Giles Alderson chatted to the team behind the found footage horror film, Dashcam, this week. Writer-director Rob Savage and screenwriters Gemma Hurley and Jed Shepherd – you can hear our podcast with Jed and Gemma discussing their film Host here.
In this episode, they share their experience of making a found footage film, working with Blumhouse and what has changed for them since making Host. Among other things.
Dashcam was a project that had been on the back burner for some time.
“When people responded to (Host) so well, it was an opportunity to do this project that everyone said was a bit too scary and risky. The fact that Blumhouse wanted to do this crazy movie with us was just such a million miles away from where we started before the pandemic happened.”
Jed had met Annie about 8 years ago when he stayed with her in LA, while attending Sundance. “she does band car thing for real and I actually did it with her. I was next to her doing the beats while she was rapping.”
Jed thought it was a great idea for a film and pitched it to Rob, who was keen to package it and pitch it around “to studios and other places that were interested in our stuff. And everyone was just ‘this is crazy. Do you have anything else?’”
But they were very keen to make this film, felt like they had an air of ‘invisibility’ after the success of Host, and weren’t sure if they’d have another moment to be able to make it.
“And now we have Gemma on board, we could move this genre to a different level. We could raise the bar for British horror and do something interesting in the found footage sub-genre. And we definitely did that.”
Making a Found Footage Film
“The best found footage films are authentic. You need to keep an air of authenticity about everything you do. And that means letting the person that you’ve built this film around have the space to move.”
Like in the making of Host, they relied a lot on improv, within guidelines. Jed said that because he knew Annie well, he could make suggestions of things to try that he knew that she would be on board with. “The fact that we had someone who was up for making fun of themselves, made it easy for us.”
They filmed Dashcam just after Host, and their intention with this film was, as Rob put it, “to totally piss off anyone who loved Host – they would be shocked at the next thing that we do.
We wanted to say: if you want to follow the Host team and our filmmaking pursuits, you’re going to get all sorts. We wanted to do something totally different and just make the most of lockdown being over – do something that was sprawling and had a lot of locations. We were able to show people what this team could make with marginally more money – it’s still a very low budget movie – and Dashcam was the result.”
At the time, Final Draft didn’t have a great collab feature, so they worked on Google Docs.
“We had this outline. That was a jumping off point, but every time something worked or went well, we’d try and learn a lesson from it; and if something didn’t work, we’d learn a lesson and change the plan for the next week.”
Making Smaller Budget Films
Rob said that “when you go on to do something bigger, you assume that everyone else who’s been working on these bigger budgets for a long time, knows everything that you don’t and that all the wisdom you’ve accrued from doing your low budget stuff won’t translate.
And then you find out that it’s exactly the same. You’re still collaborating with people who have care and love for what they do.”
Creating the Script
“Both of (our) films are very unusual in the way that they came about and the way they were made. There was no traditional script for either film. They were both made over zoom with all of us trying to make each other laugh and gross each other out. We made these scriptments – a really long bullet point list of things that could happen in this movie – to try to give the filmmakers a structure of what to do before we had to film.”
They got the idea of creating scriptments from the Blair Witch Project. “That’s what they had used. And they are the best found footage film of all time.”
Writing a found footage film isn’t a normal process. “You have to think about leaving space for the actors to breathe and to do things that feel natural. And that’s why you have to cast right. You have to have a team around you that understands the genre.”
Want to know more?
Head over to our latest podcast with Rob Savage, Gemma Hurley and Jed Shepherd.