Sunday, December 26, 2021


A salute to everyone reading this interview. First things first, I hope each of the person reading this reading this interview has had a merry christmas with your loved ones. OK, now regariding our subject, I want to indtroduce you people today's interviewee: PAUL CATALANOTTO, an indie filmmaker, director of films such as Proof Of The Devil, Scrilege and his latest work THE THING INSIDE US, which is the matter of our talk. As I always write,  this blog and these interviews specifically seeks to provide valuable info to beginners or budding filmmakers from people who have lived the experience to make a movie and know what things to prioritize and what not when making a limited budget film in all its differentes phases.

PAUL fits in this goal because he knows perfectly those things, in each of his movies he has experienced situations that has forced him to dig deep to look for creative solutions. His latest film has been made with no crew, only he and his actors and all this came to surface because of the suggestion of one of his students, ah, I had not said yet, PAUL teaches film production at the university, so in one of his classes that challenge turned into a  goal for his career and the result was THE THING INSIDE US, a movie that tells the story of a married couple that during the strike of a strange disease in the world, the wife experiment a "sleepwalking" condition and doctors can't help her, so the husband decide to document her condition through video record all her steps... What he finds could not only destroy his relationship, but the world itself.

The movie had its VOD and DIGITAL release on October 19, 2021 by High Octane PicturesPAUL let me talk with him about the obstacles he faced off during the making of, the doubt moments that arise in every film production, how to focus on the goals, he gave us advice regarding how to shoot a movie with no crew and with no money practically. I know you will like this interview, come on! Scroll down and read it.

EFF: Paul, I hope you're doing well, I wanna thank you for chatting with me, really. Tell us where are you from and when or how the love for filmmaking was born in you?
PC:  Thank you for having me. I’m a big fan of what you’re doing.
I’m from Hammond, Louisiana – a small town outside of New Orleans. There’s no place I’m more comfortable than a movie theatre. When I was a kid, my mom used to take my cousins and me to the movies at least twice a month. Sometimes, she’d even let me skip school for a trip to the movies. But I didn’t discover a love for making movies until my junior year in college. I stumbled into a video editing class and saw a few students playing around with the first version of Final Cut Pro. I thought that looked like something I could do. I changed my major that night.
EFF: We will talk about your latest horror movie "THE THING INSIDE US", but this is your third  fictional feature film, so, tell us a little bit about how did you get into filmmaking, what were your first works in the horror genre?
PC: Most of the movies my mom took us too were horror movies. I can remember watching a NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET marathon with my family for New Year’s Eve. So, the horror genre has always been near and dear to my heart. 
However, I never thought I’d have a career in making movies. Even after receiving my master’s degree in film production from University of New Orleans, I figured I’d make a life in marketing, create content for local businesses, and that’s exactly what I did until a friend from UNO asked me to direct a script that we co-wrote. He wanted to produce it but couldn’t find anyone to direct for the rate he was offering. He asked me if I’d be willing and thought “why the hell not?” PROOF OF THE DEVIL remains the most fun I’ve had on a movie. Unfortunately, the end result is less than stellar which is why it didn’t immediately lead to another directing opportunity.  I sold a screenplay after that. It never saw light of day, but it led to a few meetings and conversations with other local producers. Nothing came of those meetings either, so finally my wife had the idea of just making a movie ourselves which ended up being SACRILEGE. Thankfully, that movie was successful. THE THING INSIDE US originated under different circumstances. I had different projects lined up but decided to do this one on a dare.
The Thing Inside us (2021)
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EFF: Let's get to the point. "THE THING INSIDE US" is directed and written by you. How did you come up with the concept and why do it in this found footage format?
PC: I started THE THING INSIDE US in late 2018. Inspiration for the script came after my first semester teaching at Louisiana State University. I like to tell my students that nothing should stop them from making their movies. Money, camera, equipment, crew – no problem. Well, I had a student call me out on the fact that SACRILEGE and PROOF OF THE DEVIL had budgets. I had access to crew and equipment from a career working on local and regional productions. Even in film school you aren’t really on your own, so I decided to try out my own advice and do exactly what I challenge them to do. 
The concept of the pandemic in THE THING INSIDE US ended up being timely, but the inspiration came from a small outbreak of encephalitis in 2018. I live in Louisiana, so mosquitos are everywhere. Even during the winter, mosquitos are out for blood. West Nile is a yearly concern, so I thought what if the disease was an alien invasion? We wouldn’t stand a chance, and I settled on found footage because I thought that would be the easiest way to finish this movie.
EFF: Wow, pretty interesting how  the movie project came about. Now let's talk about the script writing process. How much time took you to have the final script done and how many drafts did you elaborate before the final one?
PC: I started writing in late 2018 and made changes to the script up until we wrapped in 2020. I don’t remember how many drafts, but it’s safe to say plenty.
EFF: What is the movie about?
PC: The simple synopsis is: Daniel and Shelly have lost everything to the LV pandemic that has currently engulfed the world. Most show no symptoms to the disease, but Daniel barely survived the infection. Shelly seems fine except for a strange case of sleepwalking. The doctors can't help her, so Daniel decides to document his wife's illness for evidence. What he finds could not only destroy his relationship, but the world itself.
At its core, THE THING INSIDE US is a love story. What would you do for someone you loved? To me, that’s Daniel’s story.  He feels helpless, so documenting the illness makes him active in finding a cure. Moreover, as we all know, when you look for something, you usually find it.  Most of the time we just don’t’ like the answers.
Paul catalanotto 

EFF: Did you take any inspiration or took as a basis any movie or story?

