Your film Uwharrie - in
a few words, what is it about?
It's about two guys who are hoping for a relaxing weekend in the
wilderness and the killer cryptid who has other plans. I think
there's a little more to it than that--especially when it comes to
some of the thematic elements imbedded beneath the humor and the
self-parody--but that's for the audience to decide.
Basic question: Why Bigfoot
- and does your interest in the creature/myth go beyond coming up with a
monster for your movie? And since we're at it, what can you tell us about
one night Michael [Mercer] and I were thumbing through some of
the more low-brow horror entries available via Netflix and we came to
the conclusion that there hasn't really been a "solid" Bigfoot
With that in mind, neither of us had any intention of starting some
kind of crazy Kickstarter campaing to create something with a
respectable budget, but we came to the conclusion that we could make
something of worth with a handful of friends and an extremely limited
budget. So we came up with the idea, wrote the script, rented a cabin
with some friends in the middle of the Uwharrie National Forest and
got to work.
Michael is more of a believer in Bigfoot
am. I wouldn't say
that I think the myth of bigfoot is a "crock", it's just that I
to be skeptical when it comes to cryptozoology. That said, I can't
get enough of cheesy documentaries about the Loch Ness monster or
aliens. Maybe I'm just in denial.
Ah, the costume. It's a
beauty, isn't it? We picked that up on
Amazon for around $80. We knew it would be comical, but when the
thing was worn by Danny for the first time we lost it. It was then
that we decided to really play up the "guy in a costume" angle.
fact, the movie's conclusion was filmed after production had wrapped.
I decided that it would lend a little more comedy to the whole thing
and Michael agreed.
Uwharrie being of the
found footage variety - why did you choose that approach for your subject
at hand, and your thoughts about the found footage subgenre by and large?
decision to go the "found footage" route had to do with our
inexperience with filmmaking. I've been a lover of movies my entire
life--as has Michael--and, up until filming, had a rudimentary
knowledge of what went into the production of films both large and
small. We decided that the "found footage" aspect would allow
little more wiggle room with this first go around (in terms of the
audience being more forgiving of the lack of a dolly, etc.).
Honestly, we were wrong. Creating something by way of "found
is incredibly difficult. It's very limiting when it comes to
establish certain shots; if we were using a more traditional approach,
we could frame shots however we wanted. That wasn't the case here,
and it made for some trying moments. One of the most difficult to get
in one take was the shot of Chris being attacked and then Michael
driving off in the background. The camera had to be dropped at just
the right angle so as to get everything on screen.
to the genre, I think it's not quite as worn out as people
think. There's something jarring about the realism associated with
"found footage"; audiences know it's fabricated, but it still
It's still scary when done correctly. Or, if your intention is to
blend comedy and horror, it can be an unusually effective tool, too.
did the movie come into being to begin with, what were your inspirations
and what did it take to get the project off the ground?
as I said earlier, the whole thing came about as a result of our
disappointment with the lack of Bigfoot
movies that existed.
Surprisingly, that particlar sub-genre has seen an incredible turn
around in the past couple of years. With The Lost Coast Tapes,
Bigfoot's Wild Weekend, and a number of others already on video,
people seem to have tapped into that as a viable horror (and
horror-comedy) sub-genre. Our inspirations for the style of the movie
came with the likes of Paranormal Activity and The Blair Witch
Project. Believe it or not--and I'm not even sure if Michael is aware
of this--the movie Paul (about the stranded alien) played into the
decision to work in so many references to classic films. This is
something that permeates both mine and Michael's daily
conversations--typically in references to Spielberg offerings like
Jurassic Park--and we thought it was something that fellow geeks would
To make the movie happen we needed support from
others. My wife, Erica, was great. We have a two-year old son--at
the time he was one(ish)--and she was willing to watch him by herself
over the course of several weekends while we worked on the movie.
