Interview

Interview

Writer-Director Dave Parker and Actor/Co-Writer Ivan Djurovic Talk 'Coldwater'

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So what exactly is the mysterious Coldwater? According to the brief synopsis on the films' official Facebook page, Coldwater is "a psychological suspense thriller dealing with one man house sitting unaware of who or what might be with him." That vague description coupled with the teaser trailer embedded after the jump make for a very ambiguous and intriguing movie.

But in many aspects, the origins and continued evolution of putting together this experimental project are just as intriguing as the film itself. A follow-up to director Dave Parker's 2009 feature The Hills Run Red, Coldwater marks a unique first-time collaboration between the filmmaker and actor and co-writer Ivan (pronounced "eve-on") Djurovic in which the duo started out with one simple idea, which evolved into telling a story using several different filmmaking devices. And since it's been a completely independent project for the pair, they've been taking their time, testing various cuts of the film with colleagues and at film festivals and tweaking it to make it as suspenseful and terrifying an audience-pleasing picture as they can. I caught up with Coldwater's key creative forces to shed a little light on the mysterious film, which up until now has been clouded in secrecy.

So the two of you didn't know each other prior to collaborating on this project together. How'd you both meet and come to start crafting the initial story for Coldwater?

Dave Parker: After The Hills Run Red, I did some editing work for this company and they asked me to supervise and direct a couple of episodes for this show called Lost Tapes on Animal Planet. It was this Blair Witch style stuff but with creatures like Bigfoot and Yeti and Jersey Devil, etc. Vincent Guastini was coming on to do the FX and we were doing an episode about vampires, not Nosferatu but more of if a vampire was closer to an animalistic thing. We needed a couple of performers to be in full body suits. I talked to Vincent and Rob Dobbs and they had auditions for creature suit performers but none of them were really working out. So Rob suggested Ivan; I called him up, talked to him on the phone and he sounded like he had a great attitude about the work. I told him up front it wasn't going to be pleasant in the suit, but he was game. So the first time I really met him was at Vinny's studio when he was getting measured and cast for the costume.

Ivan Djurovic: Basically we met there for the first time and it was very brief, but went on to do the show and had a lot of fun working together that even after we were done shooting for the day, we'd go off and shoot some stuff on his flip-cam. Despite working these long 15 hour days, we were ready to go out and do more. Immediately after that episode, I got called in to do Bigfoot for another episode, because the performer they hired couldn't do it –

Dave: The guy we initially hired literally passed out in the Bigfoot suit. (Laughs) So we called Ivan back.

Ivan: I came in and it was the same kind of thing, we were the last ones leaving set and we thought let's get together and talk about maybe doing a short together or something. Basically, we were both in a position where we were tired of waiting for opportunities so we decided to just go out and do something on our own. I remember we went to see Paranormal Activity together and at the same time we had just locked down our location, so that night we had come up with the idea for what Coldwater would eventually become and it became a feature rather than a short. By the way, our movie has nothing to do with Paranormal Activity; however we did take notice to certain things like the different tools and techniques that were used in that movie to scare people. Things that were so simplistic and relatable. We build off of that and applied it to the idea we had and tried to come up with an experimental way of doing this movie. Using different techniques but implementing them all into one thing.

Dave: If I remember correctly, we had seen that movie together and walked out of it energized just by the audience reaction and the fact that it was made for a low amount of money and that someone just went out there and did it.

Ivan: Dave and I come from completely different pasts in terms of our tastes. He's a horror guy and I'm totally not. Though as I've been working on this, I've become a fan of it and it's been an awesome experience, but we both come from very different sides. At first, it was definitely a big question of whether it was going to be supernatural or not. It can feel supernatural at certain times, but a lot of it came back to what do we have at our disposal and why try to fool people when we can allow them to fool themselves; the mentality of are we going to try to pull off these scares with special FX and have people try to believe it? Or can we somehow make it so that something happens and we can allow the audience to complete the effect for themselves.

This isn't a found footage movie, but there are definitely elements of that with Ivan's character Andre filming the camcorder stuff. You implement a lot of different types of filmmaking techniques through out the movie. Was that always the plan?

Dave: The thing we initially discussed was maybe doing it as a found footage movie solely using all camcorders and maybe security cameras. We recognized that these lightening in a bottle scenarios like Paranormal Activity or Blair Witch or Saw happen almost every 10 years and when Paranormal came out, we knew everyone was going to rip that off and do the found footage thing. By the time we saw that movie, there were something like 5 similar films already in production. So the more and more we got into the story, we thought well… this feels like a movie to us. Why don't we use all 3 mediums of traditional film and filming techniques with the found footage aspect, with the security camera angle and finally also by making it feel cinematic? Let's see if we can generate suspense and tension uniquely for each aspect in a way we haven't seen before. That was interesting; we tried to use all 3 different types of mediums to create our own thing, which was really cool.

