Monday, February 11, 2013

Entity (2013) An Interview with Cast and The Writer

Coming this July from East Bay Entertainment and Thursday Night Films, Entity will be the The Slender Man's first feature length film.  What is The Slender Man?  An urban legend that sprang forth from the Something Awful forums as part of a Photoshop contest to create a paranormal picture from an ordinary photo.  It immediately caught on and a rich and varied mythos sprang forth rapidly.

There have been documentaries and indie series that have cropped up, but to my knowledge, this is the first feature length film.

I recently got a chance to interview writer Courtney Hagans, as well as Derek Robert Hull Bond (who portrays The Slender Man) and Dorie Waters, who plays Morgan Webber.  So sit back, grab a snack and enjoy this little chat with some of the creative forces behind Entity:

First up, let's chat with writer, Courtney Hagans!

Tell us about yourself?

My name is Courtney Hagans. I exclusively enjoy three things : 1)Filmmaking 2)Comics 3)BATMAN

What was the genesis of Entity?

I wish I had a perfectly fantastical story to elaborate on, but I don't. We're a group of ambitious, film enthusiasts who were at an opportune time in our lives to make a movie. We brain stormed several ideas, and it actually ended up being one of our PA's (Cory Gibberson) who suggested Slenderman. We were huge fans of Slenderman, and he's a PERFECT horror icon. Cory's going to be so smitten that I'm giving him credit for it.

The Slender Man mythos seems to have taken on a life of it's own and is
ever expanding.  Did you feel a need to
keep to already established mythos, or did you take him in a new direction?

Slenderman has had so many attributes incorporated  to him since his origin that it's difficult to decipher what is and isn't authentic.  I'm very well versed on quite a few of the "Slenderfan"(see what I did there) favorites and identify with why people find them so compelling. However, I think with any writer, when you're giving a character that has endless directions to go creatively, it's quite fun to venture out what we've seen a thousand times and create something original. But, don't let that frighten anyone away. I was very careful to use Slenderman's background as a personal bible during the writing process. All the things you love will be VERY present in our film; I just made him a little more terrifying. :)

What was the process like getting the script to the screen?

I actually got quite lucky. We're an independent feature and most of us were good friends prior to our project, so I didn't have to spend an exhausting amount of months trying to convince people it was a good idea to make my movie. The most difficult challenge was writing something that would be tangible to film on a small budget, yet still effective enough to  add true terror
to the audience . Once we completed the shooting script, it was smooth sailing. We have very strong local talent, so casting was significantly easier than anticipated. After that, it was just a matter of dealing with sleep deprivation and a (less than ideal) Florida climate during principle photography.

How involved were you with the production after the script was finished?

VERY involved. The director (Chris Jadallah), producer (Will Phillips), and I were very hands on during the entire duration of filming. All three of us spent every single second we could to make sure each scene was the standard we wanted to uphold. It's actually unfortunate because there's a huge disconnect between writers and the film making process. I can't imagine creating a story  and having no affiliation with filming. I'd feel so useless.

What were your inspirations for the script and story?

I grew up on the X Files and cult classic genre films. I'm a big fan of government conspiracies and cover ups of the paranormal/unexplained. I cannot confirm or deny that I may or may not have sprinkled a little taste of that subject into "Entity". (I hope I don't get a phone call from my producer).  Additionally, I've always been fascinated with monsters and villains who have no true motive behind their actions. I thoroughly enjoy  being left with unanswered questions and open doors to allow my own warped to fill in the blanks. It's fearing what you don't understand that causes true fear. And, honestly, that was one of the main components in "Entity".

Slender Man is quite the Boogey Man, do you think Entity may get a
sequel or even become a franchise?

We've thought of that, yes. I even ended the script in a way that leaves potential for a sequel. If I got creative freedom, I'd love to have The Boogeyman, Freddy, Jason, and the creepy little kid from the film "Trick r Treat" all cameo in the sequel as allies to Slenderman. I'd include a nice little segment of them all around a kitchen table, drinking tea, and discussing their future endeavors. I'd watch that movie.

How long was production?

Production total? A year and a half. Finalizing the script, scouting locations, casting actors, and scheduling are very time consuming. Principal photography was the lengthiest. As a whole it was just a few weeks in total, but, we stretched it out over the course of a few months to better accommodate our crew. A lot of our crew was either in college or working full time jobs during production, so, it was a very challenging experience for us all to juggle the two.

What's next for you?

Everything? Who knows. I'm working on a little secret currently that I'll be sure to share with you guys once I'm allowed. But, I do know that film making is the Batman to my Alfred and I can't imagine not indefinitely having it's presence in my life. If everything goes as planned, you guys will hear a lot about us in the foreseeable future.

As always, we like to ask some fun questions too, so here we go:
What's your favorite film?

What an unfair question to ask someone who's life revolves around film! I don't have favorites because it's almost always subject to change.  BUT, off the top of my head: Reservoir Dogs, The Shining, and Nolan's Batman trilogy.

