Competition time again. We’re giving away 3x copies of the smash-hit Chronicle on Blu-ray. To enter, read on after the below interview with Josh Trank.
Chronicle was a huge hit in cinemas but how do you feel about how movies are now consumed – not just in cinemas but in all sorts of formats?
I kind of grew up with that. I grew up with home video. My dad taped every single movie and he had a closet full of films. I saw Kurosawa films, the French New Wave, Italian neo-realism on really crappy long-play VHS recordings, and that’s how I remember loving those movies. I honestly can’t say the movie theatre is the most important place to see a film because that’s not where I saw all my favorites. I still haven’t seen 2001: A Space Odyssey on the big screen, but I know it like the back of my hand. Today it’s a new world – a faster, more instantaneous world of media and entertainment so it makes sense people are going to see things on teeny screens or iPads or fantastic Blu-ray home theatre set-ups. It’s in the hands of modern filmmakers to accept that and approach the movies they make with it in mind. You can’t fight technology, and Blu-ray makes up for all the other things that p**s filmmakers off, like ‘You can’t watch a movie on an iPad’. My answer to that is ‘Yeah, but the Blu-ray is just as good as the theatrical experience’.
What were your influences when making Chronicle?
There were more weird influences that seeped into this movie than I could ever make a list of. Akira is one of my favorite movies of all time – the idea that you can begin a movie with a protagonist that everyone sympathizes with, and then at the end of the movie you see him completely lose control and in turn become the ultimate threat. There’s also the work of David Cronenberg and Stand By Me and Carrie. Werner Herzog’s Grizzly Man is another of my favourite movies and it was a real influence in terms of being a ‘found footage’ movie which has a beautiful handmade aesthetic to it. I’m also a huge fan of Alan Clark and Made In Britain is yet another of my favorite movies because of the way it objectively portrays this kid and his life and how he relates to other kids, the realism and the naturalistic dialogue, and the storyline is a haphazard sequence of events. There are so many influences on this movie – I’m a real movie guy.
The film goes from an intimate feel to a real epic…
That’s what we were aiming for, definitely. We set out with this idea for a three-act story and Max Landis [the scriptwriter] took it and made it into a fully-fledged screenplay. The idea was to have a film that opens up very grounded and seemingly stripped-down, then at the end it becomes this gigantic film, almost like a disaster movie, but the tone remains the same. The tone and the texture of the film never falls out of line with the first scene, which is just this kid turning on the camera in his room. All the effects and the look are as mundane as anything you would see in that bedroom.
This is your first film as a director. What were the challenges?
The most obvious thing is the big effects, making sure the ones you see without any obscure camera angles look 100% believable – not just good but realistic. The flying sequences were very challenging because there’s a lot to contend with there. I’ve never really seen ultra-realistic flying before so we wanted to make it look as believable as possible. We ended up creating these rigs with these visual effects geniuses in South Africa, which is where we shot the movie. We also worked very hard in post-production, right up until the last minute, on getting the effects right. The other thing which is a little less obvious, but I’d say more challenging than anything, is the dramatic portrayal of these characters – to not just make this a showy, visual effects-based movie but also to make it a movie where you care more about what’s going to happen to the characters than where’s the next scene we’re you’ll see some cool s**t happen. Working with this particular cast really helped because they’re amazing actors and were as committed to realizing that vision as I was and as Max was when he did the screenplay. They couldn’t just be great actors; they had to be the sort of people you just can’t get enough of on screen. They needed to feel familiar but like you’d never seen in a movie before – familiar as in relatable and likeable. Andrew is a character who goes very dark and is going to make you uncomfortable but you have to start out liking him and understanding him.
It’s an incredibly ambitious film for your debut. You must like a challenge?
Yeah I do. I guess I like to punish myself a little. There was no expectation tied to the film because it’s not based on anything, there are no big stars in it and I’m not a star director, so all the usual standards of quality and storytelling I really had to set for myself. It remained in my head until we wrapped production and had to figure out what to do with all the stuff we shot. It was a bit abstract trying to mush together all these ideas and genres and all the influences I brought to the table – to make it all translate into something that wasn’t obvious or show-off-y. I wanted the camerawork to be invisible even though there’s the telekinetic camera concept, which is a real filmmakers’ dream to have in a movie but the challenge is not to make it too cool. If you do people will notice it, and when they notice it too much it takes them out of the storytelling. We couldn’t be too cool, otherwise it would just feel like it was all about style.
Do you think the ‘found footage’ genre is here to stay or will it run its course?
I don’t know. It’s hard to say. I loved what Neill Blomkamp did with District 9 because he made what I believe to be the first successful mixed-media film in the mainstream. I think there’s a real future for documentary influences in narrative filmmaking because we live in such a reality-TV-saturated world. There are kids who will be graduating soon who were babies when American Idol, Big Brother and everything started. That language and aesthetic is now built in and it’s a real influence. We’ll probably see more filmmakers go that route, but as far as the horror gimmick is concerned you can only do that so many times because it’s just the same story.
Do you believe in telekinesis?
I believe in ghosts, I don’t know if I believe in God, but telekinesis is just a fantasy.
Or you hope it is..?
True. It’s great in the movies but you don’t want that out there in the real world.
When you say you believe in ghosts, have you encountered one?
I think I’ve felt one. I lived in a house which I later found out had been the site of a triple murder. I could be completely delusional in terms of sensing a presence in that place, but it makes it more fun to think it did happen.
There’s talk of you doing the next Fantastic Four film…
Nothing’s confirmed there, but I would love the opportunity to do a big film based around my favorite superheroes, that’s for sure.
If that interview has whetted your appetite, here’s your chance to win a copy of the film on Blu-ray. All you have to do is answer the following question to be in with a shot of winning one of 3 copies we have to give away.
Chronicle was the first feature from director Josh Trank, which Werner Herzog documentary does he claim influenced the film?
Send your answers to firstname.lastname@example.org, or tweet them @impactfilm. The competition closes on Monday the 28th of May at 11.59pm, entries must be made before this deadline. Good luck!
Chronicle is out on Blu-ray and DVD on 28 May 2012, from Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment.
T&Cs – The Prize is one copy of Chronicle on Blu-ray, there is no alternative. The competition closes on Monday the 28th of May at 11.59pm, entries after this date will not be counted. The winner will be chosen at random, our decision is final. Impact reserves the right to alter any of the above.