Move over X-Files; The KAOS Brief is taking over! Written, Produced, and Directed by JP Mandarino The KAOS Brief takes audiences on a trip to the mountains with four high school seniors, twin brother and sister Skylar and Dakota, and boyfriends Corey and Tren. Skylar is a YouTube Channel vlogger, and his plan is to document the entire trip with a variety of recording devices. One evening strange lights in the sky are witnessed, with their origin unknown the strange phenomena is quickly dismissed as the group returns home from their trip. Not so long after their return unexplainable events begin, with strange markings on their bodies, technological disruption and crazy visits from odd men in black suits this group of teens is on the brink of a breakdown! Fearing for their lives, this young group is now in survival mode, its fight or flight as The KAOS Brief consumes their lives.
Before checking out this flick I had little to no information and never heard of it. I had no idea what I was walking into so to speak, except for the feeling that it was going to be a found footage film. I know that found footage films have been on the cutting board lately, but I did not let this taint my viewing experience. I happen to find found footage films pretty damn good when constructed correctly, and in this case, it was! Immediately I fell in love with these four characters, as their lives seamlessly felt very real. The interaction between the group, along with their personal roles, and the use of technology that Skylar uses to create his blogs is something millennials are going to gravitate to and absolutely love. With a well-crafted script, the film did a marvelous job of hiding or better yet not hinting of what the outcome was going to bring. Satisfied with the climax and conclusion of the movie, I still wanted more!
With an X-Files sort of feel, the pacing of the plot was spot on, and I enjoyed every minute of it! Writer JP Mandarino does tell iHorror in a recent interview that he has plans for a sequel and that is just music to my ears. Audiences will ponder whether or not we are truthfully alone after viewing, The KAOS Brief.
As always check back with iHorror for future updates and release info for The KAOS Brief and enjoy our interview with JP Mandarino below.
A secretive hacktivist group named KAOS seemingly hacks whatever program the viewer has been watching. The KAOS representative is dressed in a hip suit and is wearing a skull mask; it feels like the nightly news broadcast with a dark twist. The audience is told that what they are about to view is top secret video footage found hidden in the Edward Snowden files. As the footage begins, the audience is introduced to four high school seniors, twin brother and sister, Skylar and Dakota, and Skylar’s boyfriend Corey and Dakota’s boyfriend Tren. They are heading to the mountains to go camping for a long weekend. Skylar, being an aspiring vlogger with his own YouTube Channel, has enlisted his sister and their boyfriends to record the entire weekend on their mobile devices. After they notice strange lights in the sky, unexplainable events begin to unfold. From markings on their bodies, lost time, and mysterious visitations from sinister men in black suits. The tensions rise as they struggle …
Writer, Producer, and Director JP Mandarino took some time to speak to iHorror about The KAOS Brief and its conception. Enjoy!
iHorror: Congratulations on the completion of your film The Kaos Brief. Did you face any challenges or setbacks during filming? What was the most challenging aspect faced when putting this film together in the editing room?
JP Mandarino: Thank you so much! Making this movie has been the highlight of my life so far, and by far, one of the most challenging endeavors I’ve ever undertaken. Thankfully we didn’t face too many setbacks during the shoot. We had the typical issues for independent filmmakers. Things like how do we get one of our actors to walk down a suburban street naked at night without the neighbors calling the police or needing to head back to the mountains to reshoot a scene because the drone’s camera died mid-flight and we didn’t know until we were editing. With this type of film, improvisation is an important element for the actors to make the characters their own and for those happy accidents to occur that can move the story forward. So I think improv is amazing and I think our film benefits from some great improv from the actors, but occasionally, things do fly off the rails. For example, the drone we were using crashed so often in the mountains that I eventually just incorporated it into the story, which offers some fun comedic moments before things get too dark. As far as editing, what we ran into with so many cameras running concurrently and from several different angles at a time was there was an enormous amount of footage to sift through and decide what would work best within each scene. That took us awhile to structure each scene, so we remained true to the genre and consistent with which POV was focused on in each scene.
iH: Where did the name The KAOS Brief originate from?
JPM: Most found footage films, or as they are now being referred to, first person thrillers, open and close with written text offering some sort of explanation as to why we are watching the footage. I thought a more compelling approach would be to actually bookend the movie with a provocative narrative. I’ve been obsessed with the hacker group Anonymous and shows like Mr. Robot. So instead of the footage being “found” footage, I felt it should be “hacked” footage that was leaked by this hacker group. I wanted a simple name for the group, but I came up with Knowledge Against Oppressive Stupidity, which is too long of course. I decided an acronym would work out better, hence, KAOS.
iH: Where did filming take place for his film?
JPM: We filmed in Green Valley Lake up near Big Bear in the San Bernardino mountains in Southern California, Long Beach, and in Los Angeles.
iH: The KAOS Brief is filled with noteworthy acting, what did the casting process entail?
