The found footage genre has been full of hits and misses since the arrival of The Blair Witch Project. But the subgenre provides ample room for filmmakers to challenge themselves, exploring the craft while also finding new, interesting ways to tell horror stories that rattle our bones. This was the case when director Antoine Le took on the found footage genre in his feature film debut, FOLLOWED. Taking place inside a hotel, we get to explore potential spooky things with a band of Vloggers. However, things become too much for the group to handle. But, at that point, it’s just a wee bit too late.
For the release of FOLLOWED on Video On Demand, we got the chance to interview director Antoine Le about the conception of the film, the intrigue that vlogging culture evokes, and a possible expanse of the FOLLOWED-universe.
FOLLOWED is your feature film directorial debut. What intrigued you about Followed and made you want to be a part of it?
Antoine Le: I was watching the news sometime in 2013 and I remember seeing a story about Elisa Lam and Hotel Cecil. At first, I thought it was some sort of mockumentary or a viral marketing campaign for a new horror movie (the fact that the story was eerily similar to the Japanese horror classic Dark Water made me think it was another American remake). But then I realized that it was actually real – this actually happened! So I started digging deeper into the event and learned more about the hotel and its haunting past.
Then I discovered the world of ‘creepypasta’ and learned about urban legends such as the Elevator game, etc…I remember having chills just thinking about what I read so I called up Matt (Lead producer/Editor of FOLLOWED) and told him that we should look into possibly turning this story into a movie. Serendipitously, Matt told me that a friend of his, Todd Klick – an accomplished writer, has also been very interested in this story and that he’s already working on something about this hotel.
So, Matt, Todd, myself, and another producer, Greg Berlant, started meeting weekly over beers to discuss the story. Simultaneously, Todd was very intrigued by the whole vlogging culture and the fame-seeking exploits of so-called ‘social media influencers’ (we just called them vloggers or YouTubers at the time), so Todd suggested that we combine the two ideas and that’s how we came up with the basic premise for FOLLOWED. Personally, I was attracted to make this my debut feature because I had never done horror before and I wasn’t a big fan of the found-footage genre, so I thought that if I could take on this challenge and make it a good film, I would’ve grown as a filmmaker and hopefully find my ‘voice’ in the process. Furthermore, Todd Klick’s brilliant screenplay was irresistible and full of heart, which you don’t normally see in a ‘found-footage’ horror subgenre offering, so it was too good of an opportunity for me to pass up.
Do you believe in ghosts? Would you spend three nights in a haunted hotel?
Antoine Le: I am a practical but spiritual person and since I have never seen any ghosts in my life, I would say I’d need to see/experience it in person to make me a true believer. With that said, I am not at all dismissive of the spiritual world or the notion that ghosts are real. There have been way too many unexplainable ‘supernatural’ events experienced by many, including my own family members whom I’d believe, over time so I would suspect that at least there are some truths to it. I just wanted to experience it on my own to be able to say ‘Yes, I do believe in Ghosts’. As for staying in a reportedly haunted hotel for 3 days? Well, it depends on the circumstances. If I were with a group of friends, then yes, I’d totally consider it. But would I do it alone? Nope, I am not that brave and believe it or not, I am still afraid of the dark and it mostly has to do with my imagination. My mind can get quite creative when I’m alone in the dark.
What was the most fun and difficult part of filming?
Antoine Le: The most fun was simply that I got to make a movie. Hence, every day on set was a dream come true for me. We shot in 13 days and let me tell you, that was the absolute best vacation I’d ever had! People say ‘if you do what you love, you’d never work again in your life’ and I wholeheartedly agree with that sentiment. The most difficult part of the process was the fact that we were a micro-budget production and I was a first time filmmaker who hadn’t made a single thing in a decade (my last project was a short that I directed back in 2003). We had 144 pages to shoot in 13 days and we were not able to go overtime.
On top of that, we were running short on money too so I had to raise additional capital while filming. Thus, it was truly a daunting task for me to keep things moving along smoothly while hoping that I wouldn’t let our cast and crew down. Luckily, I was truly blessed to be surrounded by so many talented people so I had all the help I needed. My most memorable experience on set for me was when we shot in downtown LA and had to shut down a small part of a busy intersection. My producer Matt pulled me aside and asked how I felt about actually being on a set and being able to film in downtown LA and shutting down traffic in the process because he, too, was experiencing the same sense of surrealism – that we actually were making a movie in our hometown and it wasn’t a short film! We both were ecstatic and we felt like the most accomplished filmmakers in the world because this is something we both dreamed of back in college.
If there was one thing I wish we had, it would be I wish we had a few more hours to film in the basement…
What made you want to be a filmmaker?
Antoine Le: I could write a 300-page manifesto about this subject but I’ll keep it brief. To me, film is such a powerful medium where it can entertain, inform, inspire, and be transcendent through space and time. And being a filmmaker is simply being afforded the opportunity to create your own world, your own sandbox so to speak, then share this world with others and hope that they ‘embrace’ it. Once they do, you can then lead them through this journey that you originally envisioned in your mind. I mean, how awesomely powerful is that?
I know that COVID has stalled many projects but are you currently working on anything?
Currently, our production company Viscape Arts is putting together a slate of films so yes, we are in the ‘pre-conceptualizing’ phase for our next projects at the moment. I can tell you that my next project may be an action/drama piece in the veins of Kill Bill meets Drive meets Lost in Translation. We are also working on the basic premise for the sequel to FOLLOWED among other stuff that we’d like to do to expand our FOLLOWED-related universe. Hopefully, we’ll be able to make some announcements soon. Since most of the work we do now involve meetings via Zoom, COVID hasn’t deterred us from working on films that much, but here’s hoping this goes away soon so we can all get back to production.
And, to wrap things up, what’s your favorite scary movie?
Antoine Le: The American version of The Ring by Gore Verbinski. I saw that in theaters and let me tell you, I couldn’t sleep with the lights off for about a month! No other horror films since then would have the same effect on me. I love the original Ringu as well but what Gore brought to the remake was something I hadn’t seen before and his work on the Ring has inspired many great modern horror filmmakers I’d think. But the first horror film that scared me senseless when I was little was A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors. God, I would love to remake this franchise as I have a few ideas on how to ‘modernize’ it. Most recently though, I’d have to say Hereditary was the work of a mad genius and I greatly admire Ari Aster.
FOLLOWED is now available on VOD from Global View Entertainment. Want to learn more about the film? Check out our review HERE.