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Director Christopher Denham talks Tribeca horror “PRESERVATION”—and what’s up with “AREA 51”!

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Actor Christopher Denham made his directorial debut with the chilling domestic horror feature HOME MOVIE in 2008, and now he’s back with PRESERVATION, premiering at this month’s Tribeca Film Festival. He gave us a few words about the film—and an update on the years-in-coming AREA 51.

Denham, who has appeared on screen in the likes of SHUTTER ISLAND, THE BAY and FORGETTING THE GIRL (go here for his comments on the latter) tells Fango that PRESERVATION, which we last covered here, explores similar themes to the found-footage HOME MOVIE. “It’s about two estranged brothers who go hunting, and they haven’t seen each other in a long time,” he explains. “It’s sort of a new spin on DELIVERANCE, and also sort of a continuous thought from HOME MOVIE. It does revolve around technology, and a character who’s obsessed with documenting his life. It’s not strictly a found-footage film, but it’s another three-hander, with a very simple cast: We have Pablo Schreiber, Aaron Slaton from MAD MEN and Wrenn Schmidt from BOARDWALK EMPIRE. I’m very excited to be bringing it to Tribeca,” where it has its first screening this Thursday, April 17 at 8:30 p.m.; go here for more details.

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It’s been several years between directorial ventures for Denham, who laughs, “Well, I sort of got some good luck with my day job,” also including roles in major films like ARGO and DUPLICITY. “I’ve been trying to come back and direct for a few years now, but I feel like you have to play it as it lays with acting, and when you’re on a decent streak, or something comes along and you really want it… I basically learned everything I know—or claim to know, at least—about directing through acting, so I figured the more I did that, the more I would picking up—a little bit of film school just through osmosis, hopefully.”

He also has another found-footage genre movie waiting in the wings: Oren Peli’s AREA 51, which Denham scripted with the director. “That’s an exciting project; it’s Oren’s long-gestating follow-up to the original PARANORMAL ACTIVITY,” he says. “The way Oren works is, he does things over a long stretch of time, so it has been a while. But he’s still running and gunning and shooting a little piece of the ending now, so hopefully we’ll see something in the next year or so. It’s like, when he made the first PARANORMAL, he shot it on weekends over the course of two years. He’s a perfectionist in the best possible sense of the word, so he really does like to sit down and sort of piece it together, and if something’s not right, he has no qualms about going back and reshooting it a couple of times, you know? He’s not gonna put something out that doesn’t reflect well on him.”

Despite this piecemeal process and AREA 51’s vérité format, Denham notes that the movie was at least partially scripted. “He wanted to do something that wasn’t completely improvised this time, so there was a little more dialogue written. We came up with the structure and general scene trajectories, but there is still some improv in the film.” And like Peli, Denham remains closed-mouthed about what those scenes entail. “It’s basically about three kids breaking into Area 51 with a camera,” he says, “but that’s the extent of what I can tell you.”

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Michael Gingold
Michael Gingold has been a member of the FANGORIA team for the past three decades. After starting as a writer for the magazine in 1988, he came aboard as associate editor in 1990 and two years later moved up to managing editor, the position he holds to this day while continuing to contribute numerous articles and reviews.
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