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Continuing our conversation with Barry Levinson, director of
the found-footage ecological horror film THE BAY (now in limited release and on
VOD), which began here…
FANGORIA: Other found-footage films have cast and filmed in
secret, with fake production names, etc. Is that what happened with THE BAY?
BARRY LEVINSON: Well, originally we were called ISOPOD, but
we were pretty much down in Georgetown, South Carolina, and nobody bothered us.
They left us alone, and we shot it in 18 days, including underwater and all
that stuff. It’s a busy, busy little movie, that’s for sure.
FANG: What was the casting process like?
LEVINSON: The only restriction was, we couldn’t go for known
faces, because it would break the credibility. If we’d had Brad Pitt—not that
we could have—but he if was, you know, living in Claridge, Maryland, all
credibility would go out the window. We needed to find really good actors whose
faces you just don’t know. And then we cast a lot of day players who we wound
up using more, like the iPhone girl. We liked her and put her in other scenes,
and picked up various people along the way and put them in the movie.
FANG: How much of the film was unscripted; how much was
created during production because you liked people such as the iPhone girl, and
wanted to do more with them?
LEVINSON: That’s a good question. The iPhone girl, originally
all she said was, “Look at these blisters,” and I ultimately sent her into this
room and just told her, “Here’s what’s going on, you’re talking to your friend”
or whatever, and left her alone for about three minutes, and then cut that
down. But I liked her so much that I put her in other scenes; I took her to the
hospital, which I thought would be good, because I could get another point of
view in there. She’s talking to her friend and saying, “You can’t imagine
what’s going on here, look at this, there’s Mr. So-and-So,” that kind of stuff.
I can’t say how much of the movie is that way; it just seemed like a good idea
FANG: You had some pretty big setpieces to capture: the
hospital, the 4th of July celebration, etc. How difficult were those to do on
the budget and schedule you had?
LEVINSON: We didn’t have a lot of room; it was literally run
and shoot, run and shoot. With the people in the hospital, I have to say that
the makeup department did an amazing job, the way they were able to get that many
people done up and in place with such a small crew. It’s one of those things
where no one will realize how amazing what they accomplished was with so few
dollars and so little manpower.
FANG: How much of the movie involves digital FX? How many
CGI shots would you say there are?
LEVINSON: About a half-dozen, maybe. Very little. Obviously
the isopod coming out of the fish’s mouth was a big deal, and there are a few
others. And they had to be so credible, because if they weren’t, everything
would go out the window. We don’t have a lot, but where we do have them, [the
digital FX team] did a good job. Believe me, I was holding my breath that it
would all look right.
FANG: The scenes toward the end, with the long driving takes
through the deserted streets, are pretty impressive. Were those just done late
at night, or did you have all those streets cleared?
LEVINSON: Well, we kind of closed the town down, so we
wouldn’t have anybody running around, and they were amazingly accommodating.
FANG: One thing that other found-footage filmmakers have
said is that they shot so much footage, they could have assembled a couple of
different movies from it. Was that the case here?
LEVINSON: This is all we got; there wasn’t a whole lot more.
Some of the scenes could be longer, but there’s nothing else. I don’t think I
left any [complete scenes] on the floor; it was just tightening up. It’s a
pretty tight, small film. As I said, we shot in 18 days, and there’s a lot
going on. If you were to put it up against another movie, you’d realize how
fast it’s going.
FANG: What was the process of assembling and editing all the
assorted footage like, and how much did you screen THE BAY in advance?
LEVINSON: It was not unlike what you would do with another
movie. Sometimes we’d show it to 15, 20 people, just to get a sense of its
rhythm. I wanted to get a sense of balance. With suspense, you need to draw
things out, generally, but at the same time I wanted to have a movie that was
constantly in motion. So there was a little bit of a tug of war between when I
could stretch something and when I could push it faster.
FANG: Have you received feedback from any environmental
groups about the film?
LEVINSON: We’re just beginning to get that. If that element
were to plug into this movie, it would be very interesting. Because on one
side, we had a distributor that didn’t really care about the movie, because
it’s not a 100 percent horror film; it doesn’t fit the SAW mold. But I keep
saying that that doesn’t mean there can’t be an audience. I mean, I see a lot
of movies, and I don’t have to define them so much. People have responded at
every screening we’ve had. We went to Toronto, and we were in the Midnight
Madness category with all these movies that were so hyped. THE BAY came in
without any hype at all—nobody knew about the movie in advance, zero—and we
were the first runner-up audience favorite, out of the blue. So obviously, it
worked. It worked at the New York Film Festival, it worked at the San Sebastian
Film Festival. It’s got a little extra to it, and it does scare the audience.
FANG: You’ve done a number of very big pictures in the past;
was it freeing to do something so small, and do you want to pursue more
projects like this?
LEVINSON: Well, nobody would know this, but I’ve done movies
pretty inexpensively from time to time. I did this very small Irish film called
AN EVERLASTING PIECE that I shot for $9 million in 2000. I’ve done several
movies on fairly reasonable budgets, and I’ve done big movies. To me, it
doesn’t matter; it’s whatever I’m interested in, you know?
FANG: Would you like to do more films in the horror and
LEVINSON: You know, I’ve always liked it, but I don’t
necessarily know that there’s another story of that type that would intrigue
me. If it did, why not? But it’s not like, “I want to do this genre.” I’ve
never thought of genres, I’ve only thought of stories that would interest me.
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