Each year, if we’re lucky, there will appear a film on the horizon that is carried through early festival screenings and into cinemas on a buoyant wave of excitement. Genre fans in particular are quick to celebrate a new voice, and when many first heard of David Robert Mitchell’s new film, It Follow, it was in these reverential tones.
The film arrives on these shores at the end of next week, on the 27th of February, and we have a number of special features and interviews running over the next two weeks, championing the release.
We begin today from the words of director David Robert Mitchell and star Maika Monroe, here’s how it (follows) came about.
I read the script I was like, ‘This is crazy! How is he going to get this story across on film because it’s so bizarre”. I put myself on tape and David watched it and explained to me how this story came from this nightmare he had as a kid.
David Robert Mitchell:
I was about nine or ten years old and remember in one nightmare I was playing with friends outside school and across the far side of the parking lot I saw this really far away kid walking really slowly toward me. I remember seeing them and just the way you instinctively do in a dream, knowing something was wrong and that kid was a monster. I remember pointing it out to the people I was playing with and nobody knew what I was talking about. It was getting closer and closer and eventually I ran away. I ran about a block from school and then stood and waited and eventually it turned the corner and kept coming for me.
In the nightmares it could look like different people and I might be hanging out with my family and nobody else would react. So it was that idea of being followed by something that you can get away from if you’re aware but the horrible feeling is of constantly being followed.
Sex, and the problem with the concept.
Ever since I started thinking about it I liked the idea of it being something that could be passed between people and it just made sense to me that something sexual would work.
You’re connecting people both physically and emotionally through sex and it just seemed a good thematic link.
I wrote the first draft in about a week and a half. There were revisions, obviously. It was working up to writing it that took a long time. But once I was ready to write it it came out quick.
Casting Maika Monroe.
She auditioned for us and her audition was fantastic so everyone knew immediately that she was the right person. It’s a tricky part, because certain aspects of it are pretty subtle and low-key and then all of a sudden the character reaches these points of very high emotion. To do that right in a believable way is very difficult, but she could just do it. Watching her performance at that audition you were immediately like, “Oh gosh, I feel so terrible for her”. You immediately cared about her and that’s exactly what you want. That’s what you need.
I had a role in a movie called At Any Price, which went to festivals, then I got a cool little role in the Jason Reitman movie Labor Day, and then The Guest and that did really well, then It Follows did really well and now here I am.
Filming It Follows.
This was the most intense working experience of my life so far… I’m screaming and crying and running and smashing into things. Every day was another hurdle to go over. But it was great on set and a really good group of kids. I had to wear headphones all the time (Listening to: So many different things. Dark, weird things…) It’s not easy for me to go from happiness to sadness, so I’d have to keep my headphones on and spent most of the week in a really dark place.
So it was great when we’d get to the weekend and I could go back to being myself and being a kid. We were all really good friends so it was good to shake everything off and forget.
Then Monday came and ‘Oof’. It was a hard movie.
I’m a big horror fan so I’ve seen a ton of stuff from horror classics to stuff coming out now, so yes, I watched a ton of it. I’m a big film fan period, but horror particularly.
We built the film from a production standpoint as if it were several different eras. A lot of stuff was from the 50s, 60s, 70s and there are some modern things as well. All of it was to put the film a little bit outside of time, so it’s closer to a dream. If you can’t quite place it then it’s intentional.
On David Robert Mitchell.
He’s a very nerdy guy and very calm. On set things might be going wrong and he just stays completely level. He doesn’t raise his voice. He’s very into his work and very hands-on with his project. There are crazy scenes in the movie, like there’s one where I’m out in the water, and he knows very specifically what he wants. I’m out there freezing my ass off and he says, “I just need one more take”. But it’s ok because he knows what he wants down to every detail. So you want to give him what he wants.
[David’s] very nerdy, kind of a tall, lanky guy. Keir Gilchrist (Paul) in the movie is a younger version of him. And they look like brothers.
Well, there are always bits of me in the characters but you might say that. I put bits of me in all of them. There’s always some aspect of myself. But it’s not autobiographical.
The festival success.
It was at our first screening at Cannes. It hadn’t played for a real audience yet and I was pretty nervous about how it would play for people. That was the scariest part, waiting to get a sense of whether people will enjoy the movie or not. During that screening I was sitting in the middle of the audience and started to notice there were some tension around. There were screaming. Someone dropped something in the theatre and everybody jumped. They were very on edge. That was good! So once that screening was over I knew it was working for people.
Check back over the next two weeks for more of our It Follows coverage.