Carrie P.O.V.: An Interview with Josh Trank

The director of Chronicle and Venom on how much footage is in the new director's cut and who the hell is supposedly cut all that footage together.

William Bibbianiby William Bibbiani

Director Josh Trank didn't come from out of nowhere… it just seems like it. The 27-year old director of Chronicle had previously directed the bank heist television series "Kill Point," but his "found footage" power superhero-but-not-really was such a break out hit that he's already been attached to two high-profile actual comic book movies, The Red Star and Venom, and his name is now also the whisper heard most often in connection Fox's proposed Fantastic Four reboot. Don't try asking him about any of those projects, though. We've seen looser lips on still-floating ships. But he's got an awful lot to say about Chronicle, though, including the extent of the Director's Cut on May 15's Chronicle: The Lost Footage Blu-ray, the film's origins as a P.O.V. version of Carrie and who the hell edited together all that footage within the world of the film.

 

CraveOnline: The Blu-ray release says it’s a “Director’s Cut.” Is this one of those Blade Runner diretor’s cuts or more of a Black Hawk Down director’s cut?

Josh Trank: It’s both of them, in fact. I’d say it’s more like the Black Hawk Down one. The Blade Runner, obviously you’re referring to voice-over in, voice-over out… soundtrack in, soundtrack out…

 

It’s a [director’s cut] with a major difference in the film.

Yeah, at some point in the future, hopefully I’ll end up tackling my Blade Runner director’s cut, but for right now, this is about added scenes that I feel paint a deeper portrait of these characters that we’ve all seen come to life, and I think will create, let’s say a much more of a full meal, so to speak.

 

Are you serious about wanting to return to this at another time and continue fine-tuning?

Who knows? I could fine-tune until I’m dead. I’m a perfectionist, and I will only stop [when] somebody cocks a gun to my head. So they’ve brought many guns to my head at this point.

 

Speaking of guns to your head, you found a great way to use the “found footage” conceit and tie it to the characters. I was wondering what sort of limitations came with that decision. Was there anything you weren’t able to work into film because of the “found footage” conceit?

No, you know, I would say that in fact, on just a camera, on the stylistic approach and how the camerawork was achieved, there was nothing that I couldn’t do. There was nothing that I wanted to that I couldn’t end up doing because of the camerawork. In fact the camerawork was pretty much at the core of the exciting challenge of making the film. I wanted to be able to make a movie that played into this convention of “found footage” but that utilized a deeper sense of cinematography and planning and ease than had really been attempted before. So, on that level, I feel like the equation worked out just perfectly, and I’m fully satisfied on that level.

 

The ending of the film, which I won’t go ahead and spoil, but it leaves room for the story to grow. How far could this story expand in future films?

I can’t really talk about that so much, but it definitely can expand.

 

One of the mysteries of the film, and this is something Max Landis has talked about, is the strange object that gives the characters their powers.

Are you talking about Twitter?

 

Yes I am.

Yeah. I don’t read Twitter. [Laughs]

 

So “no comment” on Max’s statement?

Yeah, no comment.

 

Are you involved in Chronicle 2 right now or is it mostly Max?

Again, as far as projects in development and stuff, I can’t really comment on that. I’m a believer that you shouldn’t really talk about the drawing until you’re done with the drawing. And that’s not to necessarily say that I am drawing that drawing, but yeah, I can’t make a comment on that.

 

I completely respect that. I won’t push further. When it comes down to the original Chronicle, was that originally your concept, and you talked it over with Max? Or did you come up with it together, organically?

It was my idea that I thought about for quite a while before I ended up running into Max. I wanted to make this movie which blended together two concepts which I really wanted to see, which is… Carrie is on my list of favorite movies, and a movie that’s really inspired me in a lot of ways, and my father is a documentary filmmaker, and I was really raised by a family of cinephiles. So there was a specific movie that I wanted to make, and my first way of describing it, I think, was “Carrie P.O.V.” But I didn’t know how that would actually work. I didn’t think that was going to be a very good movie, because it’s kind of exploitative. It’s like, here’s somebody who’s gone bad, and we’re getting to see them go really, really dark and what that would look like from that perspective. That’s not really a movie, that’s sort of like, you know, it’s like exploitative. But I realized that if you added a couple more characters into the mix, that you could really make a compelling, three-dimensional coming of age tale, and bridge that gap between Carrie and Stand By Me. And to approach it in this aesthetic, that’s exactly what I wanted to do. So I talked to a couple of writers along the way before I ran into Max, and it was just really meant to be, because this kind of movie really matched up with his sensibilities and the kind of film I think he ultimately really wanted to write.

 

I assume you saw his Superman Returns video.

I have seen his Superman Returns video.

 

He’s very, very excited about the superhero element. Obviously they’re not superheroes, but Chronicle does key into the origin myths. At various points they’re flying in the clouds like Superman. Was the intention to go in that direction originally, or did it evolve into that?

Just, you know, make a superhero movie where you don’t ever utter the word “superhero,” and nobody actually is a superhero in any traditional sense, but where they can do things that, you know… normal people are doing things that only superheroes [have] really been granted the opportunity to do in a movie. Flying is the embodiment of the ultimate wish fulfillment, and to really be able to see that and believe that three normal teenage boys could get up there above the clouds at 20,000 feet and soar at dangerous speeds, that’s something that is nothing really to do with the superhero origin story, or comic-inspired anything. I think it’s something we all daydream of when we’re kids. So what I thought was really cool about Max writing the script, is he is a huge… he’s like a comic book encyclopedia, and for him to un-comic book and un-superhero his own writing, and approach it from more of a Stephen King standpoint – and Max is a huge Stephen King fan – and I think ultimately it was kind of the story he always wanted to make. It was a great opportunity to do that.

 

Do you see yourself returning to “found footage” storytelling, or do you think it fit for Chronicle and that’s the film it should be in?

You know, I have no idea. I’m a believer in just open, free-form creativity, and you never know the surprises that life has in store, and that, purely on a creative level, there’s no such thing as rules. Or there shouldn’t be…

 

There’s one aspect of Chronicle that is in no way a distraction, but in no way is addressed. Who compiled the footage to create Chronicle, within the film’s own universe?

My little sister.

 

Aw…! She did a very good job.

I mean, but that’s off record. [Laughs] No, you know what? I have no idea who did. Me and my editor, Elliot Greenberg.

 

He did a fantastic job.

Oh, thank you so much. Elliot’s great. You know, Elliot cut Quarantine.

 

Oh good, I actually like that movie a lot.

You know what’s interesting about that movie, and what was so great about what he’s so talented at, other than just pacing and stuff… Quarantine, you know, shot-for-shot very much the same as [Rec], but there were something like, about, I think, 300 or 300-plus cuts in that movie.

 

Wow.

And it’s set up so that it seems like there are only like sixteen takes, that there’s sixteen single shots in that movie. There are so many hidden cuts in that you movie, you wouldn’t believe. Elliot is just a master stitchman, or whatever you’d want to call him. “Master Quiltmaker,” I don’t now.