Press conference report: Matt Reeves, director of Cloverfield

Matt Reeves talks Cloverfield: baby monsters, spooked elephants, and uncontrollable viral marketing...

Cloverfield

Yesterday, I went along to the Cloverfield press conference at the Soho Hotel, where director Matt Reeves was going to be answering questions about, well, obviously, Cloverfield. Given that I absolutely adored the movie from start to finish, I was a bit apprehensive (mostly in case I said something incredibly stupid to him). As it turned out, I, er, didn’t say anything at all. What follows is the transcript of the Q&A session.

Matt Reeves, for the record, comes off very very enthusiastic; very keen to talk, very eloquent, and very expressive, putting on voices and waving his hands. He starts stories, backtracks to add more detail, and then returns to the story; he recounts conversations, raising and lowering his voice where appropriate – he’s actually almost as fun to watch in action as the movie. Sadly, some of that expressiveness is inevitably lost in transcription, but you’ll get the gist.

Q: The most obvious question first: was it ever a concern that seeing bits of New York destroyed would still have a very potent effect on your audience?

Matt: Sure. I mean, the thing about it is that the movie was really inspired by Godzilla. It’s a horror movie of its time in the way that Godzilla was a reaction to the anxieties of that time – post-Hiroshima/Nagasaki – a movie very much about the anxiety during the atomic age. We felt that in doing a monster movie for our country and our time that it would definitely be reflective of the anxieties we all feel since 9/11 and so that was definitely something we were aware of from the beginning. Although, at the end of the day, we were aware that what we were making was a fantasy. That was a sort of an entry point for the film, a way in, but ultimately what we made was a monster movie. But I think that all really interesting genre films tend to reflect the anxieties of the time in which they were made – horror films and sci-fi films reflect our deep-seated fears and are often very reflective of the time in which they were made.

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Q: The other thing is that if you do your job too well, it looks like it was shot on camcorder – and yet you’ve got all the usual paraphernalia of film. How do you get it just right so that it’s authentic and yet you get the shots you want?

Matt: What attracted me to the project was the idea of doing a movie that was, in a sense, a traditional monster movie except that it would have this ultra-realistic point of view. I mean, to take something as ridiculous as a 350ft monster attack on New York and try to depict it with a level of realism is sort of strange but that was the fun of it, and that to me was a real challenge. So I looked at a lot of YouTube footage and I looked at some documentaries – there’s a documentary called The War Tapes by Deborah Scranton, where she gave Handicams to a bunch of troops who were going on their tours of Iraq and they took them literally into battle. And then she ended up editing together a film from that. I was interested to see the way that somebody in an absolutely terrifying situation would film and how that would look – there’s so much footage on the Internet that you can find of people going through crises, some of it is 9/11 footage but any time anything happens if people are there with their camera phones or with camcorders then they document it. And it’s from a very interesting point of view because it’s from a place of no knowledge, of just being there and being a witness and not being able to anticipate anything. So I watched that footage as a kind of visual reference.

And then my first thought was, “How much of this movie can we actually shoot on Handicam?” And then I went to the visual effects people and they said, “Well, we’d prefer it if you didn’t shoot on Handicam.” We had fantastic effects people – Double Negative did the visual effects along with the creative effects which were created by Tippett Studios, they did Starship Troopers, we had fantastic people doing these effects, and they suggested that maybe we should do it on Steadicam. And I said, “Well, this movie is very much made for an audience that does this daily. I mean, when people carry their cellphones with them, they have a cameraphone with them 24 hours a day, they know what it looks like when their lives are documented and put up on the Internet because that’s what they do!” So if we’re shooting a movie on Steadicam and put shake on it later, they’re immediately going to say, “this is completely fraudulent!” Even though it was a giant monster movie. And I thought that would be rejected so I said “Let’s find a way to at least shoot the movie handheld.” And that’s what the teaser trailer ended up being, a kind of think-tank workshop to figure out how to shoot in this style with handheld effects and how that would be tracked and how we would do the head of the Statue of Liberty and all the various stuff, and that was how we learned to do it, by doing that teaser trailer.

