Originally Posted on: July 1st, 2013
Charlie JJ Kruger sits down with Jimmy Loweree, the creator of the upcoming found footage horror film 'Absence'.
H-P: Where did you get the idea for the plot of this film? What gave you the beginnings of the concept?
JL: Initially the idea came from all this weird knowledge I had about these particular type of abductions - but the apparently this type of thing has actually happened and I'd heard and read up on it. The thought of someone trying to deal with such an imaginable and disturbing loss was really intriguing to me. There's no way you could get your head around it and the mystery of it would just ruin me. I couldn't get it out of my head so I knew there was something there. It was only much later, after we were long done with the cut, that I found the statistic used in the movie and that was even more disturbing! So in short I'm a dork for having all this useless knowledge and I like creepy emotionally charged things I guess!
H-P: Why 'Found Footage'? what about that style appealed to you?
JL: I felt that using this style of filmmaking really fit the story we were trying to tell. It was a way to organically get into private moments and make the fucked-up-ed-ness of it feel real, and hopefully make the audience feel it too.
That said it is can be tricky. "Found Footage" is said with a sneer so often these days and it often deserves it. You can use any style choice as a gimmick, because it's popular, or interesting, or because you've seen it before and though it was cool. But in this case we really saw how it served our story and it came form an honest place and we were VERY careful to ensure our shots weren't forced or unrealistic, whilst still hitting the beats we needed.
H-P: Are there other Found Footage films that you used as a template, or a jumping off point?
JL: For sure - I loved THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT when I saw it in theaters as a kid. It scared the hell out of me and I vowed never to go camping ever again.
What scares me the most in movies is not what you see, but what I don't see and what I'm trying to see or nervous is right around the corner. It's the tension. So this was something I wanted to emulate, less is more - at least for me and I loved how you could see nothing in a whole film and still have to re-think your life choices afterward.
H-P: Because of the hand-held style of filming, how did directing and cinematography work? were there any moments that came together by accident, and ended up looking perfect?
JL: Oh man, this was a constant, albeit, exciting battle. Our incredible Cinematographer, Christiano Covino, essentially played EVAN with our actor Ryan Smale shadowing him at all times. They were attached at the hip at all times. But we also wanted to make an attractive film, so we spent a lot of time working out what would be the best most appealing way to shoot something - while still ensuring it was justified in the confines of found-footage.
One shot that blows me away every time is when we caught the sun setting, perfectly over our actress Erin Way, as the other actors drove down the highway looking for her. It was just perfect. But it wasn't planned, we were actually running out of time and were cranking through our shots. We threw Erin out into a field, pulled the car around, Christiano lined up the camera and boom - this lovely shot that makes me smile every time.
This happened several times!
H-P: The film looks great, and was clearly done with love, what kind of schedule and budget did you have to work with?
JL: Oh man - is too little a good enough answer?
We shot this thing in essentially 14 days. All of our crew were friends and our cast often doubled as crew. But because of this and because we spent some good time preparing with the actors we actually pulled ahead of schedule and ran out of day stuff to shoot before we were ready for the night shots.
The whole experience was like being at summer camp with your best friends, but we're making a movie instead of weaving or whatever.
I think the fact that we are all such good friends and that we wanted to be there together really showed up in the film.
H-P: Do you have any plans to branch out with this concept, create any companion pieces, a sequel, a novel tie-in? the idea behind it is just so fertile, i would love to see what other pieces and stories you could pull out.
JL: Ya know haven't given it a ton of thought. I'd love to see other pieces, a graphic novel (I don't know why aside from I like them) or something. But I'm not sure exactly what I'd want to do for a sequel. I'm sure I could get fired up about one if the right idea came along - but I was SO engaged with the original concept and I haven't really found that again with this particular story.
That said, the world it lives in definitely has legs, so I couldn't write it off.
H-P: Were there any other found footage films that you used as a basis for what you DIDNT want yours to look/feel/come across like?
JL: Hmmm - yes. I think we mainly wanted to avoid unrealistic shots and things that just would NOT happen, and consequently takes a viewer out of the movie. So we were very careful to try and always answer to the question "Why is the camera on?" in just about every shot. There is a suspension of disbelief in these films, and I rely on it just as much as others, and I attempted not to go too far with or or make it too obvious.
I also spent a lot of time thinking about the characters in ABSENCE and it was really important to me that they be interesting, engaging people that the audience (and myself) would actually connect with and care about in some way.
Which is not to say that they're perfect people, but it was important that they felt real. In some of these kind of films, the characters, for me, feel boring despite the movie being really SCARY.
Again - no disrespect as these movies are really good and I've seen them more than once. I'm a fan. But I learned something from them that I hoped to try my hand at it a little differently.
H-P: The cast was wonderful, and really got the casual-realism element across... had you worked with any of the cast members before? or were you just extremely lucky with auditions?
JL: Yes!! These people are very close friends of mine, from before the film and happened to be extremely talented people on top of it!
We did audition a LOT of people, but these actors were the right fit for the right qualities we wanted.
We definitely spent time together, with them as these characters, to really get a sense of the dynamics of relationships and I tried to make sure by the time we shot they knew these characters so well that they could say just about anything and it would be right. Since they're all professionals they nailed it and hit a home run as far as I'm concerned.
H-P: I LOVE the poster art for this film, who came up with that, and do you feel like it really captures the root of the film well?
JL: Me too! I was really surprised and happy to find that a friend of mine was going to be working on our artwork (through no connection of mine) and he made this! We were sent some options and this piece was an immediate yes. After we saw the initial piece we got to collaborate a little bit and the result is something that I'm VERY happy with.
H-P: Anything else you want to say?
JL: This is a blast. I'm so happy and feel so lucky to be sharing this movie with other people. It really was a true indie film from the beginning to now and I hope we can reach an audience that responds to that. And scare the crap out of some people.
Get ABSENCE on Amazon: amazon.com/gp/product/B00BY8D99G