Sundance 2013: 'S-VHS' producer Q&A
On Saturday night, the horror anthology sequel S-VHS will premiere at Park City’s Library Center Theatre just a few months after Magnolia Pictures’ genre arm Magnet released its predecessor, the also Sundance-screened V/H/S. Remarkably, Brad Miska, one of the producers of the found footage series, says the second movie could have debuted even sooner. “We had internally joked about how hilarious it would be to actually have S-VHS premiere at the Toronto Film Festival before the first one came out,” laughs Miska, a cofounder of the horror website Bloody Disgusting. “But we thought that would be incredibly disrespectful to Magnolia, so we didn’t do that.”
The speed with which S-VHS was put together has not diminished the quality of the participating filmmakers. While V/H/S featured segments directed by Ti West (The House of the Devil), Glenn McQuaid (I Sell the Dead), and the prolific Joe Swanberg (Hannah Takes The Stairs), amongst others, the sequel boasts an arguably even more impressive lineup of indie-minded terror talent: Jason Eisener (Hobo With A Shotgun), Gareth Huw Evans (The Raid: Redemption) and Timo Tjahjanto (Macabre), Edúardo Sanchez (The Blair Witch Project) and Gregg Hale (The Blair Witch Project), and franchise returnees Simon Barrett and Adam Wingard (respectively, writer and director of 2010’s A Horrible Way To Die and the forthcoming, much-tipped You’re Next).
Below, Miska talks more about the found footage franchise — and why Lena Dunham is on his wish list of future V/H/S directors.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: How did the whole V/H/S ball get rolling in the first place?
BRAD MISKA: Well, a couple of years ago the Collective (a management and production company) bought into Bloody Disgusting and they thought it would be cool for branding if we explored the idea of doing a movie or a TV series or something. I had this idea for a modern Tales From The Crypt with a bunch of kids finding some old tapes and each week watching a new one. [But] at the exact same time we were talking with Simon Barrett and Adam Wingard about doing projects and I associate produced A Horrible Way to Die with them and wanted to work with them again. So Simon wrote a wraparound idea for how we could do it as a feature.
It became this really weird, experimental project where I used my Bloody Disgusting relationships to bring in different filmmakers. They would pitch us and then we would be like, “That’s really cool, here’s the money, go do it.” It was like a trust fall-type situation: “Do whatever you’re gonna do — We want it to be a fun exchange where it’s your vision and we’re not going to stomp on it because the whole reason we talked to you was because your good filmmakers.” Then we assembled it and we were like, “Oh, let’s see what happens if we send it to Sundance.” Like, laughing: “There’s no way.” Then Sundance was like, “That was amazing.” We were like, “Really? Cool!”
What do you remember about screening V/H/S at last year’s Sundance?
It was crazy. I’ve been going to Sundance for the website for 7, 8 years now. So I was familiar with it. But the first screening for me was a nightmare. I was proud of the movie but I didn’t know what anyone else thought. So it was really scary to watch it with an audience. Once the first screening was over, and I was done panicking, and people seemed to like it, then the next one was more fun. We had a couple of people pass out. That legitimately happened. But I blame that on alcohol and lack of sleep.
It was a big surprise when you announced a sequel was on the way so soon after the release of the original.
Well, being part of the press circle for so many years I’ve seen how people approach making movies, releasing movies. I don’t like it when people announce things before they’re shot. I mean, a big studio I understand. I’m just very anti-self-celebratory. We made V/H/S quietly, didn’t tell anybody. It was just a little fun thing we were doing, friends, hanging out. And the second one was sort of the same thing.
I like the idea of working with all these people I respect. It’s really exciting to get pitches and pick the ones we think are really cool. And as quickly as we did the first one, this one came together even faster and cleaner. We already had directors in mind. So we just started. We put it into Sundance but we thought the odds of getting into Sundance twice in a row were just astronomical. When we got the call it was surreal.
What can people expect from S-VHS?
This time we went for scope. Where the first one seems very micro, and indie, and mumblecore-ish, this one we wanted it to feel really big and apocalyptic and end of the world-ish. We used the wraparound as a way to ground it back in the same realistic V/H/S world and then you break from the claustrophobia and go to these really big, apocalyptic worlds.
Gareth Evans obviously attracted a lot of attention with his film The Raid. What can you tell us about the segment he’s directed with Timo Tjahjanto?
Gareth is incredible, and Timo. Both those guys are geniuses. I love Macabre. The Raid blew my mind. It was my favorite movie of that year. So immediately we wanted to work with these guys and we wanted to do something that felt foreign. I think movies like The Serpent and the Rainbow, where you go to another country and it’s also grounded in reality, it’s really creepy. [Their segment] was filmed in Indonesia with an all-Indonesian crew and cast and I think what they pulled off is just huge. At one point we had talked about even showing it with no subtitles but then we were concerned that people would just go an complain to the projectionist. [Given] the budget, it looks insane. The scope is huge. I can’t say enough good words about them.
And what about Jason Eisener’s segment?
I don’t want to say too much, but Jason’s is based on a local legend, or a local conspiracy and he turned in this really hyper fast-paced segment what we thought was kind of on par with Radio Silence’s from the first one. It’s one of those great, just-grab-the-camera-and-run-type things, once things go down.
Can we look forward to more V/H/S movies?
We have [more] sequels in mind. We could do this for ever with high-caliber, independent directors that we think are awesome.
Who is on your wish list of future V/H/S directors?
I really like thinking outside the box. I’m a huge fan of the Sound of My Voice [and] I love Another Earth. I think Brit Marling (who starred in and copenned both films) is an amazing writer and an amazing actress — and Zat Batmanglij, who directed the Sound of My Voice. They fit into the mold of what we like to do and who we like to work with. So they’re my top priority for V/H/S 3.
I also love Lena Dunham. She did Tiny Furniture, so she’s kind of in that world, too. In a weird way, she feels like that she’s in that family of people that we’re all friends with and creates product that fits into that same world.
She was also in Ti West’s last movie, The Innkeepers.
Exactly! She’s part of the family—whether she knows it or not! [Laughs]
You can check out the (at times rather bloody) teaser trailer for S-VHS below.