The stuff we did with very big cameras, we shot on the Thompson Viper which is the camera that David Fincher shot Zodiac on, and we shot on the F23 which is a newer, they call it the Baby Genesis, but it’s a high resolution camera that is very sensitive to light. Miami Vice was shot on these sorts of cameras, I don’t know if they used the F23, but they used these sorts of cameras because they can see deep into the night and they get high resolution for visual effects. They also weigh about 50-60lbs – which a little Handicam, which fits in the palm of your hand, does not. So I said “We have to shoot as much of the remainder of the film as possible with those kinds of cameras because it’s going to be hard to create the illusion of a light camera if we’re using those kinds of cameras throughout.” So we actually shot on two Handicams for the rest of the film. One of them literally was the size of the palm of your hand, it weighed, I’d say, less than a pound, it was by Panasonic, and when I first did tests and transferred it to film, my first thoughts were that – it looks too good. I can’t believe we’re going to shoot a movie on Handicam, people are going to say that, you know, “you probably didn’t shoot this movie on Handicam.” But we did!

And we also shot on a larger Handicam, probably about a foot long, and it weighed about 3-4lbs and it was a Canon, and with that camera I was able to shoot a lot of the footage myself because I am an amateur; I was able to give it to the actors, because they’re amateurs, and that was the fun of it! I remember there was a scene when Mike Vogel, who plays Jason, Rob’s brother, and he’s getting the camera for the first time and talking about how he doesn’t know how to use it. And in the scene I said to Mike, “I want you to film this.” And he said “I don’t know how to use it,” and I said, “well, that’s perfect.” And so he was really fiddling around with it and had no idea how to shoot it and that’s the footage that’s in the movie.

And you know T.J. Miller, who plays Hud, I wanted him to be able to shoot as much as possible because I wanted the actors to be able to relate to him right off camera, because it has a particular feeling, again trying to create authenticity, so I sat off camera at those moments with a little monitor and I would guide the improvisations we would shoot. And usually with a movie you’d shoot a scene between characters from several different angles and you’d be able to edit it together later. But here, because I wanted it to feel real, there’d be no edits, so instead of shooting one hour and doing multiple angles, I’d shoot one hour and we’d shoot 50-60 takes. We’d start shooting rehearsals and basically let stuff evolve over the course of the shooting. So it was achieved in a number of ways. Some of it was that we got our professionals to try to shoot to look as bad as what we were doing. I put our professional camera operators with their 50-60lb cameras in T.J.’s clothing so if ever you saw his feet, that was T.J.’s feet, supposedly, or his hands, and basically it was this giant experiment.

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None of us, including the visual effects people, they hadn’t shot in this particular style before – because usually when you’re doing a visual effects sequence you can break it down into little manageable pieces: there’s the big wide shot, you know that part of the effect, that’s going to be 5-10 seconds, there are all the other types of shots, you can design the whole sequence. But here, I’d say, “well, but Hud wouldn’t cut, so this needs to be a continuous shot.” We worked with a pre-visualisation company called The Third Floor, and we created what essentially on the computer were moving storyboards, and I took those then to the set and say, “Okay, this is what is happening in the ideal world, but we want this to feel real, and so let’s start playing.” And we’d start shooting, and if Michael Stahl-David fell down in a take, I’d say, “that’s the take!” Because it seems more real. He fell down, it seems accidental. So it’s this way of trying to find a way to plan out something that had to feel accidental. And it was done in a number of ways, none of which any of us had done before.

Q: You mentioned Double Negative; could you expand a bit on who they are?

