Afflicted premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival in the Midnight Madness section and went on to play Fantastic Fest last week. We met the filmmakers and stars in Toronto and now bring you the full report of their debut feature. Derek Lee and Clif Prowse play Derek Lee and Clif Prowse respectively. Derek is diagnosed with a terminal disease and Clif decides to film their final adventure. However, in Europe, Derek begins to change and, beyond healing, develops new powers. Look for Afflicted from CBS Films.
Crave Online: Was there ever a debate over who would play the afflicted character?
Clif Prowse: No, because Derek, in all the short films we’ve done, has always been the lead actor. So we always knew he was going to be in it but what we didn’t know heading into the project was that we would base the whole thing on our lives. That’s when it became apparent that I should be in the movie playing myself, but we always knew Derek would be the lead.
Derek Lee: Also we tend to just punish me more.
When you debut in a film as characters named yourselves, can that be dangerous moving forward?
Derek Lee: [Laughs] I think that’s exactly right. We thought at the time that it made a lot of sense and it was certainly helpful to create a sort of fabric of reality when you’re diving into a found footage movie, to base everything on reality as much as possible. At the end of the day, because of how fortunate we are to be in Midnight Madness and to premiere here and how big this could theoretically go with CBS behind us for distribution, there was part of our brain that went, “Holy smoke, we put our actual names up on that screen. What were we thinking?”
Derek, I want to congratulate you on the vomit because it was more than a mouthful. That always bothers me in movies when people just spit up a mouthful.
Derek Lee: We had a lot of fun with the cannon. There’s a hydraulic cannon for the Spaghetti-O’s or whatever it was that we sent flying out of my mouth. Clif’s got a great story about that because obviously we filled it with friends and family and just crew members that we had just to make the restaurant feel full. But the server is actually a coffee girl from Italy, not an actor. We just said, “Hey, can you be in our movie?” And she was great but the reactions for the first few cannon shots were subdued. She wasn’t comfortable yet. So Clif just pulls me aside and says, “Derek, I want you to hit her. I want you to hit her.”
Clif Prowse: To be clear, with the vomit.
Derek Lee: And I was like, “All right, but I’m not taking responsibility for this.” But that’s the take we used, the one where I nailed her foot.
Did you start this movie thinking of new types of body horror?
Clif Prowse: Originally, we knew we wanted to ground the fantasy horror aspect of it as biologically as possible and really make it feel physical and biological.
Did you want to alternate between fun and scary moments?
Derek Lee: Absolutely. We wanted to make sure that it was a fun ride from beginning to end. Obviously by the end it’s a fairly tense ride and you’re claustrophobically with the main character trying to survive this horrific ordeal.
Clif Prowse: It was really important to us that the characters feel very relatable, very normal. It’s kind of like what would it be like if this happened to you and your friend? I think the rapports with your best friends have that humor, that humorous element.
I hope you appreciate this. I think douchebags have become the heroes of found footage because only a douchebag would keep rolling.
I think you did a good job of starting with that but once things get serious, they stop screwing around.
Derek Lee: I think you nailed it. I think in order to justify any found footage movie, you need to establish early that at least one of the characters, principally the photographer of the two, has to be so dedicated to what he’s doing that he is willing to forego social niceties. Because you’re always going to get to that point where you inevitably ask, “Why is the camera on? This is getting ridiculous.” So if you establish that one of them is obsessive about it, it doesn’t justify it all but it opens enough of a door that you’re like, “Okay, I can kind of believe that you’re here.”
Was the body camera rig the technological hook that was going to allow you to film Afflicted?
Clif Prowse: Yeah, one of the things in terms of justifying the camera being on, one of the problems you have in found footage movies is people running around with the camera always pointing the camera exactly where they’re going, even when they’re running for their lives. We thought these guys are filmmakers, we basically thought that if we had this device that these filmmakers could have, particularly if they were running around, that they would want to have a camera mounted.
Derek Lee: It’s definitely a conceit but we think it’s a lot of fun.
Did you invent that rig?
Derek Lee: We actually commissioned it essentially from a guy named Sean Arden in Vancouver who custom built that rig for us. He does a lot of particularly amazing custom rigs and this one we needed to be hearty because we were lugging it around Europe and jumping off buildings, blood, guns, so. With him, it was like working with Lucius Fox and being Bruce Wayne.
Clif Prowse: We’d literally come in with drawings and prototypes. It was a blast.
Did you have a lot of tests for how the rig would work and remain coherent?
Derek Lee: Yes, specifically things like the SWAT scene at the end. For instance, in the action sequences, a lot of them are meant to feel like oners. It has to feel like the camera’s on and just maintaining, so we needed to test our ability to shoot a coherent single shot – obviously faked with cuts – action sequence and make it all feel coherent, understandable and not too shaky, not too vomitous that you have to literally just look away because you’re dizzy.
Clif Prowse: All the visual effects stuff too. The scooter test, we did tests on that before, the hand burn. We did extensive tests before going to Europe.
It really is the next level. The basic fact that it’s coherent and you can see what’s going on is a breakthrough these days.
Derek Lee: We don’t subscribe to intentionally Richtering too much. Obviously it’s important and useful at times but for something like this, the camera was inherently shaky as it was, so we didn’t feel like we needed to add more to that.
Clif Prowse: The premise of the movie was that these guys are filmmakers. My character in particular is a filmmaker so we thought we could at least start the movie with a much more professional approach to the visuals, and then as the movie got crazier and crazier, the visuals could degrade as we went, and especially when the camera eventually turns over.