Wednesday 1 May 2013

Interview: Scott Schirmer (Director |Writer |Editor )

Today we´re talking to Scott Schirmer, he´s the director, co-screenwriter and editor of Found (2012).

JL: How did you get into film making?
S.S: I was always interested in film, ever since I was six years old. I made up my mind then that I would be a filmmaker and I'm still doing it. My fifth and sixth grade teachers really supported me by channeling my energy into local media fairs. I won quite a few awards through middle school and high school, mostly with illustrated slide shows and filmstrip presentations. In college I got into video art and made my first feature with a small grant from the university. I didn't go to film school, though, and I have no "professional" training. Just a deep love of movies and the effort that goes into them.

J.L: What are some of your favorite films?
S.S: I love so many, but I especially love the emotional and dramatic austerity of "Ordinary People", and the cinematic fervor and visceral relentlessness of the original "Texas Chain Saw Massacre." "Jaws," "Alien," "Thelma & Louise," and "E.T." are also way up there.

J.L: Who are some of your influences?
S.S: I grew up during Spielberg and Lucas' most fertile years, so there's no denying they're the whole reason I fell in love with movies as a kid. In high school, though, I started gravitating toward Ridley Scott and Peter Weir. I still love most of what they do. I feel deeply in love with Tim Burton in high school, but his career took a massive nose-dive after "Sleepy Hollow" and he fails to interest me anymore. I try not to be influenced by favorite filmmakers, but I greatly admire them. I also love Julie Taymor -- I think she's just about the bravest and most visionary filmmaker working today.

J.L: I loved FOUND, it was fantastic and it will, without a doubt, be one of the best flicks I´ll watch this year. It´s very well made and very well acted. Which films and what inspired you in the creation of FOUND?
S.S: Well, one of the things that I loved about "Found" was that it kinda reminded me of my two favorite movies, "Ordinary People" and "Texas Chain Saw Massacre". So the idea of blending those two was really appealing. Since it's essentially a family drama for the first two-thirds, I wanted to make sure we kept it cinematic. So tried to keep Sergio Leone in mind whenever it came to placing the cameras. Everyone loves Leone's juxtaposition of extreme close-ups and wide vistas. Even though we're in a house for much of "Found," Leya Taylor, the DP, and I really tried to avoid medium shots as much as possible. We get closer to the actors' faces in "Found" than most movies dare to go, and when we go wide, we try to go really wide. I think it definitely helps the movie feel more like a, well, movie. Otherwise, I tried not to think about influences. There are a couple of homages in the movie, though. The first dinner scene nods to "Jaws," and in the field scene between the brothers later in the movie, I was thinking of "The Color Purple" for the end of that scene. I guess Spielberg really has left an indelible mark on me. His early films anyway.

J.L: Despite being a seasoned fan of the horror/exploitation genre I did find the ending to be truly haunting, was it an intentional choice to keep most of it off screen? In my opinion it only added to the power of the scene.
S.S: "Found" is the first movie I've made that was written by someone else, in this case Todd Rigney. And in the book, we experience the end of the movie through Marty's point of view. And Marty doesn't see what's happening, he only hears it. Since my initial reaction upon finishing the book was such a powerful one, I was always afraid to veer too far from Todd's material. So even though we could have very well shown what was happening, we decided not to. And everything we hear tells us that was the right decision. .

J.L: What kind of reception has FOUND been getting?
S.S: The reception has been far better than I ever dared imagine. I really didn't go into "Found" with the desire to please anyone but myself and Todd. I hoped the cast & crew would also be proud of it -- and they are -- but other than that, I just hoped we'd find a small niche audience. I wasn't sure if it was "horror" enough to satisfy gorehounds and horror fans, and I was afraid it was too "horror" for general audiences, so for a long time I was fairly convinced there would be no audience for the movie. But I'm so glad I was wrong. The horror community, in particular, has really opened its arms to this movie. And part of the reason is because the movie is so nostalgic for them. Many reviewers say they relate so well with Marty -- being a bullied kid who loves horror movies, who runs to the horror section of his video store and has movie nights with his best friends... the nostalgia factor is definitely something I underestimated in "Found," but it's definitely a part of its success.

J.L What kind of budget were you working with on FOUND?
S.S: I budgeted the movie at $8,000 and saved up the money for about a year. I bought equipment and supplies every month or two, and once we had everything, we went into production. About half the budget went to equipment, including a Canon 7D camera, lights, and an audio recorder; and half went to makeup effects supplies and feeding the crew as much as possible. No one in the cast or crew was paid.

J.L: How did you raise the funds?
S.S: It was almost entirely out of my pocket. After the movie was shot, we raised an additional $2,000 on Indiegogo. That was used to get us through post-production and to rent the theatre where we held our world premiere in Bloomington, Indiana.

J.L: How did the shooting go for FOUND?
S.S: It was rough. We shot for 32 days over the course of 7 months, mostly on weekends. In Indiana you have the most extreme weather, so we fought extreme heat and extreme cold at opposite ends of our schedule. But mostly, it was just an endurance test. Since Gavin was in school and the crew had full-time jobs on top of making the movie, we really had to squeeze the shoot into weekends. We had originally planned to shoot most of the movie during the summer, but last-minute recasting of two characters ended up pushing Gavin's start to mid-August, right before school started up again. At that point, a movie is like a locomotive, and once it gets started, it's hard to stop and even harder to start up again. So we charged forward rather than shutting down.

J.L: How different are the final version from earlier drafts?
S.S: I'd say the final movie is pretty close to what was in the screenplay. We shortened a few scenes and took a couple of tiny scenes out, but nothing major. The biggest change was the shortening of Steve's racist ranting. That scene originally went on much longer and was far, far uglier than it is in the final movie. Of all the controversial and nasty things that the film deals with at various points, it's the racism that still gets to me the most. Nothing else in the movie bothered me nearly as much, and the rest of the cast and crew agreed. So we trimmed that down and everyone felt a lot better about it. We're all pretty hard-core horror fans, so I think if it was too much for us, it was probably going to be too much for most people.

J.L: What advice can you give someone looking to get into the industry?
S.S: Well, I wouldn't say I'm "in the industry". I'm doing my own thing at the fringe, and the industry may or may not choose to take notice. But if you want to make a film, I would first say not to do it for money. Because you probably won't make any. And if you do, it probably won't be much. But if you have a story to tell, your passion for that story will probably be what gets you through production and marketing, and it will also probably be the quality that gives your movie the greatest chance of making money -- of appealing to an audience. I think passion shows in a film. I think cold, calculated manufacturing also shows. So don't do it for money. Hope for money, but don't count on it. If you love a story enough, nothing will stop you from filming it. That's how "Found" was for me, every bit of the way. It was inevitable. And now I'm just looking for the next story to fall in love with... and I think I've found it.

I´d like to thank Schott Schirmer for taking the time off to answer my questions.


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