Doron and Yoav Paz – the Paz Brothers – have a terrifying tale of the end of the world to share with us in JeruZalem; when two women embark on a holiday to Israel they find themselves caught up in biblical battle for survival. The film uses Google Glass technology to bring a refreshing and visually impressive spin on the found-footage genre, emphasising the wonderful clash between the ancient and the modern in their religious apocalypse.
SCREAM’s Jessy Williams caught up with one half of the directing duo – Doron Paz – to chat religious horror, the end of the world and their secret filming in Jerusalem.
SCREAM: When did you become interested in making films and working with your brother particularly?
Doron Paz: Our father is an independent film-maker, so it was something that we grew up with. He used to sell the house, make a film and then sell it again, make a film and do it all over again. This was the atmosphere that we grew up with; that making feature films is the best thing that you can do, but it’s very hard. It was very natural for us; all conversations around the table were about cinema and making films. Firstly, we did a few music videos which is the best film school for a director because you can just go wild. From there, we went to commercials which was the opposite, because there were so many people telling you what to do. After this we decided to do our own thing. A few years ago we made our first film, called Phobodilia. It went great, we got accepted in to Berlinale, TIFF and we had a huge tour with it. But, it did not have an appeal to most audiences. It’s a bit slow, dark and it’s in Hebrew. So, we decided to make a fun feature film for the people next, not for the critics.
SCREAM: Who tends to lead the way when you’re making films?
Doron: We’re equals and people tend to wonder how it works, but it’s very natural for us. We write our scripts and direct together and it just works, because I’ve known him for so many years and we’ve done so many projects together. We only have one rule: in every scene only one of us can talk to the actors, because it’s too much if we are both talking to them. The shooting days are so crazy, because we have to shoot so much in a very short period of time, so a two-headed monster is a great thing. You have to make hundreds and hundreds of decisions, so when you’re two it’s easier. We think the same and have the same taste in cinema, so it’s very helpful for us.
SCREAM: How do you solve any differences of opinion that you have?
Doron: Oh, we don’t. We just fight a lot! *laughs* We try not to do it in front of people, but most of the fighting happens while we’re writing the script. We also fight a lot in the editing room, but nobody knows that. It’s alright, because we know how to fight and we know how to forgive each other. Then the next day, no one knows what we were fighting about. Arguing is great as a film-maker, because then you need to ask questions and defend your opinion and then sometimes you lose as it’s not the right move. I don’t understand how someone can direct a film on their own, because you need some dialogue. Everywhere you go there’s decisions, decisions, decisions.
SCREAM: What was it about horror that interested you?
Doron: It’s not horror, it’s more the dark side. Both me and my brother are attracted to the dark side and find it fascinating. We’re not into romantic comedies. We love films, books and theatre that have a dark twist, so this was very natural for us. We didn’t think much about it, you know? We had our own video camera and as kids our fun was getting our friends together and making horror films. Because when you’re 15 or 16 you won’t make a drama, of course. You just want to kill all your friends and spray ketchup over everyone. So, we did it again. Just on a larger scale.
SCREAM: Why did you choose to shoot in Jerusalem?
Doron: We decided to shoot it in Jerusalem, because it has the perfect scenery and, for years, we wondered why no one ever shot a real horror film in Jerusalem. If they do, they shoot in the modern parts, because the Old City is a difficult place to shoot in and you can’t close the holy places there. So we decided to shoot part of the film guerrilla style, so no one knew we were shooting a feature film because we looked like tourists.
SCREAM: Did you need special permissions to shoot where you did?
Doron: We had permission, but we couldn’t close places or the streets or whatever. We had permission to shoot a documentary and that’s it *laughs*. No one knew we were shooting a feature film and not a documentary.
SCREAM: Were you ever worried that you’d incite a real Doomsday by shooting a horror film in all these holy places with no one knowing?
Doron *laughs* No, we just wanted to do it and maybe it was stupid. We just went with it. For some of the scenes we had permission and some we didn’t, but this is how we could make everything happen. Usually if you wanted to film something in the Old City or at the Wailing Wall you would have to fake it or find some other wall, and it never looks the same.
SCREAM: What drew you to the concept of the end of the world?
Doron: We thought about making a zombie film, but we didn’t want to do the regular zombie film with the typical zombies that you see. The only place in the bible that talks about resurrection and the dead coming back to life is in Jerusalem and the holy places in Israel. You can find a lot of chapters about prophets and the dead coming back to life, so we decided to make our own twist on zombies and the undead by making them more biblical. We wanted to make them more like dark angels instead of just people walking the streets with their arms outright.
SCREAM: How difficult was it to create your dark angels?
Doron: It wasn’t too difficult, because we found the perfect trick. We combined practical effects with a lot of make-up on very talented dancers that knew how to move right. Then we added the wings in CG. We don’t like to use a lot of CG, because a lot of people can notice that you’re just using special effects. If you’re doing it right though, it works great. If CG is on the screen too much, it loses it and you can see that even in big Hollywood blockbusters.
SCREAM: Did you try to move away from any tropes or clichés associated with horror or found footage?
Doron: No, actually it was the other way. We tried to use the clichés, because a cliché is a wonderful thing. You don’t have a lot of time to tell a story in a feature film – it’s not a TV drama – and you have many characters. A cliché is great, because you can tell an audience that this character will act like this, now let’s go and have fun. We didn’t want to escape the clichés too much. We tried to use the same rules, but differently. That was the purpose; to find our own unique way, settings and, as we said, it’s all about having fun and making people scared.
