Fantastic Fest 2013 Interview: Clif Prowse and Derek Lee on Afflicted

Afflicted (dir. Clif Prowse, Derek Lee)

Afflicted (dir. Clif Prowse, Derek Lee)

Editor’s Notes: The following interview is part of our coverage of Fantastic Fest 2013. For more information on the festival visit and follow Fantastic Fest on Twitter at @fantasticfest.

On a rainy afternoon in Austin, TX a trio of BC boys got together to talk about Afflicted. I’m from Victoria, BC. Clif Prowse and Derek Lee are from Vancouver, BC (A boat ride away from me). For those unaware, Afflicted is a documentary/found footage/POV style film about a pair of best friends who set out to travel the world and document the entire trip via digital videos on their blog. Going into the trip Derek (Derek Lee) is diagnosed with a potentially dangerous brain condition, basically a sensitive ticking bomb waiting to happen under the wrong circumstances. Without fear and with the support of Clif (Clif Prowse), the two travel to Europe. The film starts out with a lot of fun, like young guys backpacking through Europe. An incident occurs and Derek comes down with a mysterious illness that brings about some intriguing changes. We will save some for our review to be posted soon!

Next Projection: This film has been receiving well-deserved praise ever since the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF). How did it feel once you got accepted into prestigious film festivals like TIFF and Fantastic Fest?

Clif: It’s a pretty surreal experience. It’s a very small movie that was made with a lot of times like, 7 to 10 people all running around Europe with a DSLR. We thought you know, maybe if we’re lucky we can get a bunch of people on the Internet to see this thing eventually. All of a sudden the movie is going to be distributed across the US, and distributed across the world. To be here at Fantastic Fest? You know, yesterday we got to meet one of our all-time heroes, Robert Rodriguez. That was insane. We never thought we would ever be in this position, it’s incredible.

Derek: It’s surreal and incredibly awesome.

NP: How did the premise for Afflicted come to fruition?

Derek: We have been making short films for about 10 years and knew we wanted to get into feature filmmaking. We wrote a script that was way too big, huge sprawling action thing. We had to go back to the drawing board to make a more manageable film. We were throwing ideas around one spring, and Clif just threw this thing out. “Let’s do this found footage like creature travel diary thing.” And I was like, that’s awesome let’s try to make that work. And it was a great opportunity to do surreal action horror genre stuff but through the lens of that found footage style. It gives it that level of reality that you’re like, wow I just saw him punch through a wall and its incredible, it’s fun.

NP: Typical found footage movies put the camera with the victim *both laugh*, this time you have the creature with the camera. That was a lot of fun.

Clif: That was something we were very conscious of in the very beginning, “What would it feel like to have the creature holding the camera?” The camera is strapped on, as the movie is created and that’s why we developed the strapped on device you see in the beginning of the movie.

Derek: We wanted to let the audience connect with the characters in the beginning to see who they actually were. Which means by the end as things go really haywire and you are moving with the creature in the first person you get to feel that superspeed, super strength. What does violence on this level feel like from this perspective?

NP: How did you find the balance between found footage and documentary?

Derek: We were always intending on trying to create an edited piece. It was never meant to be found in the traditional sense of like, someone finding it on the ground. We’ve always felt there was a sense that somebody was behind the scenes manipulating the footage, editing it together. Especially the beginning where Clif the filmmaker character is clearly putting together an MTV style travel show. As the story evolves, as things get scarier and more eventful, more horrible for the characters, the glitz the music all that sort of falls away and becomes this very horrible, just barely strung together story, I have to tell the story! I have to say goodbye! I have to get this last message out! We were always using that as our guiding light.

NP: A two part question: 1. Which countries did you shoot the film? 2. What kind of obstacles did you have to overcome?

Clif: We shot in Canada, Vancouver for part of it. We shot in Paris, France. We shot in Barcelona and we shot in Italy. Maybe I’ll start with Italy.

Derek: *laughs* There were challenges everywhere!