What's your favorite movie snack?

Popcorn and sour patch kids. At this point in my life I think my entire body is held together by kernels, corn syrup, and caffeine.

If you had unlimited funds and access to any IP's, Directors, Actors,
etc....what would your dream project be?

I'd co write a script with Quentin Tarantino. We'd bring on Christopher Nolan as the director and maybe JJ Abrams, Del  Toro, and Martin Scorsese would make a surprise appearance just to applaud me on how wonderful of a job I was doing. And, we'd have Tom Hardy as our main protagonist and Christoph Waltz as our main antagonist. A girl can dream big , right?

Do you believe in the paranormal?

"I want to believe" from the X files comes to mind. It's a frightening notion and I'm fascinated by the idea, but I've never experienced it first hand. I would truly love to, though. If anyone wants to take me on a ghost hunt--I'm eagerly waiting.

Next we spoke with Dorie Waters:

Tell us about yourself?

My name is Dorie Waters, and I am a junior at the University of West Florida. I started acting in 4th grade when I was a dwarf in the local theatre’s production of Snow White and the Seven Dwarves. I continued working in small productions all through my younger years, and in middle and high school I became a member of the Southeastern Teen Shakespeare Company. Through this company I studied acting at the Actor’s Movement Studio in New York City and met my boyfriend of 6 years, Derek Bond (the Slenderman in the movie). After beginning college I stopped acting due to time constraints.

How did you get involved with Entity?

Derek was approached by Will Phillips and Mervyn Ortiz and began working on the film with them. When it came time for casting, Derek recommended me for Morgan. So I auditioned and got the part!

What can you tell us about Morgan Webber?

Morgan is just an average young woman. She is a kind, warm-hearted person who loves helping others. She is in a very complicated relationship with her boyfriend Casey and they are going through a bit of a rough patch at the beginning of the movie. Let’s just say that all of the drama that happens in the house doesn’t help them work things out.

Had you heard of the Slenderman before this film?

I can’t say that I had. I was shocked at how popular he is on the Internet, and felt quite ignorant for not ever hearing about him before.

The Slenderman mythos are pretty wide and varied at this point, what is he to you?

Well, every time I see him now I think of Derek in his costume. However, when researching the mythos I was very interested in the legend of “Der Grossman.” Apparently there is a 16th century German legend of a tall man with white spheres for eyes who abducts naughty children in the forest. There are ancient woodcuts and stories about him, which I thought was fascinating. I love historical legends and ghost stories.

What was the shoot like for you?

Haha, long! And tiring! But overall it was a lot of fun. The cast and crew really bonded over the two filming sessions, we felt like one very large, strange family. We goofed off a lot, and ate a lot of Taco Bell.

Any fun stories from the set?

Oh yes! I personally love the time when we filmed the scene where I slap Jerod (Casey in the film). It took about 15 takes, and poor Jerod’s cheek was so swollen and red - I felt awful. At the same time though, it was a very cathartic experience. I remember with each take Jerod’s reaction would get angrier and angrier! I think Chris (the director) just had us do it over and over to watch Jerod suffer. There was also the time we were filming at the airport and Jerod had the stomach flu, and kept having to run out of the scene to throw up in the trashcan. He was so miserable, but we could only film in the airport that one day. Also the time Jerod had to throw himself down the staircase over and over and over. Poor Jerod, it’s a miracle he survived. After spending so much time with him over the years (he was also a member of the Southeastern Teen Shakespeare Company) and during filming, he became like a brother to me. It was a very schadenfreude-esque experience.

What’s next for you?

I am going to finish my degree in Elementary Education and hopefully get a job as a kindergarten or 1st grade teacher.

Are you a horror fan?

Oh yes, but I’m kind of picky. I don’t like movies like Saw. I find those just too disturbing. I love a good historical ghost story, like The Woman in Black or The Orphanage. I love movies that have some kind of vengeful spirit doomed to roam the earth for eternity trying to right the wrong that was done to them years ago. There’s something terribly romantic about it, which I guess is kind of disturbing in its own right. I really don’t understand myself sometimes. Oh well.

What’s your favorite movie?

I love historical dramas, especially ones based on great works of literature. I love Jane Eyre, Atonement, Les Miserables, etc. I am a sucker for Nicholas Sparks though, embarrassing as it is.

What’s your favorite movie snack?

You can never go wrong with popcorn and an ice cold Coke.

What is your dream role?

Anything in a period piece where I get to wear a beautiful costume. I never grew out of my love for playing dress up. If I had to choose a specific one though, probably Miss Havisham from Great Expectations. She’s such a tragic and beautiful character.

Do you believe in the paranormal?

Absolutely. I’ve always liked the idea of when dramatic or traumatic things happen in life, it leaves a kind of imprint in time, and the energy from that event causes strange things to happen. There’s actually a very good book I read about this kind of thing, Spook by Mary Roach. I highly recommend it if you’re into the actual science of ghosts and the afterlife.

