The co-directors and stars of Canadian Midnight Madness selection Afflicted talk about their unconvential approach to a vampire film.

It’s a journey experienced by millions. Two childhood friends quit their day jobs and escape to Europe for a yearlong adventure around the world. But things take a turn for Clif Prowse and Derek Lee—co-directors and stars of the Canadian found footage horror Afflicted—when they meet a mysterious woman at a Parisian nightclub. Speaking with Screen International the day after its world premiere at TIFF, the first time feature-length filmmakers discuss shooting under budget, getting creative with POV, and how one stupid idea became a critically-acclaimed vampire film. Afflicted is being distributed by eOne (Canada) and CBS Films (US); IM Global handles international sales.

What gave you the idea for Afflicted?

Lee: Essentially, we needed to come up with a feature film idea that was small enough that we could execute on a budget and could micro-finance and bring through Telefilm. So we were tossing ideas around—contained zombie movies; cabin in the woods kind of things—and Clif, one faithful spring morning, was like, ‘Why don’t we make a vampire documentary?’ And I remember my knee-jerk reaction was, ‘That’s the stupidest idea.’ But then I paused mid-sentence and was like, ‘Wait, hold on. That’s really clever.’ Because that means we get to make a movie with all the action and horror we think would be a lot of fun to shoot, but in that faux-doc, found footage style, we can choose what we show and control the elements in such a way that we don’t have to spend millions of dollars.

Prowse: The great thing about it was, creatively, it’s much more compelling visually to present it in the documentary style. So it wasn’t a conceit to budget, but fundamentally part of the concept. I don’t think this movie filmed in a conventional way is nearly as interesting.

What was the hardest part of filming in that style?

Lee: The whole process of found footage was a huge learning curve. While we’re fans of horror and fans of action movies, we never filmed anything found footage or faux-doc in this kind of way before. I had very mistakenly thought, ‘Oh, you just have set up your blocking and turn on the camera.’ But it’s a heck of a lot more complicated than that. As a consequence, we have mad respect for the guys who came before us.

What made you decide to not only co-direct, but star in the film as well?

Prowse: For us, if you want it to feel real, then ground it in reality. We have photos and videos of ourselves as kids—all that stuff in the movie—it’s real. You can’t really recreate that, so hopefully it infuses the movie with a sense of reality early.

Will there be a sequel to the film?

Lee: There’s a lot of talk of where the story could go and exploring the world further. It’s the kind of thing where if the right opportunity at the right time came up, we’d definitely look at it. But we have other scripts and other stories we’re excited to tell.