Jemaine Clement Interview – What We Do In the Shadows
By Jessica Dwyer
What We Do In the Shadows was one of my favorite movies last year. You can read my review of the film here.
The film was just released here in the US on Blu Ray this week and you need to get it NOW. It’s packed with extras as well as the original short film the full length feature is based on.
I was given the opportunity to interview actor/writer/director Jemaine Clement about the film which I think is probably one of the best vampire movies of the last few years. Enjoy!
FG: The film, while being a comedy, was actually more of an homage and true vampire film than many in the last few years. Can you talk about finding the balance for that and what led to you wanting to do a vampire film?
JC: I felt the film, while being a comedy, was an homage and true vampire film more than than many in the last few years.
It spends more time with the vampires because it follows them rather than the vampire hunters or the victims. Part of the idea of the film was imagining what life would be like for vampires when they aren’t being cool and brooding. Dealing with the logistics of their lives, so we really tried to pay attention to all of the rules surrounding vampires.
They have so many rules.
FG: How did you choose what sort of vampire characters were represented in the movie and did you always plan on being the “Vlad the Impaler” inspired one?
JC: In the short we made in 2005 of the same idea I was trying to be like Antonio Banderas in Interview with a Vampire. Looking at that footage now, I can see that I really failed.
FG: How much of the film was improvised and what improvisation, if any, do we see in the final product?
JC: Taika and I wrote a script which we wouldn’t show the actors. We wanted it to have a documentary feel which usually isn’t as smooth as something scripted. As Taika told the crew what they were shooting I would tell the actors what would happen in the scene. So, the story is scripted but all of the dialogue is improvised.
FG: While the film shows us a lot of the history of the characters, did you and Taika write back stories for each of them apart from the script and if so, is there a chance of ever seeing something published of them? (I personally would love a book of their histories because they were all so great.)
JC: A lot of the histories of each character came from improv too, we made and found artwork to match the things each one said. Deacon has different versions of his history where he was a Manure salesman, a grass cutter (with scissors) and a cardboard box repairman. None of which were used.
FG: The special effects in the film are well done and in some cases subtle (like the werewolf eyes reflecting the light) was it a challenge for you to work with these effects?
JC: It was fun. We had a limited budget so we could only use effects sparingly but because we live in the same city as Weta Digita there are a lot of people around here who are great at FX at the moment.
FG: Much of the film takes place in the roommates’ house…was this a set or an actual filming location? Also what were the challenges of filming “documentary style” when making a film like this?
JC: The outside is a real house, the inside a set made to look like it was the same era. It may not be realistic to have a camera person there to conveniently get the shot you want so you have to think whether what you want to show would have been seen by the camera.
FG: I was surprised by how moving the film was and how much heart was in it, especially with the subplot involving Viago. Did you realize how effecting that was while writing it?
JC: Even in a comedy you want the audience to care about the characters, so yes. I think this might have even been the first plot line we thought of.
FG: I loved the costumes in this film…did you keep any of yours?
JC: I didn’t. You think it would be okay to wear them in real life even with glasses?
FG: Lastly, I would love to see these characters again but part of me is hesitant to wish for a sequel. What are the chances of a sequel to the film happening since it was such a success?
JC: We have just pitched for a series for the two cops in NZ. We are also mulling over an idea for a sequel following the werewolves. It’s the same for us too though, it would be fun doing something more with the characters but we also don’t want the great experience with the first one ruined somehow. Personally as an audience member I don’t think that even the worst sequels ruin the original movies though.