This is the very question io9 asked Academy Award-winning director Barry Levinson (The Natural, Bugsy) about his new horror flick The Bay, which sees a bucolic Chesapeake Bay town overrun by a breed of pollution-mutated parasites.
io9: What were the challenges of filming The Bay in the found footage format?
Barry Levinson: First of all, we had to expand on the idea of "found footage," as we had thirty different scenarios playing out, rather than a single camera. What we had to do was tell the story and choreograph the scene without cutting to a two shot, a single, an over-the-shoulder - you can't do any of those things. You have to honor the credibility of [the format].
If you have only one camera, how do you tell a story? Well, we have a scene where we have two teenagers filming by the water. He's filming her, then she gets bored, and she films him. It's a single shot, but the camera exchange hands. It changes hands again when she jumps in the water. Something then goes wrong, he drops the camera, and follows her in. The camera goes loose, and this all has to be orchestrated in one shot.
io9: What sort of design cues went into the design of the isopods?
Barry Levinson: They're real, but we tweaked them for our needs. But we had a biological model instead of something fictitious.
io9: So they're like real isopods, but revved up?
Barry Levinson: Yeah. Originally I was approached about doing a documentary [about pollution in the Chesapeake Bay] but there already was a documentary. But the facts of this all were fascinating. If we took this real, factual information and moved it into storytelling, it could be very frightening. It likens back to the science fiction form of [integrating contemporary commentary into] these kinds of story.
But this is also a horror movie, we're not getting bogged down with facts and figures here. First and foremost, we have to hope that people enjoyed it. There are so many issues going on in this world, that all that we can really do is approach it from an entertainment sensibility and hope it activated some thoughts. Sometimes serious topics need to be presented in different ways. For example, there were serious films about humanity's capacity to blow ourselves off the face of the Earth, and then Dr. Strangelove - this dark, twisted satire -came along.
io9: Your films historically haven't been of the horror genre. Was there any point where you thought, "Well, we're certainly doing this."
Barry Levinson: There are a few things, but I don't want to give too much away. But I really wanted to play with creating tension and anxiety. At one point, we do a sequence where cops enter a house, but the camera does not enter - we only hear what's happening. We tried to unnerve the audience and their imaginations.
io9: Some of your prior films like Wag The Dog and Good Morning Vietnam explore the interplay between the media and media consumer. The Bay also seems to be of this trend. What's the dramatic appeal of this relationship?
Barry Levinson: Well, it's so much part of our lives. I never really thought of The Bay as a found footage movie, honestly. This is the first time in history we can now collect the information inside everyone's digital phones and get a pretty good picture of what people were like, in an almost archaeological sense. Conversations, texting, pictures - in the midst of this crisis, we're getting this small talk in the context of larger events. For me, it's less found footage, more archaeological.
io9: How would the plot of Rain Man be different if there were these isopods in it?
Barry Levinson: [Laughs] It would be very similar.
The Bay opens in theaters and on video on demand tomorrow.