In an exclusive column for the MTV Movies Blog, filmmaker Chris Gorak takes us into the process and inspiration behind his debut directing effort "Right at Your Door." The intimate thriller looks at a world after four dirty bombs have exploded in Los Angeles (click here to watch an exclusive clip from the film).
I had always envisioned the toxic ash cloud in "Right at Your Door" as the shark fin in "Jaws," circling our two characters who are essentially, marooned at sea. Once the shark is in the water you don’t want to go swimming. Once our characters retreat to the safety of their home, they are trapped in a claustrophobic world of paranoia.
Working in one location was a challenge. Our house was our Orca. We chose to use two cameras every take. And every take, we moved the cameras and changed the lenses, giving us maximum angles and coverage. This approach, I feel, creates a freshness to the one environment.
David Fincher’s "Panic Room" also is essentially a story told in one set. As an audience member you experience the story from every perspective available. It brilliantly takes you everywhere, through walls, under doorways and into air ducts. It was a film that was able to afford a fantastic set on a sound stage. Unfortunately, we did not have that luxury but we still wanted to capture just as much paranoia and anxiety. Using a practical location and not a stage set, we had multiple technical hurdles to overcome. The biggest problem, quite simply, was that with our actors on either side of a sealed door or a real-world plaster wall, at times, they literally could not hear each other. They were missing cues and losing their place in the scene.
This proved to be frustrating for them and became a tedious negotiation at times. In the final cut there is a moment when Mary McCormack’s character says, “What?!!” in the most salty and biting way. Mary was literally extremely frustrated as an actor at the time; she was actually reacting to not being able to hear Rory’s performance on the other side of the door. But, the line works perfectly for the story. So, we kept it in. I don’t recommend torturing your actors but, sometimes, if you survive the moment, it can prove to be extremely beneficial to the story.
I also looked at Danny Boyle’s "28 Days Later" and Paul Greengrass’ "Bloody Sunday" before shooting "Right at Your Door." Both these films have an incredibly fresh approach to visually telling a story. I found the camera work and the editing styles in both films inspiring. They both have a gritty, visceral, real-time feel that we set out to capture in "Right at Your Door." I loved in both films how, as an audience member, I feel I am chasing the story, chasing the camera and rocked back on my heels by the editing style. I feel Danny Boyle and Paul Greengrass are two of the more exciting directors working today.
Sound design also plays a major part in creating the paranoid atmosphere of "Right at Your Door." Beyond the sound effects and the news reports on the radio, composers, Tomandandy ("The Mothman Prophecies," "The Hills Have Eyes") create an incredible music soundtrack. The music creates a heartbeat for the film. It is an essential one of the main building blocks to the foundation of the story. Get the soundtrack and have a listen!