JPM: We knew that in order to make this movie work, we had to have a cast that could seamlessly go from improvisation to dialogue and that we actually believed and cared about. Edward Singletary Jr., our producer and casting director, comes from an acting background and knew what to look for. Aided by producer Randall Walk, and after sifting through nearly four thousand submissions, we began the process. Drew Lipson was cast as Skylar first, we knew once this role was locked, we would know what we needed to look for in the rest of the cast. While Drew wasn’t visually how I originally scripted the character of Skylar, he blew us away with his first read and callback. He had the quality of Skylar, and that was what sold us. Casting Drew helped us narrow our choices for Dakota, Skyler’s twin sister, played by Charlie Patton. She arrived in the room with an incredible honesty and vulnerability about her, we instantly cared about her and we knew audiences would as well. Marco Delvecchio, who plays Corey, sent us one of the best-self tapes we saw for the role of Skylar. We felt he was a better fit for Corey and asked for another tape. We cast Marco out of Florida and I didn’t meet him in person until rehearsals, he was that good! The role of Tren was the last role locked in, played by Akanimo “Akon” Eyo. This role was surprisingly difficult to cast. We just couldn’t find a solid actor that encompassed all the aspects of Tren I wanted. Then we came across one of the strangest self-tapes submitted. It was shot in a bathroom, with a shower curtain in the background and with no actor reading opposite him. Edward saw something in that tape that gave him a glimmer of hope and called in Akanimo to read. It totally paid off, he walked in, and we had our Tren. His natural sense of timing, humor, and ability to “be in the moment” creates some of the best footage in the film. Once locked, I spent a lot of time with the actors just hanging out so they could get a sense of each other and bond as friends. The rehearsal process was inclusive and collaborative, the kids and I worked through the dialogue together in order to make it more natural for them. We feel there are great things in store for all these actors and I’m thrilled we got them together for The KAOS Brief. Our preview audiences all agree, the chemistry works!
iH: What was the most challenging aspect of putting this film together?
JPM: The most challenging aspect for telling this story and making sure we didn’t hit too many obstacles during the editing process was making sure there was continuous motivation for the camera angles. When I originally conceived of the idea, I wanted to use only one camera from the vlogger’s perspective to keep it very simple, but as we began pre-production, we quickly realized the issues we could run into while editing if we didn’t have any coverage or anything to cut away to. So I did a re-write on the script and took advantage of all the different camera angles we have in our lives these days. It made the actual shoot a little more challenging since we had to properly motivate each camera POV, but it made editing much more fluid. I think the story is much stronger with the various camera angles, sort of suggesting an omnipresence watching everything.
iH: Any sequels planned for The KAOS Brief?
JPM: I am writing two sequels for The KAOS Brief. I’m not sure which one I will pursue. One deals with what has happened to the current characters. I’ve gotten a lot of feedback that people want to know what happens to them! And the other story is about the implications this story might have on a global level. The KAOS hacker group plays a larger role in both stories.
iH: When will the film be released? Are you planning on hitting the festival circuit?
JPM: We are exploring distribution options and seeing what might be the best way to get this movie out there and find its audience. One way, of course, is by submitting to film festivals and we are waiting to hear back from a number of festivals.
iH: How long did it take to write The KAOS Brief? Did your script receive many revisions during filming?
JPM: I sat on the idea for a couple of years, trying to decide the best way to get the movie made. I had tentative funding in place and thought I’d better get the script written, which took me about two weeks. That funding, of course, fell apart at the last moment. Then I began working with new producers Edward Singletary Jr. and Randall Walk who found new funding pretty quickly and gave me a bunch of great notes for the script. I re-wrote the script based on those notes, which took about a month, and then we went into pre-production. I then gave the script a polish during pre-production to account for wanting more than one camera angle POV.
iH: I felt that your film was executed very well, however over the years found footage films have received a lot of backlash throughout the horror and sci-fi communities. Did this make you worry or hesitant to make this type of film?
JPM: Found footage / first person thrillers, have indeed gotten a bit of a backlash over the past few years. I think the backlash stems from the fact that the genre can be a much more affordable way to get a movie made, and as a result, we had a glut of not great films put out that turned a lot of people off the genre. Bad films are bad, regardless of the genre. I think there are a handful of amazing first person thriller films out there. Aside from the obvious ones like Blair Witch and Paranormal Activity, I love Troll Hunter, The Visit, Rec, The Last Exorcism, Chronicle, and Unfriended. I wanted to make this type of movie and approach it with a fresh and modern point of view. I felt having the main character be a vlogger who posts some innocuous videos from a camping trip and how that could lead to life and death situations and mysterious occurrences would be something we all could relate to, plus adding the hacker element made the story feel very current and relevant.
iH: What projects are you working on now?
JPM: While The KAOS Brief finds it’s place in the world, I am working on getting financing together for my next script I want to direct called Prom Night of the Living Dead. I also produce and direct TV commercials in between other projects.
JP, thank you so much!
The KAOS Brief links
-ABOUT THE AUTHOR-
Ryan T. Cusick is a writer for ihorror.com and very much enjoys conversation and writing about anything within the horror genre. Horror first sparked his interest after watching the original, The Amityville Horror when he was the tender age of three. Ryan lives in California with his wife and Eleven-year-old daughter, who is also expressing interest in the horror genre. Ryan recently received his Master’s Degree in Psychology and has aspirations to write a novel. Ryan can be followed on Twitter @Nytmare112