Friday, January 5, 2018


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Hello my friends, today, I got the pleasure to post the interview I did to Chris Peckover, director of films like UNDOCUMENTED in 2010 and BETTER WATCH OUT. Both great movies, but the last one wwas released in 2017 with excellents reviews, in this film not only involved greats actors but qualified crew and a fantastic story that I know you will you like (if you haven't watched it yet), but all this couldn't be such great if wasn't by the work of Chris Peckover a talented director and a free mind at the moment to talk about his insights and thoughts about this industry and its paths.
EFF: First of all thanks for accepting this interview. How it initiated the love to make films?

CP: I went to college wanting be a neurosurgeon. But about halfway through, I realized that premed was all rote memorization, and I have a terrible memory. I wasn't enjoying myself. My mentor asked what I love more than anything, and I told him movies. They made life easier for me during some tough years in my life. I grew up in the smallest county in Texas as a Canadian foreigner. Most people didn't take kindly to foreigners in Rockwall, Texas. (That was actually the inspiration for my first film, UNDOCUMENTED. So, my mentor told me to follow what I love. And I did. In the end, I got both things I wanted, because crafting a film requires a certain surgery on the audience's brain, predicting what effect you'll have at any given moment and using that knowledge on them to create a rollercoaster.

EFF: How long have you been into film industry?

CP: I graduated from USC's Peter Stark Producing Program in 2006 and sold the script for UNDOCUMENTED in 2007, so somewhere between there?
EFF: So far, you have made two feature films, right. "Undocumented" in 2010 and "Safe Neighborhood". Why you chose horror films as your first works?

CP: Writing horror is a big part of how I process and deal with all the bad stuff in my life.  I try to conquer it and make light of it.  I wonder if it's the same draw for audiences.  We escape into somebody else's nightmare and make it our own, keeping it with us after.  It's a very empathetic genre.  
Buy it on AMAZON

EFF: Ok, in the moment you already had solid the concept, how was the pitching process, how did you reach the budget and what paths did you use for it?

CP: I was lucky.  Found footage hadn't become a thing yet, and that was a huge part of my pitch.  So every company I went to said if I wrote UNDOCUMENTED they'd buy it.  I decided to team up with my favorite company, run by another Stark graduate Keith Calder.  We developed the script for a couple years then shot in 2009.  Keith and his producing partner Jess Wu have great taste, they've gone on to produce a number of other great indie movies -- THE GUEST and ANOMALISA to name a few. 

EFF: Now, last year, you shot "Safe Neighborhood” where you were co-writer and director too, again, how it was the creation of the story?

CP: There’s a lot of "been there, done that" in the home invasion genre, and I think that stems from filmmakers focusing on the invasion itself.  Oooooh, look at those scary masked bad guys, look at how clever the victims are, look at how bravely they fight back.  It's monotonous. And with HALLOWEEN, WAIT UNTIL DARK, and PANIC ROOM, we've seen it done better.  My favorite home invasion movies of the past decade have focused more on the effect of the invasion, the consequences, the unique people involved.  DON'T BREATHE flipped just about everything on its head, including who the real victims are. With SAFE NEIGHBORHOOD we found a way to flip everything too, but in a different way.

EFF:  The film was shot in Australia and USA right? Why?

CP: My American producers and I met some wonderful producers in Australia who wanted to elevate SAFE NEIGHBORHOOD to a serious production.  You don't say no to that.  So we shot the movie in Australia, with Australian actors doing American accents on a stage in the dead of summer, and shot a day in Minnesota for the opening credit sequence. 
Better watch out | Amazon | iTunes |

EFF: I've found a lot of reviews on internet about your film and a big percent of them has been positive, obviously one will find all types of comments. But you personally, how have you seen audience response, they catched your idea, that you wanted to give?

CP: I love dark comedy, and couldn't help making this story funny in spite of its horror.  Mixing the two can be a dangerous game, tonally -- it's hard to predict if people will stop taking the horror seriously if they laugh too much, but response has been better than I ever imagined.  I'm so glad we took that risk, because when it works there's nothing better.
Chris Peckover and his dog

EFF: Horror like many others movie genres, concentrates one sub genre according it success, in this era we have the supernatural as the sub genre successful, like in 90 it was the slasher. Your film is not a supernatural film of course, but what do you think which have been those strong point for the "Supernatural" horror in order to be so successful right now?

