Film4 Summer Screen

Todd Strauss-Schulson on The Final Girls

05 Jul, 2016 Posted in: Directors, Film4 Summer Screen, Guest blog

Ahead of the Film4 Summer Screen presentation of The Final Girls, director Todd Strauss-Schulson reflects on the making of 2015′s heartfelt horror homage… 

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The Final Girls came into my life when I most needed it. I had just finished my first movie, turned 30, and my father died, all within four weeks of each other. To say the least, it was an intense year.

The Final Girls arrived in my inbox as I was editing that movie. Josh and Mark who wrote it were friends from college and sent it to me randomly to get some friendly notes. I read it in one sitting and could feel it in my bones. I knew I had to make this movie.

First up, I love movies. When I was a kid I’d watch 3 movies a day every single day. I lived and breathed movies. I remember being 13 and raiding the video store next to my apartment and just having my mind blown by films like Delicatessen, Army of Darkness, Hudsucker Proxy, All That Jazz, Lair Of The White Worm, Tommy, Kentucky Fried Movie, El Topo and Amazon Women On The Moon…

The thing I loved more than any other thing in my life… more than baked ziti or knishes or getting my allowance… was sitting in a theatre full of strangers and laughing and screaming and sometimes even crying. It felt so healthy. To be with my community feeling the same thing at the same time. That’s the magic of movies. Not all of them, but the ones I loved. The ones that made me want to make movies. The magic of movies is they can puncture the armour of daily life and cut right to the heart of what it feels like to be human. And it can happen in public.

I thought The Final Girls could be one of those movies. I loved Josh and Mark’s concept. I thought it was so smart. There was the big concept: a movie about being sucked into a movie, that the movie itself could become an antagonist, that the tropes and cinematic techniques of a movie could become the biosphere of the story. All that fun meta stuff was a delight to play with as a kid who grew up obsessed with movies.

But most importantly, I loved it because it was about my Dad. In the aftermath of my father dying I was dreaming about him almost every night. They weren’t nightmares or anything, they were just simple dreams… us walking around New York eating pizza together etc… it felt like my father was visiting me in my dreams.

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And to me, that’s what The Final Girls is about. It was deeply personal filmmaking cloaked in genre filmmaking. It was a story about a girl who gets a second chance to see her dead mom in a dream. And that’s all movies really are. Collective dreams.

It took almost four years to pull together the funding for the movie. And in that time Josh and Mark and I continued to work on the script, adding comedy, action and things like the 3D credits and the flashbacks and slow motion. All that fun meta stuff I felt I had never seen in a movie before.

Finally, some wonderful benefactors took a chance on this movie and gave us a tiny budget to go off and make it.

We shot it in 26 days at a summer camp in Baton Rouge. Our crew and cast were all 35 years old and under and we basically had no adult supervision. It felt like a bunch of kids let loose at camp getting away with something.

Because of that intoxicating vibe, we all broke our backs trying to pull off what was a crazy ambitious shoot. 50 set ups a day every day, explosions, car crashes, wire rigs, complicated camera rigs, for almost no money. It was not easy —  every day was a marathon. The final fight sequence in the field was shot with two lights in a single night. It was madness. And by the end of the shoot, when we shot the ‘Bette Davis Eyes’ goodbye scene in the field with Malin Akerman and Taissa Farmiga, we all cried together… the whole crew, the producers, the production designer, all of us.

It was a pure filmmaking experience.

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On our last night of shooting at camp we did the big stunt where Billy comes jumping out of the cabin on fire. It was a stressful night, lots to do, two units shooting at the same time, the time crunch of getting it all shot before the sun came up, and additionally, the emotional toll of it being our last night at this camp that became home.

Before the stunt happened, I looked behind my monitor and saw the entire cast and crew. Everyone came out to watch the stunt, they were wrapped in blankets, drinking beer and eating popcorn. It was almost like they were watching a movie.

When the stunt happened there was a roar of applause. It was the experience I was chasing, the experience I was trying to give to an audience, like I had when I was a kid.

That was my wish for this movie. And every step of the process, from writing, to designing, to shooting, through editing and music, was all done with a painstaking focus on whipping up and conducting an audience through a rollercoaster ride of emotions. Laughter, terror, beauty, and heart. The full range of human emotion in a fun badass package. It was a movie conceived and made to be experienced as a loud, rowdy, crowd-pleaser.

But in this age of streaming and bingeing superhero civil wars, the theatrical life of Final Girls came and went and made me sad. We were released as a Day-and-Date VOD release which meant many theatres wouldn’t show the movie. It didn’t even come out theatrically in Europe at all.

And so, our movie was released with a passionate whisper, not a roar of applause.

