Lovely Molly - Eduardo Sanchez interview (exclusive)
Interview by Rob Carnevale
EDUARDO Sanchez, the co-director of The Blair Witch Project, talks about some of the challenges involved in shooting his latest movie, Lovely Molly, which features a mix of found footage elements and conventional filmmaking techniques.
He also talks about some of the creepy things that happened to him and his crew while filming as well as why he feels he has really created a cool Big Foot movie with his next picture, Exists.
Q. Lovely Molly left me pretty unsettled… but that was what you were aiming for, right?
Eduardo Sanchez: Yeah, it’s not really a movie you can enjoy [laughs]. There are certain kinds of movies that do that to you and this was my attempt at making something that just stayed with you in a certain way. Some people have said they don’t understand it but that’s kind of what I was looking for. I want people to say they enjoyed it as a horror experience and I love the fact some people think it’s unique in a certain way. But it wasn’t ever going to be a movie for people to stand up and cheer at the end. I wanted them to be disturbed by it and for it to linger with them for a bit.
Q. I gather it was also born from your love for The Exorcist?
Eduardo Sanchez: Yeah, I always wanted to make some kind of exorcism movie, although I always thought m exorcism movie would be more of an exorcist movie where an exorcist actually comes in. But while I was writing the script, I got to page 90 and I realised the exorcist hadn’t actually come in yet! I even had the character thought out… she was going to be an ex-communicated nun who had basically just left the Catholic church for being too outspoken and she was doing exorcisms that were non-sanctioned by the Catholic church. She was more of a psychologist with a knowledge of the occult. But we got to the point in the film where I realised I didn’t need her. It’s one of the most exciting things about filmmaking, especially the writing process that sometimes the idea you start off with is completely different to what you end up with.
Q. Will you ever revisit the character for her own movie perhaps?
Eduardo Sanchez: You now, I really love that character. She was also a lesbian and she was very confident in herself. She knew that this stuff existed and she dealt with it in a very pragmatic way, almost like a midwife coming in the room to deliver a baby. She would be very clear about what she was there to do, what she needed to use and how she needed the room to be. So, she knows what to do when it comes to the occult. So, yeah, I think maybe if there’s a sequel we might bring her in!
Q. Lovely Molly combines your trademark shaky cam/found footage style of filmmaking with a more conventional approach. How did you enjoy combining the two?
Eduardo Sanchez: Well, I wouldn’t say I enjoyed it. The original concept was going to be found footage of somebody taping themselves being possessed by a demon. But I didn’t want to make a found footage movie. I just didn’t want to go there yet. So, I was like: “Is there a way to incorporate the found footage she is shooting with conventional filmmaking?” So, it was an experiment. I think it works well but it took me a while, throughout the writing and editing process, to find the right balance and to figure out how to present it. With some of the early test audiences, some people were confused with all of the found footage element. They thought we were showing flashbacks or other parts of the story.
So, one of the last things I added was a date strap to all the found footage that kind of gives you chronological dates to when this is happening. And I think it kind of lends the movie a more chronological structure that it didn’t have before. But again that’s the way it is. You set out to do something and you try and achieve that but quite often the movie takes on a new life through every part of the process, whether it’s story, casting, filming, editing, or doing the sound. The movie can completely change at each of those stages.
Q. Another part of the excitement must be discovering new acting talent. You did that with The Blair Witch Project and you’ve done it with Lovely Molly. Gretchen Lodge is amazing in the film as Molly and she’s been getting rave reviews too….
Eduardo Sanchez: Gretchen is amazing. And she’s fearless. We did some casting out of New York, sort of in the same way we did with Blair Witch, by putting out a casting call for non-union talent. And she came in and knocked my socks off! She was brilliant. We had some interest from more established actresses in LA, so I met with some of them and talked to people but in the end I trusted Gretchen. I felt a lot of confidence in the way she talked to me and carried herself, and I felt like she was going to be able to deliver for me like nobody else would be able to. And I was right.
Alexandra Holden, the actress who plays Gretchen’s sister, also auditioned for Molly. And although she missed out, she loved the project so much that she asked if she could audition for the role of Hannah. But I told her she didn’t have to audition for me again because I thought she was perfect for that role. But Gretchen in particular had such a command of the craft and was so fearless. I really, really appreciate what she did.
