SXSW 2012 Exclusive Interview : Daniel DelPurgatorio, Larissa Shames and Matt Egan Discuss Other
In the short horror film Other, we are introduced to Patrick (David Steiger), a brilliant doctor facing the unthinkable: a grim prognosis of incurable cancer that leaves him desperate and alone in his struggle to survive after the system he's been a part of no longer can help him.
While conducting a series of unconventional experiments, he discovers a scientific loophole unlike anything he had ever imagined, and in mad scientist-like pursuit, Patrick soon finds himself willing to risk everything to ensure he sees his experiment to the end...even if it means accepting the sinister results.
While in Austin for the 2012 SXSW Film Festival a few weeks back, Dread Central had the opportunity to chat with a trio of filmmakers behind Other - director Daniel DelPurgatorio, producer Larissa Shames and editor Matt Egan - who chatted with us about their short film, their plans for a feature film version of Other and so much more.
Check out our interview with DelPurgatorio, Shames and Egan below, and look for the rest of Dread's SXSW coverage coming in the next few days.
Dread Central: I'd love to start off by talking about your approach on Other because it's a story with no dialogue and only voiceover work throughout, which set an incredible tone and atmosphere for following Patrick on this downward spiral. He was a character I immediately connected with, which was pretty amazing.
Daniel DelPurgatorio: The main thing upfront was that we had this guy figured out from the start. Originally, Other was intended to be a four-minute short film, but as we began to figure Patrick out - who he was, where he was coming from, what was driving him - the material just kept coming for this story. I always intended this story to be very simple, very personal and that before he got to the point where he's locked himself in his basement searching for a cure, he was a different man before that happened.
I loved the idea that he was being driven by his own mortality and this terminal illness but the only person he can truly interact with at this phase of his life is himself. He's alone in this and so I had the idea that he would record his thoughts and his progress, and that serves as a way to keep the story moving forward, too. I thought we could tell the story visually and the voiceover would then hit specific moments for his character and push him in different directions.
Larissa Shames: We also really lucked out with Dave Steiger, our actor, because he was really awesome. He just embodied this character, and when he was on set, it was amazing to see what he could do with just his own body language. I think his performance really helped us craft this story better than we could have hoped for, and adding the VO on top of everything else just elevated this story and gave everything about the short such depth. It was amazing to see what he was able to do.
DC: Matt, I have to give you props for making what is essentially a montage from beginning to end that never ever once feels like a montage at all. How difficult was it for you crafting this story without being able to rely on dialogue to guide you?
Matt Egan: I approached it a bit like a musical piece- I just felt the flow of the scenes and just everything weave itself together. I never wanted it scream out that essentially this was a montage so it was more about editing this together so that you're captivated by Patrick's story and as we take you through this, we feather in these subtle moments of emotion and keep you engaged, too.
We also did a layering effect towards the end to symbolize this split that has happened to Patrick; how as he's going through all of this and extracting what he thinks is just diseased tissue is really him splitting into two entities. That's why there's this moment where he's facing himself- at that point he really has become two people.
Daniel DelPurgatorio: The cool thing is that early on we storyboarded a lot of the short and we had cut a four-minute animatic that was really cool, too. But what really helped us the most was having Matt on set because he was there every step of the way and he understand what I was going for so when it came time to edit Other, we were both on the same wavelength. And we shot 30 hours of footage for this - if you can imagine that - but somehow Matt was able to make it all come together so well.
DC: Was the repetition to the story of Other ever a concern to you guys? I mean, I was fascinated watching Patrick go through these experiments over and over, but I also could see how some wouldn't dig on that approach.
Daniel DelPurgatorio: Yeah, part of my biggest concern about making Other is that there is so much repetition to the story; essentially audiences are watching the same thing happening over and over for fifteen minutes so that was definitely something that was in the back of my mind while making this. I knew it was going to be one of those things where people would either be willing to take this journey with him or they were going to be 'I've seen this over and over now, I get it' and check out on us.
But Patrick needed to go through the trial and error of his experiment over and over again or the story wouldn't have had the same impact. I see the repetition more like the Groundhog Day effect- it is the same thing over and over but each time has its own twist.
There are some flashbacks in there, too, but I really think those worked well with the story, and honestly, it really grounds the character of Patrick so you can get a sense of his humanity just before he loses it.
Larissa Shames: I think a lot of times using flashbacks can be really cliché so it's definitely hard to find a way to use them so that they really serve the story, not distract you from it. Thankfully, Daniel and Matt pulled it off because in Other the flashbacks give you this sense of desperation and fear more than anything- it all works so beautifully.
DC: Let's talk about the production value on Other because it was ambitious but incredibly well-executed.
Daniel DelPurgatorio: This was the ultimate do-it-yourself project; we built everything ourselves. We had wires and just so much junk everywhere; we also had an artist draw some stuff up and went back and looked at designs of old machines for inspiration.
The whole thing to Other is that Patrick says at the beginning that he scavenged and looked for these parts so we went out and did just that; it all needed to look like he had been picking through people's garbage grabbing wires and materials so it felt right that we kind of went with that approach when making everything ourselves.
Larissa Shames: The box itself ended up birthing the overall design for the machine really; Danny saw it in an old thrift store and it's actually an old sauna from the 70's.
Daniel DelPurgatorio: Yes, and I loved the idea of that; you sit inside this box and it just keeps all the heat inside which really made sense for a machine you'd use to harness radiation with. I loved the idea that audiences would be sitting there just watching Patrick's face each time he was in the box and every time he would come out, there would be this reveal and each time it was something more disturbing than the last.
DC: Do you guys have any plans on making Other into a feature down the road? It's definitely got a Cronenberg's The Fly vibe that I think would work well within a feature film.
Daniel DelPurgatorio: We're actually working on that right now. Before we shot this, we all knew Patrick had a background, had a real story to him so everything for us to make this into a feature is sitting right there for us to create. The larger story will deal more with the outside world and science and everything like that as well as some corporation and underground cult-type stuff. It will definitely still keep the claustrophobic feel of the short film version but just on a bigger landscape.
Larissa Shames: Also, the short will hopefully serve as a proof of concept just so people will know what the feel is and what we can do with this story.
Daniel DelPurgatorio: That being said, we didn't really start off making the short as that though; I think it's just how everything has developed since we began working on Other. We saw the potential for this story as a feature after we realized that this story has legs to it. I think it also comes from the fact that we had so much fun making this and are really eager to get at it again.
Larissa Shames: Plus what's really great is that this story has a lot of universal themes that resonate with so many of us today, especially with the state of health care now. And I think that there are a lot of ways to develop this story for a larger format than a short film.
Matt Egan: I think what I appreciated most about the story of Other is that it actually says something beyond just what you're seeing on the screen. Here's a guy who is being marginalized by the health care system and that forces him to make some desperate decisions. And the fact that this guy has to go and embark on this journey in this dark dingy basement all by himself makes a great statement I think.
DC: Anything else coming up for you guys in the near future beyond a feature film version of Other?
Daniel DelPurgatorio: Well, we also have a few other shorts we're in the process of developing now as well so hopefully we can make one of those soon.
Larissa Shames: Our company (Vitamin Pictures) is typically an animation studio so this was a huge departure for us, but we're now developing an animation project based on an old cult movie so hopefully that will be happening soon. I think it's going to be pretty cool.
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