Matt: They’re amazing. Mike Ellis was one of our effects supervisors, and he’s from Double Negative. They did all of our visual effects except the creature effects, and they’re amazing. They did the Bourne movies, they did United 93 – in fact I saw the crash in United 93 and I went to Mike and said “That crash is just burned into my memory, and when we have a similar sequence in our film I want to pull on that for inspiration just because of how amazingly well done it was, it was so convincing.” And they also did the latest Batman films – I guess they’re finishing The Dark Knight now, and they did Batman Begins. But what impressed me so much with them, I think if you see the film there are many scenes you’ll look at and you’ll say, “Okay, well, that was an effect and that was an effect…” and it’ll be obvious because it’ll seem like something you wouldn’t be able to see in reality. But the stuff that blew me away was the stuff that was invisible. There are so many shots in the movie that you would never think are visual effects, and that’s a testament to how good their work is.

Q: What was it about working on the likes of Felicity that suggested you for Cloverfield?

Well, Felicity is really a character piece and it was very intimate and there’s a lot of people in rooms talking to each other, relationship stuff, but the thing that was important to me – you know JJ and I created that show together and I directed a number of episodes, I directed the pilot – was that we were always trying to go for a kind of naturalism. It was this college fantasy but there was a lot of naturalism with the actors and the situations we tried to create. So the idea here was to take something completely outrageous, something that was enormous, but do it from a very intimate point of view, and a very naturalistic point of view. Even though it was a visual effects movie and it had a 350ft tall monster that was going to destroy New York, it was also going to be from the point of view of one of the people who would be running down the street in a Godzilla movie. I mean, in a Godzilla movie, all those screaming people, one of those people would have a Handicam and they’d make this movie. This isn’t about the president who puts in the call to the military and says “We’re going to take this strike and take out the monster”; it’s about people and the experience of it.

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And so because my concern was about naturalism and trying to ground things in reality, that’s why JJ and Bryan Burk, who’s his producing partner, came to me. They said, “Read this, and you’re going to say what?” And I did, I read the outline, there wasn’t even a script at that point, and I said “Well, this is clearly a wall-to-wall visual effects monster movie. Why are you thinking of me?” And they said, “Well, because we want it to feel real.” And then I was like, “Yeah, I got it, that sounds like fun.” And for me it was. What was cool for me was that I’d never done visual effects, but when I started collaborating with Double Negative and Tippett, they’d never done visual effects in this style. So it wasn’t only new for me, but it was new for them, and we all would be on the set together trying to figure out how to realise things in this particular style.

And it was that way for the crew, because the crew is used to shooting a certain way. When we had a focus-puller – you know, somebody walks in and they hit their mark and if that person isn’t sharp, the focus-puller loses their job. But not on this movie. On this movie, I’d say, “You know what, he’s too sharp. You’ve got to shoot the wall and then come back, it’s gotta be out of focus!” And they’d be looking at me, like, but isn’t that going to get me fired? And I’d say, “No, that’s the whole point! It has to feel like it’s on auto-focus, this all has to be messy.” And the same thing with our operators, we had really really expert operators who knew how to get just what you want on camera, and I’d say “Good, but next time, don’t get it on camera. Come in later. You have to hit it a moment later, because anyone on set who’s supposed to be really be there would never know that’s going to happen over there. You know, because you’re an expert camera operator used to catching everything perfectly…” and so it was kind of like this grand experiment for everyone involved. So for that it was very exhilarating and fun.

Q: This must have been the first time that camera operators had to play characters themselves?

Matt: There’s a movie called Lady in the Lake, which is one of the first first-person movies; it’s an old old film, and actually that movie was something we looked at just because I was curious. When Mike Bonvillain, the director of photography, and I were talking about the movie, he said we should look at this movie because it’s the first instance of this particular case. But it’s so different. Obviously they did it with a very very heavy camera and in that case you’re supposed to be the guy, so people are looking at the camera and having conversations… it’s kind of like this noirish movie, it’s sort of stilted in a way, even though it was very innovative for the time. But here there was an actual sort of precedent for what it was, which was that it’s not that the camera is the character but the camera is the Handicam so that part of it was really fresh to think about how to approach.