Jenn, Michael's girlfriend, was very supportive too; she was even
willing to take on a role early in the movie. We also had to commit
well over $1000 of our own money to the acquisition of props (fake
blood, severed limbs, the aforementioned costume, the cabin
rental--which many of the people in the film helped contribute to as
well--and a myriad of other things). Making a movie--even one with
what can only be called a micro-budget--isn't cheap.
can't but notice that
Uwharrie has its
tongue-in-cheek moments (to say the least) - was the move at all intended
to be comedic from square one, or did the amusing moments just sneak as
you went along?
Yeah--the movie was meant to be funny. Our
goal was to have some
authentically creepy scenes, but we wanted people to laugh and have
fun. A few of the moments were scripted, while others happened on the
fly. One of the more notable is when Chris stabs the bigfoot with the
broken limb. The line, "Hey Bigfoot--mine's bigger than yours!"
added by Chris Daniels (the Hiker). The scene was meant to parody the
moments in horror films where ridiculous one-liners are delivered, and
we thought this addition was perfect.
Christopher Flowers, Michael Mercer, Matthew
you and Michael Mercer play the leads in your movie: What can you tell us about your
performances, and would you also like to talk about your co-stars for a
One of the reviews of the movie said something like,
"If these guys
are different in the film than they are in real life, then I tip my
hat to two of the greatest actors ever." That was part of our
goal--to create these characters that are, in essence, us. The
conversations we had--about other movies, fantasy football, any number
of things--are exactly the kinds of things we talk about when we're
hanging out. That realism--that everyday, what might be called Seinfeld language--is what resonates with people. The bad
that crops up--especially from Michael and I--was authentic and, at
times, purposely exaggerated. We wanted parts of the movie to be
laughably forced; we wanted some moments to be so insanely horrid in
their delivery that people couldn't help but laugh.
The rest of
the cast was fantastic. We're all friends, and they
sacrificed personal time to come out into the middle of the woods with
us in order to make this movie a reality. They were almost unhumanly
patient with me and Michael. A few of the nights that we filmed the
temperature dropped considerably, so there we were, standing in the
middle of the woods, straining to read the screenplay by the lights of
our cell phones, waiting for Michael and I to explain how we wanted
the scenes to unfold. A few times we had 15-20 takes--or more. For
us, it was right when the humor and the creepier moments were able to
mesh. And everyone involved--Matt, Daren, Jenn, Chris (Daniels),
Brandon, Danny--they were all on-point.
What can you tell us about your locations, the
advantages and challenges of outdoor shoots, and the shoot as such?
I mentioned ealier, we rented a cabin in the middle of the forest
for the first weekend of filming. Since most of the movie takes place
at night, we were up until 2 or 3 AM, covered in corn syrup and
growing crankier by the minute. That was what was so nice about the
humorous moments--it helped us "rest" in a sense; it helped
move forward. The second night of filming is when we made the most
progress. We rolled through scenes once we hit a rhythm. But, as
you've said, there are challenges at night. A I stated before, in the
middle of the woods you have to be prepared for the utter darkness.
We had three or four flashlights--some better than others--a
spoltlight for one or two specific scenes and our cell phones. During
the scenes where things were happening at various distances, it was
hard to set up the shots so that we knew we were headed in the right
direction, whether it was toward a prop or character. In that sense,
there were times where it felt like we really did get lost in the
woods. One night--this may have also been in the wee hours of the
morning on that second evening--a full-blown thunderstorm rolled in.
It actually worked out really well for one scene; when Bigfoot attacks
Daren (the Cop). When he tackels him, lightning struck in the
distance and there was a thunder clap. It was perfect for the scene.
We then filmed the scene inside the abandoned barn--where Michael
encounters Bigfoot for the first time. At that point it was pouring,
so things worked out well on that particular night. Thankfully, the
rest of our obstacles in shooting outdoors weren't quite as daunting.