PC: JOHN CARPENTER’S THE THING and INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS were probably the biggest inspirations. I think the idea of a loved one being replaced by something so insidious is frightening on a primal level. We are our most vulnerable with those we love. Those attacks you don’t see coming. That’s the genesis of this movie. What if the person you love isn’t that person anymore?
EFF: Tell us about the project timeline, how the movie emerged from your mind to the screen? How you got investors or the money for the movie?
PC: I started writing in late 2018. We started production in July of 2019 and wrapped one year later. There was no money in this project.  I made this for movie a budget of $500.00, and I was the only crew member. I wrote, directed, shot, produced, ran sound, managed the location, set dressed, and did post.  Thankfully, talent did their own makeup.  
The 500.00 consists of gas money, meals, and coffee. Everyone agreed to perform for points in the movie. In addition, it’s my sincerest hope that in the next few months I’ll be writing them a check for their hard work. 
The Thing Inside Us

EFF: OK, you got the money and the script, now was time to start pre-production. What words could you give us about the hurdles or tell us how you approached this stage?
PC: The hurdles of preproduction were to make sure there were no hurdles during production. Preproduction was six months and took place during the rewrites of the script.  I wouldn’t put anything in that I knew I couldn’t do on my own. I had the location, so I was able to write around that. I owned the equipment, so I had a good idea what the final image would look like. I took a week to set dress the location, put fake cameras on the walls. The last step was to schedule the shoot so that the gear would never be in the way.
EFF: What setbacks you faced off during the shooting phase and how did you beat them out? Give us any examples.
PC: The biggest setback was scheduling. No one can rewrite their lives for a no-budget movie. In addition, believe me, life got in the way.
We shot for two weeks in July of 2019 and came close to completion.  Then we got together for a couple of Saturdays and that got us to two days.  October came and Christine booked, so we decided to wait until the New Year to get the last two days. In the meantime, I started post on the movie to see what we might need for a possible pick up.  Scheduling kept being an issue until finally Covid hit in March. There was a real feeling that we’d never finish this movie, but then one year later when the restrictions were lifted and we were all vaccinated, we got together and finished the movie.
EFF: The movie starts immediately with the sleepwalking "thing" with Shelly, plunging us into the movie core.  Do you have a particular scene you consider it was hard or complicated to shoot and why? 
PC: Some of the running and gunning stuff was a little challenging.  In some cases, we didn’t have a lot of light, so the focus wouldn’t be where I wanted. In addition, audio was always a hassle. There’s a reason why that’s a separate team. In every situation, I doubled my coverage because I had to make sure everyone had good sound. Then somewhere in the middle of the shoot, one of the lavs went out, so that became another issue altogether. As I say all of this, it really is a miracle this thing has seen the light of day.
EFF: What camera did you use, how many and why?
PC: One camera.  I used the Panasonic EVA 1 with a sigma 16mm. I also used an 85mm for a few close ups and the 35mm for some handheld. It’s the camera I used for my business, so I was comfortable enough to use it on a feature. 
Most of the film is told through what is supposed to be surveillance cameras. The 16 gave me the look I wanted. I was also lucky that the location was an old house. 8ft ceilings let me extend the tripod to the necessary height I needed.
EFF: How long took you the shooting phase, when did you shoot it and where?
PC: As I said earlier, THE THING INSIDE US took a year to make due to Covid and other scheduling issues. We shot in a small house in Natalbany, Louisiana.  It was my grandmother’s home, and my wife and I fixed up to be a rental.  So in between fixing it up and renting it out, we shot a movie.  The location actually has shown up in all three of my features.  In PROOF OF THE DEVIL, it’s the Priest’s home. In SACRILEGE, it’s the location of the yard sale. Both films’ climaxes took place at that house. Maybe It’ll show up in the next one. We’ll see.
BTS - The Thing Inside Us

EFF: Do you have any anecdotes to share with us?
PC: Making movies with no crew is hard, but thankfully I had a good cast. They helped wherever they could. They were in this every bit as much as I was, and I couldn’t have found two better people to work with.
I think the most anecdotal thing about this movie came after the first rough cut. We all watched it and were surprised that it actually worked. Yeah, it’s a found footage movie, but as you probably noticed, I didn’t shoot this like a traditional found footage movie. I put the camera wherever I wanted to make the best image possible. I can remember Christine and I talking about that too. She asked me once when I was setting up, “So, we’re saying there’s a camera here?” And I replied by saying, “Wherever I am, there’s a security camera there. The whole house as far as I’m concerned has cameras, and I wasn’t going to let the location of prop cameras dictate the shot.”  She looked at me with a straight face and asked me how this was all going to work. I was honest and told her that I didn’t know what the finished product would look like or even if it would work on a fundamental level. So yeah, I think we were all pleasantly surprised this came together.
EFF: What can you tell us about the postproduction? Any issue?
PC: Next to writing, post is my favorite part of the process. The only issue was that this was editing, color correcting, and mixing a feature.  Sound design is not my favorite job, so that was a real chore.  When we landed distribution, that was the only thing High Octane had to clean up.
EFF: When the movie was released? Where can people watch it and how have audience responded so far?
PC: You can watch the movie on all streaming platforms, and as of doing this interview, the reviews have been positive. Most people seem to enjoy it, so that’s always a plus.

