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SxSW 2015 Interview: THE DIABOLICAL director Alistair Legrand

by Jason Whyte

"Hey! If you want to see a ghost film UNLIKE ANY OTHER that tells the story in a wholly unique and amazing way with a ton of frights and action, come see THE DIABOLICAL." Director Alistair Legrand on THE DIABOLICAL which screens at the 2015 South By Southwest Film Festival.

Is this your first SxSW/Austin experience and are you going to attend your screenings?

This is my first time! I will definitely be at my screenings.

Tell me a bit about your background and how you became a filmmaker.

Born in France, raised in the US. Mother moved here after watching E.T. so to say movies were important to my family is an understatement. I wanted to be a director since age twelve. I was a projectionist for a long time before going to film school in Canada. Living in L.A. I made ends meet by directing music videos and small commercials while writing screenplays at night. It's from directing music videos that I found my voice, wanting to bring beauty and sense of scale to horror.

How did your movie come together as a director?

I had a meeting at the company CAMPFIRE films about a different script and they asked if I had anything else. I told them my idea about a haunted house tale with a completely new way to explain the ghosts and they jumped on it. My writing partner, Luke Harvis, and I stayed up for weeks hammering out the script. After that it was head-spinningly fast, we went right into pre-production and shot it in February 2014. Of course I had to meet the amazing Ali Larter and convince her to do the film before that.

What was your process in getting the film together?

Co-writing it with Luke Harvis. Pitching it to Ross Dinerstein of Campfire Films. Ross is an amazing collaborator. He had a lot of valuable input on the script, mostly in how to tailor it for our small budget. He brought the movie to a company called CONTENT FILMS and there I met our exec, Jamie Carmichael. Jamie loved, LOVED the idea and has been supportive the whole time. They were hands off in the best of ways, giving me artistic freedom and the ability to try to stretch the budget in the areas that truly mattered, to make the movie look much bigger than it was. It's important to surround yourself with people you trust creatively. My composer Ian Hultquist was a huge part of the picture, bringing an enormous, epic sound when really needed that kick in the ass late in post-production. But none of this could have happened without the support of Ali Larter. She was just incredible all the way through, she knew the script backwards and forwards and was the perfect person to have on my side while trying to make a movie in a small amount of time. She's just incredibly professional and understanding.

What was your #1 challenge with THE DIABOLICAL?

The #1 challenge was and always will be TIME. Trying to fit our very complicated, epic story into a small amount of days was just pure insanity. As a director you always just need more time, especially when doing action or creature FX. I overcame it by having a really great producer on my side and also a lot of experience with trying to shoot an entire music video in a small amount of time. My DP and I are very good at running and gunning. Our crew was also very supportive and fast.

If you had to pick a single favourite moment out of making this movie, what would it be?

I can't spoil much here but there's a scene with a ghost and a LOT of blood and my DP and I were filming it in the same exact way we shot our videos. A lot of slow motion and "beauty within the blood." I was very excited. It felt right and we were doing something that isn't in a lot of horror movies. I knew that even if the rest of the movie was god awful, at least that scene would hold up.

What keeps you going while making a movie? What drives you? What snacks?

Telling everyone I met from age twelve and on that I was going to make a goddamn MOVIE drives me, that's a lot of people I would have lied to! The other thing is just the satisfaction at the end of the day that we did a good job, we created something awesome, that feeling is addictive. I like to eat the same snack that I have at the movies when I'm watching a monitor, so peanut M&M's and Coca-Cola.

For the tech people out there, talk about the look and the design of THE DIABOLICAL.

They let me bring on my longtime cinematographer John Frost, who I have worked with for ten years now. John is brilliant, he's a close friend and we're one brain the whole time. We don't fight, we just try to get it done in the most gorgeous way possible without sacrificing time/our sanity. We have the same taste in movies and photographers. I value my collaborators more than anything, which is why I end up using the same people over and over again. We shot this on the Arri Alexa in true anamorphic. We cut into our lighting budget in order to afford Hawk Anamorphics which we tested out and loved their look. John and I have shot most of our projects anamorphic, mostly because we're cranky old men and hate the sharpness of digital. Also I just love how HUGE everything looks and how it softens faces. We also needed the format because when you're mostly all in one house, it really helps to have the anamorphic width for images. Gives a great sense of scale. But lenses are just a tool, I couldn't achieve my look without John's creative brain.

What are you looking forward to the most about showing your movie at SxSW and in Austin?

I am really looking forward to hearing reactions to the movie. We have no idea how people are going to handle it, so that's really exciting/scary. And after this I would love to do as many festivals as possible.

Alamo Drafthouse and Paramount theaters in Austin aside, if you could show this movie in any cinema in the world, which one would you choose and why?

The MARPLE 10 in Philadelphia. It was the crappiest theater in the world, speakers blown out, dim bulbs, fights, etc, but it was always so fun to see movies there with my friends when I was a kid. We would go at midnight on a Friday and have a blast. I think my head would explode if it was playing there, especially if there were a few fights and people yelling at the screen.

What would you say or do to someone who is talking, texting or being generally disruptive during a screening of your film?

Please don't text...that is just dumb at this point. I am terrified of iwatches now, just a sea of glowing wrists. Yell at the screen as much as you want, don't talk though, but I'm glad you're enjoying it. Ask yourself, "I paid 18 dollars to watch this movie, why should I check Twitter now?"

There are a lot of up and coming filmmakers both at SxSW and reading our site. What would you want to tell them if they are aspiring to become a filmmaker?

Don't get stressed out by or obsessed with technology, just shoot something, technology is stupid and ever changing. Don't be too precious, save for later once people trust you with their money. Work really hard and you don't have to be a screamer if you're a director. Shave that goatee.

And finally, what is your favorite movie?

It's a tie! Jonathan Glazer's BIRTH and Bernard Rose's CANDYMAN.

Be sure to follow Alistair Legrand on Twitter and Instagram at @alistairlegrand!

We hope you enjoyed this SxSW filmmaker interview in our now 40+ filmmaker interview series. We will have interviews posted all throughout the festival so be sure to visit us often for more coverage!

This is one of the many films screening at the 2015 SXSW in Austin, Texas between March 13-21. For more information on this film screening times, point your browser to or use the SxSW GO App for Android and iOS.

Jason Whyte,
Twitter: @jasonwhyte / Facebook: jasonwhyte / Instagram: jason.whyte

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originally posted: 03/13/15 10:30:36
last updated: 09/22/15 17:56:01
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