Director Dennis Iliadis (The Last House On The Left) has really staked out some incredibly interesting ground with with + 1 (Plus One). The film opens in theaters and VOD today and I really recommend that you check it out (my review here). Rent it, pay attention and stick with it.
I hopped on the phone with Iliadis last week. The last time we spoke was at SXSW back in March just before I saw the film, and I was so intrigued I had a few followup questions for him.
The film stars Rhys Wakefield (The Purge), Ashley Hinshaw (Chronicle), Logan Miller (I’m In The Band) and Natalie Hall (Pretty Little Liars). “Three college friends go to the biggest party of the year, each looking for something different: love, sex and a simple human connection. When a supernatural phenomenon disrupts the party, it lights a fuse on what will become the strangest night anyone has ever seen. As the three friends struggle to find what they’re looking for, the party quickly descends into a chaos that challenges if they can stay friends or if they can even stay alive.“
We haven’t talked since right before I saw the film at SXSW. I really liked it.
It’s been a lot of work [since then] finishing the movie. The SXSW version was a bit rushed so we had to do the final mix and polish some things. I think people have been embracing it. My feeling is that at SXSW we surprised people too much by not telling them anything about it. I have a feeling that revealing the basic premise has helped. People want to be surprised, but not too surprised [laughs].
So were you just working on the sound mix or…
Yeah the sound mix was quite rough. It’s a very layered soundscape so we did some extra work there and also tweaked some of the first act.
When you were crafting the story for this with Bill Gullo, what was the overall thematic point you wanted to reach? To me the movie is saying that you can either decide to be frightened or decide not to be frightened.
Exactly. I came up with the story and I wrote a full treatment outlining the beats and then Bill came onboard and wrote it into a full screenplay. My biggest concern was to give the characters enough time so when the phenomenon hits you know where they stand and what their desires are. Once it hits, it’s very much what you project onto it. Every character has a different agendan and, as the movie gets into the 3rd act, it can go into some very dark places and some crazy set pieces.
The films looks spectacular. You worked with Mihai Malaimare Jr., who shot The Master, right?
He’s a phenomenal DP, an amazing artist. He’s also a great guy who can work in a crazy environment. The shoot was all nights and it was great having someone who could sustain that energy. He’s an artist who can work under crazy conditions.
When you’ve got something this unique, it can often be difficult to get financing. How did this get to the screen with your vision intact?
We were extremely lucky to have Lola Visual Effects as co-producers. They did the face replacements in The Social Network and Benjamin Button and all of those great films. So this movie wouldn’t have happened without them. The production was very ambitious, being in commercials helped me because I can do a lot of set-ups per day and we really had to speed through it. In terms of financing, this is a surprising movie but there are many commercial elements in it. The biggest risk was that we took a high concept idea and grafted it onto an emotionally saturated and hedonistic canvas. Instead of being talky and intellectual, you throw it to characters who are emotionally raw and not cynical.
We could have taken this idea and put it at a family reunion or in a government spy situation, but I really wanted this charged emotional landscape. It gives the movie a very dynamic aspect, but at the same time some people have a hard time with it. As you said in your review, they’re not expecting to think as much during a film so soaked in booze and sexuality. People have to think and follow very specific details and there are these tricky repetitions where something slight can change everything.
To me, it’s a great challenge and people are enjoying this movie a lot because of that. It’s brainy, but it’s hedonistic. It’s raunchy and it’s existential. I think we’re at a time when people are seeking those things, you just need to make sure you prepare them for it.