Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Spook Hunt - the beginning

Oh god not again!

That's what I said to myself when I first heard about Paranormal Activity.

What was that sound you heard?  It was the sound of my soul being ripped apart once again.  How many times was I going to let this happen?  How many times have I had ideas that I've played with in my mind, written treatments, maybe even had a few discussions with buddies saying, "Not this time - this time I'm actually going to do it - this time we're going to make this movie...", only to let it slide away like some elusive dream that you try to hold on to upon wakening, but it always is just beyond your reach to remember.

I can't tell you how many ideas for movies I've had that eventually have been made.

Years later.

By someone else.

This time I have to make a stand. This time I'm doing it - I'm making it so dang easy for myself that I have to do it.  I'm shooting it in my own house, with my friends, with gear we already own - no excuses!

 (actors Rob Sandusky, Charles Yoakum, and Director of Photography, Rob Weiner rehearse the first scene)

Spook Hunt came from a kernel of an idea that I played around with about 6 years ago.  My idea was simple - no one had really yet exploited the first-person found-footage horror genre that Blair Witch Project opened up back in 1999.  The beauty of this genre was two-fold.  First, the first-person POV of the camera placed the viewer directly in the path of the horrors unfolding on the screen, and second, the medium allowed you to use inexpensive gear without having to make excuses for it.

I also wanted to tap into the then emerging YouTube phenomenon by not only using it to generate buzz for the project, but by posting clips of the project as if they were found footage.  Basically, I would create 3-5 min clips about a guy documenting the weird things going on in his house.  Eventually, these would ramp up and get weirder and scarier until all hell breaks loose.  I liked the tension of having the YouTube followers not really sure if what they were seeing was "real" or not and I would play that out as long as I could before letting on that the whole thing was fiction.

So, I did what I always do - I brainstormed a bunch of the spooky segments, kicked it around with my friends, looked at buying gear, maybe even bought a domain name or two, and then...

did nothing.

And then lonelygirl15 broke on YouTube in 2006.  Hmmm, first person account of a girl talking to her webcam about stuff generates huge following - then turns out to be scripted show...

And then Cloverfield came out in 2008.  Hmmm, monster movie shot first-person POV style.

And then Quarantine came out in 2008 (remake of 2007s REC). Hmmm, rabid zombie movie shot first-person POV style.

Which of course led to the soul-crushing release of Paranormal Activity in 2009.   Let's see, first-person POV account of spooky goings-on at a house... which becomes indie film phenomenon and most profitable movie ever in the history of cinema.  Great.

Now, I really harbor no ill feelings toward Oren Peli.  Good for him for actually making the movie and sticking with it until finally getting a distribution deal.  But did it really have to hit so close to home for me?  Not only was the story and technique so close to my idea, but the lead character plays guitar AND is a day-trader.  I mean, if you were in my studio right now you would see how ridiculous that is.

Oh wait... you can:

I mean really ... what are the chances?  What exactly is the Universe trying to tell me?

Which leads me back to Spook Hunt.  Yes, it still has some similarities to Paranormal Activity, but you know what??

I DON'T CARE!  I am making it anyway.  We shot the first scene last Friday.  So there...

Spook Hunt is a short film that will finally bring to life the best ideas that I came up with 6 years ago, of strange things going on in this guy's house and what he does about it.  It also has a brand-new ending with a great twist that elevates it above most ghost stories.  Although it may seem similar to Paranormal Activity and Blair Witch, its sensibilities are really rooted in films like The Haunting, Poltergeist and especially The Unholy Trinity of The Exorcist, Alien, and The Shining.

Technically, it will be shot first-person style with a night-vision HD camera, but also traditional film-style with a Canon 7D with beautiful fast 35mm lenses.

And it will be scary.  I promise.

I'll be posting a behind-the-scenes look about our shoot in a couple of days and will also post the first edited scene in about a week.

I hope you'll join me on my journey as the project progresses and share in some of my joy as the movie is finally finished and my torment over ideas left undone becomes forever a thing of the past.


  1. Thanks Lis!

    When do I get to see some cuts from your new horror baby?

  2. that zoom in the beginning is so subtle that's quite imperceptible if you don't blow it up to full screen... and it (this zoom) seems to be very important, i mean, to the plot (ahahah but in fact i'm just guessing...)
    great scene anyway and now i'm pretty curious about this movie... where will it lead us to?


  3. oops! just to complete that "p.s." i've started

    i loved that Kristin Nelder "subtitle"
    "(audio/gaffer/camera advisor/production stills/and jack of all trades)"
    he should put this on his personal tradecard or i'll put this on my own one! ahahaha
    by the way his photos are great as well!