Clif: The great thing about Italy *pause* the majority of the film and the set pieces are shot in Italy. The great advantage there was that we were going to a spectacular, beautiful location. We had a very small crew so we could be mobile and get to places we normally couldn’t get to. The disadvantage was this was a Mediterranean Town accessible only by train and then a 400 step staircase up and down to get to set. We had to carry the gear up and down. You couldn’t drive a truck or car or anything like that. Everything had to be on your back. The same thing for when we were going up and filming in the vineyards, we were hauling the gear up there on our backs. The people there weren’t used to filmmakers. They were very enthusiastic, super welcoming. They just did everything they could to help us. We asked them to be in the movie, to use their restaurants to shoot at. You name it. The story we’ve been telling with that ambulance sequence, how much would it cost to shut down a city street get an ambulance, get a paramedic and everything for a day in North America? I have no idea. Definitely beyond our means. They did all of that for us for €200 with a huge grin on their face. This is awesome! The city literally cordoned off that street for us.

afflicted-2-1Derek: To contrast for instance, Italy didn’t mind us being there because we weren’t shooting in Rome, we were shooting these little rural towns. But Paris by contrast, like there are some action sequences definitely minded us being there. And we had to shoot a lot more guerrilla and we did have a few run-ins with people that didn’t want us to be where we were. It was so bad to the point where even our preaching production people were like, “Yeah we don’t know why you’re shooting here. It’s very difficult.” And they did that as an indie. If your production is coming from Paramount then great, you’re set. But as an indie it’s like they looked at us like, “Why are you shooting here?” Because it’s Paris! Look at it, it’s Paris! As a low-budget indie if you can’t afford to build the most spectacular sets why not go to Europe where the sets are taken care of? You could point the camera at any direction and you’re looking at a foreign Euro building it’s amazing.

NP: Can you talk about the importance of friendship both in the context of the film and the production of the film?

Derek: The production friendship was where it started. Clif and I and our producers Chris and Zach and growing from the crew, these 7 to 15 people running around Europe together for months at a time dragging luggage from train to train desperately trying to make the next town to stay on shooting schedule. If our crew hadn’t been as dedicated and talented and smart there is no way we would have ever gotten this done. So friendship was the cornerstone behind the production side of it and very fittingly it was the cornerstone behind the film. The film is about the curse but it’s also about two friends going through this thing together and how will they react and Clif’s dedication to Derek and Derek wrestling with the issues of this illness and what that’s going to cost people around him.

Clif: The story of our friendship that’s in the movie at the beginning that our actual story. We’ve known each other since we were 13. We’ve been making movies together since we were 16. That handy cam movie is our homage to Robert Rodriguez who we got to meet yesterday. I think the movie at its core is about friendship.

NP: Some may wonder, why does Clif stay? The framework built such a strong friendship that it feels plausible.

Derek: Every so often we’ll get somebody asking, “Why does Clif stay?” We feel like we spent a lot of time at the beginning of the movie when you meet these two characters… As Derek starts to get worse and worse Clif is there. We felt it was our duty to make sure we establish just how good a friend Clif was so by the end you understand why he’s there. Every so often you will get somebody going, “I don’t believe that Clif would stay.” And I’m like, none of my friends! I wouldn’t leave! I’m sorry, I wouldn’t! We do get why people wouldn’t understand but at the same time we hope that people will allow that this is friendship, this is love, this is something you can believe.

NP: In closing, what’s next for you and your team?

Clif: We’re working on a couple of scripts right now. One of the things we would like to do…we really admire filmmakers who can do very different things across different genres. Like Danny Boyle or something like that. This movie had to be shot in a very specific documentary style. We’re looking very forward to doing something completely different. Something much more cinematic and challenging visually but still genre film. We’re working on a Bourne-style international thriller that we originally wrote that we decided was way too big to make. We’re working on that one as well as a sci-fi.

NP: Thank you very much for your time gentlemen, enjoy the rest of Fantastic Fest.

Clif and Derek: Thank you!


About Author

I'm from Victoria BC and love watching films from all corners of the world. I'm fascinated by interpreting films and connecting with other film lovers. I love sharp, clever dialogue (QT), beautifully shot films (The Thin Red Line) and a filmmaker who trusts the audience to put it all together and leave room for discussion (PTA).