As I've said, it was cold on one of the later weekends of filming, but
we were fortunate to not have too many "natural" obstacles.
being in the Uwharrie Forest, we were able to use a friend's
wooded property for our second weekend of filming. This was great,
because it looked virtually identical to the original locations we'd
filmed at and it didn't require any kind of permit. The final
scene--the one that was filmed after production had technically
wrapped--was done in my backyard. That was a quick one, and
thankfully the light from my neighbor's homes didn't filter into the
of course also have to talk about the gore effects in your film for a bit?
gore. In a sense, we're satisfied with how that aspect of things
turned out but still feel like we could have squeezed in a little
more. We're saving that for the next movie.
But here are a
couple of insights. One of the trickiest things we
encountered was the scene where Chris' hand/arm is ripped off by Bigfoot. We purchased a poison sprayer for this--one of those deals
that you pump up and that works off of air pressure. When we did the
first take of this scene, there wasn't enough pressure, and the nozzle
from the sprayer kept poking out of the empty long-sleeve t-shirt we'd
placed on the ground. In the end, we were able to achieve a more
discernable red spray, which is what we wanted. We ended up leaving
in a second or two of the footage where the audience can see the
nozzle; it was just too funy to cut out and really helped add to the
humor. Later, when you see the Hiker's intenstines being pulled out,
that was an on-the spot improvisation. We'd written that scene into
the script, but, by some gross (pun intended) oversight we'd forgotten
to purchase some fake innards. Our friend Matt--whose property we
were filming on--found some old rope that was perfect. We dipped in
our container of fake blood, pour some on Chris' shirt, and started
filming from a distance. The effect was as comical and gory as we'd
hoped for. The other bits that you see--the severed hand and foot,
the finger in the car door, the head on a stick--most of that was
purchased through Amazon. You can find some great things on there
(and no, this is not a plug for their site). It's just a great
resource. One of mine and Michael's favorite items was the torn-up
eye that we see on the Park Ranger (Brandon). Michael set that whole
thing up and applied it to Brandon like a pro. It was great. The
only issue we encountered in filming that scene is that the camera had
some difficulty focusing on Brandon when he came stumbling out of the
fog. it just happened at one point that we the lens was able to
adjust exactly when it needed to, giving the audience that
split-second shot of his eye, and that's what we were looking for.
can you tell us about critical and audience reception of your movie so
We've gotten mixed reviews. Some people have panned
the movie for
being too basic; for being, as they've said, too technically
deficient. One critic in particular said it was overall a
experience. Our reaction, of course, has been that some critics are
approaching the film with an eye for snobbery. That is, they're
expecting something very unrealistic. Again, our goal was to create a
movie that makes people laugh and shy away from things in equal
measure. It's intentionally tongue-in-cheek, and many moments are
intentionally stupid. It's supposed to be fun. With that said, many
critics have been aware of this, and have praised it accordingly.
say all of this as a critic (I run a movie blog and am a member of
the Internet Film Critics Society), so I know what critics look for.
If there's one thing I've learned, though, it's this: you can't make a
movie in the hope of receiving "good" reviews. You have to make
film because you like what it does and what it says; you have to make
it because it's fun and because you feel like it works. You have to
make it because you have faith that there's an audience who will
appreciate it. You can't make it for anyone else.
Let's go back to the beginnings of your career:
What got you into filmmaking in the first place, and did you receive any
formal training on the subject?
The main thing that got me
into filmmaking is Star Wars. It's that
simple. As a kid I absolutely loved the movies--heck, I still do, and
I'm going on 31--and marveled at the way Lucas was able to bring
together memorable characters, effects, and to make that transition of
a classic story into a completely unique universe. My first
came in the form of a short feature that a buddy of mine in college
put together. It was about a mischevious squirrel. I was also in a
movie he worked on called Death by Ninja. Beyond that, neither
Michael or I have had any "formal" training. We've both always
the medium of film, though. We've both always been fairly creative.
As kids we were always coming up with ideas for video games that
included things we thought others were lacking. So it's always been a
natural byproduct of our conversation--the discussion about "What
hasn't been done?"