But, what’s so cool is that this movie seems to be having an afterlife at Midnight Screenings across the country, and with this amazing Film4 screening, the world. In the weeks and months after our release, fans and local movie theatres started to throw screenings of the movie. To experience it the way it was meant to be experienced.

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Cult status is in many ways so much more meaningful than a big box office weekend: it means people really love the movie, and they tell their friends, and it lives on for much longer. I feel so much gratitude for the fans who are adopting this movie, talking about it and passing it around – finding it in the same way I found something like El Mariachi when I was a kid and someone handed me a VHS promising it would blow my mind. In some circuitous and completely accidental way, we ended up making a movie that can hang with the movies that made me want to make movies in the beginning – the movies that I never even realized were “cult” movies – but were.

The Final Girls screens at Somerset House on Saturday 13th August 2016, as part of a double bill with Galaxy Quest. For more information about The Final Girls, visit http://ulteriorproductions.com/.

Film4 Summer Screen at Somerset House 2016

24 May, 2016 Posted in: Film4 Channel, Film4 Summer Screen

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Film4 Summer Screen at Somerset House, London’s groundbreaking open-air film festival, returns between 4-17 August, with a prestigious programme of classic and contemporary films, and a total of three UK premieres.

PREMIERES

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The 2016 season will open with the UK premiere of the critically-acclaimed Things To Come. Isabelle Huppert gives a commanding performance in Eden director Mia Hansen-Løve’s smart Paris-set drama, which explores how it feels to have led a full life yet still be searching for answers.

Pedro Almodóvar will make a special appearance at this year’s festival to introduce his 20th feature film Julieta, which was in competition at Cannes. Representing a return to the female-centric storytelling of many of Almodóvar’s most notable works, such as Volver and Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, a younger and older version of the film’s protagonist Julieta confronts the loves and losses of her life. 

The season will close with the UK premiere of Cannes award-winner Captain Fantastic, directed by Matt Ross, which follows the heartfelt story of a father (Viggo Mortensen) whose idealistic parenting comes under attack when his family is forced to leave their sheltered paradise and enter the world.

SPECIAL SCREENINGS

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Two special screenings will celebrate cinema icons – master filmmaker Stanley Kubrick and one of the most inspired and influential British films of all-time Trainspotting.

This year’s Best of 10 vote will coincide with Daydreaming with Stanley Kubrick, an exhibition of works created by contemporary artists, filmmakers and musicians and inspired by Stanley Kubrick at Somerset House from 6 July – 24 August. The public ballot will allow the audience to choose their favourite Kubrick film from a list of his 10 most famous movies. The vote-winning title will be revealed in front of the Somerset House audience on the night of the screening itself.

To celebrate the 20th anniversary of Film4’s Trainspotting, and ahead of the 2017 release of sequel T2, Film4 Summer Screen at Somerset House will put Danny Boyle’s controversial 1996 hit back on the big screen in its original 35mm format.

ALSO SHOWING

Alex Garland's Ex Machina, backed by Film4

In addition, Film4 Summer Screen at Somerset House will stage a typically eclectic mix of movies, from comedy and musical to horror and sci-fi. Sundown DJ sets inspired by the screenings will set the mood before the films begin.

Saturday nights will see double bills of Ex Machina and RoboCop, two dark futuristic visions that bring together Man and Machine, and Galaxy Quest and 2015’s The Final Girls (unreleased theatrically in the UK), a pair of comedies that take a fun twist on the sci-fi and horror genres.

There will be classics in Sunset Boulevard, the fable of fading movie star Norma Desmond, the fashionable affair of Audrey Hepburn and Fred Astaire in Funny Face and 90s teen rom-com classic 10 Things I Hate About You. Legendary directors will feature with Quentin Tarantino’s crime caper Jackie Brown and Francis Ford Coppola’s flamboyantly frightening adaptation of Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Finally, landscapes and coming-of-age experiences will contrast with Australian outback adventure Walkabout and the gritty realities of urban life in the Parisian suburbs portrayed in the gripping Girlhood.

FULL PROGRAMME

August 4              THINGS TO COME (UK PREMIERE)

August 5              BRAM STOKER’S DRACULA

August 6              EX MACHINA + ROBOCOP

August 7              SUNSET BOULEVARD

August 8              10 THINGS I HATE ABOUT YOU

August 9              WALKABOUT

August 10            JULIETA (UK PREMIERE)

August 11            WINNER OF BEST OF 10 KUBRICK VOTE

August 12            JACKIE BROWN

August 13            GALAXY QUEST + THE FINAL GIRLS

August 14            FUNNY FACE

August 15            TRAINSPOTTING

August 16            GIRLHOOD

August 17            CAPTAIN FANTASTIC (UK PREMIERE)

Tickets for Film4 Summer Screen at Somerset House go on sale at 10am on Thursday 26th May. For more information visit the Somerset House website.