That’s fascinating, and I find it particularly interesting that the sequel could be something different than this found footage style. Followed is part of a subgenre known as screen life. Movies in a similar vein are Searching and Unfriended. What drew you to that style of filmmaking, what made you decide to tell the story of Followed in that format?
A couple of reasons actually. In the beginning when we conceptualized the story, Todd, our screenwriter, he was the one came up with the idea of “Hey we should do this about a vlogger.” That is the culture that he really was fascinated with, like having social media influencers, and what they do and the sort of grip that they have in our modern society.
So we decided to do that and we were wondering “What can we do that has to do with vlogging?” Obviously found footage is up there, and at the time I hadn’t seen Searching. The only other screen life movie I had seen at that point was Unfriended and I thought that Unfriended was wonderful.
One of the things that I didn’t like about Unfriended was that to me, it was not scary because of the fact that you only watch the events onscreen, you don’t experience it, you don’t go to the first person view. So whatever that you see on screen is very fascinating, it moves well, it’s gripping, yet I didn’t feel the sense of dread.
[Slight Spoilers Below]
So I figured if you were to combine the found footage along with the onscreen screen life method, then we may be able to create a sort of a vlogging world. That when the audience participates in that, not only will they be a voyeur, but they can also participate in it. So then in the movie, if you recall, the entire first two thirds of the movie, you are watching as an audience. You are watching as a viewer who’s just looking through the screen and watching the vlogs until the very final act, where they went to the basement.
That’s when the perspectives switch completely to an uninterrupted live footage of him going down the basement, it switches to a POV perspective. You’ve spent two thirds of the footage being a voyeur, now let’s put you in the vlogger’s shoes. In that person and hopefully, that would actually create that sense of fear in the audience as a voyeur, now that they can see what the vlogger was doing. That was the second reason.
The third reason was budget. We are still a micro-budget film. So in order to accomplish all that we wanted to accomplish, we would have needed at least four to five times the amount of budget we had, had we done it the traditional way. So we had to basically resort back to it.
And as a filmmaker there’s the challenge of how do I make this found footage, which is a sub-genre that a lot of people are basically just looking down on…how do I inject a fresh take to it?
As you can tell, other movies that have come to pass have done a fantastic job like Paranormal Activity, or the granddaddy of them all, The Blair Witch Project. In the cinematic found footage films we have Chronicle, which is again, I love that movie. It’s a found footage superhero movie and I thought it was brilliant, which lead me to think hey how do we combine you know the Blair Witch sort of real sense of dread with the cinematic style of Chronicle? And add that other element of the screen life that Unfriended was doing, and that’s where we came up with the concept of doing that.
I think that for me personally, as a member of the audience, all of those elements combined and did make for a very cinematic, very dreadful in the best way kind of experience, you know with the way that you are watching through the vlog and you have that perspective shift in the climax, and that whole sequence is absolutely terrifying, when he’s in the basement.
Yeah, I loved it. And when you combine all of the horror and the kind of personal feeling of that with the fact that the hotel, The Lennox Hotel, is based off of the Cecil Hotel, which is a real world location where a lot of violent, dark things have happened. I wanted to ask you, what drew you to the Cecil Hotel to kind of base your story around?
I live in LA, I’ve been living there the majority of my life. So when I heard the news of the Elisa Lam story and the Cecil, at first I really thought it was a mockumentary. Because there’s a film called Dark Water that came out literally a decade ago that has a similar story. Which is when a girl dies in the water tank and what not, and then the residents complain about the dark water coming out right? And it turns out that was the case, and when I saw it on the news, I thought it was a commercial or viral marketing ploy to do a remake of the film.
Now, of course when I looked into it I’m like “Holy crap, this is actually not a film, this is real!”, and I was fascinated by it, read more into it and I was really fascinated of course, but then again life goes on. Then next year and the next year, basically every year during Halloween time, it becomes one of those unsolved events, it becomes an LA staple in a way, and it was really fascinating to me.
