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An Interview with David Doucette, Director of From Beneath

by Mike Haberfelner

October 2012

Films directed by David Doucette on (re)Search my Trash


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Your new film From Beneath - in a few words, what is it about?


From Beneath is about a couple whose relationship is on the rocks. The audience is introduced to them on their way to visit Samís (the leading woman) sister and her family at their new house in the middle of nowhere. Once they get there, they find the place empty and decide to do a little exploring while they wait for the sister to return. They come upon a pond and, being hot and sweaty from the car trip, decide to take a dip. When they get out of the pond, they find that some weird leech-like creatures are crawling on them and one seems to have crawled inside Jasonís (the leading man) leg. They return to the house, time passes and the sister still doesnít return. Meanwhile, the wound on Jasonís leg begins to worsen and his mental state begins to deteriorate. So it becomes a race against time to figure out what happened to the sisterís family and what lies in store for Jason, faced with his mental and physical disintegration.


What were your main sources of inspiration when writing From Beneath?


The main sources of inspiration for the story were claustrophobic horror/thrillers like Alien, Halloween, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, etc. I really liked the idea of containing the drama in one location and challenging myself to keep the suspense as high as possible within this one space. Iíve always really admired Alfred Hitchcockís movie Rope for that reason. So that was probably a unconscious inspiration. Iíve always loved creature features, especially the well-done ones like John Carpenterís The Thing and David Cronenbergís The Fly. So those really informed my approach to the creatures and body horror elements.


From Beneath is pretty much a two-character play. Was this concept a conscious decision from the beginning on, or did it just develop that way, and why?


That was definitely a conscious decision from the get-go. From Beneath was my first feature. That being the case, I knew Iíd be working with limited resources. So I really tried to write the movie around what I had access to, and let the suspense emerge out of the claustrophobia of the situation and the interrelation of the two characters trapped in this terrible situation. I took the advice of filmmakers like Robert Rodriguez to heart, and let the limitations of a low budget inform the story rather than fight against them by writing a bigger movie and have it come off seeming less fully realized.


Speaking of a two-character play: What can you tell us about your leads Lauren Watson and Jamie Temple, and what made them perfect for their roles in your eyes?


I wanted the characters to feel like a real 20-something couple. Jamie Temple and I grew up together making movies and I always felt he had a natural acting ability. So when it came time to make my first feature, it was just natural to cast him in the role. I auditioned him and he nailed it, so that bit of casting was easy. We held open auditions for the role of Sam and I remember we were all blown away when Lauren Watson came in and could cry on cue for an emotional scene. They were both good actors and they looked great as a couple, so when we did callbacks it was clear that Lauren was the best fit. They felt real and they could both handle the heavier emotional scenes which was key.


Despite its unusual approach, I would still label From Beneath as a monster movie. A genre you're at all fond of, and some of your genre favourites?


Iím definitely fond of monster movies! Theyíre my absolute guilty pleasure. I saw Jaws when I was six and Iíve been hooked ever since. Jaws is the reason I wanted the creature to have an aquatic basis and also the reason the audience never really gets a good look at the creature. Other favorites are The Thing, The Fly, Alien, Aliens and Predator. Sort of mainstream picks, I know, but thereís a reason those films enjoy the level of notoriety they do, because theyíre absolutely FANTASTIC! One lesser known monster movie I love that I feel didnít get enough attention when it was released was Rogue. Itís a truly great giant crocodile film thatís almost on par with Jaws. Two other really excellent newer monster movies are The Descent and The Mist.


No monster movie without special effects - so what can you tell us about yours?


Because of our limited means, I knew that it wouldnít do the film any favors to have a bunch of crumby CGI sequences that give the audience a good look at the monster. Instead, I used the CGI more to suggest the presence of the creature by showing bits and pieces of it and then let the viewers' imaginations take over. I know people are sometimes disappointed by this approach, but overall, Iíd say itís a much more effective way of generating suspense and dread. I wanted to have a good mix of practical effects and CGI, so Jasonís bodily deterioration was all done with practical make-up effects by our amazing make up artists, Jessica Tischer and Laura Murray. I did all the computer effects myself. It was a long hard process of trial and error that took months, but overall, Iím extremely proud of the visual effects in the movie.


How would you describe your overall directorial approach to your subject at hand?


Well, my approach was to keep it as interesting as possible. Iíve noticed with a lot of first features, filmmakers tend to run out of places to go around the mid-point of their movies and they often tend to sag or spin their wheels during the second act. I really wanted to keep the action progressing and keep the story driving forward despite the fact that there were only two characters and 1 main location. I also didnít want the movie to feel constrained by itís budget, so I studied the filmic grammar of a lot of bigger budget movies and tried to include the same types of shots you typically see in Hollywood productions like crane shots and dolly shots. Thereís a tendency in independent films to either have shaky handheld camerawork or static tripod camerawork. I really tried to keep the film visually interesting and fluid, but in an unobtrusive way.


A few words about your location, and the actual shoot and on-set atmosphere?


I wrote the whole film based around knowing I had access to that amazing location. Whenever I could, Iíd try to linger on the unique aspects the location offered, stuff like the decrepit barn, the brambles that have overgrown the property and engulfed cars and fences and old structures, the unfinished basement. There was such an amazing atmosphere at that place. Plus, the cast and crew were all living at the house while we filmed, so I think that added a sense of verisimilitude to the proceedings because we were all living the movie while we were filming it!


