"Believers" Director Daniel Myrick Interview
Award-winning horror director Daniel Myrick (The Blair Witch Project) is directing another independent horror film, Believers. The latest in the Raw Feed series, Believers is set to be released on DVD on October 16th. While promoting Believers at San Diego Comic-Con 2007, Daniel Myrick took a few minutes to talk with Classic-Horror.com about his new film.
Classic-Horror.com: Tell me a little bit about, what makes [Believers] special or different from your previous work.
Myrick: Um... it's not special at all, it's really... nah, I'm just kidding. It's called Believers and it's about a cult basically. It revolves around these two paramedics that get kidnapped by this cult, and how they deal with their immediate situation. One of the paramedics is doing his best to kinda get out of this cult, save who he can save, including his buddy. And his partner starts to kinda buy into the ideology of this cult at the time. It plays on, I think, preconceptions about what cults are and, and those kinds of ideologies. And this particular cult is based on math and they think there's spirituality in numbers and they have empirical proof that God exists through this formula. It's, you know, it's this idea I had that maybe science and religion aren't necessarily mutually exclusive. And maybe if you dig deep enough into atomic structure, you'll find God. You know, that is what these guys believe. So, um, I just thought it was an interesting idea to play around with and challenge our preconceptions on what cults are, within the context of a good old fashioned sci-fi thriller. And so I think that's different than anything I've done before. And makes this movie, I think, kind of special. And, hopefully, you know, the audience will respond to it.
C-H: So, given that the plot has a lot to do with psychological elements, especially with the cult being math and science related, how does atmosphere play in?
Myrick: Oh, it's everything. You know, to me, what is not said is as important as what is said, and that is mood and tone and look - production design, music, sound, all that creates this atmosphere of suspense and kind of brooding dread. Which is difficult to capture and you don't see that much of these days. With the meager budget that we had to work with, we had to do a lot with a little bit, but I think that you find good locations and talented people to kind of put that stuff together, and I think you can convey a really good sense of place and atmosphere. That, I think, is essential.C-H: You mention a low budget. What are the challenges of working with a low budget? I mean, how do you get around them? And are there any benefits to having to work within a low budget?
Myrick: Oh, absolutely. I mean, there are pros and cons with both. I mean, the thing with low budget is that, typically, if you've got a low budget movie you're not beholden to a higher master. You know, you've got full creative control - within the constraints of your budget, naturally. So I love that part about low budget and independent filmmaking. You can do it on your terms for the most part. Um, the challenges are that you have to be very resourceful. You've gotta find ways to stretch your dollar and, while within the context of the movie you're trying to make, be realistic about your ambitions. You gotta find a way to cut corners, but not show that on screen. And that's tricky, but there's never been a better time than now to do that. Ever, I think, because digital filmmaking and digital post production and the internet for distribution of marketing. It's like the tools are there. Those tools are more approachable to young filmmakers nowadays than ever before. So, you can get a lot more on a film now than you could before. And you have a lot more options in distribution than you did before. It's really cool.
Daniel Myrick and Classic-Horror reporter Julia Merriam
C-H: I remember when Blair Witch came out. I was in high school and it was incredible. Something no one had ever seen before. Did you take any new directions directorially with Believers that you hadn't tried out before?
Myrick: Well, it's hard to say. Because, I mean, you have to take an instinctual approach to things depending on the movie. Blair Witch had its own aesthetic, had its own thing. We kinda got into the theory of that, and said “Okay, so this is how we have to shoot this and this is the methodology we need to use.” But before that, I had shot stuff that was more traditional narrative and I was a director of photography for a while, so I shot kinda typical, narrative movies. Believers is more in the narrative vein, but I think the one common denominator with all of my stuff is allowing improvisation to come through. What frustrates me about a lot of movies is that they become a little too stale, a little too premeditated, and Blair Witch was just sort of the extreme example of letting the actors do their thing. But within the context of the narrative, and the story, and the scene, but letting them sort of embrace the characters and run with it, you know. Believers has a little bit of that in it. Not as much, obviously, as Blair, but it has a little bit of that in it.
C-H: I wanted to ask, why horror films? You seem to do almost exclusively horror films and it's not a genre that is necessarily well respected. Obviously, we work for a horror site, so we think it has value, but I wanted to see your opinions on that, on the value and importance of the horror genre.
Myrick: Well, the thing that frustrates me about horror, quote unquote, is that it's become marginalized. When I grew up, horror films were The Shining, and Rosemary's Baby and The Exorcist – that kind of thing. They were fantastic films. They were well-written, well-acted, well-executed – and to me that's the horror genre. In my opinion, Hitchcock was a horror director for the most part, and made fantastic horror movies. So all these subgenres pop up - psychological thriller and supernatural thriller. And all of that stuff, I think, kind of falls under [the horror genre]. But, for me, it's like why don't we bring the horror genre back up again to where it was when I was growing up. And that's what I hope, at least in my little world, that my films, like Blair Witch and Believers and something I'm working on now called The Objective, do that. That they take a smart approach to horror, because the audience is smart. Go figure. But I think the people I'm trying to impress, you know, would want to watch the same kind of movies I would want to watch. So, uh, I just think that that they're smarter than a lot of people give them credit for. That's the bottom line.
Classic-Horror would like to thank Daniel Myrick for taking the time out of his busy schedule to speak with us. Believers comes out on DVD on October 16, 2007 (pre-order it from Amazon.com).