Alberto Marini, producer of a plethora of genre films such as the [REC] franchise and prolific screenwriter whose credits include today’s release of Extinction, is all set to take his directorial debut Summer Camp to this year’s Film4 FrightFest.
Having collaborated on a number of projects with [REC]’s very own Jaume Balagueró, said zombie franchise creator had no doubts in coming on board to serve as Executive Producer of Summer Camp to support Marini in his first project behind the camera.
Starring Diego Boneta, Jocelin Donahue, Maiara Walsh and Andrés Velencoso, the film defies horror conventions and is sure to surprise and terrify audiences as the pursuer becomes the pursued, the cat becomes the mouse.
To celebrate the film’s impending premiere at FrightFest we caught up with Marini to find out exactly why he saw Summer Camp as the perfect film for him to take the plunge as a director…..
Alberto Marini: I started at Filmax in 1999 when I found out that an English language horror film production company, Fantastic Factory, had been set up in Spain so I did a production course in Spain and tried to get my foot in as an intern. I worked in the project development department and one project that we got to work with was Jaume Balagueró’s Darkness and that’s where I built up a friendship with him. I moved on from Content Manager to Executive Producer there and that’s how I ended up in production and one of the first projects I was involved in was the first [REC] film.
Your most recent collaboration with Jaume was on Sleep Tight which you wrote and he directed. That was very different in tone for the both of you.
In theory I was actually going to direct Sleep Tight myself as I’m a lover of darker thrillers but out of sheer coincidence Jaume told me that he was looking to direct some kind of a thriller rather than a straight-up horror film like REC. He read the script and said that if I wanted to direct it he would support and help me but he also said he’d be interested in directing it if I wanted him to. In the end it was clear that having Jaume on board as the director was the right move for that film and it worked out really well.
So just before we talk about your directorial debut can you tell us what made you decide to set up your own production company, Rebelion Terrestre in 2012.
There are vital cycles in life and I wanted to get involved in more personal films. I was so lucky to have had the chance to work with Filmax but I just felt it was time to make a move and to make films that were more in line with my own personal tastes.
So you first intended to direct Sleep Tight but eventually it was Summer Camp that found you behind the camera. This is so much more violent than Sleep Tight so what made you decide this was the right film for your directorial debut?
Thrillers are my favourite films but then there’s another genre that I love which is straight-up horror so I spoke with various people, including Jaume, to decide what would be the easiest project as a director. In the end we thought a small straight-up horror movie would be the best career decision for me as a director. We thought it would be easier to get something like this off the ground rather than a thriller based on my experience and my track record.
So we went to work on a very original concept, which is pretty much the only way you can find funding nowadays when you haven’t got A-listers in your films. We progressed with Summer Camp and it found interest on the other side of the pond in the U.S. The first person who showed interest was Peter Safran who jumped on board to produce and he was followed by Pantelion which is a joint venture between Lionsgate and Televisa.
Our idea was to work on a concept which was clear but with an important selling point. This selling point or originality is the fact that the roles of the hunter and hunted, the villain and the good guys, the protagonist and antagonist are constantly changing. We also wanted to make sure we kept surprising the audience by using a very familiar setting for genre film fans that brings to mind Friday the 13th, Piranha, Sleepaway Camp with elements of ’70s slashers but at the same time surprise people with a very unique take which has nothing to do with slashers. In fact, the reference points for Summer Camp are more along the lines of Evil Dead or [REC].
The seriously dark humour in the trailer works so well. Will this type of humour be present in the whole film or was that more of a tactic used for the trailer?
The film will be like that completely. Our idea was to submerge people into a roguish film. It’s not a comedy per se but we wanted to ensure there were these very dark touches of humour in there. We’ve only released that teaser trailer so far but after the summer we’ll be putting out a more detailed trailer.
As most of the actors are American how did the casting process work out?