Ivan: It was exciting and at the same time nerve racking, because it's carries that unknown factor. Is this going to work? Doing found footage, security cam and traditional film all together? Thankfully it seems like it did and to our advantage. Just because we don't have a lot of money, there's no reason we can't stick to some of the main basics of making a good movie. Sticking to a good story and also having a cinematic feel to it and beauty behind it.  It was a driving factor for us to have different types of film techniques to set this apart.

Dave: When we were coming up with it, the basic set up of the story was trying to keep it simple. Even something like The House Of The Devil was influential in terms of aesthetics in the way that in that movie it's just one person in a house too. There seemed to be a simplicity behind it but there's actually a lot more going on underneath the surface. And because Ivan is not a "horror" guy, he would reel me in sometimes and help keep me more focused on the subtlety. One of the most exciting aspects for me to do this was that it was the complete opposite of The Hills Run Red. This was all about mood and atmosphere. I think if we both loved all of the same types of movies, I don't know if it would've worked.

Ivan: One of the pleasures of writing this – you'd come up with an idea for a scene but then together we'd try to find ways to subtly put things in that people might not notice but will play as a key factor towards the end of the movie. Fun ways to come up with that creep factor. When people do notice the subtleties, it's going to terrify them because it'll hit on a subconscious level where maybe when they were younger and at their house by themselves one night, they experienced something similar.

How closely did you stick to the script or was this loose enough to improvise and come up with stuff along the way?

Dave: Because we're doing this independently and there's no time table, we're still tweaking and trying new things to shape the film even in post production. The nice thing about the actual shoot was even though we had a very limited budget and a limited amount of time to do this, we wanted everyone involved to be able to contribute and explore things while we were on set and feel things out. A lot of times the actors would sit there and go over dialogue and we'd discuss how they would say it or how it would ring true. There was a lot of room for experimentation.

Ivan: It was an amazing thing to look back and realize we never compromised ourselves due to time. It worked out to our benefit where we finished shooting the movie, we put it together, we showed it to some people, we saw what we were missing and what things were crucial and we were able to go back and add some things with 2 days of additional shooting and that really helped improve it.

Dave: The last night it started to rain and we were going to shoot some scenes outside that we still needed to get. I remember we were all stressing and trying to rush things and it was our gaffer Zack Wilcox who came up to us and reminded us not to rush. That's a testament not only to Zack but to our DP Will Barrett and our entire crew because they were all willing to come back and make sure we finished this thing right. They all walked in not quite sure what they were getting into but they each came up to us individually and as a group to help us out tremendously. We all still talk and they remember shooting this project very fondly.

Ivan: It was a special experience. Everyone got to be close on the set and the other thing, a lot of people that worked on it became close friends afterwards. I consider this our little Coldwater family. My mom flew out from Chicago and catered the whole movie.

Dave: That made all the difference in the world! Because she was so great, the whole crew was asking Ivan right before the 2 pick-up days, "dude, is your mom going to be there?" (Laughs)

You guys have been taking your time with the post-production process, which in a lot of ways is like making the movie all over again. How has the initial screenings influenced the direction you've been taking with the film?

Dave: We screened a version of it at the Big Bear Film Festival. I look at that experience as very valuable and a great experience. Not to downplay the festival or anything, because it was great and they treated us well but I almost looked at that as a test screening. We had this wonderful opportunity to use that as a test screening with a group of people that didn't know us or anything about the movie and were seeing it for the first time.

Ivan: Right now, we're coming up to the final stages. Even up to a few days ago, we made some drastic changes that we thought were really crucial and really helped to change the movie for the better.

The pacing of a movie is always so pivotal. And when you take or tweak or move one piece, it changes the movie as a whole. Has that been a challenge for you guys anytime you make a creative choice to change part of the film?

Dave: Even if you make little changes, they can have a drastic effect on things like the pacing, so you have to go back and make sure something you took out still isn't being paid off later on. Luckily I don't think it has in our case! Sometimes it's not just cutting a scene out; sometimes it's been ADR or changing a line here and there. Or maybe it's adding something; a couple of shots that'll help strengthen the vibe and the mood of the movie as a whole –

Ivan: Sometimes those changes are to help clarify a few things. Given the way it was made, it's been a constant evolution. We made a very unconventional movie and it's very unconventional when you watch it, but we're happy with it. Some people will love it, some people won't. Some people will get it and some people won't. But you know what? The biggest compliment we've had from people after they've seen it is that they always go and discuss it. Every time. They discuss what they felt certain things meant and there's a constant discussion about what you think it all means. That to me is one of the most important things. People at least won't see it and just forget it; they will actually take it with them and think about it later.

For the latest updates, check out the official Coldwater Facebook page.

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