Exclusive Interview: Director Douglas Aarniokoski Talks The Day, Nurse 3D and More
Today, August 29th, filmmaker Douglas Aarniokoski's post-apocalyptic siege flick The Day is hitting the big screen courtesy of WWE Studios and Anchor Bay Entertainment.
To get you guys ready, Dread Central recently chatted with the director about his experiences working on the ambitious indie film that was shot in only 12 days during a grisly winter up in Ottawa, Canada.
Aarniokoski discussed how the shooting conditions affected his casting process, how the film's moody saturated look was all done in-camera by cinematographer Boris Mojsovski and his thoughts on The Day being the first acquisition of WWE Studios.
The director also teased some tidbits on his upcoming Lionsgate project, Nurse 3D, which he promises lives up to the wildly provocative posters that have been released in support of the film.
Check out our exclusive interview with Aarniokoski below, and make sure to check out The Day in theaters tomorrow!
Dread Central: The Day is this little indie movie we have been hearing about for some time now in interviews with guys like Shawn Ashmore and Cory (Hardrict) so I would think that getting ready for your theatrical debut has to be an incredible feeling, considering how ambitious the movie is. Can you talk more about that and how you became involved with the project as well?
Douglas Aarniokoski The Day truly was a labor of love for every single person involved; it's tricky when you're an independent film and don't have the studio system behind you. It can be tough to get any sort of commitments from actors and crew, which is understandable but definitely a hurdle. I knew Shawn, and he was good friends with the writer (Luke Passmore), who wrote The Day with Shawn in mind. And as soon as I read it, I said 'I'm in,' and things just steamrolled from there. The floodgates opened with Shawn's involvement, and we really got so many talented people involved on The Day; we were really lucky.
Dread Central: I know there have been quite a few post-apocalyptic movies over the years, but this one felt so different to me, even considering (Michael) Eklund's involvement with The Divide. Do you guys feel like you changed things up on the usual post-apocalyptic tropes we see in movies on The Day?
Douglas Aarniokoski You know, it wasn't like we were conscientiously trying to NOT be any other movie in particular or anything; I think our original approach just came from our mutual love of action movies and what we like seeing in those types of films.
What it was, it was that we also wanted to see something that really hadn't been done before in these types of movies (post-apocalyptic); we wanted it to be a story set over the course of 24 hours, and we wanted it to be further along into that universe so we didn't have to rely all those stories and other trappings and try to do something unique here. We could tell these characters' stories but in a wholly new way, which was exciting to me because at the end of the day we're still movie fans and just want to make something we'd love to watch on the big screen as a fan.
Dread Central: You mentioned Shawn (Ashmore) earlier; can you talk about your casting process for The Day? I really enjoyed everyone's performances.
Douglas Aarniokoski We didn't really go through a normal casting process for The Day; we basically sat down with four to five actors for each character and spent our first meeting with them essentially trying to talk them out of the role (laughs).
But we were shooting this movie in Ottawa, Canada, in the middle of winter, the kind of shoot where the breath you see is all really there, in camera. We weren't going to have cell phones, no trailers, no pampering at all; and everyone in this had to lose 20 pounds, too, so that they looked authentic to the story. And of course, everyone would say in our meeting, 'Oh, of course I can do this; I want this kind of challenge,' but soon after I would always get a call from their agent saying so-and-so was turning down the role so that was kind of funny (laughs).
I love our cast, and I think the right people really gravitated towards The Day; I'm lucky for that because everything you see happen, that chemistry, is natural between the whole cast. We had no rehearsals, we never blocked- we just worked with them all individually beforehand and never really had them share their backstories with each other. That just felt organic to how these characters would relate to each other, given the situation.
Dread Central: Can you talk more about the look of the movie and how you guys established that sort of world-weary look through the saturated tones?
Douglas Aarniokoski You know, we just had to go for broke on The Day, and the look really helped establish so much in this film so we knew it needed to have its own feel to it. Children of Men was a big inspiration for the look we wanted, but we still wanted it to have some different elements, too. Our cinematographer, Boris Mojsovski, was integral to the look, and what he managed to do on The Day is amazing.
When he first came on board, he brought actual paintings to our meeting that he wanted to use as visual references- it was such an unusual approach that I knew we had found the right guy. But the look and the palette of the movie is all done in-camera; we didn't use color correction on The Day at all. I was so blown away with his work on The Day.
Dread Central: Being a wrestling fan, I really dig that you guys are under WWE Studios. I don't know if I am remembering this right, but The Day is the first movie they've ever picked up as an acquisition- is that right?
Douglas Aarniokoski Yes, we are the WWE Studios' first acquisition, which is so great; when we were first making this film, we had no idea if it would ever even get distribution so I feel really lucky that both WWE and Anchor Bay have stepped up for this movie the way that they have and been behind us.
And WWE picked us up even before our first screening, which was beyond any sort of expectation I could have had. We just wanted to be in festivals from the start, and we got distribution even before our first screening- it was crazy. But they've always been supportive and never asked to change a single thing about the movie, which was also such a great gift.
Dread Central: I'm sure everyone has been asking you about this so I'm just going to go for it as well- what on earth is up with Nurse 3D? Every time we ask a cast member about it, they get this look on their face and start laughing so it's hard to tell just what we can expect from this movie.
Douglas Aarniokoski That's how people have been reacting? Oh, that's fantastic! (laughs) And yes, it's going to be just that crazy; I think Nurse 3D really breaks down all these barriers and takes the audience to someplace they hopefully haven't been before. It's this sort of Fatal Attraction meets Black Swan environment about these two nurses; it's so hard to describe, but I would say that it's brutal, violent, sexy, insane- all those things and more; it just breaks all the conventions.
It is balls-out mayhem, all the way. (laughs)
Dread Central: Did Lionsgate give you guys any sort of parameters to stay within?
Douglas Aarniokoski No, Lionsgate has been great. They've told us to just go with it so we did. Hopefully they don't regret that decision (laughs).
The Day stars Shawn Ashmore (X-Men trilogy), Ashley Bell (The Last Exorcism), Michael Eklund (The Divide), Cory Hardrict (Battle Los Angeles, Gran Torino), Dominic Monaghan (The Lord of the Rings, "Lost"), and Shannyn Sossamon (A Knight’s Tale, Rules of Attraction, 40 Days & 40 Nights) and was executive produced by Douglas Aarniokoski (who also directed), Michael Finley, Tim James, Antonina Armato, and Ross M. Dinerstein (The Pact, The Divide, The Killing Room).
A group of five survivors, armed with shotguns, axes and machetes, wander the back roads of a ravaged landscape looking for refuge in The Day, a terrifying look into a post-apocalyptic future. As war ravages humanity, destroying civilization and most of life on earth, the survivors realize they must do whatever it takes to stay alive. Lost, starving, and exhausted, they seek shelter in a seemingly safe abandoned farmhouse. However, while searching for food and resources, they unwittingly set off a trap signaling to their ruthless predators lying in wait to begin their deadly attack. With food and ammunition dwindling, the group must make a desperate final stand—over a 24-hour period—battling for their ultimate survival.
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