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Continuing our discussion with PARANORMAL ACTIVITY director and CHERNOBYL DIARIES producer Oren Peli, begun here.
FANG: Even though it’s not a found footage movie, CHERNOBYL
DIARIES has a striking handheld, almost documentary aesthetic. That level of
realism seems very important in your horror films. Why is that?
PELI: That style, whether it’s found footage or something
that feels like a documentary, really helps me get into the movie and feel like
I’m following real people as opposed to watching actors read lines. I feel like
when you can connect to the characters that way, it removes some sort of a
barrier and puts you right into the action as a viewer. So with CHERNOBYL
DIARIES, even though it’s not found footage, we decided to shoot it in the
style of a Paul Greengrass movie or CHILDREN OF MEN or TRAFFIC. No one pretends
that those movies are found footage, but there’s something about their style
that makes them feel very realistic and visceral. That’s what we wanted to
capture, so that’s why we shot it the way we did and allowed the actors to
improvise and talk over each other. As a viewer, when that kind of style is
done properly, it has a much stronger effect on me.
FANG: Do you think that style will be integral to the all of
the horror movies you make personally? You also produced INSIDIOUS, which was
much more stylized.
PELI: Yeah, there’s no real set formula for me. It really
depends on the nature of the film. This approach made sense for PARANORMAL
ACTIVITY and CHERNOBYL DIARIES, but there may be other movies that ask us to go
with a totally different style. So there are really no rules for me. But I will
say that personally, I do prefer things that are raw and natural and gritty.
That’s what I’m drawn to.
FANG: I have to ask about the status of AREA 51. I believe
you started production on that shortly after PARANORMAL ACTIVITY was released,
so is there any update on when that will be completed or released?
PELI: Unfortunately, I have a policy of not commenting on
any future projects. I’m sorry, when the time is right I will talk about all
the other stuff.
FANG: Can you talk about the producing role you’ve really
PELI: Well, strictly speaking I don’t really have a
production company. I have a few different things going on like the PARANORMAL
ACTIVITY sequels and CHERNOBYL DIARIES, which was fun to do. I really had a
blast working with Brian Witten (DARK CITY, FINAL DESTINATION). When the
opportunity comes up, I would like to make more films with him in the future,
but I don’t really have anything official set up. I still don’t have an office
set up or anything like that.
FANG: Are you committed to continuing to help other horror
filmmakers get their work produced like Rob Zombie or James Wan on INSIDIOUS?
PELI: I don’t know if we’re going to be doing any more
movies as part of that particular shingle of our productions. But, in general I
really love the idea of working with young, emerging filmmakers. That’s why I
had such a great experience working with Brad Parker on CHERNOBYL DIARIES. It
was his first feature, even though he’s an expert on filmmaking through his
work in commercials, second unit directing, and as a visual effects supervisor.
There’s something very exciting about working with a first time filmmaker
because they are so enthusiastic and passionate. And thanks to the kind of low budget
horror films we’re working on, they can be a great launch pads for directors’
careers. I love being able to offer that opportunity.
FANG: What sort of involvement do you have with the Paranormal
Activity franchise now?
PELI: Well, it’s definitely mind-boggling that we’re now
working on the fourth movie. I’m working as a producer involved with developing
the story. Luckily, on the previous movies we’ve had great directors. So I’m
not incredibly involved once they come on board because I trust them. But I’m
definitely involved in the franchise and it’s rewarding to see that against all
odds we’re able to crank out good movies that the fans embrace, and seem to want
FANG: What was your experience delving into TV, with THE
PELI: Well, TV is very, very different from movies. It was
definitely a crash course. I couldn’t have asked for a better group of people
to work with at ABC and our producers, but it was definitely very challenging
for me to adjust. The schedule is so short and there are so many limitations on
what you can and can’t do. You have to make sure every episode is a very
specific length and accommodate for commercial breaks, so there were a lot of
little things that I wasn’t used to and had to figure out on the fly.
FANG: Was it challenging to try and make a horror project
within the confines of network TV?
PELI: Actually, ABC was really cool with us and didn’t hold
us back too much. Obviously, you know that there is a limit on how far you can
go on network TV. When you’re working in horror, that is a very delicate line
to walk while trying to find the right tone.
FANG: Do you think that you will continue to work
exclusively within horror?
PELI: I’m not specifically committed to horror. If there’s
an idea that comes along that interests me and isn’t within the genre, I’ll
entertain it. I am having a lot of fun at the moment doing what I’m doing, so
again without giving away details, there will definitely be more horror films
in my future. But hopefully, at some point there will be projects that aren’t
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