#SDCC15: Director Tyler Shields Talks Final Girl
Amidst a bustling crowd of rabid Comic-Con goers we were able to snag a little time with director Tyler Shields about his new film, Final Girl, starring Abigail Breslin. Read on, kids; this was a great one!
According to Shields, Final Girl is “a pretty crazy and hyper-realistic thriller. Abigail [Breslin] plays a young C.I.A. agent who’s trained to kill serial killers. The film is shot unlike anything you’ve seen before. All the effects are practical, there’s no CGI… the fights and the stunts are all real. It’s a very different and very unique movie. In this current film climate you get a lot of the same. There’s sequel after sequel after remake, and they’re all shot the same… they all look the same, and I’m really happy to say that [Final Girl] is very different.”
“I’m not afraid to take risks,” Shields continues. “When I shot this movie, I did so in a way that no matter what happened, no matter who came in and tried to edit it a certain way or tried to conform it to be something else… they just could not do it. You cannot change this movie. It’s so stylized. You can try and edit it into a romantic comedy if you wanted, and it STILL would be just fucking insane. Neither myself nor the actors wanted to risk the film being turned into something that it wasn’t. I was very lucky to have my cast and crew buy into my vision and embrace the way that I do things. It was amazing. Everyone would come in on their days off and at the end of the day would wait around in case I needed anything extra. No one was ever in a hurry to get off set; in fact, they were more in a hurry to get on set. Everyone wanted to do more and more, and that’s interesting because we were pushing them really hard. People would take their beatings, literally; dust themselves off; and ask, ‘Thank you, could I have another?’ We did this scene with Alexander Ludwig, and it was basically torture for 9 hours. Afterwards he came over to me and said, ‘That was so liberating. Thank you for allowing to have such a liberating experience in front of the camera.’ Everyone from top to bottom was really interested in doing something that we could all be proud of.”
From there we moved on to the final girl herself, Abigail Breslin.
“I fell in love with Abigail when she got the script and had agreed to do the movie within 45 minutes,” Tyler told us. “She was only 16 when we made this movie, and some of her people were like, ‘You should not make this movie. This is going to be pretty tough; you may not be able to handle this.’ She was like, ‘No, I am doing this movie,’ and that was it. That was so ballsy and I respect that. She was a trooper, man, because it was FREEZING COLD everywhere that we shot. She was in a dress and had the least clothes on of anyone. Bare-legged and chilled, she had to learn how to fight and so much more. She never really complained about it either. On the last day during the last shot that she was in, I broke her….”
Shields continues, “So we’re shooting this scene, and it’s a REALLY intense moment in the movie. All of a sudden it started to snow… but we said the hell with it. Let’s keep shooting until we get it. In the end filming the scene took about 20 minutes, and that’s a long time when you’re barefooted like her standing in the snow. Hell, under those circumstances 2 minutes feels like a long time. Everyone kept looking at me like, ‘My god, he’s insane!’ And I keep telling Abigail, ‘Do it again… do it again…’ This tension just kept on building, and everyone thought her mom, who was on set, was going to step in and say something. Finally there was this moment though in which Abigail performed the scene better than anyone could ever hope to imagine. It was an iconic moment. People were waiting for her to finish with blankets and other things to keep her warm… she couldn’t even feel her feet anymore. Once she was covered she just lost it. She started yelling at me… I mean really screaming. Later she confessed that this was the first time in her life that she’s ever yelled at anyone. She was yelling and yelling and yelling at me, and I just started smiling and even laughing. She said to me, really irritated, ‘What are you laughing about?’ And I said to her, ‘Yeah, you might hate me right now, but once you see that… that moment… you will love me for the rest of your life.’ Despite everything she looks so beautiful. It really is a perfect moment.”
“With Final Girl we had the opportunity here to try and point a new spin on something… and we have a way for the audience to see it, like they’ve never seen it before,” said Shields. “That’s what excited me about making this movie. I work in a very different kind of way than the usual filmmaker. For instance, we shot this scene with [Alexander] Ludwig… two pages of dialogue… and after we filmed it, I said to him, ‘You know, I don’t think we need all of that. It doesn’t make sense under the circumstances, and we don’t need it. You in this moment just being there says more than any of that dialogue.’ Ludwig loved that. He completely got it! We were constantly changing things up and going with things that were not necessarily planned. For instance, one time we got out into the woods and we came across this beautiful lake that we unfortunately had no shots devised to utilize it. It was gorgeous with these massive mountains, etc. I was like, ‘There’s nothing in the script for this! Somebody get me a fucking canoe.’ I would literally be writing new scenes on bar napkins as we went along. Once they were written, we’d go over them together and then we would do them. Then we’d film them, and then try an even different way to really kind of flesh out what works best. I wanted my actors to fully explore this world and play in it. I was shooting different things and trying different stuff that the general consensus on was, ‘There’s no way that’s making it into the movie,’ but you know what? Most of it did.”
Closing out, we asked what Tyler he would be working on next.
“I’m working on a new film now that was on the Black List called The Wild Ones that I’m doing with Atlas, who did Batman, Superman, etc. So I have that one and another that I’m currently writing. Not sure yet when production will commence on The Wild Ones, but right now it looks like the end of the year is a possibility. I also have a 500- to 600-page behemoth of a photography book coming out next year so keep an eye out for that, too.”
Final Girl Release Details:
Renowned photographer to some of Hollywood’s biggest stars, Tyler Shields will captivate audiences with his debut feature film, the “sardonic, smart, stylized thriller” (Dennis Dermody, PAPER) FINAL GIRL. Starring Oscar® nominee Abigail Breslin (Little Miss Sunshine, Zombieland), FINAL GIRL will debut in select theaters, on Digital HD, and on Video on Demand August 14, 2015, from Cinedigm and Nasser Entertainment.
Also starring BAFTA® Film Award nominee Wes Bentley (The Hunger Games, American Beauty), Alexander Ludwig (The Hunger Games, Lone Survivor), Francesca Eastwood (Jersey Boys), and Cameron Bright (The Twilight Saga), the terrifying, highly anticipated film will debut in select theaters in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia, Dallas, San Francisco, Washington, D.C., Atlanta, Houston, and Phoenix.
Brought to life with Tyler Shields’ eerie, evocative vision, “the idea behind FINAL GIRL was no CGI, no fake effects. I wanted it to be as real as it could be,” he says. “The fights are real, the cold was real, and therefore, the performances are real. It was certainly a challenge, but I think everyone in the movie will agree it was worth it.”
FINAL GIRL follows a group of charismatic yet sadistic boys who every night trick a young, blonde girl into meeting them for a date with the intention to hunt and kill her. However, their horrifying ritual takes a turn when they select the beautiful Veronica (Breslin) as their next victim. When the hunt begins, the boys soon realize they messed with the wrong girl.
FINAL GIRL is co-written by Stephen Scarlata, Alejandro Seri, and Johnny Silver with a screenplay from Adam Prince. In celebration of the film’s release, one-of-a-kind images taken by Shields during the making of FINAL GIRL will also be available for a limited time from TylerShields.com.
Loner Veronica is new to school, shy and vulnerable, the perfect target for a group of teenage boys who lure girls into the woods to hunt and kill them for sport. It’s only after they get her alone that she turns the tables on them, escaping and revealing she’s armed and knows how to defend herself. Little do they know, Veronica is an assassin-in-training, and she’s chosen killing these boys as her final test. When the dust clears, Veronica will find out if she can be the final girl these boys ever have a chance to hurt.