Q&A: Exists’ Eduardo Sanchez on Pushing and Playing with Found Footage


With Exists, Blair Witch co-director Eduardo Sanchez makes a feature length return to the aesthetic which launched both his career and 1000 indie horror films: found footage. Fifteen-plus years on from his seminal work, the medium is as popular—at least with filmmakers, if not fans—as ever, but only recently is starting to see some real experimentation. Many seem afraid to give into the fact that despite its illusion of verisimilitude, found footage movies are still movies. Films like those in the V/H/S series and the underrated Mr. Jones are digging in and playing around, and now, one of the style’s pioneers is as well. 

Sanchez opens Exists with dreamy imagery, the grainy footage played slow, music over it. It doesn’t last particularly long, but feels a statement all the same. As with this segment in V/H/S/2, Sanchez is here to have fun and see what we can do with the familiar shaky horror and a prosumer creature feature. Shock Till You Drop spoke with Sanchez about the film, out February 3rd on DVD and Blu from Lionsgate.

Shock Till You Drop: Since you’re something of a pioneer/godfather with POV and Found Footage, do you approach it with abandon?

Eduardo Sanchez:  A little bit. It’s not really from the idea that we did Blair Witch, it’s more coming to terms, as a filmmaker, with what you’re doing. Also, just kind of not beating yourself up too much. I never thought that I would make another found footage movie after Blair Witch. I don’t think any of us thought that anybody would make another found footage movie after we did Blair Witch, but it definitely caught on.

The biggest thing for me, as a filmmaker, was is it right to go back? Once we made the decision to go found footage, it actually became very clear that it should be found footage. The more we thought about it and broke down the idea that Bigfoot is actually kind of a found footage superstar, really. The only time it was reportedly seen is somebody’s found footage. Once we made that decision, it was like, “Wow, we should’ve made that call a long time ago.” If I’m going to go back and do another found footage movie—I was part of the team that did Blair Witch, so I knew there was going to be, not expectations or whatever, but there was going to be scrutiny—just needed a good reason to do it.

Shock: The opening is a bit more playful than most Found Footage. It’s in slow motion, it’s dreamy.

Sanchez: And there’s music, which is kind of controversial [laughs]. We shot Exists and then we went right into production on the short film we did for V/H/S/2. We finished V/H/S/2, it’s a much shorter film, we were done with our part in a couple of months. That movie came out before we were finished with Exists and it was interesting seeing the reactions and how open people were with the fact that the movies in V/H/S/2 have music.

When we did Blair Witch, it was all about realism. It was all about, there can’t be any shot of this movie that can’t be completely explained logically. Even edits, we were very careful about that. Doing V/H/S/2 and even watching V/H/S, I thought “Wow, this is really the next generation of found footage” I just thought that we could push the envelope a little bit. It’s a movie, it’s definitely found footage, but it’s an action movie, a monster movie. There’s music, the sound is 5.1. It’s definitely a film.

There was a little trepidation as far as, how far can you take found footage. At the same time, I was cool with the idea of pushing the boundaries a bit. Just doing something fun and making sure that it wasn’t about making it look— a lot of found footage movies depend on the idea that it’s supposed to be found footage, it’s supposed to be real. That idea of it being real is pretty lost on the audience. The audience knows it’s not real. There’s a freedom to that.

Shock: The film really plays with both kinetic found footage style and the kind of banality of evil in static shots of death.

Sanchez: It’s very innocuous, it’s like surveillance footage. I think that’s the beauty of this style, the visual element that you can use to really convey complex ideas. It just kind of comes across as second nature because people are used to seeing these kinds of images every day in their lives. These kinds of angles, there’s a language there that I think found footage has—to a certain extent—helped develop a little bit, but probably mostly reality TV has helped develop. You can say a lot more. It’s a subtler way of conveying these deeper meanings.


Shock: There’s something in your films about our, and likely your, relationship with nature. Bigfoot isn’t a cold killer, per se. It’s disturbed by the cast.

Sanchez: Yeah. You’re going into this creature’s territory and at the beginning, we kind of hint at the idea that the forest has been burned down. Humans are the ones that light forest fires. It’s not like a bear’s grill topples and he starts a forest fire. So, the whole idea that humans are burning down where it lives, but also fighting over its kid, and just going into its territory without a thought in the world as to the impact you’re going to have on this creature’s environment. It was very important that the creature not come across as a killing machine. Even though I think Jaws is probably the greatest monster movie ever, there’s no character arc to that shark [laughs]. It’s a killing machine, that’s what makes it scary.

A lot of the monster movies that I loved as a kid, King Kong and Frankenstein, there was always a human element to the creature. You kind of pity the creature, or at least relate to what the creature’s going through. It was very important for me to convey that in this movie. Whether you believe in Bigfoot or not—I definitely believed when I was a kid—it was always about making this creature as real as possible and treating it like a real creature.

Shock: Is Exists the Bigfoot believers’ movie of choice?

Sanchez: I don’t have my hand on the pulse of that, really. I definitely have a lot of Facebook friends and have done interviews with cryptozoology groups. I think they dig the idea I made this movie for them. I’m a Bigfoot geek, and even though I’ve never gone out searching. I had yet to see a Bigfoot movie that really got it right, or respected the creature enough to try to get it right; not be about exploiting the fact that this creature is strong and ripping people’s heads off. It was about creating something that felt real. The best monster movies are the ones that reveal truths about ourselves.

As far as the reaction, I think they are digging it. They appreciate the fact the creature’s not just a killing machine and there’s a heart there. That’s the thing about Bigfoot: it’s half human, and it’s definitely got a lot of human traits. It’s a relative of ours. It’s a distant, evolutionary relative of ours, an offshoot that didn’t make it. A lot loved the way the creature looks, which is why I made the film. Bigfoot is a practical creature, there was never an option to do CG. I wanted the characters to see the creature. I wanted the creature to be there.


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