Your new movie I Am
Alone - in a few words, what is it about?
at its core. Life is meant to be shard with others and here we have a
wilderness survival expert who chooses to take on adventures by himself
without any thoughts towards who it may affect, including himself. I Am Alone
is about man who is challenged by both nature and biology in the
midst of a “zombie-like“ virus. Jacob’s story that is captured by
his cameras may just save humanity if he doesn’t lose it first.
Am Alone being a zombie movie, is that a genre at all dear to you,
and some of your genre favourites?
is definitely one of my favourite genres. I think what I like most is that
we can see all types of people dealing with a situation they couldn’t
possibly prepare for and at the end of the day you put yourselves in their
shoes and tend to think about yourself. I wouldn’t say I’m a huge fan
of gore and I’m definitely
not squeamish, I’ll watch
Dead Alive with the best of them.
for my favourite genre films - zombie movies would be Fulci’s Zombi
2 and City of the
Living Dead [Lucio Fulci
bio - click here], PontyPool, 28
Day Later series. Night
of the Living Dead, Return of the
Living Dead. And overall horror
Halloween I & II (originals).
Recently The Conjuring, The Babadook and
It Follows I really enjoyed.
And what do you think makes your movie
stick out of the crowd?
Michael and I set out to tell a more intimate story, we know “found footage” and zombies has been done to death (wink wink)
but we felt our story of one man’s transformation would be
unique. We set out tell a tale of isolation, and our main character Jacob
would really be isolated on a mountain by himself with nothing but his
wits to survive. Then our co-lead Gunner Wright as Mason would be
basically alone in a room trying to understand what has happened to his
friend. We wanted to balance claustrophobia and the vastness of the
wilderness in one ambitious story. There have been
very few films of transforming but never over days and never with
the actual focus on one character.
What can you tell us about your
co-writer, producer and long-time collaborator Michael A. Weiss [Michael
A. Weiss interview - click here], and what
was your collaboration like - and how did the two of you first meet even?
and I have been friends longer then the internet as we know it existed.
We’ve been collaborators long before we knew we could do this
professionally. I remember
Michael and I would watch movies and analyse them. How did they do that?
We would then use a VHS camera I took from my dad and attempt to
accomplish such cinematic feats as slow-mos and blue screens with
terrifyingly poor results. However, that didn’t deter us from continuing
to make short films. As seniors in high school, Michael and I helped
friends make their senior projects (we were not graded - for the record). All stories were based on classic British literature which
not read. So we made our version of Frankenstein,
Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
and Murder at the Cathedral amongst many others from Cliff
were hilarious by the way and I hope they exist somewhere online.
That was where I think we realised people liked what we did. They
were huge success and supposedly they were played for the next few years.
Although, what we lacked in story we made up for in production
value, all the movies totalling 6 had music and sound effects and crudely
edited into a seamless if not insane version of those British classics.
chose the found footage approach for I
Am Alone - was this a decision from the get-go, actually, and your
thoughts about the found footage "subgenre" as such?
footage” as we know it today has been around since at least the early
80s. Cannibal Holocaust
may be the earliest most famous product,
followed closely by The Blair Witch
Project. Found footage by design can
be done cheap and fast but that's not why we chose it.
Found footage gives you a more immediate if not gritty look into
that world that you may not see otherwise. It’s a more direct way for
those characters show us the world unfolding. As Michael stated, as long
as it's done correct they can be brilliant. The problem for the viewer,
the style is sometimes a bit
jarring, and a bit unsettling for the wrong reasons. So when Michael and I
decided to go this route we said ”this is going to be a story of man and
his cameras.” We will mount cameras where needed and let the diary tell
the story. The location will be key, these points we will not gloss over.
So as Jacob and Mason's separate journeys converge the amount of gear has
also changed. You couldn’t power batteries on the run or think about
shooting as much content as they could for the show. At some point their
true survival skills would kick in but as professionals in television they
would also use their skills and background to continue to capture the
world crumbling around them. Sometimes to heartbreaking results for
connected to the last question, how were some of your "found
footage" scenes realized (as in, did you actually leave your actors
on their own), and how much preparation went into these scenes?
in a matter that we did brought on some serious technical issues and
obstacles literally and metaphorically. We knew at points our actors would
be out on their own far away from us. This style meant the actors had to be
on point, although we were
never that far away but having to hide from them in order to give
them the feeling of isolation. We joked it took 25 people to make it look
like 1 person was all alone. There are definitely scenes where I’m
hiding behind a rock or tree screaming direction. In fact I’m also in
some of the crowd scenes directing all the moving people. Our DP Adrian
Sierkowski did one hell of a job. We had as many as 4 cameras going at one
time and then as Jacobs mental state declined we had to adjust how the
camera saw him. In the CDC bunker we used upwards of 6 cameras rolling
simultaneously, kinda crazy way to do it.
The other problem was that we didn’t always have playback right
away so it was very much like making a movie shot on film. We had to look
at dailies later in the day when power was available and
then correct any mistakes if any were present down the line. The
shoot itself had its own challenges thats for sure.
can you tell us about your key cast, and why exactly these people?
I Am Alone
was being developed and written we knew our cast was key since
we knew this wasn’t going to be a typical zombie film. We knew it's going
to lean more on performance then gimmicks and blood. So finding the right
actors meant success or failure for us. Then luck struck us, in 2012, we
were attending the Fright Night Film Fest where Gareth David-Lloyd
attending. Gareth has such a charismatic presence, we thought if we
can get Gareth as Jacob we’re in business and we knew our Mason
character as a former military combat photographer needed to have a
different on-screen presence. As Michael stated, we loved Gunner Wright in
film Love and Gareth from Torchwood. If we were lucky enough to sign these
two amazing actors we had our leads. We then cast Rory Zacher who is a
close friend of ours and actor
that we’ve known since we’ve moved in LA in the early 2000s. As a
reality TV producer myself I was able to harness my personal experience
into the role for Rory and knowing me for so long as he has he was able to
fit that producer role perfectly. Although I would’ve survived longer
(haha). Finally as our story unfolds at a seldom used CDC bunker, our
Doctor Marlow (Joseph Conrad Heart of Darkness reference) had to be
someone who was both compassionate and business-like to help Mason and the
world see something in the footage. Thats where Marshal Hilton entered. We
loved what he brought to the Doctor was a sense of dread but a sense of
direction. Find a cure at all costs to save humanity and Marshal
all, I Am Alone is a
very outdoorsy movie - so do talk about your locations for a bit, and what
were the advantages and challenges of shooting there?
and showers! We barely had either. When we set out to shoot I Am Alone
at 10,000 ft we knew it wasn’t going to be easy. Michael and I aren’t what
you call “outdoorsy people” but we wrote an outdoorsy movie. You can
only prepare so much and then you just have to adjust and solve problems
on the fly. We arrived in Colorado it rained for days… no 4X4’s just
4X2 trucks, in LA 4x4’s are rare and it's not needed but in Colorado it's
just about mandatory. So we had to beg and borrow gear trucks, ATVs, anything to help us.
Thankfully the town leant us everything. We are so
thankful to the town Montrose and all their support, we also had port-a-johns leant
to us for the duration of filming, food was prepared for free. Homes were
open to us. It was a community effort. If we didn’t get things from them
who knows if we’d even be able to finish the film. Power was another
major issue, we had none. We ran off of generators and they make noise,
lots of noise. So our team had figure out how to creatively hide them so
we can shoot our scenes. I still don’t know how we pulled it off, I
really give it up to the crew for being so adventurous and accepting of
all the conditions. Oh and if someone finds a Gopro on the UnCompagrhre
river, its probably ours we lost one on day 2 of shooting.
Although the one true advantage was we got see nature at its purest. You can
fake a mountain view but knowing that we didn’t have to and those
moments we captured the world really looked that way to us. It was
something special that we may never get to experience again.
can you tell us about the shoot as such, and the on-set atmosphere?
rag tag crew of filmmakers made the shoot such memorable experience. We
were 900 miles from our homes in LA for 3 weeks and 10,000 ft up having to drive 20 minutes up a road to our cabin. No
only that sometimes knee deep in mud or
the river and the only thing people wanted to do was shoot this amazing
zombie film. As hard and
challenging as it was for us at times it was also some of the most
rewarding. The things we did for each other and for the film could not be
replicated. None of us had every been so close to the stars… It was a
special 3 weeks. We owe the
cast, the crew and Montrose and our Kickstarter supports around the world.
you can tell us about audience and critical reception of your movie yet?
August of 2015 Michael and I were lucky enough to return to Montrose,
Colorado where we shot the film. We set up a special 3 night special
engagement at the Star Drive-in, the oldest single family owned drive-in in
America - circa 1949. We wanted to give the town the first public viewing
of the film. We were so nervous at first but after it played we heard the
car horns, the clapping and the flashing lights and we we knew we made
film to be proud of. That was our first insight as to what was to come. We
then were able to roll it out
into many film festivals over next couple months around the world. Gareth
has already won Best Actor at two festivals (Fright Night Film Fest and
Scare-A-Con). We also won Best Zombie Film at the Fright Night Film Fest
and lastly we won the Audience Choice Award and Best Director for me at
the RIP Hollywood International Film Festival. We’ve also received
countless other nominations. I Am Alone
has been fortunate to have played
in 11 film festivals worldwide with many more coming next year. Finally
as of 12/15 we played the Phoenix Comicon Fan Fest with Gareth David-Lloyd
in attendance. He was finally able to see the film in full and the
audience loved it. We’re so amazed at the love the fans have shown us
every step of the way.
future projects you'd like to share?
excited about our other horror films The Patch, our sort of take on a
Texas Chainsaw Massacre type family with
our own special twist. As well as a gritty crime film A Four Gun Conclusion that will be a bloody violent and heartbreaking story.
