If you’ve been reading this website since around 2009, then you know that I’ve been championing a nifty horror flick called “Subconscious” for quite some time. I think it’s nothing short of brilliant, and I’m always quick to recommend it to those who feeling the found footage subgenre has worn out its welcome.
Director Christos Petropoulos was kind enough to devote some of his extremely valuable free time to answering my barrage of questions. Not only is the guy a talented filmmaker, he’s also incredibly kind and humble to boot. Check it out!
Tell me a little bit about your movie. What inspired ‘Subconscious’?
“Subconscious” as an idea may have originated from a variety of influences, including my degree in Psychology, my love for twisty thrillers and interest in the found footage genre, with the “Blair Witch Project” being perhaps the most memorable entry.
The premise kind of developed along with the filming process which may sound a little unorthodox as a method. Initially the house scenes were filmed in Patra Greece before the script was complete. They were done as a filming experiment, to see whether we could produce some found footage material that would look convincingly real and natural as opposed to numerous existing ones that fell too “movie-like” and “scripted.”
I tried to imagine what it would look and feel like if it had all happened and there was actual footage to be found. I asked myself whether the viewers would know it all or whether they would have to deduce much of what has happened. Would every scene make total sense?
Some of the existing films of the genre try to follow some basic conventional script rules which by definition have a toll on the realistic feel an actual recorded event would have. Our test material later on inspired the final details regarding the story and final twist. It is a fact that while the two actors where playing and improvising their roles they didn’t know all the details regarding the premise.
The strength of the movie hinges on your cast. Where did you find your actors?
Both actors were people I knew very well before we decided to do a found footage film. It all started in a coffee shop in Patra sometime around fall 2009. The three of us discussed the possibility of writing and filming a found footage film that would be ambitiously different. The basic element would be a thought provoking story with psychological implications.
Where did you film ‘Subconscious’? How long was the shoot?
“Subconscious” was filmed in two countries. The first scenes were done in Patra Greece (house, train station, church and cemetery scenes). The mist scenes were done in Akrata which is around 60 kilometers from Patra and the forest/shrine scenes were done in Serbia, near a town called Krusevac which is also hometown of our actress Danijela Radovanovic. The shrine is an actual site in the forests of Krusevac, an old site of secret Christian orthodox worship. One can also see the Rio-Antirio bridge in some of the footage, which is one of the biggest suspended bridges in the world. The shoot lasted around six months.
What was the biggest challenge in making the film?
Of course that would be a lack of time and budget. All three of us had to cope with daytime jobs and other responsibilities. As far as the budget is concerned, the film actually didn’t cost more than a couple thousand euros so we had to map out our every move in thorough detail. Another challenge was the fact that the actors had to handle the camera during most of the scenes, a practice that bears its own problems and risks.
Your movie is much more effective than most ‘found footage’ movies I’ve seen. What did you want to do differently with the subgenre?
Although I haven’t watched every found footage film out there, I have noticed that at least with the ones I have seen there are serious limitations, defined by the inherent qualities of this specific filming style. Also some seem to lack high concept premises. With “Subconscious” I wanted two qualities that are normally found in conventionally shot movies: a final twist and a non-linear story line. I believe I have achieved both in a way. About the non linear story line, some viewers have trouble understanding how and why the ending is placed early enough in the film, but “keen viewers paying attention will be rewarded,” as a good friend once said (the secret to understanding the final scene placement in the film lies on understanding what a rewind button can do to a tape, and accidentally recording over recorded footage).
Furthermore, “Subconscious” is also an effort toward achieving a certain degree of realism for what it is trying to be, as if it really was an actual event on tape. The Blair-Witch project had this feel and part of its success lies on this quality. Subconscious, the way I see it, is like the Blair Witch Project with an actual thought provoking story.
Were you happy with the way the movie turned out?
Not entirely, although some of my objectives had been achieved. There were some serious issues to be addressed, so I decided to work on a better version.
What made you decide to put together a director’s cut?
The director’s cut is closer to what I had in mind. Furthermore, some distributors who had initially been interested in the film complained about certain elements so it was mandatory that we work on a better version.
What sort of changes did you make?
The director’s cut has a more extensive soundtrack. Kudos to the local psychedelic rock band Last Sparkle of Joy who provided us with some really cool tracks. The driving scenes turned out to be a good platform for some music appropriate to the psychedelic nature of the film. The final track remains the one we had from the old Patra based band Agnooumenoi.
Furthermore, there are some additional scenes about an extra day in the story. Here Fanis loses track of the girl and wanders through an old graveyard while looking for her. There he encounters the wandering ghost of a young girl who seems to be blocking his way toward her by causing a storm. The lightning sequence is real. It’s an actual storm which occurred in Patra in August 2012. We barely had time to collect our equipment and rush to the site before the storm was over. Moreover, the director’s cut features some really good visual effects which were rendered over some existing scenes of the first version.
Special thanks to “Periseye” for that. He is a local film maker and camera operator and has been doing some awesome work with 3d video effects. His work is impressive in that the original footage was not shot to be compatible with additional 3d effect requirements and “Periseye” had to work around the “flaws.” We were very lucky to have him on board for the director’s cut version.
Where can fans pick up a copy of “Subconscious”?
At the moment anyone interested in the film can download it for free or stream it if they wish from my personal account on Vimeo. It is available in full HD quality. Rebekah Louisa Smith from the Film Festival Doctor is my agent.
What other project are you currently working on?
I’m working on a short called “A Heavenly Bicycle” which will be released before summer. It is a prequel to a feature film I have been working on the past two years, called “Heavenly Bicycles.”
If you haven’t checked out “Subconscious,” you’re seriously missing out. While I was a fan of the original cut of the film, I must admit that Petropoulos has made the feature much stronger with the director’s cut. It’s something found footage fanatics should definitely spend some time with. Check out my review of the updated version of “Subsconious” by clicking right around here. Otherwise, take a peek at the entire movie on Vimeo.
Many thanks to Christos for his time.