I am ZoZo
Who knew that board games were so dangerous? I am ZoZo tells the chilling tale of a group of friends who get together on Halloween to celebrate the weekend at a lake house. When they decide to have some innocent fun playing with a Ouija board, they unintentionally summon the infamous demon, ZoZo. Inside Beat was able to get the inside scoop on the film from producer Zack Coffman and director Scott Di Lalla.
Inside Beat: What drew you to the topic of Ouija boards and the lore of ZoZo?
Scott Di Lalla: A hobby of mine is to just surf the net for interesting true stories of the unknown and unexplained. Specifically, I love reading about Ouija board stories and came across a few that seemed strikingly similar. These were stories about people coming across the demon ZoZo while playing with the Ouija board. These were the creepiest stories I have ever read and thought this would make a great movie. When it comes to a good horror movie story, it is very important that it is based in reality.
Inside Beat: What were some of the biggest challenges you encountered when making this movie?
Scott Di Lalla: The biggest challenge was shooting a feature length film on Super 8mm with a 30-year-old camera. To add to the challenges, we'd never shot on film before. The main disadvantages lie in the fact that Super 8mm was basically always intended to be a consumer-grade format so the cameras may not have all the flexibility of a pro-level 16mm or 35mm setup. Testing and preparation was key. We tested the camera under many different conditions until we found its sweet spot. After extensive testing and research I knew what f-stop was ideal and which one wasn't. In regards to the small gauge format, too much light coming into the camera is not ideal. Most of the film was shot in low light, so to achieve my f-stop we had to painstakingly light for it.
Zack Coffman: Yeah the sound was an issue we didn't quite respect enough, but a friend introduced us to a crackerjack sound guy (Mike Fox) who had been the dialogue editor on The Grudge and he worked many late nights removing the camera sound from the dialogue. Strangely enough we found that the sound was almost too clean so we actually had Mike go back in and add a very soft continuous layer of camera sound to the whole movie which gives it a real vintage Seventies horror feel matching the Super 8 look.
IB: Why did you decide to shoot the film in 8mm?
SD: The decision to shoot the film in 8mm came after days and days of searching for the right look. There are a lot of ingredients in the recipe of making any given film, so when it came time to decide what I wanted to shoot the horror film on, I knew the look was as important as all the other components. At first, I was researching cool looks I could get from a digital medium, but I was never truly satisfied; it just wasn't matching the look I had in my head. I really wanted it to look like film, but I also knew film was very expensive. Then I started wondering, if I shot it on film what would be the cheapest way to do that? The only obvious answer was the smallest gauge film available - 8mm. After a few more hours of researching I came across an amazing music video, "Fake Empire," by The National, shot entirely on Super 8mm. After I saw that video, I basically fell out of my chair. This was it! This was the look I was after!
IB: Why did you decide to use a lakeside cabin retreat as the setting of the film?
SD: We didn't have a big budget for the film, so where we would shoot it became very important. I wanted to have a gloomy setting, so the Seattle area was perfect. After Zack told me about the beautiful islands surrounding Seattle, we felt it would be a perfect balance of gloom and beauty. The island and its surroundings not only looked fantastic on film; it helped raise the production value of the project.
ZC: The isolated setting really helped create a creepy vibe in the film. The owner of the home actually is a huge film buff and had a dream of someday being involved in a film so he was very generous with the rental of his home for the shoot. To save money we had the whole cast and crew bunk there together for the shoot and it created such a wonderful spirit of camaraderie and helped the actors really develop their characters on site.
IB: Who/what inspired you to become a filmmaker?
SD: I've asked myself this once, and I couldn't come up with a definitive answer. It feels like I have carried this desire from some past life. I was a bit of a dreamer and I was very fortunate to have parents that allowed me to believe that my dreams could come true. Not long after I learned how to talk I started expressing both how much I wanted a motorcycle and how much I wanted to entertain people. My parents weren't in the entertainment industry nor did they ride motorcycles, but it did make them very curious. When I was seven, they gave me a tape recorder and I spent most of my time recording myself playing different characters in some fictional story I would make up. I also started riding motorcycles as soon as I was able. When Zack and I formed One World Studios Ltd. back in 2001, our first feature film was a motorcycle documentary called Choppertown that developed a real cult following around the world and allowed our company to be self-sufficient ever since.
ZC: My dad is a writer and even went to film school back in the '60s, so I guess it kind of makes weird sense that I ended up doing this, although I never really thought I'd be making films professionally until one thing led to another and I fell into the business while living abroad in Korea. After cutting my chops out there I started to feel that it was going to be a real career for me. Scott and I had been friends since our college days and one day we finally just said, "Hey, let's make a film company!"
IB: Have you previously worked on other projects with any of the other members of the cast or production team before?
SD: Zack and I made five documentaries before this one, but it was our first time working with everyone else involved.
IB: Was this your first time submitting a movie to a film festival and how do you feel about it?
SD: This is not the first time, but the acceptance of every new film into a film festival is as exciting as the first time.
ZC: Three of our docs were accepted into festivals, and even won some awards, but having our first narrative film accepted into festivals is a dream come true.
I am ZoZo is being featured at the 2012 US Super 8 Film & Digital Video Festival on Saturday February 18th at 7pm, in Voorhees Hall, room #105, on College Ave, at Rutgers University.