What got you into
filmmaking in the first place, and did you receive any formal training on
a kid I always loved watching films, I have an older brother who’d
influence my film tastes. He is 5 years older then me so he was obviously
more mature and I’d watch Fellini films and other more serious films
that probably weren’t meant for middle schoolers but I loved every
minute of it. Eventually, as I mentioned i made movies as a senior in high
school and realised this was what I wanted to do. In 1998 I went to The
Art Institute of Philadelphia for Film and TV. I learned so much about
filmmaking and non-linear
editing was still in its infancy, digital cameras were just coming out so
I felt like we were learning along with the teachers to
some degree. It was a fantastic time, I met some really talented filmmakers
there that I still talk to today.
What can you tell us about your filmwork
prior to I Am Alone?
out of art Institute in 2000 I made my “first” film with another
friend Eric Horowitz . We shot a feature on credit cards, knew nothing of
the movie-making process. The film was seen by exactly no one but we
learned what it was like to make a film. Eventually I moved out to LA and
joined back up with Michael and we’ve been making movies ever since. In
2008 I directed a short film called Elysian. It was
a revenge father-and-son story told over one night in LA.
It got into a few festivals and we continued to make more and more
films as my bank account allowed. in 2010 I shot a sci-fi film called
People of Earth that won awards at a few festivals and was an official
selection in many more. I also worked on a few documentaries and spec
shows during that time. However, in 2011 I Am Alone
came to life
and we’ve been working on that ever since.
movies, you've also made your fair share of reality TV shows - so do talk
about those for a bit, and how do making them compare to making narrative
cinema? And to what extent have they influenced your approach on I
For many years now I’ve been a reality
TV producer, I’ve worked on a lot of amazing shows like Extreme
Makeover: Home Edition, Gene Simmons Family Jewels and
Hell’s Kitchen to
name a few. My experience allowed me to see all sorts of story-telling,
all sorts of techniques to achieve amazing content at a different pace than
films. Movies or scripted shows are shot over months, if not years. A
reality TV show’s season is typically shot over a few weeks. We have to
think quicker and long term versus something scripted for the duration.
Both have their unique challenges and we learned that
first hand making I Am Alone. We might be the first film to use
reality TV and the fixed camera manifesto in the same movie. Reality TV
definitely helped us prepare to shoot this film under the amount of time
had, if we hadn’t had the reality TV background I don’t think this
film we’d be nearly as successful as it has been.
How would you describe yourself as a
a director I try to be fair, I think we all have something to bring to the
table. As much as I want to be Hitchcock I’ll likely never achieve that
but that isn’t a bad thing. I like to work with all departments, tell
them my vision, give examples to illustrate my goal. I try not to overwork the cast too, doing 47 takes of someone opening a door isn’t the
best use of our time or budget. I’ll also get as dirty as needed, on a
film like I Am Alone when
we were out in the wilderness all eyes are always
on us (Michael and I), we have to lead by example. Directing isn’t
something to take lightly. Everyone will have their vision and you as the
main creator have to stick to your guns at all costs and get what you need
first, and if there's time we can explore other choices. That said, I do
love to keep actors on their feet and sometimes add things to a scene that
aren’t scripted to get a more genuine response and see how they would
genuinely react., I think learned that from reading about William Friedkin on
Filmmakers who inspire you?
have so many filmmakers who inspire me. Sam Raimi and his Evil Dead
movies. The Coen brothers. Danny Boyle is someone I’d love to model my
career after If I can make 28 Days
Later, Sunshine, and Slumdog
Millionaire, that shows some serious range. Brian De Palma is another
director who has such an amazing style. Carlito's Way was the first film
that made me really consider making films. Stanley Kubrick of course and
Terrence Malick and and lastly Michael Mann - all these filmmakers
understand the visual medium as well as the story needed to support the
a tough question. depends on the genre I suppose. I love Carlito's Way,
Raging Bull, Rocky, Blade Runner, Old Boy (2003),
Haute Tension, The Dark
Knight, The Thing, Starman, Shawshank Redemption, The Wild Bunch, A Shot
in the Dark (I love Peter Sellers). Almost any Marx Brothers movie.
Manchurian Candidate 1962) I can watch over and over. The Shining too. My
list can go on and on. Into
the Wild was a big inspiration for me on I Am Alone.
... and of course, films you really
know I hate to badmouth films because I now know what it takes to make
one ... but I think I deplore films that aren’t true to themselves. Films
are trying to make themselves to be other films. I think there are films I
just don’t enjoy as much, like Starship Troopers. I can watch it
but it doesn’t do anything for me. I remember I went and saw the Lauren
Holly “opus” Turbulence in the mid 90’s and was like what the hell
is this movie.
Your/your movie's website, Facebook, whatever
Feeling lucky ?
any of my partnershops yourself
for more, better results ?
The links below
will take you
Our Festival Trailer: https://vimeo.com/125647292
Website - http://iamalonethemovie.com
Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/abstractforces/
Instagram - @manonfire07, @iamalonethemovie, @cinerob58
Vimeo - Abstractforces
Twitter: @IAMALONEmovie and @cinerob58
Anything else you're dying to mention and I have
merely forgotten to ask?
Michael and I wrote I Am Alone
years ago without a clue if it would ever see the light of day and if it
wasn’t for our dedicated cast and crew who literally jumped through fire
for us. Thank you to everyone who helped make this happen. With Your
support we are not Alone.
Thanks for the interview!