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AICN HORROR: Ambush Bug talks with Scott Schirmer, the director of the disturbingly fantastic indie horror film FOUND! Plus an exclusive clip & a review too!

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What the &#$% is ZOMBIES & SHARKS?

Greetings, all. Ambush Bug here with another AICN HORROR: ZOMBIES & SHARKS column. I had the pleasure of seeing FOUND a while back when it was touring the festival circuit. And when I did, I told you all I would let you know when it was going to be released for all to enjoy. The film is a dark, dark, dark coming of age tale about a young boy who suspects his older brother is a serial killer. I had a chance to talk with director/writer Scott Schirmer, but before we get into that, here’s an exclusive clip to FOUND which will be in select theaters, On Demand and on iTunes on August 15th!

Now on with the interview with Scott Schirmer, the director and screenwriter of FOUND!

AMBUSH BUG (BUG): Congratulations on a gripping film. Please tell my readers what the film is about and where the impetus of the film came from.

SCOTT SCHIRMER (SS): FOUND is about a fifth-grade boy who discovers his older brother is a budding serial killer. It’s based on a book by Todd Rigney, and after I finished reading it I immediately sought Todd out. I connected with the story on such a personal level, I just had to make it into a movie. I never knew the meaning of ‘burning desire’ until I after I read Todd’s book. I love that it combines horror with a coming-of-age story and that it dabbles in some sociology that I find really interesting – bullying and homophobia, and how those things can potentially set young men onto dangerous paths. So Todd’s blessing to turn this amazing book into a movie is one of the greatest gifts anyone has ever given me.

BUG: In many ways, this feels like one of those innocent Amblin style films, though it takes a B-line into pitch black territory by the end. Did you take these Amblin, kids in peril style films into account while making this one?

SS: While shooting, I really tried not to be too influenced by anything, but the fact is, I don’t think I would recognize my childhood if not for the influence of Steven Spielberg. In fact, I remember writing Amblin Entertainment when I was in the 6th grade, asking them for advice on how to get into filmmaking. A woman named Susan Trembly wrote me back both times, and I always valued that they took the time to do that for a kid in Indiana. So, sure – the influence is undeniably there. I’ve shown scenes from E.T. to child actors before, trying to help them ‘be themselves’ and learn that acting is really just being themselves and playing make-believe – because the kids in E.T. are real. They’re not even acting. They’re just being real kids. And I’ve always loved the warm glow that Allen Daviau gave E.T., THE COLOR PURPLE, and EMPIRE OF THE SUN. I remember reading reviews about THE COLOR PURPLE, and some critic said it was shot too beautifully. Screw that – if it’s worth shooting, it’s worth shooting beautifully, regardless of content. There’s a direct homage to the last shot of THE COLOR PURPLE in FOUND... so yeah, I’m an Amblin kid, grown up, with a dark twist, I guess.

BUG: How did you bring together the young and talented cast?

SS: Given our micro-budget and Midwest location, our casting options were extremely limited. But I’m fortunate enough to know Sheila Butler, a ‘stage mom’ who knows a lot about the local acting community in Bloomington, Indiana. She helped us identify a small number of boys and young men for the two leading roles. Given the subject matter, it was very helpful to avoid open auditions and do targeted casting like that. Gavin Brown, who plays Marty, was recommended by Sheila, as were a couple of the other cast members. Between Sheila’s efforts and some open calls on Indiana-based acting websites, we brought the cast together.

BUG: Were there any concerns from the parents of the child actors going into this film?

SS: Oh, sure. We met with all the parents and were very upfront about what was going to happen in the story and what would be seen in the final film. Gavin was a very precocious kid, and after meeting with him and his mom, we knew he had a good head on his shoulders and that he could handle the material. We did end up having to recast two major roles right before production. Ethan Philbeck, who plays the serial killer brother, was a last-minute replacement for another actor whose family – even though he was of age – was not happy about his being in the movie. And the role of Marty’s best friend David also had to be recast when a family member objected to the parents’ decision and talked them out of it. These both happened within two days’ time just a few days prior to filming, so I had a good cry that weekend. But the movie gods shined down on us, brought us Ethan, who is a phenomenal young man I look forward to working with again, and Alex Kogin stepped up to the plate and took the role of David after we’d originally cast him in a much smaller role.

BUG: Is it safe to assume the kids had a blast playing with all of the horrifically bloody effects?

SS: Yes, Gavin loved every minute of being tied up and covered in blood. I’m not sure he liked holding the severed heads, though – they were pretty heavy.

BUG: I was absolutely blown away by the ending. What reactions have you received from the highly controversial way you chose to wrap this film up?

SS: Most people seem to like the ending, but it also alienates a few people. Horror fans tend to appreciate it, because it’s suitably bloody and bleak. People who don’t like the ending tend to say it’s because they don’t like gore and violence. They think it’s too over the top, I guess. But I feel like a movie that opens with the line, “My brother keeps a human head in his closet,” is definitely headed toward something catastrophic. I think we would have let down a bigger number of viewers if the movie didn’t ‘go there’ in the end. The movie has definitely found an audience and I’m extremely grateful that people at festivals around the world have connected with it. And even when we get a negative review, I’m often pleasantly surprised at how thoughtful it is. I mean, for a movie they didn’t like, they tend to talk about it at length. I remember being at the Phoenix Film Festival, and people at the concession stand were arguing about FOUND, and we overheard one of them say, “Well, I hated it. But you know what? It’s the only one I’m still talking about.” That’s great.

BUG: What filmmakers inspired you in developing your own skills as a filmmaker?

SS: Steven Spielberg and George Lucas got me hooked as a kid. But in college I discovered Peter Weir, and I think I’d call him one of my favorite directors. I really admire the way he injects poetry and fantasy into stories that are otherwise very real dramas. FEARLESS and THE MOSQUITO COAST are two of my very favorite films. His use of music is remarkable, the performances that he’s able to foster... his movies just kind of seep into your soul when you watch them. Few people can do that, so that I keep studying his work. I admire Clint Eastwood and John Carpenter. Peter Bogdanovich – my God, THE LAST PICTURE SHOW and PAPER MOON. William Friedkin – KILLER JOE was one of the best movies of late. I like the classic approach all these guys take. I like a well composed frame that means something. I like camera movements that mean something or move the story forward. Today people just point ten cameras at a scene and figure it out in editing, and the camera is moving all the damned time and for no reason at all. It’s an ugly trend.

BUG: What's coming up next for you?

SS: I am currently co-producing HEADLESS, which is a spin-off of FOUND. It’s a really brutal slasher movie that we’re treating like a lost relic of the late ‘70s. Arthur Cullipher, our lead makeup effects artist on FOUND, is directing that. We shoot in October and hope to jump on the festival circuit with it early next year. Then I’m co-producing Leya Taylor’s directorial debut (Leya co-produced FOUND), a claustrophobic thriller we hope to shoot this winter. I’m also developing two more horror films with Todd Rigney, the author of FOUND, a dark romantic horror movie with my longtime friend Heidi Griffin, a monster movie with FOUND co-producer Damien Wesner, and I’m also working on my own original script – a pet project that will be a really fun, buddy horror movie, if there’s such a thing. I am doing my best to stay busy and become a full-time filmmaker. It’s been my dream since I was a little kid, and I just couldn’t imagine life without the pursuit of that dream.

BUG: Last chance, why should audiences take a chance on FOUND?

SS: FOUND was made with a tremendous amount of heart. It was a very personal story for Todd to write, and one I felt deeply connected to. I hope it feels genuine and sincere to anyone who watches it. We willed it into creation with a shoestring budget, all out of my own pocket, and an unpaid cast and crew. So it’s literally a story that just had to be told. We never thought it would play in more than a few festivals, and we certainly never thought it would get picked up for wide distribution like this. I think these achievements may be a testament to how intimate and personal it feels to viewers. There are moments of extreme gore for the gorehound crowd, but it’s anchored in a compelling character and a moving story that will appeal to fans who want more than ghosts or torture porn in a horror movie. It’s my baby, so of course I’m biased – but I think it’s original, and I think young Gavin Brown gives a wonderful performance, and I think it’s one of those movies that might stick with you. I couldn’t hope for more than that.

BUG: Thanks so much for taking the time and best of luck with the film. After the trailer is my review for FOUND.

New in select theaters, On Demand and on iTunes on August 15th!

FOUND (2012)

Directed by Scott Schirmer
Written by Todd Rigney (novel), Scott Schirmer (screenwriter)
Starring Gavin Brown, Ethan Philbeck, Phyllis Munro, Louie Lawless, Alex Kogin, Andy Alphonse, Shane Beasley, Angela Denton, Edward Jackson, Adrian Cox-Thurmond, Dane Irwin
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug

Quiet, seething, and simmering, FOUND is a film that will sneak up on you in the night and strike deep just when you think you’re safe. While the opening moments of this film are dark, it still did not prepare me for the depths FOUND goes and having watched it a few days ago, I am still trying to scratch and claw myself out of the darkness it engulfed me in.

Told from the point of view of a twelve year old boy named Marty (Gavin Brown), FOUND begins with the boy telling us that Steve (Ethan Philbeck), his brother is a serial killer and proceeds to prove it by showing the head in the bowling bag Steve keeps in his closet. From that dank place we begin a long and tragic journey as Marty tries to cope with this revelation about his brother and how it affects every aspect of his life.

Told in a patient and steady pace, FOUND is the type of film fans of flash-bang filmmaking might find somewhat tedious. Personally, I was engrossed the whole way through, but I could see the way the monotone narration from Marty might be difficult for some to get through. Though the narration is monotone, the voice is undeniably honest and coming from a child who has witnessed the terrors he has uncovered, the lack of energy in the delivery reflects the feelings of numbness he is feeling in increasing waves in this film. Clocking in at about an hour forty minutes, FOUND could use a bit of an edit here and there as it does drag a bit in the middle, but writer/director Scott Schirmer takes his time fleshing out the character of Marty and his brother Steve and then dissecting that relationship once Steve’s secret comes to light, making the longer than usual run time a worthwhile endeavor to follow.

Nothing will prepare you for the ending of this film which, though it is telegraphed, I still wasn’t prepared for. FOUND is one of those films that will make you say, “There is no fucking way this film is going to go there.” And then, guess what? It fucking goes there.

FOUND hurt me in the final moments like few films have before. Having gotten to know Marty through the film, you want somehow for him to come out of this unscathed, but Schirmer pulls no punches and never cheats by trying to give some kind of Hollywood ending. The final moments of FOUND will infuriate some, but for me, I admire the courage Schirmer has to go that far into the darkness. FOUND is a treasure—an awful nightmarish treasure, but a treasure nevertheless.

Ambush Bug is Mark L. Miller, original @$$Hole/wordslinger/writer of wrongs/reviewer/interviewer/editor of AICN COMICS for over 13 years & AICN HORROR for 4. Follow Ambush Bug on the Twitters @Mark_L_Miller.

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