Entrevista com Carlo Ledesma, realizador do filme “The Tunnel”

“The Tunnel” is a turning point concerning distribution and financing, having as result one of the best crowd-funding campaigns ever.

Interview by c7nema.net

1. How did the story of The Tunnel come up? Is this true – are there any evil things lurking the underground of this city?

The Tunnel is based on actual existing locations that are found underneath the St James station- a vast system of tunnels which are centered around an unintentional ‘lake’ – an abandoned platform which has collected rain and drain water over the years. For a few years it was a tourist destination until discovery of toxins in the water led officials to seal it off.
When the film’s writers found out about this, their first reaction was “that would make a pretty cool setting for a film” and so they went off and wrote it.
This is the first time I have directed a film working with a co-authored script and it’s been incredibly fulfilling bringing my take to what was written on the page. More than the obvious horror elements, I was drawn to the characters and how real they felt to me. Having worked in TV and documentaries in the past, I felt an immediate kinship to Nat, Pete, Steve and Tangles (the main characters) and my main goal was to not portray them as ‘horror movie victim cutouts’ but as very real people, imperfections included.

2. This movie is made in the Found Footage protocol (The Blair Witch Project / Cloverfield / Paranormal Activity)? How did you decide to make this way?

Our core team (myself and producers/writers Enzo Tedeschi and Julian Harvey) have backgrounds in documentaries so we felt confident that we could craft our story around the ‘found footage’ genre and put our own spin on it.
Our film slots right into the ‘found footage’ genre, but what sets us apart is that we provide the audience with a little bit more insight by showing who actually survives. Much like Touching The Void, the real horror in The Tunnel isn’t lurking around the corner waiting to jump-scare you, but rather lies in the survivors’ reflections over the situation they got themselves into.
I think the main reason we chose to approach the film in this way was budgetary and location constraints. Down there in the tunnels, there isn’t much room for anything else other than a few people and so the idea of bringing in a full scale crew didn’t make sense. We also couldn’t afford to build our own sets (except for the lake sequences, in which we used an indoor pool) so it was really stripping down to an absolute minimum crew.

3. What should we expect from the film?

A horror film that’s also a study in human nature, what makes us flawed as individuals. It’s a film about goals and the extent of which we are willing to go to get it.

4. Was it hard to shoot in the dark, with this kind of atmosphere?

Absolutely. We had no budget for any kind of lights so we moved around with headlamps or small flashlights. Enzo had given the crew these baseball caps with LED lights on the tip and those proved pretty useful.
We decided to shoot with not one, but several cameras to make use of each camera’s unique qualities to fit into a particular section of the story. For example, to approximate the news crew feel we used Steve Davis’ DigiBeta for most of the underground footage. To balance out all the shakiness and to add a sense of cinematic elegance, we shot all the interview scenes using the RED. Throw in GoPros being used as security cameras, a beaten-up HD camcorder as our night vision camera, the Canon 5D and the RED for the cinematic opening sequence, and you’ve got a mixed bag of codecs that would drive any editor mad. Luckily for us, our editors are also the producers so they were very aware of the bed they were making for themselves.
The whole production definitely had the oily rag routine going for it, and I welcomed all of that with open arms. I reckon the whole team wore the grungy DIY mentality like a badge of pride. We all felt like we were paying our dues with this film, earning our stripes to pave the way for better things ahead. We have no intention of wanting to be known as just ‘the fimmakers with the cool funding gimmick’, but also as the guys that churned out a great and entertaining genre film.
How did you guys come up with the idea of financing it though selling film sells and later make it free on torrentz?
It was Enzo and Jules’ idea to do the film via crowdfunding. I think we were all a little impatient and eager to get our first feature film happening and I think we would have done it in whatever way we could but I like this method a lot because not only are giving horror film fans the chance to ‘own’ their own unique part of the film, we are also building an audience base that will hopefully be kind enough to spread the word about us.

5. What do you expect that will happen when the film gets released online? Where do you think it will take you and where will it go?

We hope people will take our film as their own and spread it across the world. To me, the idea of someone in Europe (like Portugal!) downloading our film and then sharing that torrent to his friend and them to theirs and so on and so forth is incredibly exciting. As a first time feature filmmaker, this method is the best chance for getting our work seen by millions and so that’s why we decided to utilise the power of the internet to our advantage rather that try to fight it.
The big reward for us will be if people lile our film they are willing to go out and buy the DVD with all the extra scenes and special features, and become passionate supporters of what we do so much that we will be able to get our next films rolling.

6.Will you guys sell the film if a distributor tries to buy it, before its 2011 Torrent release?

Yes, we will push through with a torrent release even if a sale pushes through. A promise is a promise.

7. Do you think this can make your film a one-trick act? Meaning, that people will only associate it to the torrent release? Do you think this strategy could work second time around, with another film or even become a standart procedure for indie films?

My main goal as the film’s director is to make sure The Tunnel isn’t just known as “the film with the cool marketing gimmick.” I want people to appreciate the film on its own merits. At the end of the day we still need to deliver a story, because no matter what medium you are showing your work in, it is always story first.
We all understand that what we are doing is an experiment. It could work or it could fail. But because we are trying no matter what the outcome, I think we are getting a lot of people watching us intently, waiting to see the result. For me I think there is no singular right or wrong way to get a film made. We are merely providing yet another option that will hopefully inspire other filmmakers to get their own films off the crowd.

8. What do you think of the most recent horror movies? The remake trend? The Found Footage genre?

I’m not a big fan of remakes, although I must say I enjoyed Let Me In a lot. Found footage is great because it presents a cheap way for horror filmmakers to make their movies but as is the case with any genre that’s been emulated so many times, it is a genre that is quickly growing old. Hopefully with The Tunnel we can inject a burst of life into it.
Do you think that internet saved or destroyed the film industry? Is this torrent release the only way out of a complicated film market or is this a great new chance that come up with the internet?
More than ever, we are all connected via the internet. It would be incredibly foolish to not harness this tool as a means to get your films seen. People should stop associating the internet with ‘piracy’ and start thinking of ways to make it work for them.

9. Do you have a new film in mind, after this one?

Yes I do and it’s totally different from The Tunnel. It won’t be ‘found footage.’

10. What’s your dream project?

To make a big-budget action movie in The Philippines (where I am from).

11.Any word of advise to young filmmakers?

Throw away any sense of self-entitlement that you have. If you think you’re good and deserve to make movies, go out and prove it.