We recently sat down with director Brian Netto and his writing partner Adam Schindler to get the straight dirt on their “really-you-guys-need-to-see-this” flick Delivery: The Beast Within (review) (or Delivery, as it was known in the UK). Read on for the goods!
On making the movie found footage style as opposed to a more traditional narrative…
Adam Schindler: The whole idea for Delivery came about with the format intact. The whole idea of following around this couple and doing it as a found (or assembled) footage movie all came together at the same time. It was never a matter of us saying, ‘Let’s make a pregnancy horror movie and then try and figure out how to fit it into the whole found footage model.’
We were never interested in making a straight narrative version of a film like this as it’s been done with Rosemary’s Baby, which is probably one of the best films ever. What excited us was having the opportunity to take something that was a reality TV show, something that was really sweet with all the spit and polish on it, and then turning that on its head and turning it into something unexpected. A horror movie.
Brian Netto: To give you some perspective of just when this project was conceived, we had just finished the first draft of our script when the original Paranormal Activity had dropped. We put this together the summer leading up to PA. And we had just seen Cloverfield, and there’s a huge gap between Cloverfield and the other hugely successful found footage film, The Blair Witch Project.
There weren’t that many found footage films out there at that time to point to and say, ‘Okay, let’s put it in that format because that’s what the audience wants. We just made our movie about this reality show that’s coming apart at the seems. By the time you get to the end, it’s a remarkably different film than it started out to be. Another influence we had was an Australian film called Lake Mungo, which kind of served as our forefather. That movie inspired and informed us of the kind of performances we were looking for and then also the structure. It was a really interesting story that kept you guessing.
AS: The thing about Lake Mungo is not only was it a horror film, it was also a drama. We thought that was a great way to go. Yes, we were shooting a so-called found footage movie, but we were also taking the time to develop our characters along the way. Most found footage movies are just a riot. You hop in the car… you’ve got five hours or even a weekend to shoot all this stuff… then all this craziness happens and you’re done. With our format, as with Lake Mungo’s, we had the opportunity to bring in characters who could comment on what you were seeing, and that really helped to flesh things out and bring the realism to the film that we wanted.
BN: Before the release of Paranormal Activity, we had a chance to sit down with Oren [Peli] and pick his brain. Everyone was buzzing about the movie so we really wanted to learn about his approach. Oren sat down with us and literally went over everything from Point A to Point Z. No one had any idea that his movie would change the landscape of what microbudget filmmaking could actually be. Literally two months after we sat down, the film opened and the rest is history.
We saw it at a midnight screening here in L.A. and the theatre was packed. Every time the movie went to nighttime and you saw them sleeping in bed, you could just hear the audience shifting in their seats. It was a really great viewing experience, and what his film showed us was that you don’t have to put everything on screen… you can leave a lot more to the imagination and let people bring their own fears to the party. Paranormal showed the decision-makers that a film like that and like ours could succeed, and it informed us that we could trust the audience more.
In terms of finding the right cast members…
AS: That took A LOT! Since we did everything ourselves, we held our own casting sessions. We brought in like 300 actors. Taking a page out of Oren’s book, we followed his interview style. We sat everyone down as couples and just started firing questions at them like, ‘Where were you engaged?’ ‘Tell us about your wedding.’ Then at the end you ask them, ‘Well, why do you think your house is haunted?’ to throw them off guard. We were looking for a specific skill set, which is dramatic improv. It’s really hard to do, and we had a difficult time finding people who could do that, but when we did… Laurel [Vail, who played Rachel Massy] was like the 3rd or 4th person that we saw and we immediately knew she was good. We found her at the very beginning but had to do our due diligence. Danny [Barclay, who played Kyle Massy] came in at a later date. He was a friend of Laurel. A referral. He came in and obviously they had the comfort level of knowing each other outside of the film and I think that shows up on the screen. From day one they felt like a couple. It felt right.
BN: Our actors had to work on two levels… one was as a couple who you could believe as a couple and also as interesting people that would be cast in a reality show. People you’d want to follow and watch. Then on top of that they had to be able to go to some of the darker places that the film required. Part of the casting process was seeing how fast they could roll with the turns. See how flexible they were. Since we financed the film ourselves, we were allowed to go with our instincts and find people who were the best actors instead of finding more familiar faces and working them in. If this were a studio film, we wouldn’t have had that kind of opportunity as someone would always be looking over our shoulders. We’re really proud of the fact that people who see the movie really single out the performances of our actors.
Where did they draw the line between realistic and silly given the haunted house setting?
BN: For us it was the hairpin turns that the film was going to be asking the audience… ‘Are you believing that this is really happening to this couple, or is Rachel experiencing some kind of an episode?’ We are always asking those questions. What happens in the film is up to the interpretation of the audience, and we love the fact that we get asked questions like, ‘Was this happening, or was she crazy?’ In order to get that desired effect, we cannot give the audience too much of one or the other. We had to do our best to straddle the line. That’s where we had to take a step back and restrain ourselves from showing too much of the supernatural elements of the film. The incidents had to be something that could be explained away.
AS: We edited the film ourselves so we took our time testing out these things. We needn’t to get a flow going for the movie so we were constantly faced with questions like, ‘Is this moment too big at this point in the film?’ We shot the film so that it was more overt supernaturally and there were moments that we took out of Delivery because it crossed that line into an area that just wasn’t believable.
On capturing the feel of a reality TV…
AS: Both of our wives watch reality TV – things like “A Baby’s Story” – so we were really keen on making it feel like a TLC family-friendly kind of program instead of the MTV “Teen Mom” type of deal. It had to feel very much like something my mom and sister would watch. You know… middle America… cute couple… good things are happening. Because it goes to such a dark place, it was important to make it feel like those. People can put themselves in the subject’s place and say, ‘Hey, I’ve done this, or my sister’s done this’ so it feels familiar to the audience. We needed everyone to feel engaged with not only the characters, but what they were doing.
BN: The funny thing about those shows is that it doesn’t matter if it’s “Amish Hoarders” or “This Is My Baby,” they all just suck you in. They’re just representative of an everyday, normal slice of life. Keeping things as down to earth as possible, and giving you the opportunity to get to know the characters and the situation before we put them through the wringer so that you care about them. You’re rooting for them even though it tells you at the beginning that things go pretty bad for them. We wanted the audience almost to forget that the characters were going to be going down a very dark path.
The Collective will be releasing the feature in theaters and on VOD. A limited theatrical run in NYC, Los Angeles, San Diego, Chicago, and Indianapolis is set for May 30th with the movie hitting cable VOD on all major platforms three days prior on May 27th.
Directed by Brian Netto and produced by Adam Schindler (who also co-wrote the screenplay with Netto), Delivery: The Beast Within stars Laurel Vail, Danny Barclay, and Rob Cobuzio in the paranormal thriller that has been generating buzz since it premiered last summer at the L.A. Film Festival.
DELIVERY: THE BEAST WITHIN tells the story of Kyle and Rachel Massy, a young couple who agree to document their first pregnancy for a family-oriented reality show. As the camera continues to capture strange events, Rachel begins to believe that a malevolent spirit has possessed their unborn child.
Told through the show’s un-aired footage and interviews with friends, family, and production members, this savvy debut feature leverages the voyeuristic properties of reality television to present a fresh perspective on classic horror themes of possession and the paranormal — and delivers enough eeriness to keep you on the edge of your seat.
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