Last but certainly not least, we talked with The Slender Man himself, Derek Robert Hull Bond:

Tell us a bit about yourself?

I'm 21 years old. I'm finishing up my degree in graphic design at the University of West Florida. I enjoy making digital art and costumes.

How did you get involved with Entity?

I met Merv (the producer) and Will (the associate producer) in a design class at the university.  They originally asked if I had any acting experience, probably to put me into a pool of potential actors for the character Casey. I was much more interested in designing the monster, though. So I ended up taking over that aspect and we found Jerrod, who was a much more capable actor than I could hope to be.

Slenderman has a pretty large following and a pretty complex history at this point. Did you feel that you had to try to live up to the present expectations of him?

Of course. One of the wonderful things about Slenderman is the huge, enthusiastic community behind him. Some people have been on the fence about how we've portrayed him, but we've received very positive feedback from most of the community.  I really didn't know how the majority of people would react until we started filming, but after the initial teaser trailer my confidence was boosted. It's a great feeling, getting an email from a fan saying how excited they are for the film.

How did you prepare for the role? Did you look to any specific movies for reference?

Just getting in costume and seeing people's reactions was usually enough to get me ready on set. I used to work at a couple of popular public haunted houses in my city, so I've had experience being creepy. Between takes, I would often try to mess with some of the more scare-prone people on set. My friend, Cory, has been deathly afraid of Slenderman for years. So it always boosted my spirits to get a quick scare out of him.

As far as movies go, I'm a fan of the types of monsters that hold something back. The ones that sit in the shadow and watch. That's exactly what Slenderman is. I couldn't point to any specific movie, but typically the first half of the creepier ghost movies are what I looked to. It's the unpredictability brought about by a lack of observable activity that scares me.

The Slenderman mythos are pretty wide and varied at this point, what is he to you?

He could be anything. I've thought about different possibilities: that he might be a spirit of the forests, a product of man's ill-will and wrongdoing, an accumulation of tortured souls, or even a deamon that exists only in the collective subconscious of the guilty. What I can say that he IS is an urban legend. That may make him more powerful than any of the above possibilities. Just the idea of Slenderman has so infected a part of our society with fear and fascination that there are dozens of video series, thousands of drawings, hundreds of written stories and now a movie about something that may not exist in the physical world. He IS fiction made real through the minds of his followers. If that isn't amazing and slightly horrifying, I don't know what is.

How long was the shoot? Was it a difficult shoot for you?

We wrapped up the first round of shooting over the summer in about three weeks. The second round of shooting took about six weeks because a holiday cut into the middle. The summer shooting was slightly miserable due to the heat and humidity. When in full gear, I was covered head to toe without any exposed skin. I had to breath though the cloth and foam making up my face mask. I couldn't sit very easily with 3' stilts on. I couldn't see well at all through my mask. And I couldn't do much with my hands while they were bound up in wire and foam finger extensions. So I was blind, suffocated, overheated, tired from standing, and I couldn't touch anything. To top it all off, we couldn't roll cameras until at least 9pm every night because that's when it got dark. So we were crunched for time and typically wouldn't leave the set until at least 1:30am.

The second round of shooting took place at the beginning of winter. That was much better. I was quite comfortable temperature-wise and we could start filming around 5:30 every night. I had also rebuilt the hands to allow me to grab things, which was a major improvement. The only time the winter shooting was difficult was when we shot inside. It would get hot in the costume again and I couldn't stand up straight because the ceiling was only 8' tall. Being crammed up against the ceiling isn't bad for a few minutes at a time, but standing like that for 30 minutes or longer was awful.

All in all though, I had fun filming. I didn't have any lines to remember and I didn't have to show my face on camera, so I wasn't ever nervous. I would say I definitely had it better than The lead actors.

Do you have any fun stories from the set?

Too many. But I think the one that most of us point to is one occurrence during the first round of filming. We were out on a road at night and I was in full Slender-gear. We're standing under a street lamp on a dark wooded road when a minivan drives by and stops right next to me. I hadn't moved the whole time it was driving up. It sat there for a few seconds and I turned my head slowly and looked right down at the passenger window. All of a sudden, we hear two or three young girls let out blood curdling screams from inside the van and the driver slams their foot on the gas and the van peels away.

What's next for you?

I plan on finishing my last semester of college. From there, I'd like to continue working on movies in costume and prop works.

What's your favorite film?

Scott Pilgrim vs. The World

What's your favorite movie snack?

Popcorn and Coke.

If you had unlimited funds and resources, what would your dream project be?

Inventing magic and building Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

Do you believe in the paranormal?

Of course I do. How can I not believe in fate after all of the amazing things that have happened to me in the last few years? And ghosts are real for sure.

In a knock down drag out fight, who would win, Slenderman or Freddy Krueger?

Freddy for sure. Robert Englund is terrifying. I wouldn't want to cross him with my entire film crew at my back.

A huge thank you to Mr. Will Phillips at East Bay Entertainment.

1 comment:

  1. I can't wait!! Slender is a great game, and this looks like a great movie! (: