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Would you venture inside an allegedly haunted asylum, guided
by a couple of guys who call themselves The Vicious Brothers? Actor Sean
Rogerson did, playing reality-TV host Lance Preston in GRAVE ENCOUNTERS, which
debuted this week on DVD; the actor recalled the experience for Fango.
The movie, out from Tribeca Film and New Video, is set at the abandoned Collingwood Psychiatric
Hospital, which is said to be a site of supernatural phenomena. Preston, the
host of the GRAVE ENCOUNTERS paranormal-investigation show, heads inside with
his crew (played by Juan Riedinger, Ashleigh Gryzko and Merwin Mondesir), who
lock themselves in for the night in the hopes of capturing some scary stuff on
camera. Unfortunately for them, evil forces really do dwell within its walls
and aren’t about to let them leave, and the writing/directing Colin and Stuart
Vicious present their plight as recovered video footage, documenting the
group’s plunge into terror and madness. Fortunately, Rogerson himself, who spoke with us at this year's Tribeca Film Festival, made it
out with his sanity intact…
FANGORIA: Often, in the auditions for movies like this, the
actors aren’t told much about the project or the role. Was that the case for
SEAN ROGERSON: My audition process was completely different
from anybody else’s. I had to go out of town during the time of the audition,
so I had to send in a tape that I made on my little camera. I videotaped
myself, and took the small scene they gave me and added a little bit of dialogue
of my own.
FANG: Which scene did they give you?
ROGERSON: It was one of the scenes when the caretaker
arrives to take us into the building. So it was just me basically setting up a
shot, doing the very beginning—“Welcome to GRAVE ENCOUNTERS, I’m Lance
Preston.” And also breaking down with Sasha in the tunnels.
FANG: How much did they tell you about the role and the
character before you got the part?
ROGERSON: Nothing, really. They had seen my demo reel prior
to that, and all the people I’ve played in the past have been much darker; I’ve
always played the bad guy in everything. They said they liked that aspect of me
for when I go into the tunnels and I’m by myself, but they wanted to see the
host guy—to see if I could be, I guess, fun [laughs].
FANG: Had you played any horror roles before this one?
ROGERSON: I’ve played psychopaths and people like that, guys
with mental issues. And I played a vampire in the second UNDERWORLD.
FANG: What was that experience like?
ROGERSON: It was amazing. It was a huge set on a mountaintop
in Vancouver. We went up there, I guess at midday, and there was so snow, so we
were going to have to create it all. And then in four hours, we had two feet of
real snow just come down. It was crazy. And it was just such a giant set—it was
humongous. People in half-werewolf costumes, everybody freezing, horses
FANG: And from that, you went to the very small, contained
shoot of GRAVE ENCOUNTERS.
ROGERSON: Yeah, very much so. It was so confined, and so
real. There was nothing fake about where we were at all. It was a real mental
institution that is shut down now, and primarily used for filming. But the
building just up the road from it, in the same lot, is still active.
FANG: How much of a screenplay did you and your co-stars work
ROGERSON: They had a complete script, but we were allowed to
ad-lib when we wanted to, but try to stay close to the basis of what they had
FANG: When you did a typical scene, were the cameras just
sort of embedded, and you were free to wander around and improv your movements?
Or was it a very strict process where you had to be within this camera’s range
at this particular time?
ROGERSON: We were shooting with, probably, three or four
cameras at any given time. I had one in my hand that was always on. Ashleigh,
the girl who played Sasha, also had one that was always on, and our camera guy,
his was actually doing most of the filming. The only cameras that were set up
were the ones on the tripods, those static cams in the movie. Those were the
ones we sometimes had to stay in range of, but otherwise we were free to roam
and follow ourselves with our cameras.
FANG: The directors of the [REC] films have said that they
would not always tell the actors when the scary stuff was going to happen, just
to add to the realism of the reactions. Was it the same kind of experience on
ROGERSON: There were a lot of times when the guys would
scare us at some point within the scene; they’d be hiding behind a door, or
make noises when we weren’t expecting it. There were many moments when they
would let us kind of go off on our own, and they’d go somewhere and set
something up for us.
FANG: Did you shoot in sequence?
ROGERSON: Yes, the entire thing. That was so fortunate for
us actors, that we got a chance to work it from start to finish. It was kind of
like doing a play, almost, because we got to live the story as it went on,
instead of doing the end first.
FANG: Many of the scare scenes must have been crucially
dependent on timing.
ROGERSON: So many. And a number of them didn’t make it into
the film. During the last scenes, the sun was coming up, we had time
constraints, and we had to run from one end of the building to the other, shoot
the scene right there, and then move on. We were always fighting the light.
FANG: What kind of stuff didn’t make it into the film? Any
moments you were especially proud of that you wish were still in there?
ROGERSON: [SPOILER ALERT] There was just some fun stuff.
Lance is the only one who actually makes it at the end, and he’s pretty much
empty. There was a scene where the caretaker actually finds me, and I thought
it was a great moment because he’s completely devoid of anything anymore.
Throughout the movie, you see that he’s so full of life, and all aspects of life;
he’s a pain in the ass, but he takes care of everything, and then he just loses
it at the end. It was great.
FANG: As you said, Lance has his non-likable side…
ROGERSON: He’s a bit of a douchebag, yeah.
FANG: But he’s also the character we follow the most through
the film. Was it a challenge to make him likable enough, even though he’s a bit
of a jerk, to keep the audience with him over all that time?
ROGERSON: I was worried about that, but I found that the
true douchebag side of Lance Preston really came from his voice. You know, when
he turns on “the voice,” and it kind of makes him a little bit of a dick. But
when you have those moments when he talks to the other cast, and wants to do
his job and be good at it, that’s when you kind of warm up to him and think,
“Well, he’s just working hard.” He gets the job done, you know?
FANG: Had you seen many of the previous found-footage genre
movies, and did you take any performance cues from them? This is obviously a
different kind of acting from traditional horror-film acting.
ROGERSON: I was a big fan and fell completely into the whole
BLAIR WITCH thing. I mean, I thought that was real when it first came out. I
fell hook, line and sinker for that. And I knew that GRAVE ENCOUNTERS was going
to require being completely in the moment for whatever was going on, because
that’s exactly what I felt it was for BLAIR WITCH. That style of acting is just
so honest; these guys are experiencing something now, and that’s what I felt
when getting ready for this role. We were just going to have to be there, take
in our surroundings—which, fortunately, were a psychiatric hospital. We had
three days prior to filming to get to know each other, and develop the
relationships we were going to have on camera, and spending that much time together
made it all happen. It helped us come together and live in the moment.
FANG: How long did you shoot for?
ROGERSON: Twelve nights, straight through in the hospital. I
guess there were maybe two days as well.
FANG: Did that take any kind of toll, working all nights?
ROGERSON: Huge. It was my first time doing a lead in a film,
so I was on set all the time, every scene. And it was 13 hours at a time when
we were shooting. So there was very little rest, and there were times where we
were kind of delirious and started hearing things. That really helped out.
FANG: Did you sleep on the premises to kinda keep the spirit
ROGERSON: A few times, yeah. Sure. It was completely
surreal, everything about it. But fortunately for us, that was not hard in that
place. You could take five minutes and go off into one of those rooms; they
were all completely different, they all had such different personalities, that
it didn’t take long to get back into the moment.
FANG: Was there a lot of dressing of the rooms, or did you
all just use what was there?
ROGERSON: What was there. There were a few times when the
hallways start to get more convoluted with stuff, and that was the only set
dressing that happened.
FANG: And when the characters start disappearing in the
movie, was that it? As soon as the actors wrapped, did they just leave?
ROGERSON: Gone. We were by ourselves. By the end of the
shoot, it was me and, you know, three people just hanging out. It became very
FANG: Are you going to reteam with the Vicious Brothers on
future projects? Have you talked about follow-up films?
ROGERSON: We have talked, and yeah, we have some things in
the works. They have a script called CLINIC, and I guess they have a couple of
parts they want me to take a look at, depending on who else they cast. I don’t
know too much about the project, but I believe it’s about a drug rehab clinic
and pertains to vampires as well. So I might be playing some kind of orderly
within the facility, and possibly be a vampire.
FANG: So that would be your second one, after the UNDERWORLD
ROGERSON: Yes, I loved it. Are you kidding me? Who doesn’t
want to play a vampire? It’s so much fun. Just put me in contacts and I’ll play
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