INTERVIEW: Scott Schirmer

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FDTC writer, AMY LYNES, sits down for an exclusive interview with one of independent horror's most talked about filmmakers of the year, SCOTT SCHIRMER (Found).
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INTERVIEW BY: AMY LYNES

 

 

Schirmer

 

 

Over the years, I have become a big fan of indie horror, because in this age of (mostly) horrible remakes, there is so much originality in that community. Most of them are fantastic films, in spite of their small budgets, with stories that haven’t already been told time and time again.  So naturally, I was delighted when I was recently given the opportunity to interview relative newcomer, Scott Schirmer about his acclaimed indie horror film, ‘Found’, which has been snagging awards at film festivals and conventions and sparking controversy all over the place.  

 

At the time I was given the interview, I had not yet seen the film and I was allowed to watch a screener to prepare.  After hearing about this film (and the novel by Todd Rigney) and witnessing some heated debates about it for so long, I was very eager to see it and sat down to watch it just mere minutes after I receiving it.  Let me tell you, it was totally worth the wait and after seeing this film, I cannot wait to see what else Scott Schirmer has in store for us.  He could very quickly become one of my favorite directors.  I love what he has done with ‘Found’and can honestly say that I’ve never seen anything quite like it or had a film make me feel quite the way it did.  The final images are ones that stayed with me long after the credits rolled and I was instantly I was even more excited to have been given the chance to talk with the man behind it.  Ladies and

 

Gentleman, without further ado, I give you Scott Schirmer…

 

 

 

 

FDTC: Hey Scott! Before we get started, I want to thank you for taking some time out for me today and letting me pick your brain. I am sure you are a busy guy and I appreciate it…So first off, tell me how you got started in film? Was this something you always knew you wanted to do?

 

 

 

Scott Schirmer:I knew in early grade school that I wanted to be a filmmaker. In the mid-80s, though, you didn’t have easy access to video camcorders or editing equipment though, so I channeled that desire into hand-drawn film strip and slide show presentations. I’d write stories, narrate them, set them to music, and show my film strip or transparencies to my class while the recording played. I entered projects like that into media fairs from the time I was in fifth grade all the way through high school, and I won awards almost every year. I finally got to experiment with VHS video tape my senior year in high school, and that video – which is really a pretentious piece of crap, looking back at it – got me third place in an international competition. In college, I played more with video and 16mm film. Mini-DV came along in the late 90s and made several short films on that format, all the way into the mid-00’s. About 2005, I was beginning to question whether or not to keep going. It was getting so hard to make a living and do films as an extra-curricular activity. It was hard to meet dependable people who could help you. And the movies never lived up my expectations. I’ve always been really hard on my own work, so I never really did anything with any of my films until ‘Found’.  Itwas the first one where I felt, okay, this is it. This is the one. Let’s run with this one and see where it gets us. And I wouldn’t have come to ‘Found’ if it weren’t for Canon. When Canon gave the world their DSLR cameras, that really renewed my interest in filmmaking. Because video is ugly and film is simply too expensive for amateurs to play with. So thank God for Canon, and thank God for Todd Rigney, (author of ‘Found)

 

 

 

FDTC: Tell me a little bit about how you came to direct ‘Found’. Did you seek this out on your own or were you approached to direct?

 

 

 

SS:Nobody was approaching me about anything because I hadn’t done anything before Found. Not anything that anyone saw, anyway. So no, I read Found and fell in love with it. It was a novel written by Todd Rigney. So I looked Todd up on the internet, found his email address, and wrote him a letter telling him how much the story meant to me, and humbly asking if he’d consider letting me make it into a feature. We arranged to meet each other and talk it out, but he ultimately agreed to take a chance on me, and I can’t tell you what a big deal that was – and is, and will probably forever be – to me. I needed something really powerful and inspirational to lift me out of my post-2005 depression, and Todd did that with ‘Found’. I’ve never loved a story so much, and I never wanted to make a movie so badly. It was a life changer for me. 

Literally. 

 

 

 

FDTC: Is it true that ‘Found’ was your first feature length film? And that you financed this film with your own money?

 

 

 

SS: Technically, yes – I would say it’s my first feature. But it’s definitely not my first movie. Some of the short films I made in the past were almost feature-length. I think the longest was 63 minutes and I made maybe 8 or 9 of those.  financed Found’ with my own money simply because I didn’t know any other way. I mean, no one knew who I was, and no one had seen my work, so who the hell would take a chance and finance my movie anyway, right? So I saved up eight thousand dollars over the course of a year – that’s where having a dependable, adult day job came in handy – and started buying the equipment I needed whenever I had enough to buy it. Most of that money went to the Canon 7D, some lights, a Zoom H4N recorder, and makeup effects supplies. No one was paid on ‘Found and that’s the only reason we were able to do it so cheaply. 

 

 

found-movie-poster

 

 

 

FDTC: Are you happy with the final result being that it was done on a micro-budget?  Is there anything you wish you could change?

 

 

 

SS:I am more proud of ‘Found’ than anything else I have ever done.  I can’t imagine my life without it, so there are no regrets, but there are always things you wish you could fix or improve on these kinds of projects. There are scenes where we didn’t quite hit the dramatic marks as well as I’d hoped and we didn’t know nearly as much about audio recording as we do now, but ‘Found’ is closer to what I envisioned than anything else I’ve ever done.  I’d say it’s the least compromised, so that’s progress. 

 

 

 

FDTC:‘Found’ has received quite a few awards for best film at various film festivals.Given the macabre subject matter of the film, were you at all surprised by all the notoriety the film has gotten or was it something you sort of expected?

 

 

 

SS:The honest-to-God truth is I never expected ‘Found’ to be seen by nearly so many people. I never thought it would leave America.  I thought it would play in three or four festivals if we were lucky, and we’d learn a lot from the experience, and maybe everyone would have a nice portfolio piece to help them find more work on bigger projects. But after Elvira’s Horror Hunt, and then each festival after that, it became apparent that the movie was beginning to take on a life of its own. People start seeing the movie all over the world and writing about it online.  It’s amazing when something you create does that. And after about 40 festivals and almost as many awards, we got attention from distributors. And now our distributors are working to get the movie even more out there. I try always to stay humble and hopeful about this, but I’ve read some blogs and reviews that say ‘Found’ will be around a long time and peoples’ awareness of it will continue to grow. How could I hope for anything more than that?It warms my heart. It really does.

 

 

 

FDTC:I was blown away by the performances by Gavin Brown and Ethan Philbeck. Was it hard to find such great young talent? Tell me what the casting process was like.

 

 

 

SS:Without a budget in the Midwest, it’s very hard to cast a movie, but with the help of Sheila Butler, who knows all the kids in the local acting community, we found Gavin Brown. And although he’d never acted before, I decided to take a chance on him after meeting and talking with him and his mother.  He told me, essentially, that he was fearless and willing to do whatever it took to “get there”. And I believed him, so it was a leap of faith. He was incredibly patient with us, and we were incredibly patient with him.  Together we got that performance – and he carries the movie. It rides very much on his shoulders, and he absolutely carries it. I’m very proud of him.

 

Ethan was a last-minute replacement for another actor who dropped out of the project. Arthur Cullipher, our associate producer and effects artist, had worked with him on a local musical production and recommended he try out. When he came to audition, I immediately loved his look and just prayed he could act. And then he gave his monologue, or a reading, I can’t remember which, and he was perfect. He’s a very conscientious actor who came to the project with questions and a desire to be prepared, which I really appreciated.  He was brave and fearless. Basically, I think fearlessness is the absolute best quality for an actor to have, and both Gavin and Ethan had that. If an actor is fearless, then they’re not afraid to try things and go as far as you need them to go to pull off the performance. It’s much easier to reign them in than to push them forward.

 

 

FOUNDREV

 

 

 

 

FDTC: Was there any one scene in the film that was particularly hard for you to shoot with children so young?  Or maybe particularly hard for the actors to do?

 

 

 

SS:Gavin and Alex Kogin have this really long sequence in the middle of the movie, where their characters are watching ‘Deep Dwellers’and ‘Headless’ together, and the scene gets very emotional. These young guys were having trouble connecting and showing any kind of vulnerability in front of each other. That was a challenge, but I understand where they were both coming from.  I remember being that age, and boys that age don’t let the façade down. They just don’t. So we were able to separate them and work with them one on one to get the scene finished. Otherwise, I think Ethan and Phyllis Munro, who plays the mother, had a bit of rough time doing their climactic struggle in the hallway.  Primarily because it was the first day the met and the second day of filming – it was trial by fire to get them comfortable enough to just run with it. But they got there, and I think it made the rest of the movie even easier to have that kind of thing behind them. As awful as the film is, nothing was really terrible to film. We had all the conversations about the film’s content up front with the cast and crew, so there weren’t any surprises during filming and no one was caught off guard by anything. Even though it’s a horror movie, I think most people had a great time most days.

 

 

 

FDTC: I recently read an article in one of the horror groups I am part of, where the writer was almost criticizing the parents who would allow their children to be in this type of film.  What are your thoughts on that?

 

 

 

SS: I think it’s a normal response for us to be concerned about children in relation to sex and violence in media, but I feel like there are many compelling stories to be told about coming-of-age and adolescence, and if you shy away from any possible controversy or backlash, those stories can’t be told. Adolescence is hard. It’s horrifying. It’s confusing. It’s a pivotal moment in all our lives.It should be explored in film, and that means that occasionally, child actors arecalled upon to play roles that might be seen as controversial.  The filmmakers and the actor’s parents have a responsibility to make sure the child is capable of handling the material. Gavin’s mom and I talked about it at length, and we spent a lot of time together over the course of the film.Gavin was a precocious kid and wasn’t naïve about any of the subject matter. He knew what racism and homophobia were, and he had a good head on his shoulders where sex and violence were concerned.  He knew reality from fantasy, and we know now that ‘Found’ was a tremendous confidence boost for Gavin – itempowered him at a time when kids can start to doubt themselves. So I would encourage people passing out judgments to do what they think is right for them and their families, but not to be so quick to suggest censorship or condemnation for anyone else who might step outside the box to tell a more provocative story.

 

 

 

 

FDTC: I couldn’t agree more. Rumor has it that the film within the film, ‘Headless’, will soon be making its way to the screen.  Will you be involved with that film as well? 

 

 

 

SS:I am producing ‘Headless’ with Kara Erdel. Filming begins October 4th and we hope to release it next February! We’re posting updates at . 

 

 

 

FDTC: Tell our readers what’s next for you.  What do you have going on that we can look forward to?

 

 

 

SS: Tons! After ‘Headless’, I’m directing a segment for an anthology horror film called Hellevator Man’ this Fall, and I’m planning to then produce Leya Taylor’s directorial debut. Next spring, I will be directing my second feature or there will be hell to pay. Seriously. I’m dying to direct another one. Todd Rigneyand I are developing a feature that will blow people’s minds and show them stuff they have never seen before. I’d like that to be the next one if we can get the financing to fall into place. Todd and I are also working on an anthology horror film, and I’m also trying to raise money for a lighter, fun, sort of buddy-horror-comedy type of movie. Damien Wesner and I are working on a monster movie that he’s writing, and Heidi Henderson is writing a dark-romantic fantasy I’d like to do. Stuff is lining up, and I’m itching to make them all!

 

 

 

So there you have it!  I for one personally can’t wait to see Scott’s other projects and will be eagerly awaiting them!  If you are interested in seeing ‘Found’, there is good news!  It finally got a DVD release, Tuesday September 23rd, so be on the lookout and grab yourself a copy or order it up on Netflix today! I promise you won’t be disappointed!  And to stay up to date on what’s new for Scott, go to !! And be sure to check out the trailer below! 

 

 

 

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