Interview: David Robert Mitchell Talks Cost of Independent Films & His New Movie ‘It Follows’

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Interview: David Robert Mitchell (It Follows)Yesterday I had the pleasure of chatting with writer/director David Robert Mitchell about his new film It Follows (read my review here), a not-at-all conventional horror film that certainly plays with horror movie cliches, but more as a recognizing nod to the films of the past than as crutches to tell his very creepy story.

Starring Maika Monroe, It Follows centers on a 19-year-old girl whose world is turned upside down after a sexual encounter that finds her plagued by the inescapable sense that someone, something, is following her.

I spoke with Mitchell about concerns making a film in which one actor is simply followed by another actor and how you make that scary, his work with Disasterpeace (aka Rich Vreeland) on the score, films that inspired It Follows as well as working in independent cinema, a realm where the belief is it’s rather cheap to get a film made nowadays.

While I am offering up the interview for you to listen to in its 21-minute entirety below, I wanted to highlight this one final question with a direct transcription below as I felt it was the most interesting portion of our chat. While it might be cheap to make a film today and he does admit you can go ahead and shoot a film on an iPhone, as Sean Baker did with one of this year’s Sundance standouts Tangerine (more on that here), but while Baker managed to do that and it’s great, there’s more to take into consideration than just the camera.

Can you talk about working in independent cinema now? There’s so much talk about how much cheaper it is to make a film these days and how so many of these small, independent films are being made as a result, but is it actually all that easy to work in the independent realm these days?

No, god, that’s the worst thing anybody says. I hate that. It’s so not true.

Listen, you can shoot a movie on your phone if you really want, and I’m not saying great art can’t be created in these ways. Yes, the cost of digital cameras is down, and it does allow people the opportunity to go into shoot something and make these things possible. Particularly on my first film [The Myth of the American Sleepover (2010)] I wouldn’t have been able to afford to shoot on on 35mm film, but we shot on the RED cameras that just came out — long story how we even got one, but I was able to shoot a very low budget movie on that and it still has a very high quality look, but that’s not just the camera. I had, on that film as I had on [It Follows], very talented cinematographers who have many years of experience with some very good people working with them, with expensive lights and a lot of expensive gear. You don’t have to do that, but if you want to try and make the kinds of films, which I’m trying to do, which is a certain amount of control over the image, that’s really hard to do with very little money.

I’m not knocking the films that don’t need to do that or aren’t as concerned with the visual approach, or are less focused on that. I’m trying to think of the polite way to say it. Ultimately, it’s expensive and the thing people don’t say is filmmakers feel it, the crew feels it, everybody eats the costs when you make these small films. You feel it for months, if not for years, after.

It’s possible to make low budget movies, and it always has been. Yes, you can edit at home if you want to edit in your home. You can get a digital camera and shoot on some cheaper cameras, but at the end of the day, if you have a certain goal in mind for film, it’s expensive and it’s really hard. Every time you see a low budget movie or people saying they made something for really low, I guarantee, even if the film goes on to have some success, there are people on the project themselves who are probably making giant sacrifices financially that people aren’t talking about.

I’m always sort of hesitant to go along with that idea [that independent cinema is so cheap nowadays] because it’s always too romantic in a way, and there’s a painful, almost shitty, real human negative side effect to that. People aren’t honest about it enough I don’t think.

It Follows is in theaters and On Demand this weekend, March 13. You can listen to my full interview with David below and read my full review of the film right here.

I have also included a recent “Anatomy of a Scene” commentary Mitchell did for the “New York Times” directly below as well as the film’s trailer.