Produced by Drew Barrymore’s Flower Films, Josh Anthony’s directorial debut Happy Camp tries to add a little something new to the found footage trope. Anthony was kind enough to take some time to speak with us about his love for the genre amd the challenges of taking the trip to Happy Camp.
He also discussed his high hopes for his first film to be successful enough that he’s allowed to make a second. That’s the dream, right?
DC: There are so many found footage films on the horizon and many that came before. Just to separate you from the pack a little bit, can you talk about the story of Happy Camp?
JA: I wanted to try to evolve it a little bit more. When we first started doing this, it was a little bit stagnant and everyone was trying to do the Blair Witch model. I wanted to shoot it as a film. My main goal was characters and relationships, and I think in genre film you still can do that. Found footage and documentary-style films really get a bad rap because if [people] hear [the term], they’ve already shut their brain off.
DC: What made you want to venture into the woods for a found footage film in the first place? Do you like the conceit of found footage? Have you watched a lot of them and do you watch a lot of horror films?
JA: I watch a ton of horror films. I’m a big fan of The Strangers; that’s absolutely one of my favorite films. I just thought it’d be a really clever way to get started. We had a budget and this was the style of film that we could do without blowing the budget and looking reckless. This was a great start for us and everything we wanted to do just fell into place.
DC: In most of these films, the action comes in the last act. Can you hint at what the ending of Happy Camp is so maybe the fans that are a little skeptical of found footage might take the trip to Happy Camp, so to speak?
JA: I wanted to misdirect a little bit and we kind of take a little twist at the end for a little bit more fun into the genre horror film. We try to take a new stab at some of these style of films. They’ve become formulaic and starting it out as a character piece and then making that turn at the end where it eventually goes, I hope they appreciate it. We wanted to have fun and have the audience enjoy and buy into and have fun with the picture, especially towards the end. These films break that fourth wall and allow the audience to be there, which is something that we tried to do, too.
DC: Why is the film set in 2009 and is there any truth to the disappearances in that area over the years?
JA: The number of disappearances, 627, is a fictional number. Up by Happy Camp there are a lot of missing people. We just thought it would be a great start to a genre horror film.
DC: How did Flower Films get involved? I imagine when they first heard the title Happy Camp they were imagining something quite different.
JA: I’d known Chris Miller at Flower Films for a long time and I’d been working with Flower on and off for the last 12 years and I had known that they wanted to get back into genre films. They had done Donnie Darko in the past and I pitched them the idea and they loved it. I just knew they were trying to get back into these genre films so it was kind of a perfect storm.
DC: Is the horror genre something you want to continue being involved in and what are you doing next?
JA: Absolutely. I’d love to do another one. I have a few broad comedies that are circling around and a couple of really good genre thrillers that I think might change things a little bit, too. Now that this baby is put to bed, hopefully we can get an opportunity. That was the whole goal with Happy Camp… just a chance to get to make another film.
DC: Josh, absolutely do the genre thriller; always do the genre thriller!
Happy Camp is now available on VOD through iTunes and Amazon. Give it a watch!
In the vast wilderness of the Klamath National Forest lies the small logging community of Happy Camp. With a population consisting of only a few hundred souls, this mysterious mountain town has become world renowned for its staggeringly high number of Missing Persons Cases.
Walt and Sandy Tanner adopted a young boy named Michael at the age of 9 and brought him home to Happy Camp, where the couple were raising their young son, Dean. Upon Michael’s arrival, the two boys shared an immediate bond, and for the first time in Michael’s life, he had a family. After living in Happy Camp for only two years, however, tragedy struck on the afternoon of October 22, 1989, when Dean Tanner was abducted from the family’s home. Michael, although in the same room and seemingly the only witness, oddly had no recollection of the violent crime.
20 years later, a grown Michael Tanner has mustered the courage to face his past in an effort to remember what actually happened to his brother on that fateful day. Under the provocation of his girlfriend, Anne, Michael has reluctantly agreed to have his journey documented by a professional film crew. However, what Michael, Anne, and the crew uncover are dangerous secrets about Happy Camp that will change their lives forever…
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