In college, I studied literature, and
one of my favorite classes
focused on sci-fi lit. We talked about the themes contained in the
narratives--from everything to Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?
(Blade Runner) to The Time Machine--we covered it all. I wrote a
novel, in fact, that explored what might happen to the future of
humanity when the sun begins to deteriorate--again coming back to that
notion of "What hasn't been done?" Michael is the same way. He's
always got ideas for things, and we're always bouncing those ideas off
one another. Actually, we're trying to put together the screenplay
for our next movie right now, and the process has so far been the
What can you tell us
about your filmwork prior to Uwharrie?
to add to what I noted with the previous question, I've put
together a short film called The Kinderbot. It's about an
educational toy robot that becomes self-aware and determines that it
is designed to kill. Think about Short Circuit gone bad, and
have an idea of what it's about. I've also got a YouTube series
called The NES Chronicles that's a running documentary. In it,
on a quest to collect every NES game ever made (and to complete each
one). For Michael, this is--I believe--his first effort with film.
As I've said, though, we're basically coming from the same place with
our ideas, so working together has been a very natural thing. It
doesn't hurt that we've known each other since... well... birth.
future projects you'd like to share?
Yeah. As I stated,
we're working on another movie now. I've put
together a plot outline and Michael is currently reviewing it. It's
much gorier than Uwharrie, and it's more involved. It's the sort of
thing that we'll only be able to make with an increased budget, so
we're toying what what that might look like (and how we can obtain
it--possibly through something like KickStarter). I can tell you that
we're shifting from Bigfoot
to aliens. So, in a sense, we're trading
one cryptid for another. We'd like to make a trilogy based on this.
The tentative title for the next move is The Probing. That
give you some ideas about the content.
How would you
describe yourselves as directors?
I like to establish shots
that involve seamless transitions between
characters and action--in other words, the camera movement is both
realistic, natural, and informative. This is especially tough to do
with a found footage movie. I think Michael is the same way. He's
got a good eye for framing; for what needs to be trimmed out or set up
differently. With our cast, we worked together to determine how to
best use their skills. As is the case with any production, they're
bringing their own personalities to the characters, so there are
certain ways you want them to approach the scenes. We worked hard to
convey these ideas to them during production. At times, there were
disagreements about how certain scenes should play out, but we were
always able to come to a consensus that worked for everyone.
Filmmakers who inspire
For me, it's all Spielberg, all the time. If the man
has made "bad"
movies they can be counted on one hand--on one or two fingers, in
fact. I think Nolan has emerged as a force to be reckoned with, too.
Those are the blockbuster directors I admire, but I'd say that
Aronofsky is certainly a titan in his own right.
Michael is a big fan of Eli Roth, among others. We both have an
appreciation for directors who can highlight the subtle moments but
not take themselves too seriously--who can effectively make use of the
full range of emotions.
Your favourite movies?
both Michael and I Jurassic Park and Jaws are at the top of the
list. I know one of Michael's favorite movies is Cabin
that certainly has an influence here with Uwharrie. For me,
Empire Strikes Back and Raiders of the Lost Ark represent the pinnacle
of cinema. For horror, the original Halloween is where it's at. For
horror comedy, Shaun of the
Dead, Hot Fuzz and the like are where I
... and of
course, films you really deplore?
any of my partnershops yourself
for more, better results?
The links below
will take you
Oh gosh. I always try to
find something worthwhile in everything I see, but movies like Epic Movie
and Date Movie--that kind of hokey, incredibly unfunny stuff that parodies
superior films--are what I can't stand.
website, Facebook, whatever else?
We have a couple of links
we'd like to share with you guys.
1) The Facebook page for Uwharrie:
2) The official website for Uwharrie:
3) My personal page, where I post reviews, commentary and more:
4) The Facebook page for our production company, Pillowman
Anything else you are
dying to mention and I have merely forgotten to ask?
I think that covers it. I do want to say "thank you," though,
for your interest in the film and your willingness to talk with us.
You'll be the first to receive screeners of The Probing when
for the interview!