We worked with American casting directors and we saw their recordings. After that we had a second call over Skype with the actors that made it onto the final shortlist and I also followed suggestions that Peter Safran gave me. To be honest, the casting all fell into place pretty swiftly. Diego Boneta was strongly suggested by Peter Safran and, without a doubt, he was the best actor in the casting process. It was actually me who asked for Jocelin Donahue because I adore Ti West’s The House of the Devil and they called her up for the casting for me. At first Jocelin was going to play the part of Michelle but when we spoke with her we quickly realised that she would probably be better suited playing the role of Christy. Then Maiara Walsh was someone who I actually wasn’t aware off and she was a big surprise and we’re really happy to have found her. She was great during the casting process in Los Angeles but she really convinced us in our conversations afterwards with the ideas that she shared with us in terms of how to improve the character.
What the actors really loved about their characters was that they got to play heroes and villains so they got to work on a really wide range of acting skills. And apart from that, everyone loved the chance to be able to scream, jump, kill and escape. They all really jumped at the chance to be able to work on something like this.
Someone else I think it’s important we mention is Andrés Velencoso. He is an actor who has saved our skin because the actor who was originally signed on to play his role wasn’t able to do it in the end. We had to cast someone really quickly and Andrés was also working on a photo shoot in Sweden but he did a quick test and did everything in his power to get over here to Barcelona. He came to the casting here and he was a really nice surprise because we were really worried after having lost one of our main actors but he was really determined and he gave us exactly what we were looking for.
No we didn’t use any tricks like that. We don’t really deal with any mysteries in terms of who is the bad guy and who isn’t. At the summer camp there is something that converts people into uncontrollably aggressive people and we have no idea what it is that causes these moments of aggression.
Given the fact this is such a violent film, was it a challenge to direct those scenes and I’m guessing you used practical effects for pretty much everything here?
Yeah, everything is very practical. It’s all makeup with the odd digital enhancement but that’s very minimal. Like I said, the film is very roguish in terms of humour but there is some hard-hitting stuff in there. That said, it’s more of a film that plays with suspense and tension rather than relying on explicit violence but sure, there are certainly some explosive moments of violence in there too.
With Jaume Balagueró on board as Exec. Producer, how instrumental has he been in helping you get this film off the ground?
Jaume has helped me on various levels. He helped us when we were coming up with the concept and also with the various versions of the script and he definitely helped me with a few ideas or helped me to come up with the best solution to film certain sequences. He wasn’t able to be on set all the time because he was working on [REC] 4 at the same time. For me, Jaume is my friend first and foremost and he is very respectful. He didn’t want to end up becoming a second director on this project and didn’t want to hold me back in any way. Jaume has been an essential element, not only from the feedback that he’s given us but also because he was the first person to believe in this project and that lead to us getting the interest from various producers and ultimately the funding.
I’d known Miguel Angel Vivas (director/writer) when I was in Filmax. He came along with a script and a short film and I liked the idea so much we decided to try and turn it into a feature film. We didn’t manage to get that particular project off the ground but we kept in touch and still wanted to eventually be able to work together again. Then we bumped into each other during a Joe Dante conference at Sitges and went for a beer. A couple of weeks after that he gave me a call and the producers of Vaca Films, who I already knew, asked me if I wanted to get involved in Extinction. They asked me to read the original novel by Juan de Dios Garduño and then, if I liked it, they would be interested in me getting involved.
Just to finish off can you tell us a little about another two projects you have on the go, The Glow of the Fireflies and also El Desconocido?
Sure, I’m adapting a novel by Paul Pen called The Glow of the Fireflies and we’re currently writing the screenplay for this. It’s a kind of genre film but it’s not supernatural at all. It’s something along the lines of We Are What We Are or The Road. Those might sound like very different films but they are both points of reference.
Then we’ve got the Spanish film El Desconocido with actor Luis Tosar which is a pure thriller film and Vaca Films also proposed this project to me and we’re really happy with it. More than anything we’re really happy to have found a new and extremely talented director called Daniel de la Torre. It’s been such a joy to be able to work on this project and I’m confident it will have people talking about it and I’ve seen the final cut and the reactions of the audience. People are really enjoying it.
Well thanks so much Alberto and I hope to see more films directed by you in the near future.
Oh I certainly hope so too. Thanks Howard.
We’d like to thank Alberto for talking to SCREAM and we’ll leave you with the trailers for Extinction and Summer Camp:
Words: Howard Gorman (@HowardGorman)