One of the things [I noticed] when I was looking at YouTube was that you saw so much stuff where people were documenting, like, birthday parties or crazy college parties or stuff that people in their early twenties/late teens would do and then put up on the Internet, but one of the things about these little cameras that I thought was critical to creating the illusion that it was being shot on Handicam was that people would often turn the camera on themselves and document themselves. And that’s really hard to do with a 60lb huge camera. So that was part of the fun of it, saying, “Okay, I need our camera operator to basically be a method camera operator.”

There’s this other movie that I really admire called Children of Men and the way that it’s filmed applied to some degree to what we were going to be doing in that it had these long continuous takes for some of these action sequences. And it created this tremendous sense of dread. What was brilliant was that it was handheld, so it felt very real, but it was also that the camera wasn’t going through the experience, the camera was just taking it in, so it was kind of detached and eerie and kind of Kubrickian, and I was blown away by it. But the thing that I knew would be different in our movie was that the camera was supposedly in the hands of somebody who was right there, going through this, which would mean that he should frame things poorly, and that if the camera tipped down we’d se his feet. All of it was to try to find the way this would be shot if the person holding the camera was going through the experience. So for the camera operators it was a lot of fun. And I would say, “You know, it’s got to be more cock eyed. Throw the camera over more, you’re framing this too perfectly,” and they just embraced that idea. It was very new for them, it’s just an unusual challenge for a camera operator to have to do.

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Q: What inspired the monster design?

Matt: The monster was designed by a man named Neville Page who’s a creature designer. He’s just amazing. I would go into his office and he had these computers and he would sketch on them, and on his wall he had all of these little photographs. They covered the entire wall and from afar you looked at it and you thought, oh, that looks interesting, you’d see little bits of red, and as you got closer you suddenly wanted to turn away because actually what they were, were photographs of intestines, photographs of eyeballs and body parts. I referred to it affectionately as his Wall of Terror. The idea was that the creature would have some kind of evolutionary biological basis. It wouldn’t just be random things coming out of its arm or some weird thing. There are actually things that he designed that are part of the monster that we never got to use. He had these feeding tubes which were just wild – he would come up with these crazy ideas that were just amazing and very creepy. Within the course of the movie, we could only reveal certain aspects of it, so that never got released. That was really fun and what was important to me was, again, thinking about things being based in a kind of reality. In the movie we’ll never know where this creature comes from because we have a limited point of view. We’re going to go through this experience with these people who don’t have the knowledge that someone from another perspective would have – they’re just trying to survive. We need to start describing the things that they are seeing. I can only understand that really from, I would say, an emotional point of view.

So the secret that we had was that the monster was a baby. Having just been born it was going through separation anxiety and had no idea where its mother was and was freaking out and was in a completely foreign place, didn’t understand a thing and that that would be sending it into a kind of infantile rage. Which was very frightening, but the thing that was also frightening to me was the idea that not only was it going through an infantile rage but, because it was suffering from this separation anxiety, it was spooked. It was really afraid. And as the military started shooting at it, I started thinking, like if you were attacked by a swarm of bees for the first time, it wouldn’t necessarily kill you but you’d be terrified, you’d be like, “What are these things doing?!” And for me there’s nothing scarier than thinking of something that big that’s spooked. Like if you’re at the circus and suddenly the elephants are spooked, you don’t want to be anywhere near that, you’ll be crushed. And so that just became a way to again find an approach to giving an emotional or a grounded point of view to something that was completely outrageous. I mean a giant monster is absurd, but you have to find a way to make it real. And part of it was the stuff that Neville was doing, and then the secret that it was a baby. When we were talking about that I said, “Well, can’t we communicate something in the eyes?” So he started showing us like the look that horses have when they have that spooked look, and all of that was to convey that kind of feeling. So those are sort of the sources of it. We also really loved the idea that the creature in contrast to other creatures you might have seen was sort of a pale, white and again because it’s a baby, it’s just been born and it has this ugly translucence to its skin.

