Ghost Team One is kind of like if the folks from Mystery Team made a found footage horror comedy. Two stoners attempt to make contact with the dead in hopes of hooking up with a girl who believes that their house is haunted.
With so many found footage films falling flat, it’s refreshing to see a different take on the subgenre that doesn’t take itself too seriously. One thing that’s promising is the fact that the laughs start right away instead of most found footage horror movies where nothing happens ever until the final reel. The directing team of Ben Peyser and Scott Rutherford talked to Dread Central the other day from the oldest building in Los Angeles, the Avila Adobe building.
DC: Are you guys actually doing a press day at the Avila Adobe house right now? Any weird shit going on?
Ben Pyser: Yes we are. We’re told it’s actually haunted and actively haunted, so it’s fucking terrifying man!
Scott Rutherford: Supposedly the madame of the house starts crying when she gets upset. It’s not cool.
BP: The only way we’re making it through right now is the fact that Scott and I are basically sitting on each other’s laps.
DC: As long as whatever tragedy occurred there didn’t happen around lunchtime I think you guys are going to be okay.
BP: Oh! Thanks a lot Drew. You’re keeping it real.
DC: Were there plans for both of you guys to direct Ghost Team One from the beginning?
SR: The whole movie was sort of a beautiful lightning in a bottle. A small group of people pouring their hearts into this thing and then everyone stepping up and doing everything they can to make it as good as possible. So, I was brought on to direct and we were going to start shooting in three weeks and I just knew it was going to be such a crazy ride that I wanted a DP who was beyond a DP and was really the full package. I was brought on to direct because I’ve done a lot of comedy. I’ve written for a show called “Workaholics” …
DC: Yeah, of course. I love that show.
SR: Yeah, it’s great. In a way, that’s done in a similar way to this movie. Then, Ben and I knew each other from UCLA film school and Ben has his own production company. So, it’s a no-brainer to work with this guy. We make each other laugh and, between the two of us, we give each other the best shot of making this movie with such little money be as good as it can possibly be.
BP: What was great was that this was the first project that Scott and I had done together and we were really excited but we had no idea how it was gonna go. What we found out was that we had a really great dynamic, especially for this kind of movie. It’s a found footage movie, there’s a lot of improv. I’m on camera and I’m in the room so I’m experiencing the situation in a very intimate way. I’m basically one of the characters. I’m with the characters and so I’m getting a certain vibe on the comedy from that level, and them Scott is seeing the whole scene unfold. He can see what the audience is seeing. It was like we were cheating; it wasn’t fair.
DC: One reason why the film works for the most part is you can really tell how much fun everyone’s having. But did you guys ever have to really use your adult voice and remind everyone that making a movie in three weeks isn’t easy?
SR: That’s kind of the hilarious job of director on a comedy set. You want chaos, you want it to be a party movie and you want everyone to be having as much fun as they can and making each other laugh. And then, it’s your job to play Dad and say, ‘Okay! Stop laughing. I mean, keep laughing but stop laughing for a moment so we can get it done and then be funny again!’ So, it is sort of a silly job to be the responsible one when your job is to capture irresponsibility.
BP: That being said, I don’t think either of us specialize in responsibility which did help with the fun that we had on set. There are filmmakers out there that will do one take and move on. We are not those guys because we want to enjoy it. We know what we want, we know what the jokes are sometimes, and then you have to give them room to play. So, that’s what was fun about this set.
DC: You guys lost one of your leads, and then got Carlos [Santos], but it’s hard to see two guys having better chemistry than Carlos and J.R. [Villarreal]. It seemed like they had known each other for a long time.
SR: Oh, it’s incredible. They really do. Everyone who watches it is like, ‘Oh wow. So, they’ve been friends since childhood?’ and it’s like, no, actually, they met each other 24 hours before the movie began. But now, they’re best friends until the grave. It’s a bromance so sincere it’s a little awkward.
DC: Tony Cavalero kind of steals the film at the end and I imagine his background with The Groundlings helped the cast to be funnier as well but I really dug him at the end of the movie.
SR: He’s so funny and so talented. But, also, what we found that’s a really exciting thing for the movie is since we had this latino cast in the leads, all of a sudden, a white guy becomes so much more interesting than a white guy usually is. He’s the minority for a change, so watching him in the role just made a hilariously talented man that much funnier in the context of the film.
DC: Was that batshit ending the last thing you guys filmed?
BP: That was toward the end of production when we filmed that scene and it was delightful chaos. It was one of the most enjoyable levels of hell that I’ll probably ever be on. We were in a hot, closed off bedroom for hours and hours into the wee hours of the night. What made it work was honestly everybody’s commitment to it.
SR: You just put real stoner idiots in the horrifying situation of trying to deal with a ghost and the honest responses are going to be funny.
BP: We grew up loving Spinal tap and “The Office” but we did not want to make a spoof. We wanted to make a movie where the characters were really believable to the audience and then when something insane happens they react honestly to that. In a spoof movie when something scary happens it’s for a gag. In this movie, you’ve been with the characters so when whatever’s behind that door starts to come out it really freaks you out.
Ghost Team One will be released day-in-date in select theaters and is now available on VOD and on Digital from Film Arcade and Paramount Home Media Distribution.
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