SCREAM: Even though you didn’t try to steer away from clichés, your characters were different to what we typically see as you chose to focus on two women. We usually see a mixed group or a couple of guys travel on a “lads holiday” in horror films. Was that something you tried to do differently?
Doron: Wow, that’s a good question. I don’t know why we did that. I think it’s when we tried to find our unique way that we decided to use women instead of men. Most films are about men and men bring scared, and women are in the supporting roles. We love the idea that you can change it and give some power to the women characters.
SCREAM: Why do you think there aren’t more Biblical films about the end of the world? Usually a comet or a storm will devastate the world in films.
Doron: It’s in the Bible, no? I remember my Bible classes were about very big, wicked prophets and prophecies about the end of the world. If you didn’t behave or do this or that, horrible things will happen to you. The gods will just kill everyone. Everything is in the Bible. Everyone says that it’s the perfect book, because it has romance, comedy and a lot of horror. Me and my brother weren’t religious, but growing up in Jerusalem you have to learn the Bible, so it’s something that you grow in to.
SCREAM: How important was it that you incorporated the idea of madness and sanity in your story? As that’s a whole other layer to the film which was great.
Doron: The Jerusalem syndrome is something widely known over here and everyone talks about it. It’s how people come to the Old City and go crazy, especially religious people. They read stories in the Bible and then go to the holy places and go crazy for a while. You can see a lot of weirdoes in the streets and you can feel the sanity of the place when you’re walking around. It’s the opposite of Tel Aviv which is very relaxed and modern. The Old City is very tense, crowded and everybody is shouting. I’ve seen with my own eyes a guy walking about the streets in a King David costume shouting at people; these are real characters walking around in Jerusalem. When we were making the film we wanted to capture this psychology and people losing their minds. It was very important.
SCREAM: Where did the idea to use the Google Glass technology come from?
Doron: First of all, we had the idea to make a film that was entirely POV. Every time we go to Jerusalem we feel like tourists ourselves. We’re from Tel Aviv which is very different. We always say to each other that Jerusalem would be the perfect place to shoot a film from the POV of a tourist or a backpacker. We were backpackers and we love this world of hostels and getting to know places. We weren’t exactly sure where to go with this POV idea, but when people started to talk about this Google Glass and augmented reality technology, we understood that this was our bingo. As a film-maker you have many channels of audio you can use, but only one layer of video, so by using this extra layer of information is a great tool. Also, we loved the combination of old and new; the film takes place in an ancient place that is 3,000 years old, but we shot in a very modern way. We thought this would be a very interesting thing to do.
SCREAM: JeruZalem is visually very interesting thanks to the Google Glass.
Doron: I think the next stage is VR, because Google Glass is already an old thing. The thing everyone wants to explore and talk about is virtual reality with 360 degrees. Maybe in the sequel, that we are starting to think about, it will be this technique.
SCREAM: That would be amazing. How would you tackle that?
Doron: First of all we are tackling the script for the sequel and everything is open. The next round of Jeruzalem will be to give the audience the real experience of being in Jerusalem. I can’t say more than that.
SCREAM: How was the casting process?
Doron: Israel is a small place and we know a lot of the actors. We knew Yael Grobglas from other projects that she’s done and we always knew that she would be perfect for Rachel. She agreed to do it and it was perfect timing. She’s doing really well in LA in Jane The Virgin and we’re very proud of her. Yon Tumarkin is very famous here as well. We’d done some projects with him before and we love him. He has good English and we knew he’d be great for Kevin. Danielle [Jadelyn] was someone we found in the casting process and we loved her because she’s the mirror image of Rachel. She’s darker in her look and in her character, so we knew she would be perfect for Sarah.
SCREAM: Do you think you’ll stick to making horror films?
Doron: Not just horror films, but genre films. We are working on some new projects that are all around the genre. One is a midlist sci-fi film and we have another script that is a love story with a dark twist.
SCREAM: Can you tell us anything about Plan A?
Doron: Plan A is a historical thriller-drama. The script is done and we love this project. Hopefully next year we will begin shooting it. It’s based on a fascinating true story that not many people have heard about. It’s about Jews taking revenge on the Nazis after World War II.
SCREAM: It sounds very intriguing. I have to admit that I didn’t know the Jews tried to take revenge…
Doron: Yes, it’s so weird. It’s not a secret, but if you ask anybody about Plan A or the Jewish Brigade that found Nazis after the War and killed them, people won’t know about it. People are amazed when you tell them the story. They think they know everything about the Holocaust.
SCREAM: Do you think the story was hidden on purpose?
Doron: Yes, in a way. You want to hear about heroes and bravery, they don’t want people to hear about revenge. Revenge is something that you can’t be proud of.
SCREAM: Final question! What are some of your favourite horror films?
Doron: Ones that are psychological. We’re not big fans of gore porn or the Saw films or The Human Centipede. I’ve seen them all, but they are not our style. We like The Shining and Rosemary’s Baby. Hitchcock is one of our favourites. Although, I do like Drag Me to Hell, because the gore was fun.
SCREAM: Thanks very much for your time and good luck with JeruZalem.
Doron: Thank you!
JeruZalem is out on DVD tomorrow (4th April). Check out the trailer below: