Exclusive Guest Blog: Daniel Stamm on The Last Exorcism
With Friday's release of The Last Exorcism (review here) right around the corner, we thought we'd do something special for you to celebrate the movie's release. We're good like that so get ready to dig on a special guest blog right here, right now, with director Daniel Stamm!
"My love affair with shooting scripted films in the documentary format started in 2004 when cinematographer Zoltan Honti, editor Shilpa Sahi and I graduated from the American Film Institute. I had met them at a party the first day of school, and we had worked on every project together since – including my wedding where Zoltan was my best man and for which Shilpa got ordained to performed the ceremony. We wanted to make a film together again asap, and we wanted it to be our first feature. The problem was that film school had completely bankrupted us which leads to a very common trap that graduates fall into – they are hoping for someone to give them money, spending years waiting for a green light that never comes. We were determined not to fall victim to that pattern. I am lazy so I probably would have ended up in that trap sooner or later, but Zoltan kept calling every single day with the same simple message: “Let’s just do it! Let’s just shoot something!”. More to get him off my back than anything else, I came up with a story that not only could be shot on video but would actually benefit from it. We would work with available light and handheld. We borrowed a camera and used tapes that had previously been recorded on. We were good to go, no third party’s green light necessary. We had a date with the faux-documentary format.
What was born out of necessity quickly became an all-consuming passion. The style puts all emphasis on the acting and the writing. I was blown away by the level of emotional authenticity that could be reached once you stopped focusing on the technical aspects of the shoot. You don’t need a crane, a helicopter, and 200 pounds of explosive to terrify people. On the contrary. The fact that there was nobody we were answering to meant we didn’t have to compromise. A low budget directly translates to artistic integrity. You can be as provocative and subversive as you want to be. There is no ‘lowest common denominator’. Once we understood that, the possibilities seemed endless.
We worked on what would become a film called A NECESSARY DEATH for three years. When it was finally done we premiered at SXSW, got rave reviews and won AFI Fest… but distributors were deathly afraid to touch the movie due to its dark subject matter – a man committing suicide on camera. So much for being subversively provocative and defying lowest common denominators ...
Jacob Forman, a writer from my year at AFI, heard that Eric Newman and Marc Abraham (CHILDREN OF MEN, DAWN OF THE DEAD) at Strike Entertainment were looking for a director for a faux documentary. He gave them a copy of our film. It turned out that for them – and especially Eli Roth who was attached to produce – it couldn’t be dark enough, and they loved it. They let me bring Zoltan and Shilpa on board and we set out to make THE LAST EXORCISM."
Look for the Daniel Stamm directed film, which was produced by Eli Roth, in theatres on August 27th. Check out the official The Last Exorcism Facebook page for more; then dig on the official The Last Exorcism website here.
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