Fright Interview With THE PARANORMAL DIARIES: CLOPHILL Co-Director Michael Bartlett



Having made a name for himself (and co-director Kevin Gates) with THE ZOMBIE DIARIES and its sequel, THE ZOMBIE DIARIES 2, director Michael Bartlett went a completely different route with the upcoming film THE PARANORMAL DIARIES: CLOPHILL (hitting DVD September 30th via Image Entertainment). The film still employs the POV/found footage-like approach like his previous films, but viewers assuming that the film would end up more of the same will be surprised, as it’s quite refreshing and an original feeling film (review soon). Shot in a very documentary-like way, the film blends the real and the fake into one cohesive story, making the viewer wonder what’s actually happened and what has been made up. It’s that wonderful mix that keeps you wanting more, pretty much throughout the entire film, something that is rare these days. Bartlett was nice enough to answer a few questions about the film, so by all means, keep reading!


maxresdefaultAfter tackling the found footage zombie films of THE ZOMBIE DIARIES and THE ZOMBIE DIARIES 2, what made you want to tackle something like PARANORMAL DIARIES: CLOPHILL? It’s a very different kind of film, tonally and even approach.

Kevin and I had always been by the BBC show ‘Ghost  Watch‘ and wanted to do something like that. A lot of the motivation was simply down to the fact that Cinema-Verite only works if the performances are believable and since a lot of these movies are low budget, you often end up with below-par acting. Even the bigger films struggled, like CLOVERFIELD, where I felt physically enraged due to the nature to some of the performances.

We tried a very natural approach in ZOMBIE DIARIES but wanted to take it a step further. The ultimate or ‘perfect’ found footage film is the one that looks and feels 100% believable. And, of course, whenever making a film, you must always consider the commercial angle. Paranormal films were pretty big at the time, although I stress that we made the film in 2010, we just didn’t finish the editing until 2013. So by the time we were done, the market was a little over-saturated.

What really stood out to me is how different it was than a lot of other films that fall into the same category. Where it might come off as typical found footage fare, it really isn’t that WHATSOEVER, it feels very real. How much of the film was authentically real and how much did you feel the need to dramatize?

I would approximate 90% of the film is entirely genuine. Kevin put a lot of work into finding the eye witnesses from the original event in the ’60s. He’s even written a book on the subject, such was the knowledge he gained during the research for the film. In an ideal world we’d just have made some small dramatized events mainly through misdirecting the cast, but in today’s horror market place there is that imperative to end with a big pay-off, which is why we end up seeing what we do at the end. However, nobody is ever able to guess what is real and not real and be 100% correct. Somewhere out there, there is someone thinking the film is 100% acted, and moaning about the quality of the performances – which is, frankly hilarious. I remember I had one reviewer once tell me how he hated the acting by the interviewees at the beginning of THE ZOMBIE DIARIES. Those were real people being interviewed for what they thought was a documentary on bird flu!

The stories of the church from the film are well known by this point, were you well versed on its history, prior to taking the film on, and if so, were you creeped out during the planning process of it?

Kevin taught me all about the church And had done his homework. It played into the anticipation for sure. Although I think I was more concerned with the gangs of teenagers than I was by any paranormal activity. I do remember a scout that Kev and I did where we walked across a field at night to get into the church from an unorthodox entry point. I heard something move and I suddenly realized that I was standing next to a horse. It made me jump out of my skin. I always remember that scout, as it was probably 4AM and truly atmospheric. I hate to say it – but despite some of the eyewitness accounts, The church was very beautiful and calm at night. I never once felt anything sinister. However, our security team had a very different experience – much more like the two lads we interviewed, who fled after seeing a figure coming at them. At one point, Gerry (our head of security) and his wife Dana were very unsettled and she ended up in tears. They say some people are more ‘sensitive’ than others, and maybe she had that quality and picked up on something. I don’t think she felt it was evil – more that she just sensed a lot of pain and unhappiness.

You were very much in front of the camera this time around as well, what were some of the more frightening or interesting experiences for you, being deep into the whole atmosphere of the place?

The only really scary thing that happened to me was that I developed a mystery virus after finishing the movie. I remember I managed to take it home and laid on the floor in my living room and then I could not get up. To this day, I have no idea what it was – I had a rash over my entire body. I never had anything before or after that bad.

Now Kevin had a wasp attack him on the final night and then it hid in his camera bag and then tried to attack him two days later in his house!

Our executive producer, Paul Heneker, visited the location with us on the final night and fell into a grave. When he saw the tombstone, it reflected his birth date, which really creeped him out.

All of these things were likely just silly coincidences, but you can see how – with the anticipation combined with the history of the place- how people can make them more than what they were

You’ve tackled zombies, and now haunted churches, what’s next for you as a filmmaker?

Kevin is going to follow up with a sequel to THE PARANORMAL DIARIES. We obviously are changing the approach so nobody knows what to expect. It will be a big surprise when details are announced. I have shot and directed a film entitled TREEHOUSE in Missouri, which will be out in February, 2014.

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