Q. Talk about the house in the film. I gather you had some creepy real-life experiences?
Eduardo Sanchez: There were a few things, yeah. The house was built in the 1700s so it’s seen a lot of wars, much like a lot of the houses in that area. There aren’t too many structures around, so every time a war or a skirmish comes around people would use a lot of the houses as impromptu hospitals, so a lot of people have died in that house. It just had a creepy feel to it. In fact, there was a woman who lived in the house by herself and I couldn’t believe she lived out there like that. She was so courageous in my view but she loves being out there in those 125 acres. We had to drive half a mile along the driveway to get to it! But to answer your question, the weirdest thing that happened to me was when we were doing some sound work. We went back after we’d finished filming to capture some sounds. So, I went to the house for a bit and I was talking to someone on my cell phone while I was there… but when I got home my wife discovered three weird scratches on my back, on the side of my torso. They were under the skin, so not like normal scratches. And to this day, I have no idea how I got those.
But there was definitely a weird energy in the house. Another thing happened while we were shooting the scene in the attic. It was supposed to be a simple scene but it took so much longer than we’d planned because the lights kept burning out and other things happened. Everyone wanted to get out of that attic because of the weird energy in there. Later, I found out through a psychic reader who was called to do a reading on the house that she thought something was in the attic… something that lived up there, which was kind of mad that we hadn’t asked permission to shoot in the house. I think it’s the same with a lot of these old houses but it certainly helped to add something to our film. There was a genuine creepiness to it.
Q. You are famous for popularising the found footage style of filmmaking given your success with Blair Witch. Are you comfortable with that or does it sometimes feel like a burden?
Eduardo Sanchez: No, I’m comfortable with it. The only thing is, and I always joke about this, I wish I was making a little piece of all the movies that have come since and get some of that money [laughs]. It must be a little bit like how George Romero feels every time a zombie movie comes out and makes a tonne of money! But I’m proud of the fact that this technique is often credited as being popularised by us. We didn’t invent it. But I take pride in the fact we helped bring that in. And like all techniques, there’s people who do it well and people who don’t. I think there are some great found footage movies out there and some mediocre ones. Every time a movie like that is reviewed the critic mentions the Blair Witch. So, it’s not a bad way to stay in the pop culture… the fact that film is still being referenced so much is good in a way and bad in a way. But for me personally, there’s nothing wrong with that kind of recognition.
Q. You’re returning to the found footage format with Exists, your Big Foot movie. How is that coming along?
Eduardo Sanchez: We wrapped about a month and a half ago and I’m really excited about it. I’m 43 and I’ve wanted to do this for so long. To me, before Big Foot became a punch-line he was this terrifying creature who lived in the woods behind my house. Most people of my generation and older have been waiting for a good Big Foot movie for a long time. I’m not saying I’ve done it because I don’t know what I have yet. But I think we have a really cool movie. And it’s good to fall in line with these investors and actors and effects people who have been itching to do Big Foot in a way they remember it as kids. So, it’s been kind of a passion project for a lot of people and I think it shows. We cut a quick teaser trailer in a couple of weeks… we cut it really fast to show the investors so they knew we hadn’t embezzled their money. And the teaser looks amazingly good. It looks like the kind of Big Foot movie I’d want to see. Obviously, I’m still editing the whole picture but if it’s even close to what we achieved in that trailer we’re going to have a great Big Foot movie!
Q. What appeals to you about using the found footage technique?
Eduardo Sanchez: Well, the Big Foot movie was the first one I’ve done since Blair Witch. I’m not trying to say that it’s easy but I know how to do it, or at least I think I do. With Blair Witch, Dan [Myrick] and I kind of shot the movie with as little interaction with the actors as possible. We gave them the directions we wanted them to take and then we wanted them to fill in the gaps because we wanted it to be an improvised movie. But you can’t do that with every movie and, for me, Lovely Molly was a different learning technique… to take a script with real dialogue and a real writer and find out how to turn that into something that feels real, or real enough to be a found footage movie. But I think I’m good at it and getting better. If somebody had asked me 10 years ago whether I would like to make another found footage movie I would have said ‘hell no’! But at this point, I’m excited about doing it. And if Big Foot does well, we have two more scripts ready to go. Hopefully, I can make a Big Foot trilogy. It’s been a childhood dream of mine to do that, whether it’s found footage, normal or a mixture of those elements.