What can you tell us about critical or audience reception of your movie so far?


So far the critical reception has been really encouraging. Things that we all worked really hard on, like the aesthetic, the music and the pacing are all frequently being praised which is really gratifying. I think fans of horror appreciate the film and thatís huge for me because Iím such a fan of the genre myself. At the end of the day, I wanted to make the kind of horror/thriller I would like to see, so when I see audience members really getting into it, itís hugely rewarding.


Let's go back to the beginnings of your career - what got you into filmmaking to begin with, and did you receive any formal education on the subject?


Like I mentioned earlier, I grew up making movies with Jamie Temple and we actually made our first film together for a school project in grade 7. Ever since then, I was hooked! Every opportunity I got, I would make a movie for school and when I finally graduated it was a no-brainer to go to university and study film. I went to Carleton University and got a BA Honors in Film Studies. The program was purely based in theory and history, so I had to get my technical knowledge outside of school, either making my own films or working on the films of others. I was an avid member of the film society at my university which allowed me to connect with other people who wanted to make films. It was a great collective environment with everyone working on each otherís films and getting together to watch them. It was a huge developmental period for me. After graduating I moved to Vancouver, BC and started working in the legitimate film industry as a production assistant on Hollywood feature films and TV shows. I did that for a few years and soaked up a lot of information, but towards the end of it I got tired of being at the bottom and decided to just make my own movie. I actually wrote and storyboarded all of From Beneath while I was working on the TV show Smallville.


What can you tell us about your filmwork prior to From Beneath?


Well, like I said, I got a lot of on set experience working as a production assistant. But all the films I made over the years in school really gave me the experience I needed to pull off making my first feature. Working on Smallville showed me the importance of lighting to lend drama and believability to a scene. The last short I made before From Beneath, which I shot on 16mm film, taught me the importance of lenses which I further explored by picking up photography as a hobby. For me, lenses and lighting are so important for infusing mood into a scene. Also sound, sound is the Achilles heel of independent film. It often gets overlooked by filmmakers and itís so important. Iíve been burned by bad sound on a number of short films Iíve made in the past, so it was important that the sound be really good in From Beneath. My producer Ashe Morrison was trained in radio and sound engineering and she really went to great lengths to make the sound as good as possible in From Beneath.


Directors who inspire you?


Steven Spielberg is a huge inspiration. A rather conventional choice, I know, but his ability to make films that speak to such mass audiences really inspires me. He has an uncanny ability for tapping into the primal, underlying traits that unite most people and as far as Iím concerned, thatís one of the greatest assets a filmmaker can have. Robert Rodriguez is also a big inspiration for me. I love the way he challenges himself to tackle different genres and work with limited resources. I also identify with his hands-on approach to every aspect of production. I enjoy every aspect of production and I try to do as much as humanly possible on each film. I feel like Robert Rodriguez and I are kindred spirits in that way. Ridley Scott is a huge inspiration as well. He has such a distinct and beautiful approach to film aesthetics. The way he uses genre film as an excuse to create beautiful, expressionistic images is very inspiring. The visuals in Blade Runner and Alien are intoxicating.


Your favourite movies?


1. Jaws

2. Alien

3. The Thing (1982)

4. The Evil Dead

5. Raiders of the Lost Ark

6. There Will Be Blood

7. No Country for Old Men

8. The Wild Bunch

9. Stalker

10. Predator

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Thereís too many to name, but those are the ones Iím feeling right now.


... and of course, films you really deplore?


Hmmm, thatís a hard one. I usually try to give movies the benefit of the doubt, but some that I absolutely couldnít stand were Saw 2 and all the sequels thereafter. Textbook examples of how overwrought visual aesthetics and frenetic editing can completely destroy a movie. Most recently, Iíd say Transformers 2, that was the closest Iíve ever come to walking out of a movie. Shark Night was super disappointing, especially because of how much I love Jaws. Every time the suspense started to ramp up, the filmmakers would do something ham-handed and ridiculous and completely ruin the moment.


Your/your movie's website, Facebook, whatever else?







Anything else you are dying to mention and I have merely forgotten to ask?


No, I think Iíve rambled on for far too long, haha.


Thanks for the interview!


© by Mike Haberfelner

Legal note: (re)Search my Trash cannot
and shall not be held responsible for
content of sites from a third party.

Thanks for watching !!!



On the same day
a Burglar wants to kill you
and your Ex wants
to make up ...
... and for the life of it,
you can't decide


A Killer Conversation

produced by and starring
Melanie Denholme
directed by
David V.G. Davies
written by
Michael Haberfelner
Ryan Hunter and
Rudy Barrow

out now on DVD



Stell Dir vor, Deine Lieblingsseifenoper birgt eine tiefere Wahrheit ...
... und stell Dir vor, der Penner von der U-Bahnstation hat doch recht ...
... und dann triffst Du auch noch die Frau Deiner (feuchten) Tršume ...


Und an diesem Tag geht natŁrlich wieder einmal die Welt unter!!!


Bauliche Angelegenheiten
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Michael Haberfelner


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