At first glance, The Bay is not the type of film one would normally expect from director Barry Levinson. A found footage horror film doesn’t sound as if it belongs in the same wheelhouse as such comedies as Diner and Good Morning Vietnam or political satires like Wag The Dog and Man Of The Year. But once you dig into the film, you’ll find some of the interesting things that intrigued Levinson lurking underneath the surface of an incredible effective ecological disaster/horror film.
This weekend we had the opportunity to sit down with Levinson backstage at the New York Comic Con to talk about the film, how he came to make it and how it will affect how he makes films in the future. Here are four things we learned in the discussion.
Levinson initially did not set out to make a horror film, but a documentary.
I wouldn’t know how to approach doing a frightening, scary movie. I was approached about doing a documentary on the Chesapeake Bay because it is 40% dead and has all those ecological issues. I gathered all this information and thought ‘Wow, this is really frightening’ and I thought ‘I don’t know if a documentary is the way to go.’ But I began to think about it and said ‘Well, look, I do tell stories, why don’t I take all the information and weave into the story so it would become more credible?’ And that information that floats out there seems credible and frightening. So it began to evolve that way.
And even when he decided to make the film a narrative story, it wasn’t intentionally a found-footage film.
When we talk about the movie, I guess it falls into the found footage genre. It never occurred to me, this found footage genre. I was thinking if a catastrophic event happened to a town and there was no media, how would we know what happened? And because of all this, we’ll now get an intimate look at a town and its people that we never would have had in the history of mankind. All of this stuff gives an intimacy that never existed before.
Levinson insisted on shooting the film digitally with standard, off-the-shelf consumer grade cameras to create a verisimilitude that couldn’t be created with a professional digital camera.
I think it was the best thing to do… We did the tests by taking a high end camera and degrading it and I looked at it and it still to me looked like a high end camera that’s degraded. To my eye it didn’t look real. And so, we took about a hundred and some cameras and we just kept testing them and projecting them and seeing what they do and out of that we picked about twenty-sum that seemed, ‘All right, we’ll use this, we’ll use the Sony for the underwater thing for the kids and they can go under and whatever, we’ll use this, we’ll use the iPhone, and we just picked and choose so we had this visual palette. And that to me became as real as you can make it, because it is real.
Based on his experience shooting digitally, Levinson doesn’t see himself going to producing movies on film.
I don’t see the value of shooting on film, personally. I know there are some directors who see value in shooting film, but I don’t see it. You can shoot some very, very classical stuff digital and you can tweak it as you want.
Look, we are on the edge of the biggest change in the history of film since its inception. What’s happening now, between the kind of collision of everything with the internet and all of those things, begins to redefine the whole nature of film. Everything is going to be totally redefined. What was, was. Where we’re going is a whole new place. So coming here and seeing a convergence of everything that is beginning to explode is really fascinating. Can I talk about movies in the past and how much I love them? Yeah. But that’s in the past. Where we’re going to go, that’s the excitement.
The Bay opens November 7.