That’s for one, and number two is that I didn’t want to exploit the tragedy because at the end of the day, it is a tragedy, no matter what happened to her, it is a tragedy.
So then I was just thinking of the feeling of, you know, put myself in what happens if I was Elisa Lam. What happens to me at that point? The loneliness, the fear. And people just don’t care, for lack of better words, when Elisa Lam’s story came out, people didn’t really care in terms of who she is. All they really care about was ”Is she possessed? Is she on drugs?” And then there’s conspiracy theories that go into things that are, I guess interesting, but little did they care about who she is as a person.
So when I was talking to the screenwriter about DropTheMike, I wanted to see in terms of this is a tragedy. Can we play a tragedy so that at least people would see that at the end of the day, no matter the sort of expectations you have or what you want to do. Whether it’s through subscribers or being popular or whatnot, or even for DropTheMike, who just wants money for his family. What happens when it ends in tragedy?
What happens if you are the tragedy, and somebody else is watching you? In the ending, that’s what I show, that someone’s watching you, and how does that feel? I think that was the genesis of why the subject was so important to me.
That’s fascinating. One of the most powerful lines in the film, I thought, is towards the end of the film where DropTheMike is addressing the camera and he talks about how he was in the basement and how he was thinking about how terrifying it must’ve been for Megan Kim, who is the sort of analogue to Elisa Lam. I was originally going to ask if there was a feeling of obligation to tell that story with reverence, but obviously you’ve already mentioned that. You all did a fantastic job covering a real world tragedy and bringing a spotlight to it, especially considering how it was treated by the media and by the public when the story occurred.
Absolutely, you hit the nail on the head with that one, and that was the goal. To show the tragedy from that perspective, as a vlog, but in the same token, there’s the other piece of that. This is a movie about a vlogger and if you look around, the most popular, the Jake Paul’s out there, good or bad as a person, I don’t know him personally. And I only watched a few of his videos for research, but the question I always have about these popular vloggers is “Who are they in real life?”
On the one hand, you can have a very obnoxious, individual. Really he’s an asshole. A lot of the vloggers out there, they’re jerks. You look at their real life. Who they’re dating and the people in their life, and of course it’s not just for money. There’s true love there, right? So we always ask “How could a girl like this be into such an asshole?”
So there’s got to be something behind it, and what we wanted to do is show that this is DropTheMike, this is his personality and that doesn’t change, but if we dig deeper, is he really that much of a bad person? Or is this just a facade that he puts up?
And with that facade that he puts, as an audience, there are people, there are viewers that subscribe to these vloggers, right? And what do you take out of it? What does the audience take out of it? Do you believe in everything that you see, do you model your own life choices based upon what you see, or do you question what you see out there in the media? So that was the idea.
I see, and DropTheMike to me really resonated as a character as someone who, there’s a lot of layers to him. I can’t wait to see what the future holds in Followed II. We really appreciate you talking with us today about the film, it’s a fantastic movie, and to anyone who hasn’t seen it yet, I highly recommend giving it a watch. Thank you for speaking with me, Mr. Antoine Le.
Thank you so much for having me on, I sincerely appreciate that you liked the film and that you understand the terms of the things that were trying to put out as filmmakers, so sincerely appreciate that, I hope everyone watches as well, in Drive-In at the moment, if you go straight to Followedhorrormovie.com, you should be able to see where the nearest drive-ins daily. Also, this is not confirmed yet, but we also might be arriving at hard-top theaters as well, so keep a lookout on the stage. The film will also become available on digital later in the summer.
Awesome, that is fantastic. Thank you so much.
Great, Thank you so much guys and hope you have a great rest of the day and yeah, thank you.
Until next time. Have a good one.
Followed is now playing. You can also go to Followedhorrormovie.com to see a complete list of drive-ins and theaters showing the film.