CP: You got me there.  Besides having strong characters and being unique, I really don't know what the key to success is.  If you have a story that people care about, to me that's automatic success.

EFF: How was the process casting, very good characters, actors. how you handled that process?

CP: A: Olivia DeJonge, who plays Ashley, signed on first. She's a legend, just a great nice person that the industry knows is a rising star, so after that everybody started taking SAFE seriously.  We read over 200 boys for the role of Luke and his best friend Garrett, and the competition was pretty stiff there, but then Levi Miller walked in and just blew us away. He keeps getting cast in these giant roles (Peter Pan in PAN last year, Calvin O'Keefe in Ava DuVernay's A WRINKLE IN TIME) for his charm and ability to play childlike wonder, but there's this whole other side of him that I can't wait to show the world.  Dude's got range.  Ed Oxenbould immediately followed for the role of Garrett, and between the three of them I truly believe SAFE NEIGHBORHOOD has the three best teenage Australian actors today.

EFF: Every film is a challenge, what were those challenges you found in the making of this film?

CP: What surprises people most is that we shot in the dead of summer in Sydney, Australia on a sound stage. The whole house is a set. The backyard is a set. The snow is gelatin and paper. Our shoes were constantly tracking wet shredded paper into the set. Keeping the floor clean was a nightmare. We were a rather low budget film, so we could only afford about 2 hours of air conditioning a day from the sound stage, even as temperatures outside were creeping well into the 30s Celsius. Under the hot lights, in the dead of summer, no air conditioning, and on top of that the poor actors wearing winter coats and having to pretend it was cold.  That was a challenge.

EFF: What was the budget and what was the most expensive thing in your film?

CP: While I wasn't privy to the exact budget, I do know for a fact that building on a stage at Fox in Sydney is expensive.  Mel Gibson had just finished HACKSAW RIDGE when we got it, and Ridley Scott took over for ALIEN: COVENANT.  We never expected to need something so expensive, but the flight paths in Sydney constantly change with the weather, and Sydney doesn't have any other sound stages.  If we'd had a longer schedule and not had to deal with the 8 hours a day rule for minors, we might've risked building a stage in a warehouse, but that didn't end up being an option.

EFF:  Can we expect films referenced in this film? What films inspired you to make this one, in the script and at the time direct it.

CP: BETTER ATCH OUT is a love letter to John Hughes and all the dark undertones of his movies.  You'll see lots of references to Wes Craven, another director I adore.

EFF: And now if somebody give you the chance to make a horror remake, what would you choose and why? 

CP: I got super bummed a couple weeks ago when it was announced that LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS is getting remade.  That's my favorite film of all time, and I've never wanted to remake a movie more.  In fact, maybe I'll wait 20 years and just do a better remake.  I have so many ideas for that one.

EFF:  What directors has influenced on your directing style? 

CP: I always strive to direct actors like Coppola, place my camera like Spielberg, and the rest is a mishmash of everybody I love.  Tarantino, Fincher, Zimmeckis, Kubrick, Carpenter, Craven, Dante, Hooper, and Reiner.

EFF: What equipments, cameras do you use usually on your film?

CP: Whatever my DP's like, haha. Though I do like to keep the camera active, and save stillness for emphasis. 

EFF: Wht advice would you give for those want-to-be filmmakers who are undediced about how to shoot their first story?

CP: Don't wait for anyone to give you permission to make a film.  Because it will never come.  You have to force yourself upon the world.  And how do you shoot your first story?  In whatever style fits the budget you have.  Don't bite off more than you can chew -- tailor your style to the resources at your disposal.  John Carpenter and Wes Craven were brilliant at that.

EFF:  What do you have in mind now, an upcoming film?

CP: You can definitely expect something supernatural from me next, and not sharing the stage with comedy as much.  I just finished a script involving a doppelgänger, and I'm having a hard time going to sleep right now...
Chris Peckover 

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