Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Interview with Director Sevé Schelenz


I think it's extremely important to support indie filmmakers within the horror community because they are the ones who are actually trying to make new and unique films while thinking of the fans each step of the way. These writers and directors muster up all of their savings, blood, sweat and tears to deliver something worthwhile to the fans. One upcoming filmmaker, Sevé Schelenz, was nice enough to talk with me about his recent horror film, Skew, and discuss the fascination that audiences have with the "found-footage" genre.

Skew is a "found-footage" film that follows three friends who are on a road trip to a friend's wedding. With a camera by their side, the group of kids begin noticing that strange things are happening all around them and danger is right around every corner. 

Schelenz, who wrote Skew in 2004, never thought about doing horror films prior to the project. He explained, "To be honest, I never thought of doing a horror feature until the story of Skew suddenly came to me before an actual road trip. I had so much fun making the film and screening it at a number of horror festivals, [and] it opened my mind to working on another. The world these horror fans live and breathe is incredible and I can truly see the honest enjoyment they get from watching a good film."

In regard to the "found-footage" aspect of the movie, the director states, "Directing a POV (point-of-view) film is quite different than your usual fare. Since the entire story is seen through the lense of a camera, that one or more characters may be operating, you don't have a chance to shoot outside of this world you are in."

He continued, "There is no chance for the audience to see our characters holding the camera and reacting to things that may occur around them and outside of their camera's vision. This style of filmmaking also doesn't allow you to cut from long shots to close up as you would see in your typical narrative feature. This, of course, limits your options and forces you to become a creative and competent storyteller within the point-of-view device."

The POV and "found-footage" horror film has become increasingly popular over the past several years, with notable successes such as Paranormal Activity and The Devil Inside. Filmmakers and studios are realizing that films can be made with little money and make back way more in ticket sales but for Schelenz, he didn't have big studios helping him make his film--he had to make it all on his own dime.


He said, "Skew has really felt like one of my children from day one. I have poured all my blood, sweat, tears, and money into the project for over 7 years now. This film would never have been completed without the help of some amazing friends and work colleagues who have stuck with me from the day of conception."



The director continued, "Early on, I realized that the process would be even more prolonged if I looked for funding support from outside agencies. I decided this was not an option and elected to make Skew under the DIY model. The pre-production and production side of Skew was done for just under $25,000."

The road to making his first feature was no an easy one. He explained," Making a feature, truly independent or not, is a long and expensive process in which outside factors have to be taken into account. At the end of the day, only those with the perseverance and genuine love for the filmmaking process will survive and come out with a completed project."


Aside from his money issues, Schelenz had no problem with coming up with the idea for his movie. The story for the film came to him during a 2004 road trip with his friends. He realized that he could make a low budget horror that fans would accept and developed a POV film.

Schelenz was inspired by The Blair Witch Project and wanted to make a film in similar fashion without copying it entirely. He stated, "So instead of using the camera as a gimmick, as most "found-footage" films tend to to, I decided to go another direction. Without giving any spoilers away, let's just say that once you've seen Skew, you'll quickly realize it's unlike any other "found-footage" film you've seen. The reason why? Because it's not actually a "found-footage" film at all. It's actually a narrative feature that happens to be filmed in  POV style from the video camera of one of the characters."

During the time that Schelenz was making Skew, the "found-footage" film wasn't as popular as it is now. In fact, there term, found-footage, didn't really even exist yet. In response to the sudden increase in the genre, the filmmaker stated, "The "found-footage" sub-genre of horror definitely seems to have some turbulence surrounding it. On one hand, films like The Blair Witch Project, Cloverfield, Paranormal Activity, and The Devil Inside seem to have done well at the box office. Yet, on the other hand, there seems to be backlast to this style of film not only from the critics, but from fans as well."

He continued, "For me, it comes down to story. If you don't have a good script, you don't have a good film--horror or otherwise. I have a feeling that a number of these "found-footage" films that now exist are probably not that great. The reason being is it's inevitable that once a formula proves successful, especially in Hollywood, it will be done to death to milk as much money out of it as possible."

Although the film was written in 2004, it took several years for the project to be completed. Skew was released at the end of 2011, at the height of the found-footage craze. The director hopes that his film will not get lost in the ever-growing pile of the popular horror sub-genre. He explained, "I hope that true horror lovers will take the time to watch Skew as it is unique to the sub-genre and plays with ideas they've never seen before. In the end, it's the story that's told in Skew that will grab you. If you give it a try, I guarantee you will have to put your thinking cap on and pay attention to figure out the puzzle."

So far the film has not gotten lost among the other films and has actually been recognized by fans and critics alike, screening at over 40 film festivals and winning 7 awards. Skew is currently available on Netflix in the US and it will also premiere in Canada and the U.K. by the end of the year.

As for Schelenz, he has decided to move on from the POV film and onto something a bit different. He said, "Right now I am working on another horror feature with a writing partner. We are fairly close to locking it and will begin our funding drive and pre-production soon. I hope to go into production on this early on in 2013. I decided it was time to move away from the POV style film and go with something a little more traditional. There's not much else I can say about the project except that it involves a lot of blood, boobs, and black ooze."

What more could you ask for in a horror? Make sure to check out Skew on Netflix and keep an eye out for director, Seve Schelenz, in the near future.

**Please note: I have no idea what is going on with this post but no matter how much I tried to fix it, it kept coming out like this. Please try your best to overlook the awful appearance. Thank you**

5 comments:

Justine said...

I watched this last night and I am hella confused by the ending. Was the answer in the reflection? Was it actually Rich? Was there a camera? I am so confused!! Do you have a theory or know what the twist was?

Amanda said...

I do know what the ending was because the director explained it to me. All I'm going to say is it was Simon and he was holding the camera. I think the film can still be interpreted differently, even though there is a solid explanation. I'm going to review the film when I get a chance!

Justine said...

Ok so after thinking more, I realized that Simon was trying so hard to keep himself from being recorded, or being on film, and the mirror shows that he had already been on film... Is that close?!? LOL

Anonymous said...

Yeah, I didn't get the ending either. I have other questions. Whatever happened to Eva? What about the theory that the people he loved didn't die? And Rich's face was never distorted even though Simon appeared to kill him. Too many loose threads.

Dave said...

I didn't understand the ending either. Warning: some spoilers follow.

The big reveal at the last moment is Simon's reflection in the mirror. We see that he's not holding a camera. Also consider that neither Eva or Rich saw the "squiggly" faces when looking at the victims.

One could conclude that there never was a camera, and that the movie is POV from psychotic Simon. But that's impossible, as there obviously is a camera (bag of taps, they argue over it, etc). You could think that only SOME of the footage was shot with a camera and the rest is Simon's own POV. I've watched the film twice now and can't see evidence of this.

Eva is also a big mystery. The first time we see her squiggly face is in the diner after their little late-night chit-chat in the hotel. It's an extremely brief cutaway at the end of the scene, but it's definitely there. The last time her face ISN'T squiggly is when Simon glimpses her in the bathroom. What happened in the the interim that "earned" her a squiggly face?

Also, her disappearance makes no sense. One second she's in front of the abandoned gas station, the next she's way at the other end. How could she have traveled that far that quickly? Finally, her disappearance is never explained. Simon doesn't go looking for her? Where'd she vanish to?

At last, Rich's face is never squiggly yet he dies.

It was a fun, ambitious film but there are too many loose ends and it falls apart at the conclusion. I wish for more.

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