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The Directors of 'V/H/S/2' on Anthology Horror and the Birth of “The Snack Pack”

During this year’s Festival, we sat down with a quartet of directors from 'V/H/S/2'—Simon Barrett, Adam Wingard, Jason Eiesner and Eduárdo Sanchez—to chat about the freedom of short filmmaking, the original 'V/H/S,' and snacks.

Tribeca: V/H/S/2 celebrated its New York premiere last night at TFF 2013. How did the movie play in front of a New York crowd?

Simon Barrett: It was pretty good. I mean, usually the booing starts right around the time that the music for the end credits kicks in and when the audience is about to throw stuff, we run for the exits. [laughs] All joking aside, it went pretty good. 

Tribeca: Despite what you might say, I can’t tell you how grateful genre fans are to your group for bringing great anthology horror back to the big screen.

SB: They can’t tell us either. They just tweet at us about how much they hated it. [laughs]

Tribeca: Well, the true fans must just keep it to themselves. I loved the movies, but I don’t usually take it to the twittersphere.

Adam Wingard: I get people asking me for their money back.

SB: The people that really like it, they don’t know how to communicate in any medium whatsoever. They keep their opinions completely to themselves. So yeah, we respect that.

Tribeca: I saw the V/H/S at the BAM CinemaFEST last year and the audience just loved it. 

AW: I wish I could’ve seen that because I heard they played a film print. I never got to see a film print of V/H/S.

SB: Yeah, they showed a 35 mm print. No, none of us did.

Jason Eiesner: What? There was a film print?

SB: There were multiple 35mm prints, but we have never seen one.

AW: We should steal one.

Tribeca: How soon did V/H/S/2 go into production after V/H/S finished its limited theatrical and VOD release?

AW: It was right after Sundance. I think we were already talking to Eduárdo and Gareth Edwards by SXSW.

JE: Yeah, you guys were talking to me by then too.

AW: It was almost immediately. And the funny thing was that the crew that ended up doing the movie was 100% our first choices. It was just, “This is it. This is the team.” And everybody’s ideas were all in sync. Everybody wanted to make the same movie.

A short film is like a dessert.

Tribeca: Simon and Adam, you guys are the only ones who returned from the first film. What made you guys want to come back?

AW: We were pretty much responsible for putting the first movie together in terms of what it was, assembling it, and figuring it out. So, on the second one we wanted to get other people involved, but we also wanted to fix some of the problems that we felt we had with the first movie.

So we saw V/H/S 2 as an opportunity to redeem ourselves a little bit in the areas where we thought we made mistakes. The first film was just thrown together in many ways because there was no precedent for an anthology film with found footage. We pieced the film together bit by bit, and I don’t really think we knew what we had until it played at Sundance and went over pretty well. Up until then, I felt like, this could go either way. People could get really into this or they could just find it tedious. Fortunately, the film was well received.

SB: We just knew that we wanted to try to capitalize on the lessons from the first film and not just in terms of the technical stuff. We had the opportunity to see what the Sundance audience had responded to and what they had not, and we felt like we could step our work up a notch creatively and do something better, and I think we did.

Eduardo Sánchez: For me, I liked the first film and I was honored to be invited into the group. And once Jamie Nash came up with the idea for the zombies, I thought the project would be fun. It was pretty painless. I was pretty surprised by the final product and that all the segments worked so well together.

JE: When I was first approached I didn’t really know who was going to be involved with the project. I followed V/H/S when it played at Sundance and heard about all the buzz.  I also read good reviews from critics I really respect.  Before this project, I hadn’t really been too interested in the found footage genre.

When I saw The Blair Witch Project for the first time when I was a kid, it rocked my world. The first film I ever made was called The Blair Witch Duck, but nothing in later found footage affected me the way The Blair Witch Project did. I watched a link to the first V/H/S film. I loved the use of an anthology with a wrap-around that connects all of the stories and all the perspectives together. I realized that I had been an idiot for blocking myself from something that audiences really are into today.

Tribeca: As filmmakers who continue to make both feature length films and shorts, do you have a preference? What do you like best about each medium?

SB: Short films allow you to do something different. I wouldn’t say I have a preference necessarily, but especially with found footage, I would say doing a short is easier because the brevity eliminates many of the problems with found footage, such as having to explain why people are always recording and establishing your characters.  With a short film, you can cut right to the action. You don’t have to have a reason that they’re filming enough action to sustain a two-hour running time. The film can be something sillier and more experimental in a short format. I love features too.  The two modes offer different approaches to storytelling.  

JE: Shorts allow you to experiment and try new things.

ES: And a feature is so much work. It’s at least a year of your life. The short is just a couple months and you’re done. It’s nice.

AW: But at the same time, I feel like a short is never going to be as fulfilling as a feature film. A short film is like a dessert, a little snack between meals. It’s a good way to flex your creative muscles. For me, short films were such an important part of figuring out what I like to do stylistically. It’s kind of nice to do a couple of features and then come back around to shorts and use everything that you’ve learned.

Before this project, I hadn’t really been too interested in the found footage genre.

Tribeca: There’s the Brat Pack, the Frat Pack, and the Splat Pack—if you had to give your genre collective a name, what would it be? 

JE: Scrap Pack.

SB: The Disappointment Pack.

AW: The Shaky Pack.

ES: The Vomit Pack.

SB: The Suicide Pact. 

JE: The Snack Pack!

[Everyone laughs]

AW: We all love snacking. That’s something that a lot of people don’t know about us.

Tribeca: Well, craft services are very important.

SB: I specifically designed the wrap-around segment in V/H/S/2 for the people to get up and leave the theater for a snack.

AW: Genius.

SB: They need to change the poster; it just needs to say “Created by the Snack Pack.” “A Snack Pack film.” “Another Snack Pack delight.”

V/H/S/2 will be available on iTunes/On Demand starting June 6. In theaters July 12. 



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