This week, the found footage film, The Bay, opens in a limited theatrical release – and on VOD and iTunes – bringing with it creepy crawly freak-out scares. We recently caught up with director Barry Levinson whose film career spans Diner, Young Sherlock Holmes, Rain Man, Sleepers and more.
With The Bay, he enters new territory focusing on Chesapeake Bay where an unusual ecological outbreak takes place. The story is told from various perspectives, utilizing Skype, camera phones and more. The Cabin in the Woods‘ Kristen Connolly co-stars.
Head inside for our interview in which Levinson discusses the films origins and more.
Shock Till You Drop: I’ve heard this initially didn’t start as a genre film…
Barry Levinson: I come from Baltimore and I was asked about doing a documentary about Chesapeake Bay because, as you know, it’s 40% dead. I was starting to do research and there have been documentaries done, there’s been a really good one. I don’t know if I can improve it and I was thinking about all of this scary stuff about it, the science, and I thought, Gee, what if you put it into a storytelling device. Put 85% of this factual information [about Chesapeake Bay] in there and that’s how it evolved. You get this sci-fi movie and this factual information but make it scarier, spooky and creepy.
Shock: Was there anything about the process – the faux documentary/found footage device – that surprised you while doing it?
Levinson: Well, there are two things to it. The term now is “found footage” but it never occurred to me, I wasn’t thinking that way, I guess. I thought, if something catastrophic like this happened in a small town and there was no media, what was going on? Then you say, this is the first generation that records every intimate moment. They’ve got cell phones, they text, e-mail, Skype and this is the very first time you get an intimate look at the people, basically, at the core of where a catastrophe is going on around them. I thought it was a cool idea – I could tell multiple stories and a lot of people won’t have an overview because they don’t know what’s going on. So, that was kind of scary too. That would be like people in Pompeii having lunch and not knowing what’s about to happen. So, this is like the first time you can do an archeological dig or an anthropological look at what was happening. That’s how it sort of played itself out. Then we have the obligation of how to record it, how to make it credible enough. I didn’t want to use high definition cameras and then degrade it because it wouldn’t look real enough to me. We started with 80 different kinds of consumer cameras and then whittled it down to 25 and that became our visual palette.
Shock: Out of the stories you tell, which one was your favorite to document or dip back into?
Levinson: I had fun with all of it. I loved it. I had fun doing the CDC because we hooked them all up so everyone is talking to one another simultaneously. We actually did it that way, we had them all interconnected and that’s why you hear them talking over one another. I tried to make this thing as real as I could make it and make it feel like it wasn’t staged.
Shock: Did you use a lot of locals?
Levinson: Absolutely. We were using this locals in Georgetown, South Carolina – they’re the most amazing group of people I’ve ever come across. I used these day players for major sequences and they were stunning. There’s that woman in [that scene] with the blisters and dunking in the water, going down the street and carrying on [about something being wrong with her] and she was just amazing. She lived in that town. There’s the iPhone girl, 15-years-old, and we sent her into a room with her iPhone to talk by herself. It was very intriguing and it was a style that I liked working in. I was comfortable, I was challenged by it, it was exasperating a bit because I couldn’t see the video playback right away, I had to wait and look at it afterward.