EFF: What did you learn from this movie that you didn't from your other movies?
PC: I now know that it’s possible to make a movie with virtually no resources, so when I tell my students don’t let anything stop you from making your movie, I can point at this one as an example.
EFF: What are those or the key element an indie low budget horror filmmaker should have in mind when trying to craft a story or shooting a movie? 
PC: Script. The script is the blueprint of the movie, so it’s important to devise a blueprint that is doable under the limitations of the production.

EFF: Paul, give us your experience regarding distribution so far? For example this movie had a distribution with High Octane Pictures. How do you handle this important process? A lot of filmmakers craft a good movie but don't get good distro deals, they don't get any profit from their works. Please, any advice?
PC: I had High Octane’s contact since meeting them at AFM in 2016. I was shopping Sacrilege at the time. We ended up working with them on the film’s foreign release. It was a good relationship, so when I was done with this one, I sent them a trailer and the movie. They liked what they saw, and we made a deal.
My advice is go to AFM. Meet the people you are going to do business with. Distribution is like a marriage, and you both should get to know each other before getting in a relationship with each other.
Paul Catalanotto

EFF. What kind of director considers yourself? in terms of directing actors, co-workers, techniques or tips you use when shooting, storyboard, etc. 
PC: I like to think that I’m the type of director that loves working with actors. It doesn’t become real until someone starts saying the lines. And working with people to create something from nothing is just a real joy.
Normally, I like storyboards, but for this one I had extensive shot lists. I would write descriptions of what I wanted to see in each shot.  I shared them with Christine and Chad before the day, so they’d get an idea of what I was thinking. It gave us a good place to start.

EFF: In general terms what advice would you give at newbie filmmakers out there trying to make their first horror movie based on what you have learned from your experience. Making things easier and getting the maximum of it.
PC: Work with people you trust. In my case, the talent. But in previous movies like SACRILEGE and PROOF OF THE DEVIL, those movies were completed largely because I had good people in the right places.  
In addition, really, the most important thing is to always be a champion for your movie.  Every movie needs at least one person believing in it and pushing it forward. In indie filmmaking, it’s going to have to be you, because if not they’ll never get finished or see the light of day.

EFF: What are your inspiration; Directors or films? For this movie what references did you put into it, if you so.
PC: Wes Craven and John Carpenter. What they did on such low budgets is amazing. But, in indie horror that always seems to be the case. What is the most we can do for what little we have?  As far as movies, as I mentioned earlier, THE THING was a big inspiration for this movie. Hell, it’s even in the title.

EFF: How have you lived this pandemic? Personally, Professionally...
PC: The pandemic has been rough. I’m not sure there are too many people who can say that the entire experience hasn’t been stressful. Personally, it still scares me. I have two little ones who haven’t been vaccinated yet. I wake up scared about that every morning. Moreover, like most of us, I’ve lost people because of it. There are lots of people I’ll never see in this life again because of Covid. 
Professionally, it’s just been different.  I’ve had to change the way I’ve done things, but where I lost projects, I gained others.  Other than narratives, I also do documentaries, and one project that I gained through the pandemic was THE PLAY THAT NEVER OPENED.  It’s about a group of theatre students who came together and turned their canceled play into a series of music videos, and to me, that’s true creativity. They couldn’t do the play they worked so hard on and turned that project into something else. So, if it wasn’t for the pandemic, I never would’ve gotten to experience that. It was nice being a part of something so positive when everything around us seemed so bleak.

EFF: Are you a horror fan? What movies do you like most?
PC: Absolutely. My wife and I watch horror movies all the time. When I visit my parents, and after the kids have gone to bed, my mom and I will always turn on something from the horror genre.
EFF:  Are you working on anything new?
PC: Several things. I’m working on a comic book right now called Edie. I have big hopes for that one. It’s kind of a modern retelling of the blob, but it goes in a very different direction. I’m also working another horror feature now. It’s still untitled, but I’m hoping it’ll be my largest production to date.

EFF: If a producer gives you a chance to direct a horror film remake, what would it be and why?  
PC: No. There’s been enough remakes.  I’ve seen some remarkable work from other indie horror directors. I say give them a shot to make something new and different. I’m betting they’d surprise us. 
EFF : Would you like to say anything else?
PC: Yeah, don’t let anything stop you from making your movies. Even yourself.

**PAUL CATALANOTTO'S | IMDb Twitter | **

The Thing Inside us (2021)
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