n the two decades since the release of The Blair Witch Project (which he directed with Daniel Myrick), Eduardo Sanchez has reteamed with producer Gregg Hale on a number of features, including Lovely Molly (2011) and 2014’s Exists (2014). They also shared the helm of the "Ride in the Park” segment of the 2013 anthology V/H/S/2, which led them to do the same for the “Call Center” portion of the new omnibus film Portals.
Bowing in theaters and on VOD on Oct. 25 from Screen Media Films, Portals is framed by the creation of the first man-made black hole in the year 2020. This results in global blackouts, mass hysteria and the appearance of strange doorways that draw people in to unknown fates. Joining Sanchez and Hale on the directors’ roster are Liam O’Donnell (Beyond Skyline)and Timo Tjahjanto (The Night Comes for Us); the latter was also part of the V/H/S/2 team, as was producer Brad Miska.
When Portals creator Chris White contacted Sanchez and Hale about the project, “We were immediately hooked,” Sanchez says. “We loved our experience with Brad on V/H/S/2 and we love sci-fi, so Gregg and I were pretty eager to get going on this. Chris downloaded the basic premise to us: that these portals appear throughout the world and shit goes downhill from there. They were pretty open to ideas at that point; their only concern was that the segments didn’t knock into each other as far as story was concerned.”
Sanchez and Hale’s “Call Center” segment, scripted by Jim Alberts, focuses on a group of 911 operators attempting to maintain order amidst the chaos, and confronting an emergency of their own when a portal appears in their work space. Although the two are individually credited as directing “Part I” and “Part II” of the story, Sanchez notes that they divided the labor from the beginning of their shoot.
“We’ve been working together for over 20 years — holy shit! —so we trust each other’s judgment. We consulted with each other whenever we needed to, and on set we sort of took turns heading the scenes up,” he says. “Gregg started and led mostly on the first day of filming, and I took over a bit more on the second day. I was going to edit the segment, so I just made sure he was giving me the coverage I knew I would need in the editing room. It went pretty smoothly.”
Even when working in the short form, there were challenges involved in telling a story set entirely within a single room. “You have to find unique ways to shift the look a bit as you go, since you’re pretty much stuck in one location,” Sanchez notes. “We have the pre-portal action, which is pretty conventionally lit, and then we have a few changes as the portal appears and things start to get crazy. Our DP, Boa Simon, was instrumental in keeping it fresh and using camera movement to shift the tone as the story progressed.
“Somewhere along the line,” he continues, “we found out that Timo Tjahjanto was going to do a segment, and we were pretty enthused about that. We loved what Timo did on V/H/S/2 and had kept in touch with him since that film, so it was nice to be back in an anthology with him. It was kind of like part of the band was getting together again!”
Overall, Sanchez is very pleased with the way Portals came together, and his and Hale’s part in telling the overarching story.
“All the segments are strong and tie in nicely to each other, and none takes anything important from the others,” he says. “They all exist on their own, but also within the parameters of the anthology. ‘Call Center’ is a great start to the roller-coaster ride, and gets the momentum going in a cool way.”
Michael Gingold has been part of the FANGORIA family since 1988, when he began writing for the magazine. He became associate editor in 1990, quickly moved up to managing editor and eventually became editor-in-chief, and was an editor and writer for the previous FANGORIA.com website. He also contributes to Rue Morgue, Birth.Movies.Death, MovieMaker and Scream, both in print and online, and has written liner notes, directed bonus features and taken part in audio commentaries for Blu-rays and DVDs from Arrow Video, Vinegar Syndrome, Synapse Films, Blue Underground, Garagehouse Pictures and others. He is the author of 1984 Publishing’s Ad Nauseam: Newsprint Nightmares from the 1980s, Ad Nauseam II: Newsprint Nightmares from the 1990s & 2000s and Ad Astra: 20 Years of Newspaper Ads for Sci-Fi & Fantasy Films, FAB Press’ FrightFest Guide to Monster Movies and Rue Morgue’s Shark Movie Mania.