“Found Footage 3D” is about a group of filmmakers sets out to make 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. It’s a well written unique film that combines humor and true horror along with found footage and 3D. We got a chance to learn more about the film from the director and writer Steven DeGennaro before a special screening of the film presented by Popcorn Frights…
PH: Of all the different genres of horror, why decide to jump into found footage?
Steven: I realized that no one had yet done for found footage what Scream did for slashers back in the 90s, and it really felt like it was time. I wanted to make something that made fun of all the conventions and clichés that bad found footage movies haven fallen into, while at the same time showed how effective the style can be when done right.
PH: The Blair Witch Project is referenced in the movie, but are there any other found footage movies you had in mind while making this film?
Steven: There are all sorts of references to all sorts of movies sprinkled throughout the film, starting with literally the first frame and ending with the last. Some of them will be obvious to most horror fans. Some of them may never be noticed by anyone but me. But there are a lot of ways in which the film is structured as a sort of meta found footage movie that draws from a giant basket of found footage influences, both good and bad. I won’t say what they are, because discovering them is half the fun.
PH: Early on, Derek doesn’t hold back mentioning a lot of the faults in found footage films. Many of the things he mentions are complaints horror fans, and maybe even yourself have about these kinds of movies. Is there something you would like to see that can improve on these type movies?
Steven: I think there are good and bad versions of every genre and style of movie. I think that found footage can still be used very effectively at times, and I like when movies continue to innovate and play with the style. I found Unfriended to be a really well-told story that put an interesting twist on the traditional idea of found footage. I like a number of the segments in the V/H/S series that have done some original things. If I had to pick one thing that I wish more found footage filmmakers would concentrate on, it’s justifying the existence of the camera at all points in the film. In found footage, the camera is part of the world, and it has to obey all of the rules of logic (and physics) that anything else in that world does. Nothing takes me out of a found footage movie faster than realizing that there’s no possible way anyone would be filming that particular scene in that particular way.
PH: Derek and Amy are having a hard time as a couple in their real lives, and play a struggling couple in the movie they are filming. I thought that was a very interesting way to go with their characters. Why did you decide to have them struggle both on and off camera?
Steven: The story I was trying to tell was obviously very meta. So framing their story as this sort of meta-narrative, where the events of the film they are making mirror the events of their “real” lives seemed natural to me. It not only allowed me to sneak in a lot of naked exposition under the guise of talking about “Spectre of Death”, but it generated a lot of conflict in every scene. It also gave me the opportunity to pull a bait and switch on the audience several times, where we are never quite sure whether any given scene is part of real life or part of the movie they are making. And of course, thematically found footage purports to be “real” footage where nothing is faked or acted, so to have them essentially doing as little acting as possible within the story that the characters are trying to film felt like a neat way to play with the idea of what is real and what isn’t.
PH: Sometimes found footage films end up being more about a person being possessed, and other times the audience never really gets to see what is doing the haunting. How did your entity, and its design come to be?
Steven: The key thing to remember about our entity is that it was created by Derek for his movie “Spectre of Death”. Derek is not necessarily the most imaginative person, so the movie that he’s making is filled with stuff that is mostly ripped off from other, better movies. There’s a lot of The Blair Witch Project and Paranormal Activity, but there’s also just this idea of the cloaked or hooded figure, which is an archetype found throughout movies and literature. Death, the Nazgul, dementors, etc. are all influences, clearly. But then we wanted to take that basic idea and do our own twist on it. The spectre is a thing that only exists inside the footage, so it can do things and follow rules that transcend the constraints of time and space in the real world. So we wanted something that was both fluid in its movement and digital in a way that looked cool but still felt slightly artificial. It was a very long process arriving at its final look in the film, especially given how little we actually see it.
PH: While the characters don’t take found footage too seriously at the beginning, the ending becomes very serious. What was it like making that transition from comedy to the blood bath ending?
Steven: That structure was always a part of the story that I wanted to tell. I wanted the film to feel like a sucker punch. I wanted to lull people in with the humor in the first half of the film and then pull the rug out from under them in the second half. So the first half is mostly funny with a little scary, and the second half is mostly scary with a little funny.
PH: Film critic Scott Weinberg makes an appearance in the film. How did he get involved in the film?
Steven: I had written a part for a “horror blogger/critic” and the plan was to go out to different outlets and find someone to cast in the role to play themself. A friend of ours read the script and suggested that we get in touch with Scott. This mutual friend happened to introduce us via email the week of Fantastic Fest in Austin, where I had seen Scott a number of times but hadn’t met him personally. So I introduced myself and told him about the film and he loved the idea. I was a little nervous that Scott didn’t really have much acting experience, but he came out to set and really nailed exactly what he needed to do to make the role work. It could have been a disaster. But instead his character injects new life into the film right where it is needed, and he doesn’t a fantastic job. That he held his own with this incredibly talented and experienced group of actors is actually really quite impressive.
PH: Horror fans don’t get a lot of 3D, so what can they expect from the 3D?
Steven: The 3D is completely unique, which is one of the things that I am most proud of. The idea of shooting it in 3D kinda started out as a joke, frankly, and a way to make us stand out from the hundreds of found footage movies that get made every year. But the more I worked on the script and the more I explored what the cameras we were using could do, the more it became a very organic part of the story. Because the movie is found footage–and therefore we know that we are watching something shot on a camera–we got to do things that no 3D movie has ever been able to do before, whether that’s having things appear in one eye but not the other eye–which makes your brain go a little nuts (in a good way)–or having footage on a monitor that characters are watching in the film also appear in 3D. There are lots of places where we break the traditional rules of 3D because we want to remind people they are watching in 3D (as opposed to most movies, which want you to forget it).
But the most unexpected thing about the 3D–which we only really discovered as director of photography Drew Daniels and I started experimenting with the cameras in pre-production–was how immersive it made everything. Immersion is obviously a key part of found footage as a style. And because we are shooting on these consumer camcorders, we were able to shoot the movie in a way where everything on the screen is basically in focus at all times. You’d never shoot a traditional movie that way. But in our movie, it is up to the viewer to decide what to look at most of the time. Just like in real life, the viewer can look at the person in the foreground, or the cabin behind them, or the trees off in the distance, or the sky in the deep background. And because this is more like the way we experience real life, it really does make you feel like you are “there” in the scene in a way that no movie has been able to do before.
PH: It seems like your a fan of The Blair Witch Project, so I have to ask… what did you think of Blair Witch (2016)?
Steven: I think my personal feelings on the film are largely irrelevant. I think the critics and the audience sent the resounding message that they are tired of found footage that doesn’t innovate or do anything to enhance the story. I think in many ways the movie provides a neat bookend to traditional found footage. If a Blair Witch sequel can’t inject new life into the genre, then it’s time for a complete reinvention. It’s time for Found Footage 3D.
PH: What’s next for you? Any new projects coming up that you would like to mention?
Steven: I’m probably going to go home, maybe make myself a sandwich, and take a nap. That’s about as far ahead as I’ve thought.
We would like to thank Steven DeGennaro for taking the time to answer our questions, and also for allowing Popcorn Frights to host a special screening of his film. “Found Footage 3D” has been an official selection at a ton of festivals, and won many awards! Be on the look out for more screenings, and the future distribution of this must see film!
You can find more information about the film at: