The New York based director delivers a buzzy thriller with his second trip to Cannes.
Los Angeles based director David Robert Mitchell follows up his successful film The Myth of The American Sleepover, that debuted in 2010 in Cannes Critics Week, with It Follows - a creepy thriller based around a group of teens in the Michigan suburbs who are followed by ominous figures. The film premiered in Critics Week on Saturday and Visit Films handles sales on the buzz title.
You have chosen a similar style of subtle storytelling and acting style as you did with your first film, The Myth of the American Sleepover. What inspires you to direct in this style?
I can’t explain it - it’s a personal thing for me. I’ve been directing in this style since my short films. It’s like a sort of soft naturalism that isn’t quite real, a little bit to the side and a bit dreamy. It’s not really the way people react, but it’s almost real.
For the first film (The Myth of the American Sleepover) - we cast ourselves, and spent a year in Michigan holding open auditions in places like church basements - so the cast, for the most part, were not professional actors. For this film, we had a casting director (Mark Bennett), and he completely got what I was looking for. In The Myth (of the American Sleepover), everyone stays at this subdued level and this one - it was a trick to find people that could mostly stay at one level and then sometimes go to a more dramatic level (hit the highs in a believable way).
The colours in the film are also similar in that there is a subtle palette of colours, and then colours jump out in vibrant pinks, purples, blues and greens. What inspired you to capture these mix of colour hues?
All sorts of films - some people have mentioned Dario Argento’s Suspiria. We could have gone much further with it, like how the colours pop in Argento’s films. But because of budget reasons, we shot mostly with an (Arri) Alexa and you can’t quite get the range that you can get with film.
You have transitioned to more of a thriller. What made you decide on this genre?
I am interested in all genres. But certainly directors like Carpenter and Cronenberg, and films including Creatures from the Black Lagoon, Nosferatau and Bride of Frankenstein have inspired me.
The following idea stemmed from nightmares I had when I was young (I’ve heard a lot of people have this dream). Basically you see someone and they come towards you slowly. It’s a real person but they often look like different people. You could run into a house, crawl out the window and run down an alley - I could always get away from it but they never entirely went away. But getting away wasn’t the point - knowing something is coming for you is more terrifying than the confrontation itself. These dreams stopped when I was a teenager, and it was then I knew I wanted to make the dreams into something.
The characters in the film obtain the followers only having sexual intercourse with someone. How did you integrate this idea into the equation?
It merged from an idea of being connected to other people, a sort of mental and physical chain that people have. And through sex, people you have been close to and they have been close are suddenly linked. The way things follow us and stay with us …
You went to film school at Florida State University. Did you know from an early age that you wanted to make films, and in particular write?
I have been writing since I was a kid. It is one of things that is really difficult and painful, but I would do it, and then I really liked what I wrote. So yeah - writing comes naturally to me, and I am never short of ideas. I have a reserve stock of scripts. I can usually finish a solid first draft in a month. I work on it night and day, and don’t take any time off. Thankfully I live with my fiancé who is a painter so she understands.
What is next on your directing slate?
I have several scripts that I want to direct. Ideally the next one would be an adventure/ mystery. The characters are more my own age, and it’s strange and magical - it’s really cool - I am excited about it. There will be lots more opportunity for special effects. But we’ll see…