull off and what we can’t, so we didn’t really try for anything that we couldn’t pull off. I think that the opposite is true because I think a lot of things turned out better than I had imagined they were going to. I think the truck [part] turned out really well. We knew we were going to pull it off, but we didn’t know exactly how it was going to go. But that went really well.

[Minor Spoiler Warning]

In the script stage, there was a lot of things with that idea, like originally, he was going to be hit by the car, flip over the car and land on the other side. We tried different tests on doing that, but ultimately, him being hit and being run over by the truck ended up being easier. So we figured that part out just through testing. But we figured that part out during the pre-production stage. There wasn’t anything that we tried that we didn’t pull off, mostly because we didn’t have a lot of time to experiment on set.

[End Spoiler Warning]

DIABOLIQUE: V/H/S/2 marks the first time in quite some time that you both have been involved in directing a short-form film project. Was it jarring to be thrown back into short-form filmmaking, in the aspects of time management and story structure, or was it a relief not to be burdened with the process of working on a feature length film?

SANCHEZ: Well, you know, some things were challenging and some things were a relief. I had just finished Exists, so I’d just come off of a 21 day shoot. So for me, it was being able to shoot a movie in two weekends near my house and have a co-director that I could trust. I knew [Gregg] wasn’t going to let anything fall between the cracks. It just helps. It was like a little vacation after shooting this Bigfoot movie, even though I had a lot of fun shooting the Bigfoot movie too.

But this was fun. I hadn’t done a short since film school. Honestly, that’s not to disregard short films because they bring their own challenges and their own skill set to deliver them. But I hadn’t thought about making short films at all since film school, and for me, V/H/S/2 piqued my interest. We’ve actually been talking to a few other people about doing more anthologies. I’m the first one in line. I loved doing this; it was very refreshing from the long haul of feature films.

Sanchez / Hale's first found footage production, "The Blair Witch Project"

Sanchez / Hale’s first found footage production, “The Blair Witch Project”

DIABOLIQUE: Gregg, this was your first venture into directorial work, despite being Eduardo’s longtime production partner. What was the most difficult aspect of transitioning from producer to director? Was co-directing with Eduardo a more assuring aspect or were you concerned about stepping on each other’s toes?

HALE: Yeah, stepping on one another’s toes was probably the biggest concern. I think when you look at co-directing, you see that there’s not a lot of it happening and when it does happen, it’s either brothers or sisters. I know there’s the Soska Twins who have that movie American Mary coming out. I think there’s a reason that siblings can do it but not a lot of other people can, because they can smack each other in the face and be okay after that. So I was most concerned with how Ed and I were going to balance our duties and the emotional responses, more than anything else.

By and large, we did really well. Creatively and logistically, it was pretty easy. I’ve been directing stuff and I’ve been doing a lot of advertising and commercials, so the directing itself wasn’t an issue. Working with Ed wasn’t an issue so much, but the emotional aspects of actually co-directing was the biggest challenges. I think we did good, though. Don’t you think, Ed?

SANCHEZ: Yeah, man. We didn’t kill each other so that was a good thing.

DIABOLIQUE: What can you both tell us about Exists? Do you both have anything else genre-related on your slates?

SANCHEZ: You know, we’ve always got something. We want to keep making films as long as we can. We have quite a few things that we’re working on right now that are in various stages of development. We have a few scripts that we’re trying to get out there on all different budget levels. Sure, there’s some genre stuff. We’re also finishing up Exists and hoping to get a domestic distribution partner soon. But for now, we’ve got scripts and we’re working on a reality show for ABC that’s coming out early next year.  We’re busy, but hopefully we’ll make another film this fall. We’re just trying to put the pieces in place for that to happen.

"V/H/S/2"

“V/H/S/2”

V/H/S/2, which features segments from Sanchez, Hale, Jason Eisener, Gareth Evans, Timo Tjahjanto, Adam Wingard and Simon Barrett, will be in select theaters from Magnet Releasing this Friday, July 12th, and is currently available for rental on VOD, iTunes, Amazon and other streaming services. For more from Gregg Hale,  you can follow him on Twitter: @GeeHell. Sanchez’s next film, Exists, is currently in post-production, and previous Hale-Sanchez collaborations The Blair Witch Project,  Altered and Lovely Molly are available on DVD, with Molly available on Blu-ray as well and the latter two films available on Netflix Instant Streaming. For more from Sanchez, Hale and Magnet Releasing, as well as our blow-out coverage for V/H/S/2, keep checking back at DiaboliqueMagazine.com! And don’t forget to pick up Diabolique #17 later this month, which features more exclusive comments on V/H/S/2!

– By Ken W. Hanley

Ken W. Hanley is the Web Editor for Diabolique Magazine, as well as a contributing writer for Diabolique Magazine and Fangoria Magazine. He’s a graduate from Montclair State University, where he received an award for Excellence in Screenwriting. He’s currently working on several screenplays spanning over different genres and subject matter, and can be followed on Twitter: @movieguyiguess.

About Ken W. Hanley

Ken W. Hanley is the Web Editor for Fangoria Magazine, as well as a contributing writer for Diabolique Magazine. He’s a graduate from Montclair State University, where he received an award for Excellence in Screenwriting. He’s currently working on several screenplays spanning over different genres and subject matter, and can be followed on Twitter: @movieguyiguess.

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