Saturday, October 22, 2011

Exclusive Interview: Director Tom Provost Talks About His New Film THE PRESENCE, Mira Sorvino And More

Writer/director Tom Provost took some time out to talk about his new film THE PRESENCE, a really cool and unique ghost story with a great cast that includes Mira Sorvino, Shane West, Justin Kirk, and Tony Curran. 

To me, The Presence gives you that classic ghost story feel set in present day and even tells some of the story from the ghost's perspective. The movie also has that "good versus evil" twist  inserted into the film that the viewer should enjoy and appreciate. Check out my latest Versus with Tom Provost as he talks about The Presence, the lovely Mira Sorvino, ghosts, and what's up next for him. 

The Presence is now available on DVD and VOD, be sure to check it out if you like ghost stories, this is a good one!

Alien Bee- First off tell our readers a little about The Presence and when fans can pick it up on DVD?
Tom Provost- The Presence is a creepy, darkly romantic ghost story told in part from the perspective of the ghost, which is one of the twists we wanted to give the genre. It's not a horror movie but is instead, for lack of a better term, a modern day gothic romance. We've had a hard time begging it, frankly. When people watch it, what I hear more than anything is, 'That's one of the most original movies I've ever seen." So it can be hard to describe, or thrust into a specific genre. 
It's out on DVD now! Try Amazon, Wal-Mart, Best Buy, Barnes and Noble... it's out there!
Alien Bee- It's also on VOD, correct?
Tom Provost- Yes, you should easily be able to find it on VOD. Also it is on Netflix and iTunes. The DVD has all the extras, which I think are quite good, but VOD and iTunes are great ways to see it. Let me sound like a director, though, and say watch it on as wide a screen as possible! We shot it ultra wide screen and it is a pretty beautiful movie.

Alien Bee- The film stars Mira Sorvino who in my mind is one of the most unappreciated actresses in Hollywood. How was she to work with?

Tom Provost- Mira's great... and she's wonderful in the movie. She's extremely smart. An honors grad from Harvard, she speaks Mandarin Chinese and even wrote her thesis in Mandarin. Suffice to say, you can't get much past her, which I love. I love to challenge people with whom I work, and I love the same challenge back. We had a lot of fun wrestling with her character, for instance, digging deep, which I really enjoyed. She's also spot on with her performance on the first take, which, when doing a movie on such a tight schedule, is a wonderful blessing to have. 
She's also a family person, which I appreciate. She is married with children and it was important to her to have her family with her and to have time to be with her children, so we made sure our schedule afforded her that opportunity. You don't always see that in Hollywood.

Alien Bee- Where did you film this?

Tom Provost- We shot in Oregon, about an hour from Portland, in a national forest at the base of Mount Hood. It took us over two years to find the perfect location, because we needed a place that was on a lake (or looked like it), that had no running water or electricity (or looked like it) and was, well, creepy! We eventually found it through a contact in the Forest Service. He directed us to the cabin which is a Ranger's Station, built in the 30's as a WPA project, near Lake Timothy. You can even rent it out in the summers:
It was a wonderful place to film, though towards the end of the shoot bitterly cold. The cabin is 20 miles from civilization and, even then, civilization is a tiny ski village called Government Camp that doesn't even have a traffic light. It is a beautiful place to stay, though, I'd go back to Government Camp anytime. I also stayed in this cabin 4 times before we shot the movie, to get to know the space and plan out my shots. It's a terrific place to go on vacation... if you want to really 'get away.'

Alien Bee- There's a scene where Sorvino has to crawl under the cabin she's staying in. Crawl space always gets creepy anyway. How did she handle that? There's always snakes and spiders to worry about in these cases. 

Tom Provost- The cabin has a real crawl space. But for that scene, because we needed actors and cameras and crew in the space to shoot, we built our own crawl space because the one under the cabin was really small. The space we built was still extremely tight, however! And, given it was the last scene we shot and the fact it was about 28 degrees that day, it was the most difficult scene we had to shoot.
Justin Kirk actually was the one who had to crawl into the real space under the house. When you see him go under in the movie, he is really crawling under there. And, yes, it was spidery and creepy and dark. I'd never ask an actor to do anything I would not do so I crawled into the space first that morning before I asked him to do so. Creepy. Then he had to do it three times!

Alien Bee- Besides directing this cool ghost story you also wrote it. How hard is it to come up with original stories these days being it seems everything under the sun has already been made, to the point of all these remakes getting made.

Tom Provost- I think at some point you have to accept that, in a lot of general ways, everything indeed has been done under the sun, so you try to find something and give it a little bit of a twist, as we did here, or you take something and simply do it to the best of your ability. There is a movie out this fall called WARRIOR that I think is a terrific example. The story is basically Rocky, with a slight twist: two brothers going for the title rather than one guy. In a general sense, it is a story we have been told over and over again. Yet what a wonderful movie! Incredibly directed, wonderful acting, great script. They took something old and made it new and fresh.

Alien Bee- Do you have any weird stories or experiences you can share?

Tom Provost- Well, I don't want to sound like some Hollywood kook. But for years I do think there was a ghost in my house. When I was downstairs, I would hear someone walking upstairs and when I was upstairs, doors would slam downstairs. This would happen once a week or so. Four different people heard this happen, over and over again. And no one knew the others were hearing it, which to me confirms it was real. We also had things disappear and then reappear... eye glasses, tv remote, that kind of thing. Sometimes for a week or two then they would be right back where they were supposed to be.
I never sensed anything wrong, though, I was never scared and I came to believe the ghost had no idea any of us were there. It's interesting, when I did a lot of reading on 'real life ghost stories' when writing The Presence, I read over and over that most people who think they have a ghost in the house  come to believe the same thing, that the ghost does not know the 'people' are there. It stopped after about 6 years. Maybe he moved on.
 Ok, I guess I do sound like a Hollywood kook.

Alien Bee- Do you think Hollywood is pretty much afraid to take any chances. They rarely do right now.

Tom Provost- Often times, yes, and it is easy to bash Hollywood for it. But if I was running a studio and was going to spend 200 million dollars ... 200 million dollars! ....  on something, I'd be a little adverse to take a risk. Ironically, the risky movies often payoff better. But people are understandably scared to take a risk. It's the movie business, people are in it to make money and so I understand the aversion to risk. Which is why indie films often are the bigger risk takers. Take our movie. We made a movie with no dialogue for 25 minutes, told from the POV of the ghost, and by today's standard, moves slowly, at least at first. But we made the movie on our own with no studio interference so we had the ability to make it the way we wanted, and to take some risks.

Alien Bee- What's up next for you?

Tom Provost- Two projects currently. One is my dream project, Mr. Clark. It is very different from The Presence. I don't want to say too much as we are about to start sending it to actors. The logline is 'A dark and surprising twist on 'It's A Wonderful Life.' It's an emotional drama structured, in part, like a detective story, that takes place in a small industrial town. The look of the movie will be based on Edward Hopper paintings. It takes place in the winter so we are limited on when we can shoot, we need snow for the movie. The plan is for Winter 2012.
I am also working with some filmmakers, Robby Morgan and Eric DeWolf, on a project called Hypnophobia. It's a very cool thriller that I think the audience will really enjoy. Robby has written a terrific screenplay that is a little mind-blowing in some ways. They are raising the money right now and we will shoot it next fall:

Alien Bee- Would you like to say anything to all of the horror fans checking this out?

Tom Provost- Don't expect traditional horror! No blood and guts, nothing jumps out at you. This is a slow build ghost story that asks the audience to participate. Some things are not explained, so that the audience can figure them out on its own, and I purposely shot a lot wide screen so the audience has to look around on their own to find what is important. The people who sit back and let the movie work passionately love it. So give us a chance, we worked to do something original and it seems to have paid off. 

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