A lot of people have compared the movie because of the Handicam style to Blair Witch. And the thing about Blair Witch is that they used that style very smartly to create suspense that will never be paid off because they can’t afford to pay it off. And the fun of this movie was knowing that we would be able to use this style to create suspense but that we were also doing these tremendous visual effects so that it would pay off, that you would get to see all that stuff. At the end of the day in the movie, you get to see everything, you see the monster, you actually have intimate contact with the monster, and you also get to see grand scale destruction, none of which would have been possible if we had no money. Another series of movies that affected that kind of thing was how it was so brilliantly done in Jaws or in Alien where you don’t see the shark right away, you don’t see the creature in Alien right away. And what that ends up doing is that it creates an engagement with the viewer’s imagination.

We had a terrific soundtrack the guys from Skywalker Sound did for us and the idea from the beginning was to try to come up with sounds that would conjure up images, and a kind of anticipation that would go into your subconscious and get into your primal fear and all of that is about withholding. You don’t immediately show people in a concrete way what something is because then it becomes containable, so the idea is to hold off on that kind of stuff so that the viewer’s mind can start to do the work.

Q: How involved were you in the promotional campaign?

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Matt: I directed the trailer and the idea there was, we knew we were going to have a no-name cast and we didn’t have a lot of marketable elements, but what we did have was the element of surprise, and that they were willing to put our trailer on Transformers. We thought, well, it sounded like that was going to be a hit, we didn’t know it was going to be the gigantic hit that it became, but we thought, okay, this will be a great way to sneak under the radar and surprise people. Today when you go to the movies, when you see a trailer it almost always gives you every scene in the movie, and you know everything about the movie once you’ve seen that trailer. And on top of that you’ve probably already heard about it, it gets published in Variety and suddenly it’s all over the Internet so by the time you see the trailer you know everything about it. The script may even have been leaked and reviewed somewhere, and then even if you don’t know any of that – and the chances are you do – you definitely know the cast, you’ve seen their faces before. And so we had this opportunity because we were making the movie in such a short time with unknowns to surprise people.

When we were kids there was a trailer for Close Encounters of the Third Kind which was completely mysterious. It started with this very eerie documentary footage, it was like photographs that looked very grainy, they looked like UFO photographs, you’d see something in the sky, and you hear this very scary narrator just in a really solemn voice saying “Close encounters of the first kind: sightings.” And then you see other footage and it’s like something that looks like dust and maybe some kind of weird footprint or “What the heck is that?” and then “Close encounters of the second kind: evidence.” And you’re like, oh, evidence, okay, this is getting really scary. And then the third one, it’s got some of that John Williams orchestral, like, choral voices building – “Close encounters of the third kind: contact.” And then it cuts to black. And you’re like, “What was that?” And it was very scary and you don’t know who’s in it and you didn’t even know what Close Encounters was up until that trailer and you just had to see it. And that kind of thing you don’t really see today. So we wanted a throwback to the kind of movie that audiences could have a chance to discover. So that was what was really all that was meant to happen.

