Director's Blog: Thoughts on the Rough Cut Screening Part 1

Last Wednesday night was our first screening of the movie for people who aren’t cast or crew. Someone asked me beforehand if I was nervous, and weirdly, I wasn’t. felt pretty confident in what we have right now and where the movie is at, and I was looking forward to hearing what people had to say about what was and wasn’t working at this stage in the editing process. This is the first of what I hope will be several blogs about what I took away from the screening.

My wife pointed out to me earlier this evening that there is a difference between being scared and being horrified. A lot of people enjoy being scared. You will be, if you watch FF3D. But I can’t promise that you won’t also be horrified a few times as well. Consider this a warning.

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In the interviews that I’ve done so far about the film, I’ve been as frank as I can be in describing the movie as a bit of a “sucker punch.” What I’m trying to do with the film, more than anything, is to lull people in with the humor and the good-natured fun of the first 40 or so minutes of the film -- some jokes, a few jump scares, some clever jabs at bad found footage movies. Nothing too heavy. Nothing too scary.

But then there’s a point in the film where shit gets real. And “real” in a found footage movie, I learned last night, can be a little too real for some people. It’s the kind of moment that I knew when I wrote it was going to make people profoundly uncomfortable. And I knew that it would polarize viewers. I am going to lose some of the audience at this point in the film, and I know this. And yet, somehow I was still surprised by the reaction last night, for some reason. Part of me still wanted everyone to love the movie as much as I do. I don’t know what that says about me as a person and an artist.

The funny thing is that this moment doesn’t involve any gore at all. By horror movie standards, it’s exceedingly tame -- we’re not talking about hanging a woman on a meat hook here. Yes, it’s violent, and yes it’s shocking and unexpected, and yes it’s difficult to stomach, but for purely emotional reasons. It has the potential to hit people hard, which is what it was designed to do, but there are certain members of the audience who will not forgive the movie (or me) for taking them to this particular place.

I was a little bummed last night by the reaction this particular sequence elicited from several of the people who attended, but in talking it out (and talking it out and talking it out) with various people over the last 24 hours, I was reminded that I want people to be uncomfortable. I want them to be—dare I say it?—horrified. I want them to feel slightly off-balance and a little betrayed, like the rug has been pulled out from under them. This is, after all, a horror movie. And I personally am not one for horror movies that are safe and easily forgotten the moment you leave the theater. My ambition is to make something that people talk about on the way home, and think about the next day, and can’t quite shake the uneasiness of.

I don’t think I’ve executed it quite right, yet. This was, after all, a rough cut, and it still needs some work. On the one hand, it’s a testament to the amazing talent of all of the actors involved that this particular moment can affect people so deeply even in this raw form. So we’re doing something right. But while I know that there will be some people who will not like this aspect of the film (one guy actually walked out last night), I certainly don’t want to lose everyone because I think that when it is executed properly, most people will understand and appreciate what I am trying to do. It was really helpful to hear people’s opinions last night, and to start to think about ways that I can make sure that this moment (and everything else in the film, for that matter) works the way that I intended it to.

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