Love it or hate it (I love it), the found footage genre has established itself as one of the most successful sub genres of horror ever! And today I talked to Steven DeGennaro, writer and director of “Found Footage 3D”, a film that, in his words, is set to be the “Scream” of found footage films. Here’s how it went down:
John Lepper: Mr. DeGennaro, thank you very much for this opportunity to interview you. So, you’re right now directing a film you wrote called Found Footage 3D. What can you tell me about it?
Steven DeGennaro: Found Footage 3D tells the story of a group of filmmakers who go out to a cabin in the woods of Central Texas to shoot “the first 3D found footage horror movie”, but find themselves *in* a found footage horror movie when the evil entity from their film escapes into their behind-the-scenes footage. What Scream did for slasher movies, that’s what we are trying to do for found footage. So, like Scream, the characters in our movie know all of the rules, tricks, and cliches of the genre, and we use that to comment on found footage tropes in a smart and funny way, but at the same time, also like Scream, it is first and foremost a horror movie, not a spoof. We take those same tropes and turn them on their heads, and show how effective they can be when done right.
JL: Sounds like a great concept! The genre definitely has become a bit stale and could use some new ideas and that’s an original one for sure. What is it about the found footage genre that drew you to it, would you say?
SD: When found footage is done right, what it is able to do is ground a story in the real world that you and I live in. Movies usually tend to be about heightened reality. John McClane can take any number of bullets, each of which would probably cause a real person to bleed to death, and wrap a bandana around it and keep on fighting. Similarly, in most horror movies, there’s an insulation that you feel as an audience member because you are always aware on some level that you are watching fiction. So things that would probably terrify you in real life are treated as preamble to something bigger and scarier.
In the world that you and I live in, however, there are any number of things that could (and do) happen that would barely register as “creepy” in a traditional horror movie that would seriously undermine your sense of safety and security. If you’ve ever had a loved one pass out in front of you for unexplained reasons and not been able to revive them, it’s absolutely terrifying. But that happens in movies all the time and it’s often even played for laughs.
At the same time, think of how people reacted a few months ago to video of that basketball player breaking his leg during a game. Every single headline said something like “[Warning: Graphic Video]”. By typical horror movie standards, of course, it was not remotely graphic. But by real world standards, it was absolutely disgusting and really, really difficult to watch.
So found footage, when it is done well, by being explicitly about “real people” in “real situations”, can emotionally fool you into reacting more the way you would to seeing something real. Think about the mileage that The Blair Witch Project got out of some stick figures, creepy noises in the distance, and a few bloody teeth. That, to me, is what found footage does well, and that’s the kind of grounded tone I’m trying to hit with Found Footage 3D.
JL: That’s the answer I was hoping you’d give. Found footage gets very mixed reactions, in my experience. But I love the genre. Having been on movie sets, I am always aware when watching a standard movie that I am doing just that. The illusion is spoiled a bit for me. Found footage though lets me hold onto a bit of that illusion.
Now, my next question is, how did you come up with the idea for a 3D found footage film?
SD: The original concept didn’t involve 3D at all. It was just about these people making a shitty found footage movie and finding themselves in a *good* found footage movie. But one of the cool things about making a movie about people making a movie is that we can use their bad decisions to our advantage. So one day I was thinking about the script, probably somewhere around draft 3 or 4, and I realized that the producer character in the movie, who is constantly making dumb artistic decisions because he thinks that it will make him lots of money, could decide to shoot his movie in 3D, even though that doesn’t make a damn bit of sense, and that would give us a reason to shoot *our* movie in 3D, which had never been done before.
I immediately dismissed the idea as ridiculous. But it kinda grew on me. So some time later I called up our producer Charles Mulford and told him I had a completely crazy idea and I needed him to talk me out it. Unfortunately, he loved the idea as much as I did. So we did some research and figured out if it was even going to be possible to shoot in 3D, and how much it would cost us. We were stunned to realize that it was really not going to be that difficult or expensive.
So over the course of the next few drafts of the script, I started working the 3D aspect into the story, and the more I did, the more excited I got about the things that we could do with 3D that no movie had ever been able to do before. More than two years later, here we are. And I’m really happy we made the decision, because I think we’re doing something unique with the medium.
JL: That’s great! Again, 3D gets some detractors, but so did movies with sound. It’s just the next step and it’s cool that you can claim yours as the first to do it in this genre.
So, I am aware you have Kim Henkel, one of the writers and producers of Texas Chainsaw Massacre, as a producer. How did you meet up with him?
SD: Our other producer Charles worked on a movie called Butcher Boys a few years ago that Kim wrote and directed. Charles and I, as first-time filmmakers in a genre known for its deluded wannabes, were having some trouble convincing people that we knew what we were doing. I’ve made some award-winning short films, and Charles has production-managed a couple of low-budget features, but we’d never made a movie from scratch before, so people didn’t exactly take us too seriously. So we decided we needed someone to give the project some credibility, and we asked Kim to take a look at the script.
He liked it, but he didn’t love it and was unsure about putting his name on it, so we invited him to a screening of my work as a director, including a 5-minute proof-of-concept for Found Footage 3D. Kim was very impressed with what he saw and decided to come aboard.
He still had some reservations about the script, so we went back and forth for a few months really honing it. He’d give me notes–very detailed notes, every time–and I’d hammer out a new draft, and he really pushed me to write the absolute best script I could. I was proud of the script when we sent it to him. I’d already spent a year writing it by that point, and I think we could have shot with that script and made a really kick-ass movie. But with his guidance, the script that we ended up with is a thousand times better. I consider him a friend and mentor and I couldn’t imagine this movie without him.
JL: That’s really great! I love how a lot of the legends have started getting involved in indie work as of late. It really shows they care about the genre as a whole.
This movie sounds like a lot of work and passion is being put into it and I am really stoked to see it. Before I let you go, do you have anything else you want to share on this or any other projects on the horizon?
SD: I can barely think ahead to next week, let alone the next project. I have some other scripts that I’m working on, but a lot will depend on how well Found Footage 3D does and what kinds of opportunities that opens for me.
Right now I’m finishing the movie hoping to have a cut ready for the SXSW Film Festival deadline. I’m currently spending most of my time managing our Indiegogo campaign, which turns out to be way more work than I expected, but also way more fun. We’re trying to raise an additional $35,000 to cover some unexpected visual effects for the film, and one of the perks we are doing is a custom no-budget re-creation of famous scenes from horror movies. We did a bunch of them for our pitch video, and now we’re doing a bunch more for contributors. It is a hell of a lot of fun, and I’m really excited about sharing them with people.
The first one just went up today. It was created by one of our actors and it’s pretty epic.
JL: Awesome! Well, it was really great talking with you! Thanks for this opportunity. I really am looking forward to seeing the finished product.
SD: Thanks, John. Great talking to you.
There you have it, dear readers! Found Footage 3D sounds like just the thing the genre needs.
Found Footage 3D IMDB
Found Footage 3D Indiegogo
Stay up to date on all the news, reviews, and interviews by liking us on Facebook!
Notify me of follow-up comments by email.
Notify me of new posts by email.