What we didn’t know was that Transformers would be a monster hit. Not just a hit but a monster hit. You know, we thought what we’d do was we’d put out a teaser trailer and we thought that a month later we’d do something else, that’ll be a secret, and then a month later we’ll do something else, and by the time our little no-name monster movie comes out people will know about it. But that wasn’t exactly what happened. What happened was immediately people were like “What was that? I don’t understand!” Rob Moore, who’s one of the heads of Paramount, when we were saying we’d love to do this thing he said “It’d be great if we didn’t even put a title on it.” So we went to the MPAA, who are the people who rate trailers and determine whether or not it’s suitable for an audience, and we said “We want to talk to you about not putting a title on and what are your regulations regarding that?” And they said “Regulations? No-one’s ever done a teaser trailer or trailer without a title.” They’re advertising. It’s like putting out a commercial without actually what the thing is. But we never guessed that there would be this level of response so early. In fact, we all turned to each other, and we said, “This is building so fast, we better shut up. I don’t think we should say anything for a while because if we do people will be incredibly sick of us by the time the movie comes out.” It was July 4th, we were about a week and a half into shooting, the movie didn’t even exist yet. We knew we were coming out in January in the States, and it was like, if we do too much too soon people are just going to have had enough by the time it gets to January. So we actually laid back. And then some of the viral stuff was coming through, we had people at Bad Robot who had been working on some of the creative side stories that do connect in because they did have the script and they did know all the conversations we had about the sources of things so there is some viral stuff that does connect into us, but a lot of the stuff didn’t have anything to do with us, it was just because people were so interested to make any connection they were making connections to things that didn’t have anything to do with us. So the thing started to take on a life of its own, much bigger than we had anticipated.

Q: Were you happy that it was called Cloverfield?

Matt: Very happy. To be honest, we didn’t think they’d let us call it Cloverfield. The idea of “Cloverfield” is just such a fun thing because the idea of the military coming up with these names for files and for projects that are so deceptive – you know “The Manhattan Project” was the A bomb – and the idea that you would have a project or a file called Cloverfield and it would be referring to a crazy violent monster attack was very funny to us because it’s so incongruous. It’s almost pretty. And so the idea that “Cloverfield” is going to refer to this crazy event seemed very fun to us.

Q: You studied the history of the genre, do you feel Cloverfield takes things in a new direction, away from the Kong tradition?

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Matt: I think that what’s different about the movie is really the point of view. When you see any of these movies, they often have an omniscient point of view and you get to see other things that are going on and that gives you a kind of context for things. What’s really different about this is that it gives you no context. You have to go through the experience with these people and know as little about it as they do. And that creates a very visceral sort of experience, a thrill ride of sorts. And I think that that’s really what’s fresh and different about the movie; it takes that concept to a very rigid extreme. It’s not even a point of view, it’s literally from one camera and that is very unusual. Even Blair Witch, as effectively as they did what they did, they had two cameras. They had some black and white 16mm footage that was intercut with the Handicam, so they broke the purity of their own concept in order to tell the story, which probably worked for them because they didn’t have the visual effects and things that we were able to draw on. But we were really adamant that this camera be the one point of view for the whole movie and that it feel as authentic as a giant monster movie can feel.

Q: Do you think it’ll get copied?

Matt: I don’t know if it’ll get copied per se, but from what I hear there are already some other movies, like, the new Romero movie is apparently also a Handicam movie. The thing about it is that in a certain way when an idea comes along you think, well, it’s so simple, so why aren’t there 400 of them already? And the truth is there are some others but the reason is because it’s very much of the time. We’re in an era where people document their lives so thoroughly and this movie is very much of this time. The reason that it comes out now is because it’s very relevant to the way our society is right now.

Q: What are the challenges of creating a narrative and making us connect with the characters from this very subjective point of view?

Matt: Well, it was a real challenge, and the interesting thing about it is, as we were working out the story and what would be the normal narrative of the story, in the same way that when I was shooting, if suddenly you were seeing something too clearly, it felt convenient, the authenticity went out of the window. You were like, well, the camera wouldn’t be in that spot when that thing happens, it has to find it late. And we kind of needed to do that with the story as well. So we knew that we had this backstory which was basically about getting you to know a series of relationships, and normally, you’d have a scene where you’re introduced to a character, it would happen a certain way, and that would be fine, you’d accept it, because that’s what movies do. But this was meant to be a found document so you needed to be in the dark for a lot of it. So we purposely left out certain scenes and made there be certain jumps in the narrative so the audience had to engage in putting even the puzzle of who these people were together. And the idea of not being able to reveal certain aspects of their lives was as important as revealing other aspects of their lives because otehrwise if you knew everything and it had all been laid out too clearly, it would feel phoney. It was a challenge to know what was important and not important to get in, and it was a lot of experimentation we did. It was a very different kind of problem, because normally you do have the freedom of setting up anything you feel needs to be set up, and here it was about doing that without giving too much away. Sometimes we had to cut stuff out, sometimes it was like, “Oh, that’s too much, you don’t want to know that yet.” It was about obscuring what you’re seeing enough that you begin to engage in it.

