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[Interview] Adam Wingard And Simon Barrett Adjust Their Tracking For ‘V/H/S/2’

While V/H/S/2 is scheduled to hit VOD platforms on June 6th, you should be aware that basically means MIDNIGHT tonight. If you’re on iTunes/AppleTV, my experience dictates that it’ll be out just a little after 9PM on the West Coast (with the theatrical rollout set for July 12th). Outlets carrying it should also include Amazon, AT&T UVerse, Charter, Comcast, Cox, Google Play, Playstation 3, Sudden Link, Time Warner Cable, Verizon Fios, VUDU and Xbox Zune.

In the film directed by Simon Barrett, Adam Wingard, Gareth Evans, Eduardo Sanchez, Gregg Hale, Jason Eisener and Timo Tjahjanto, “Inside a darkened house looms a column of TVs littered with VHS tapes, a pagan shrine to forgotten analog gods. The screens crackle and pop endlessly with monochrome vistas of static—white noise permeating the brain and fogging concentration. But you must fight the urge to relax: this is no mere movie night. Those obsolete spools contain more than just magnetic tape. They are imprinted with the very soul of evil.

Yesterday I hopped on the phone to talk with directors Adam Wingard (“Clinical Trials” segment) and Simon Barrett (“Tape 49” segment) to talk about their work on the film. They’ve been making movies like You’re Next and A Horrible Way To Die together for years now so it’s no surprise that they collaborated here as well (Barrett wrote both segments). We also talked a bit about their follow-up to You’re Next, The Guest. Check it out below!

With the wrap around on the first film, you didn’t have much of an idea of what the other segments would be like. With V/H/S/2, did you know more about the content the other directors were generating and could you tailor “Tape 49” to match?

Barrett: On the first V/H/S Adam and I shot the wrap around segment months before anyone shot anything. At the time we filmed it there were directors who we thought would be working on the project who didn’t work on the project, and some of the directors who did work on the project we weren’t even aware of yet.

With that wrap around we tried to set the tone for the other directors since the project was very much in flux. That was when Adam, at a very early stage, was talking about how he wanted it to look authentic and shoot on actual VHS tapes and do certain things that would set that precedent.

With V/H/S/2 pretty much all of the segments shot simultaneously. And while I kind of still didn’t know what everyone was doing, I at least knew what their scripts were. So I had a much better idea of what the content was going to be at least. Gareth and Timo’s [“Safe Haven”] was still a question mark because of the way they write [laughs], it was really kind of hard to tell what they were going to do. But it was much easier this time around to try and tailor the wraparound to what the directors were doing.

In some ideal world, the best way to do these movies would be to let everyone else shoot first, put all the segments together and then try to figure out what the wrap around should be based on how they play. But the timing didn’t work out that way.

Your segment expands the mythology of the tapes from the first film, was that difficult to navigate? You don’t want to spell it out too much.

Barrett: The mythology was definitely already in mind in the first one and Brad Miska and I had already talked about it in pretty extensive detail. When we first started talking about V/H/S it was initially kind of conceived as a TV series, and in a weird way some of that has carried over to the films. We’re doling out information at a very slow pace.

We really wanted to make a film that would hold up to repeat viewings. The goal is that, if you watch the movie more than once, you’ll get more out of the second viewing. We explore it a little further with this film.

And you made the leap from writing to directing.

Barrett: Yes. It’s an interesting thing because, yeah did make the leap from writing to directing, I mean I directed short films in the past but… The thing that I mainly missed when Adam is directing and I’m writing and producing is that I like playing with cameras a lot. And this really fulfilled my desire to play with cameras for quite a while because we were shooting simultaneously on seven different cameras all at different frame rates and they all had different issues.

You don’t get to be as creative visually with found footage because putting cameras in the actors’ hands pretty much defines the perspective of the shot, you can’t do artistic visual stuff. You’re not really thinking, “what’s the coolest way to capture this moment visually?” So that stuff I’d still like to play around with, but it was really fun just figuring out all of the technical challenges.

Adam, your segment is so much more lushly photographed than a lot of the stuff last time. It sort of sets the tone for the higher production value overall.

Wingard: For me it was just about not repeating myself, because before V/H/S I had never really thought about found footage. Whenever I considered the idea the only thing that excited me early on was doing it super gritty and dirty looking. Giving it an authenticity that a lot of found footage doesn’t really have.

Going into the sequel, I just wanted to do something that was completely the opposite. And the opposite approach is to base it on technology that doesn’t really exist. I wanted to do something that was more cinematic and I think ultimately it worked out because a lot of the other directors were on the same page. Even the way the Simon frames the wrap around, it seems like everyone was super aware of what V/H/S was and how it was perceived and what its shortcomings and strengths were. And going into the sequel we just tried to embrace all the best stuff.

How difficult of a decision was it to cast yourself?

Wingard: I originally asked Simon to write it for “The Angry Video Game Nerd,” James Rolfe, because we’re huge fans of that show. We did that and made a small attempt to reach out to him, but he was busy doing the Video Game Nerd Movie.

Barrett: I did speak to his wife for a bit. I actually think he was a fan of the first V/H/S, it’s just that the timing didn’t work out.

Wingard: And halfway through the process I realized that, technically, it would be difficult. I wanted the actor to be engaging with the other characters and I didn’t want to ask the actor to do all of the stuff that I did. And I actually don’t have a problem acting, I really enjoy doing it occasionally. I didn’t use to enjoy it actually, but I started working with Joe Swanberg a couple years ago and once I started working on low budget stuff with him I realized that acting wasn’t really a big deal, especially if you’re just playing yourself, which I kind of am in this movie – playing an idiotic version of myself.

If anything it made more sense for me to play it because I was going to be operating the camera anyway and it’s from my perspective.

The way the ghosts are filmed in your segment is really jarring and matter-of-fact. They’re not these translucent apparitions.

Wingard: Yeah I fell like ghosts, if you see them, they just look real. I don’t really picture ghosts as being these Ghostbusters kinds of things. I’ve seen a ghost once when I was a kid I remember and it just looked like a regular human, except for the fact that they looked like they might have been floating into the room. They definitely looked like a normal person, they weren’t see-through and they were wearing normal clothes.

I felt like with this I wanted to play with what people classically think of as like spooky ghost people. The thing about found footage that you want to take advantage of is that it shines a new light on familiar tropes and story ideas, so the fun thing about it is playing with that. So to me the perspective is the new part of it and we wanted to keep the ghosts done in a classic way.

Can you guys elaborate on The Guest a little bit?

Wingard: Yeah, we’re shooting in a month or two.

Barrett: Yeah, we start production in a little over a month and that’s pretty much taking up a lot of our waking hours. In fact we have to go straight from here to a casting meeting. I imagine there will be some cast announcements in the next month or so to sort of remind people what it is, but it’s our attempt to do more, really.

It’s our followup to You’re Next. You’re Next was such a step up from A Horrible Way To Die both in terms of budget and really considering who the viewers of our films are and to start making art for them. And now we want to continue that evolution. It’s going to be a really hard shoot but we do have more money. It’s our attempt to do something new in the genre that people haven’t seen before, so if you like what we’ve done before you’ll definitely like this.



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