Interview with a (VR) Vampiress
We are thrilled to report on a recent collaboration between a few alumni filmmakers who met at the Tallgrass Film Festival and who are now working together on a film project. But not just any film project…take it away Ingrid Serban and Justin Johnson.
TFA: Ingrid, Justin, tell us about the project.
IS: The VR film that Justin, Forest (Sun) and I have been working on this January is the feature documentary, Strigoi, the Real Vampires of Transylvania. With nothing but a camera and the belief that she will go unharmed, a filmmaker returns to her roots in search of real vampires. (Yes, that’s Ingrid.)
TFA: How did you come together on this project?
IS: Justin and I were both on the filmmaker Advisory Board for Tallgrass Film Festival in 2016. I was immediately drawn to his zest for life, creativity and humble attitude. His enthusiasm doesn't stop at film but he genuinely cares for the people in front of his camera. I had been thinking about doing a VR vampire piece in Transylvania. I've been fascinated with the VR medium and thought that a VR short film with the same theme as our feature would be a great product. When I heard Justin's Tallgrass Filmmaker Lab on VR filmmaking, it became clear to me that he was the best person for the job.
JJ: It started with my overall obsession with all things VR - showing demos to people at the Tallgrass hotel room, and then doing a workshop on filming 360 video and Ingrid and Forest attended. At some point on one of the last nights of the festival, Ingrid asked if I'd be interested in coming to Romania and filming some 360 stuff, and I said 'of course'!
TFA: What was it like working together?
IS: It was an absolute joy. I can't think of many people who would have gone through what we had to endure to get the footage for the film and not crack at the seams. Justin was a real trooper. He infused life and excitement into our project with focus and professionalism. Both Forest and I are delighted that we get to work on this project together.
JJ: It's been great so far! I've loved seeing a new culture, and Ingrid is such a delight to work with. She's got a fantastic locomotion and a steady hand when it comes to directing and producing - methodical and smart. She sets her mind on something and gets it done. Plus, she's super fun to hang out with!
TFA: What were the best and trickiest moments you experienced?
JJ: Well, we survived an overnight stay in a cabin up in a nearly deserted village in Romania, with no running water (pipes had frozen) and an outhouse…an adventure for sure.
IS: The environment we filmed in was trying to say the least. Without giving away too much, suffice it to say that for a weekend, we lived somewhere at the crossroads of freezing, gagging and sleep deprivation. What made it bearable was our own determination, the sweetness of one of our hosts and the incredible landscape and chilling stories we recorded.
TFA: So we have to ask, did you find any vampires?
IS: Yes. Two. Was I able to film them in the act? Not so much. I have witnesses on tape. Scary stuff.
TFA: What else do you want people to know about the film? And when can we see it?
IS: I am excited to be able to share this land, people and stories with the world in VR form; a truly unique and intimate way to share this experience. The VR short film will accompany the feature documentary where possible or travel on its own. We intend to have it available for the fall of 2017 and 2018 film festival circuit.
TFA: Anything else you’d like to share?
IS: I am eternally grateful to Tallgrass Film Association for putting on my favorite film festival. Having been there two years in a row, it now feels like home. The life and productivity of filmmakers rests heavily and joyfully in collaboration. It is places like Tallgrass Film Festival that lead the way into a brighter future because we all get to shine together.
TFA: Aw, shucks. We love you guys too and we can't wait to see the movie(s.) As for whether they found any vampires, guess we'll just have to wait and see...