Ejecta is a science-fiction thriller that combines found footage and real film to create a unique viewing experience. Filmed on location in Collingwood, Ontario, Ejecta stars genre favourite Julian Richings as a reclusive writer/blogger Bill Cassidy, whose experience with extraterrestrials has him in the sights of a clandestine group who are eager to learn what he witnessed the night of a solar storm.
Biff Bam Pop was lucky enough to chat with co-directors Matt Wiele and Chad Archibald over email about Ejecta, the creation of the story, filming on location, and much more.
Andy Burns: Matt and Chad, congrats on a very trippy and cool movie. Can you talk to us about how Ejecta came to be?
Matt Wiele: Trippy is good! Glad you got a high from watching it. Ejecta, in it’s original form, came about through wanting to make a tense “found footage” or “POV” style film that centered around a small scale alien crash and the claustrophobic aftermath of what that might look like. The evolution of the film and the story happened after shooting the initial material and wanting to expand on it. Make it bigger and better while still keeping it set amongst a small number of characters with opposing interests in the alien presence and witnessed/recorded crash.
Chad Archibald: Initially I had worked on the film on a different capacity and I loved the concept and the entire experience. I had worked with Matt in the past but it was exciting seeing him in the directors chair oppose to producing. I think everyone was excited to be making an alien flick with a bit of a twist, along with the fact that Julian was in it. After the film was cut together, the team decided to take the found footage element and push the movie even further. I was asked to come on board to help direct the additional segments of the film and Ejecta in it’s current state is what we came up with!
AB: I’ve been a little burned out on the found footage films, but I thought you did a solid job of veering between video footage and the filmed action in the interrogation room. How did the idea to merge the two come about?
MW: It ultimately came from the same feeling of being burned out with a standard found footage films, no matter what the topic matter or concept. We as a team looked around at what kind of POV films were working with audiences and ways to use the found footage style creatively. The idea came to fruition when we decided to use the original footage and story as a driving force at the centre of a larger and more involved concept. That and a lot of late nights spent drinking various kinds of whiskey.
CA: I think found footage has it’s place and time but in recent years found footage has been either over used in low budget films or Hollywood has poured so many visual effects in it, that it’s hard to compete. It’s interesting how fast it happened as well because I think from the time we started making Ejecta as a full POV style film to the time it was cut together, everyone’s opinions of the medium changes significantly. This film has a very unique evolution and I don’t think any of us really knew what exactly it was going to end up like. All we knew was that it was exciting working on it!
MW: All told we shot for 18 days. The biggest challenge I found on shooting this kind of film was initially how easy it is to dismiss how difficult it is to make a rock solid found footage film. From a viewers prospective, most people watching assume you just point a camera and roll, but from a production standpoint when you’ve got a lot of action sequences, running, VFX to be inserted, and some intense dialog scenes relying on one single shot to ‘get it’ can be fucking hard. Even from the basic sense of timing in a shot where you don’t have the luxury of traditional coverage, as soon as a single shot surpasses 90 seconds or so you run the risk of the audience losing interest or the rationale of “why is the camera still rolling/perfectly placed?” can creep into play.
CA: Filming found footage is a whole different beast. It takes all the traditional filming techniques and flips them on their back. As much as we prepared, everyday we discovered a new challenge foreign to anything we had ever been challenged with. It was fun and really felt like a puzzle that we all worked to solve on a creative and technical level.
Once we shot the traditional cinematic style scene’s it was interesting to see these character in this other world/style. I definitely watch found footage films and see them in a new light.
AB: Could you explain the creative process that goes into co-directing a film? How is the work divided up, if it is at all? Take us to film school, won’t you?
MW: I can’t speak for most traditional setups for co-directing but in this case it was great working together and quite simple in the sense that the film was shot in two separate portions. I directed the found footage elements in the initial shoot and when we decided to morph the story, wrap it in a cinematic structure, we thought that one of the hardest working guys in indie film, and a good friend of ours, Chad Archibald would be a great mind to helm the second half of the production.
CA: Me and Matt get along so well even outside of film that I think it was a really easy transition. Plus we look a like so if the cast just squinted a little it was like they only had one director haha. In all seriousness though, I was pretty honoured to work on this film with the Foresight team. They have been killing it in the horror genre for the past few years and I was just excited to get creative with them.
AB: There’s a radio personality in Toronto named The Spaceman, who broadcasts a conspiracy show on Saturday nights that’s hugely compelling. The ideas presented in Ejecta rings familiar to some of these sorts of shows. Where do you each fall on the possibilities of aliens, cover-ups, etc?
MW: If science is even remotely accurate on the size of the either out there, I find it impossible to imagine there wouldn’t be other life forms out there. As for cover-ups, much like the universe, it’s hard to believe that they aren’t out there too.
CA: I’m sure they are out there. I just hope I am alive to see us make contact ( when it goes public of course haha ).
AB: What was the experience like filming in Collingwood, Ontario? What did the locale bring to your film?
MW: We shot all the outdoor elements, main house location, etc. in a tiny town/area called Chatsworth and the interrogation and final siege pieces in Collingwood. Chatsworth was brilliant for privacy, as we rented a farm house with 25 acres out in the country so we could be running through the woods, screaming, at any hour of the night without hassle. We all lived liked a family in that house and it was some of the best times of my life being surrounded by such great people.
AB: Both Julian Richings and Lisa Houle do great work in the film – what was it liking working with both of them?
MW: Julian Richings is truly one of my favourite humans on this planet. He is the very definition of a gentleman and is without question the most dedicated actor I have ever had the pleasure of working with. I often said to him as well as Adam Seybold who was a key player in all the found footage elements, that they made my job very easy. One of the greatest joys in independent film is the incredible relationships you form with your counterparts and I’m proud to have had the opportunity to work with Julian in a film that he truly carries on his performance.
CA: They are both such pros and it was such a pleasure to work with them. They really brought some great ideas with them. We were in an old airport hanger in Collingwood and we shot there for 4 or 5 days I think (It’s all a blur). It take a great actor to spend 5 days in a chair and pull out a performance like he did. He literally was in that chair for every scene in the bunker.
AB: As filmmakers, were there any previous films that inspired your work on Ejecta?
MW: I’m sure it goes without saying but Alien is obviously a pinnacle. It’s the very first film that I can recall being terrified while watching as a kid. I actually remember holding up a WWF wrestling magazine over my eyes the first time I ever saw it. Close Encounters is incredible, and I’ve got a soft spot for E.T.
CA: We wanted to make an alien film but we also wanted something terrifying so Alien was a great inspiration. We also watched a ton of found footage movies like REC when looking for inspiration for the soldier cams.
MW: At Foresight Features we just wrapped up Jesse Cook’s latest film, currently titled Dying Is A Wild Night, and we are prepping to shoot John Geddes’ next film, American Monster.
CA: We just started the festival circuit with our new films BITE and Antisocial 2, directed by Cody Calahan. We’re going to start releasing some material for another film Black Fawn Films and Breakthrough Entertainment produced called The Sublet, directed by Jack Brooks: Monster Slayer writer John Anslie. Also we just wrapped on the Jeff Maher directed horror Bed of the Dead.
Thanks to Matt Wiele and Chad Archibald for taking the time to talk to Biff Bam Pop, and thanks to Kristen Ferkranus and Amberlight for making it happen. Ejecta is now available on DVD from Raven Banner and Anchor Bay.