What was also different about it was that normally, when you have multiple angles, that creates a kind of emotional connection. When you have somebody relating to somebody and you’re able to cut to the person looking at them you get a connection between the two of them; you get an emotional reaction when you see a point of view shot and then you come back on an actor and you see how it affects them, you see how deeply he or she feels about that moment, it creates a reaction in you, the viewer. But we didn’t even have that option, because the person who was watching all of this, you never saw his face. What that ended up doing, I learned as we were making it, it took it away a slight bit from being an emotional experience that you would have in a conventional movie and turned it into a more visceral experience. It’s much more experiencial than it is even emotional. That wasn’t something that wasn’t clear to me until we got deeper into making it. I knew that it would have some impact, that you never got a reverse shot, were never able to see those reactions of the person watching, but that’s what it ended up being for me, it ends up more visceral and less emotional.

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Q: Did you find the reaction on the Internet to the teaser trailer intimidating at all?

Matt: Sure! I mean, it’s interesting, because that’s why we decided we better to shut up, because the flames were already so high. It was an interesting thing because on the one hand, you’re very excited that this movie with a no-name cast that nobody knew about just a week ago is suddenly getting all this attention, but on the other hand, the attention was all about speculation. And people were coming up with imaginative ideas for what it might be, but obviously there’s no way to please everybody because what they’re doing is, they’re really making their fantasy movies in their head. I came home one night – you know, we made the teaser trailer, and in the teaser trailer we wanted to let people know that it was a creature of some sort. So we put in some references on the roof, somebody saying “What kind of animal sounds like that?” And so I jumped up to the mike to put one last one in, and I said “I saw it, it’s alive, it’s huge!” And I came home one night from filming and someone had done an audio spectral analysis and they were freezing it and playing it forwards and I was hearing a lot of my voice slowed down and the part where I said “it’s alive”, apparently I speak rather quickly and even played slowly I guess it sounded to some people like I was saying “it’s a lion”. So there was all this speculation that we were making a giant lion movie. And I thought, “there’s no way people think we’re making a giant lion movie!” But then I realised that what we were talking about was this thing called Voltron, which is a giant robot lion, and that we very well could have been making a movie about. And for people who wanted to see the Voltron movie, maybe they were going to be disappointed because the movie wasn’t Voltron! So there was something which was really exciting about it, but there was something really frightening, which was people were creating such anticipaiton for all these different movies, and it’s going to be this movie, none of those, and you never know whether or not you’ll be able to compete with people’s imaginations.

But the other thing that I knew was that there had been all this speuclation, because the teaser trailer had this Blair Witch vibe, and had the head of the Statue of Liberty, some people thought, “well, that’ll be it, that’ll be the one moment where you see anything in the movie, they clearly are using this style because they can’t afford to do visual effects and we’re not going to see anything.” And that was the one thing I felt we had in our back pocket, because I knew we were using that style just to create a level of reality and anticipation, and at the end of the day you were going to be able to see everything. So I thought, okay, at least we can surprise them with that, and also maybe surprise them with the idea that this point of view is not just a scene but it’s the whole movie and that that’s the kind of experience that’s created, and just hope that people will be into that. But of course, there was definitely some trepidation.

Thank you, Matt Reeves!