Horror Movie News and Reviews

Exclusive: An Interview With ‘Found’ Director Scott Schirmer

Found

If you’ve not had the pleasure of seeing a little film called Found yet, boy are you in for a treat. It’s made its way through the festival circuit racking up various awards and accolades, and is set for DVD and VOD release later this year.

Let’s just say it’s a horror fan’s horror movie. I had the pleasure of attending the premiere in Indiana (its home state) roughly two years ago, and I was not disappointed. And as a huge fan of the Todd Rigney novel that it is based on, there was plenty of room for disappointment. Director Scott Schirmer executed it to about as close to perfection as a book-to-film adaptation can get, and on a very low budget. Rigney also co-wrote the screenplay with Schirmer.

If you want to know more about the plot, there are plenty of reviews here (I may still offer my own take ahead of the official release), or better yet, go read the book. But for now, I’ll share with you the fruits of a chat I had with Schirmer, which will probably be most appreciated by those who have already seen the film.

First of all, you should know that Found in its true form has been deemed too much for Australian audiences to handle and therefore denied classification in that country.

found-banned

“We haven’t been dealing directly with the Australian ratings board,” Schirmer tells me. “Our distributor in Australia and the UK, Monster Pictures, submitted it for classification and it was refused. Apparently, the Australian government is very specific about what will or won’t be allowed in a film in order for it to receive classification — which is actually kinda nice, because here in the US, I believe the MPAA is more vague. You just have to keep cutting and resubmitting here, but in Australia, they’ve told Monster Pictures exactly what needs to be cut so they’re making the cuts and resubmitting it in time for release this Fall. The only part of the movie they have a problem with is the big ‘Headless’ sequence, where Marty and his friend David watch a pretty nasty slasher movie together…It sounds like most of ‘Headless’ will be cut out. But, hey, that’s what region-free players are for, right?”

That’s a goddamn shame, because Headless is undoubtedly one of the most memorable parts of the movie (though there are certainly plenty more).

SPOILER:

Another of those memorable scenes involves an erect penis, which quite frankly is chillingly effective during the particularly terrifying scene. You may or may not get the full effect, however, when the release finally comes to market. It was as clear as day during the premiere screening, but less so in my subsequent viewings. While this may seem like a silly thing to even consider, due to the context of the scene, it does make a noticeable difference in the tone of what’s actually happening in the movie, though it’s certainly still effective either way.

Asked about this, Schirmer says, “Steve’s full-frontal shots have always been there. Depending on the brightness of the projection, you see more or less of it — which is how I wanted it. I wanted you to know he was nude and aroused by the violence, but didn’t want to linger on it a second longer than it took to get that point across. Some people think it’s just for shock value to put an erect penis in there, but in my mind it’s deeply connected to what the whole movie is about — the fragility of male identity and the volatility of male sexuality, and the terrifying notion that we are, at least to some extent, driven by our biology and that violence can be sexually fetishized.”

You really just have to see it to understand.

END SPOILER

Part of the reason Found works so well is the nostalgic feeling it invokes in fans of the genre – those of us who grew up renting VHS tapes and  having sleepovers with friends to watch them. This feeling was a big part of what made the book so great, and it remains in tact in the film. One scene (which includes a cameo by Rigney, a former video store clerk himself) takes the viewer inside a classic video store complete with shelves of VHS tapes and wonderful posters. Unfortunately, soon we’re only going to have movies to remind us of what this experience was like.

The video store was one producer Damien Wesner worked at in French Lick, Indiana, and they didn’t have any VHS tapes anymore,” Schirmer explains. “So I asked Brandon Bennett, a friend of many of us, if he’d be interested in bringing his considerable VHS collection in to dress the set. And thankfully, he did! We also had a lot of Arthur Cullipher’s personal collection in there. They’re both big VHS fans. We also bought a curtain and curtain rod to put up, so we could create that ‘back room’ section for all the adult tapes. I think that was really all we did. We didn’t have the budget to adhere strictly to a period piece, but wherever possible, we tried to make it feel like the story was set in about 1990 or 1991. It just felt right to me.”

Fans of the movie will be particularly excited to know that an actual movie of the fictional movie-within-the-movie, Headless, is in the works. Schirmer won’t be directing, but is involved.

“‘Headless’ is indeed moving forward as a feature film,” he says. “I am co-producing it with Kara Erdel. Her husband Nathan Erdel is writing the screenplay and Arthur Cullipher is directing. Arthur is a special effects artist and it just makes sense to all of us that he should direct it, because it’s going to have a ton of effects — all practical, no CG. Leya Taylor is returning to photograph it, and we’re hoping to get Magician Johnson back for the score. And of course, Shane Beasley is also returning as the Killer.”

“The story that Nathan and Arthur have hammered out is a real blend of exploitation filth and dreamy/psychological stuff,” he adds. “I think it will definitely satisfy the gore hounds, but we’re also trying to give it some extra, deeper substance. We’re launching a Kickstarter campaign within the next week or two, so hopefully we can shoot in early Fall and run the festivals throughout 2015. We’re offering some incredible ‘perks’ for people who contribute to the campaign so definitely look for that announcement!”

Schirmer and Rigney may also collaborate again.

Todd has a new story that I desperately want to make into a movie, something very disturbing, alluring, and supernatural,” Schirmer tells me. “We’ve talked about it a few times and I really hope we can make it happen. And I’m also still interested in adapting several of his short stories into an anthology movie as well.”

“But in the meantime, I am producing a couple of movies,” he says. “One is ‘Headless’ and the other is Leya Taylor’s directorial debut, which we hope to announce soon. The most exciting project for me personally, though, is an original script I’m working on and hope to finish this summer. I don’t like to jinx things, but I will say that it’s completely different from ‘Found’ in pretty much every way. I would call it a fun, spooky comedy, not really horror, but it definitely plays on our nostalgia for old-fashioned horror. After ‘Found’, I really want to do something light and fun, but then I want to dive right back into the funk again. You know? I’d like to go back and forth for a while maybe. So no one gets bored. Including me.”

Here’s the scoop on what’s going on with Found’s release dates.

We agreed to DVD and VOD deals in the US, Canada, the UK, and Australia pretty early in the year,” Schirmer says. “Unfortunately, it just takes forever for distributors to get things through their pipelines. I also had to work around the clock back in March to re-render everything to their technical specifications. But YES, the movie is indeed coming to all those countries this Fall. Monster Pictures has already announced that they’re releasing us in the UK and Australia. The DVD is already on the UK Amazon site. We are extremely anxious to make our US/Canada announcement but we can’t really say anything about it until the distributor officially lets the cat out of the bag. It should be literally any day now. Our international sales rep is also working to get all other territories for us, too. We definitely want releases in Spain, Mexico, and France — some of our biggest fans live in those countries!”

Be patient, and avoid the temptation of piracy. Schirmer has voiced frustration with this in the past, and I asked him his thoughts on the subject again.

You can argue about whether or not piracy actually hurts anyone,” he says. “Both sides of the argument have a lot of evidence to show you if you’re interested in having that argument, an argument about statistics. Empirically, I have no idea who is right or wrong in that argument. It’s far more complicated than I ever imagined. But on a more personal level, I think every individual knows it’s wrong to steal things. Movies are usually copyrighted material. People copyright material because they don’t want that material stolen from them. So whether or not you think piracy is right or wrong is irrelevant. Whether or not you think piracy helps or hurts people is irrelevant. Copyright is there for a reason, and I think everyone should respect an individual’s right to protect their creative content.”

Really though. It’s worth paying to see. I’m also giddy about Headless and any future Schirmer/Rigney collaborations.