21 & Under with… Afflicted Directors Clif Prowse and Derek Lee

afflicted

Facing up against Marvel’s Captain America: Winter Soldier in Friday’s new releases at the box office, Afflicted looks to appeal to a different audience with its mysterious, dark, and suspenseful twist on the “found footage” genre. This Vancouver Canada based production filmed in Europe looks to approach the genre in a mystical new way. Two local, long-time best friends, Clif Prowse & Derek Lee, come together as actors and in directing the feature length presentation to achieve a mutual dream together. Afflicted on the surface is a moral dilemma about a young man faced with death and his yearning to live life until it takes him, but inside this universal concept is a supernatural beast looking to flip the script entirely.

Abort: You’re both quite experienced in film with shorts, but Afflicted is your first feature, how does this process differ?

Clif Prowse: Short films are great to learn how to tell a three act story, but a feature film is such a massive beast. Learning the ins and outs of a feature film can only be accomplished by making a feature film is what we felt. The other thing is that when you’re making a short you have every detail sequenced in your head and you can see it all before you. A feature is just so huge, you can’t really do that. You have to do the homework and trust in what you build up through that. You can’t know what it will look like until you work through it

Derek Lee: With a short film, you don’t really have to pace yourself, it’s like 2 or 4 days of balls to the wall, but with a feature film, you would think you would have to pace yourself, but you don’t really get to. It’s the same pace for six times longer. So it’s really holding on for dear life and hope it all works out. We love our crew for just how much effort they put into Afflicted.

Abort: What was it like to act and direct in your own film?

DL: I’m a little more used to the acting aspect than Clif is, I’ve been in all of his short films. Having said that, it’s great there’s two of us. Usually it’s only one of us in the scene at any given time so the other can evaluate the performance. It does get tricky when we’re both in the scene. It’s a process of repetition, step back as actors, review the scene as directors, make adjustments and go back into it as actors.

CP: Also, an added bonus of casting yourself is if you come up with an idea at any point, we know we are always around and we are always free, as in free of charge. That’s a great asset in making your first feature.

Abort: Do you guys feed off of each other on set?

CP: The core for us is we have similar taste in movies and a similar vision. We sometimes disagree on scene interpretation, but this leads us to a third option that works for us both. We reach everything by consensus.

DL: As long as it’s not slowing us down. Having two different perspectives is a good thing.

Abort: Would you say your long standing relationship and solidarity has helped you each get to this point where you can comfortably create a feature film?

DL: For sure. If nothing else, the process of making a film can be really taxing emotionally and psychologically. Having someone else that is on the same ride as you; trying to get funding, writing, going out and shooting the film, cutting it, trying to get funding and distribution, doing red carpet events on live television. Having Clif beside me gives me the comfort that if at any point it becomes too much for me, he’s there, and vise-versa. I admire anybody that can take it all on alone.

CP: Also, because we’ve known each other for so long, we have been friends since we were thirteen, we are basically family, this creates a very safe environment. On your first feature film, you will have all of those insecurities and questions. Having someone with you in this process that you’ve known forever and offers you unconditional friendship and support is a point of privilege. Not many people get to have that.

Abort: Does that energy come off on set with other people?

DL: I think you would have to ask them, but I think so.

CP: Yeah! Some people think it’s weird we co-direct. We have a very sibling relationship, we grew up together, and studied the film industry together. It’s not like we don’t disagree, we disagree sometimes but overall we want to have a unified vision, and that’s important to communicate on set.

DL: We had a small, seven person crew on average, it was sort of a family unit. They really had to have that cohesion, we all had to buy into it 100% and feed off the energy. The film would not have been made without anyone on the crew. I can say that about everyone on the crew.

CP: What’s cool about Afflicted, is that everyone that was part of it feels a sense of ownership. It was a very creatively co-operative process. Our make-up artist did a great job creating a special look, our cinematographer worked on lighting and made it feel real. Our editor/boom operator/props master was one person, he added so much that it felt like having a third director. Everybody has a sense of ownership of this film in a way that doesn’t usually happen.

Abort: How does the relationship affect your work? How do you stay focused?

DL: There’s never a moment where we aren’t under extreme pressure, so keeping focused on the goal was never a problem.

CP: We’re also both very driven and ambitious professionally. Making movies is fun, so it’s easy to stay focused.

DL: We have been given a crazy opportunity at every single stage for the feature. Feeling like we might be wasting that is what kept us getting up in the morning. If we weren’t taking advantage of that, we would be assholes. If we wasted our opportunities we would just hate ourselves.

CP: We were making short films for 10 years. In that course of time, people have come and gone, it’s a taxing process that not many people even get an opportunity to make a feature film. We didn’t know if we would ever get the funding and when it did, it was a huge victory alone. Now the door was open, and we needed to kick the door down and make sure we kill it. You might never get another opportunity to a feature film again.

Abort: What sort of inspirations do you look to outside of film?

DL: A lot of sci-fi genre novels by writers like Philip K. Dick. I personally play a lot of video games. Some franchises like Dead Space and Bioshock would be perfect for us in terms of the genre. Afflicted has some POV scenes that feel like a first person shooter and that was something we were conscious of when creating it. We wanted to give the viewers the experience of being the creature from the get-go.

CP: I think for me, I’m a huge follower of the works of Joseph Campbell. It’s almost a spiritual experience reading his work. He taught me a lot about the function of story and how human beings relate to each other. I also love listening to podcasts and documentaries. Not just film based, but science and other fields. Things will just come up out of context and inspire story ideas.

Abort: Why was it decided for Afflicted to be a “found footage” film?

CP: It was part of the concept from the beginning. If we have a supernatural creature (spoiler: Vampire) that has been glamorized and romanticized in other films, we thought it would be fascinating to re-imagine these creatures that everyone has seen a million times making it more realistic and horrifying. We thought: what would that look like in real life. Found footage was our access point to that. We could have supernatural aspects and spectacular visuals in the context of an aesthetic that is telling your brain what it’s watching is reality.

Abort: With the boom of new media, does it make it a more realistic experience for the viewer?

DL: That’s the goal. The idea is you are watching something that your brain is telling you it’s real. Towards the end things go a bit haywire, but the goal is to make it a realistic experience through it all.

Abort: How do you make “found footage” films realistic while retaining the cinematic quality?

DL: Honestly, I think you have to sacrifice some cinematic quality. There were some scenes during the film we felt were too pretty, the framing was too nice, it was in focus too much. Very beautifully lit shots don’t feel natural in the found footage context. You try to ride that line of making the film as pretty as it can be without getting to the point where you can deny that it’s fiction. We learned the hard way, it’s a constant balancing act of trying to get the right feeling of sloppiness.

CP: We were really conscious pick and choose a few moments where you did see things on screen that would keep you from feeling cheated. If we could really sell supernatural aspects of the movie in those shots, spectacular visuals could make people question what exactly it is they’re seeing through these glimpses.

Afflicted provides an intense, suspenseful, new perspective in “found footage” films that is sure to attract fans of the genre and curious movie goers looking for something different. With the passion Derek, Clif, and their crew put into Afflicted, it can already be considered a success in many ways. With a relevantly smaller budget than Captain America, I hope Afflicted is also a box office success that becomes profitable. Fans of Cloverfield should be the first in line as this genre culmination will appeal to them. Expect another adventure on the silver screen from this dynamic duo soon as they’re working on a new action packed film. Francis Ford Coppola once said film directors need to learn to love stress and anxiety. Clif & Derek seem to embody this quote as they promote Afflicted while preparing for their next feature. Having each other, their journey should take them down a long path of creative success.

By Clayton Cyre

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