Screamfest 2013: Josh Stewart on The Hunted & Transcendence

The Hunted

Josh Stewart was a returning star at Screamfest this year. Last year, The Collection opened the horror festival, starring Stewart. This year, his directorial debut played in competition. The Hunted stars Stewart as a hunter hoping to make a TV pilot about bringing down a famed buck in the forest. While staking him out with his cameraman Stevie (Ronnie Gene Blevins), they start to hear noises and experience strange phenomena. This is not your average found footage movie though. Stewart came up with some cool new twists on the format. As an actor, Stewart also appears in Wally Pfister’s directorial debut, Transcendence. After his Screamfest premiere, I interviewed Stewart about The Hunted and his upcoming film.

CraveOnline: I’ve noticed that douchebags are the heroes of found footage movies because only a douchebag would keep filming. The Hunted is the first found footage movie I’ve seen with no douchebags. Did you think about how different that was?

Josh Stewart: No, when I thought about the character Stevie, I wanted to be able to use good camera equipment and I wanted to be able to have some good cinematography where it fits and where it seems necessary. News cameramen, that’s what they do. I looked into a lot of guys, like these guys that were embedded in war zones. These guys never turn the camera off. Their job was to shoot the story no matter what the story is. So that just made more sense to me than some douchebag with a camera.

The fact that he wants to make a TV show and that he’s so passionate about hunting is really endearing. Was that important to you?

Yeah, I grew up in the woods hunting. Part of my thing was hunters in movies are always made out to be douchebags. They’re always made out to be the idiots or the rednecks or whatever. They’re never shown to be truly what they are. That was always important to me to show them in the best possible light because it’s something I grew up doing and that’s something that had to stay true.

Some of the sound and the music certainly is added later, a lot of the low rumbling sound when they’re in the hotel room. How did you decide when to add sound for effect?

Look, we never set out to say that this movie is true or that it happened and it’s this found footage. Every found footage movie seems try to pawn it off like this is real and this is the real footage. That’s why [there’s] the disclaimer at the beginning saying this is based on a true story. So we still wanted to have a semblance of a cinematic experience. That’s what I was speaking about with [composer] Walter [Werzowa]. I wanted to stay true, but then when he showed me that, it just made sense to add that music where it seems to find. Why not use it?

One thing I think I’ve never seen before is when you point the camera at the other camera’s monitor. How did you come up with the idea to reveal some of the scares that way?

Everybody sort of bags on this whole found footage thing and all this bullshit. It’s just another way of making a movie. How can you take something that people have already established and make it your own and do your own thing with it? What can we do that’s a little different? What can we do that’s our own thing? Let’s just do that. That leans a little bit on the hunting world. A lot of the hunting world is filming a lot of shit and you’re viewing it on computer screens and you’re filming the computer screen as it’s happening. So it only makes sense to me to do that.

How long into being an actor for hire had you started planning to direct something, and direct something for yourself to star?

When I got the TV show “Dirt” which was about 2005, I told those guys as soon as I was hired and the show got picked up that I wanted to direct. So I went through the program then and started shadowing directors. I’ve always had that interest there. I’ve always wanted to do it. It just felt right now. I’ve made enough relationships in the business where I could pull favors to make this movie for basically no money, and pull the favors where people would lend me their expertise to do it in the hopes that they would get paid back at some point in time.

How does Wally Pfister direct, having had all his experience as a cinematographer?

I worked with him on The Dark Knight Rises. On Transcendence, look, really good DPs are virtually directors in a lot of facets of filmmaking so I think a lot of it is already there for him. He’s been shooting commercials and shit for years so he gets it. Let’s face it, he’s been DPing for arguably one of the best filmmakers of all time. That’s like going to film school every single movie he goes out to do. If you’re setting up cameras for Chris Nolan for 10+ years you’re only going to learn.

Did he have any visually complicated setups in Transcendence?

Yeah, Transcendence is a bear of a movie, man. It’s a bear of a movie. Wait ‘til you get a load of that in the springtime.

Lastly, is it supposed to be Hunted but maybe Haunted also?

Yeah, we kind of slipped that in there in the title sequence as well. It’s always kind of cool to flip the tables a little bit. The guys that are going into the woods after something ended up having to run for themselves a little bit, but it’s still sort of serendipitous of the way hunters are sort of viewed. They’re looked lowly upon. People want to see them sort of get their comeuppance because they don’t necessarily believe in what we do, but I frankly don’t give a damn. We’ve been hunting animals since the beginning of time. I’m a meat eater. I just prefer to go take it myself because there’s nothing more free range or free roaming than a deer that’s been living in the woods for eight years before it meets me. 

Fred Topel is a staff writer at CraveOnline and the man behind Best Episode Ever and Shelf Space Weekly. Follow him on Twitter at @FredTopel.