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Exclusive Tribeca 2011 Interview: Grave Encounters’ Sean Rogerson

The star of the found footage thriller

Grave Encounters, the supernatural thriller debuting at the Tribeca Film Festival, couldn’t come at a better time. The latest “found footage” offering to hit the genre scene, the film takes its cue from the myriad “ghost hunter” television shows that are competing against one another and asks the question: What if a team of paranormal investigators – who are not unfamiliar with fabricating the events they document – are up against a real malevolent force?

Directed by the Vicious Brothers (Stuart Ortiz and Colin Minihan), Grave Encounters introduces us to Lance Preston, the head of the film’s ghost hunting team, as played by Sean Rogerson. Smarmy and driven, Preston seems to be the culmination of every paranormal investigator you’ve seen on TV. And Rogerson nails it.

Shock spoke to the actor – a vet of Harper’s Island – earlier today about the film.

Shock Till You Drop: Out of the various ghost-themed shows out there, was there anyone specific you modeled Lance Preston after?

Sean Rogerson: No one in particular. I hadn’t seen a lot of these shows or be specific on the names. But one I did watch was two guys in a van driving around hunting ghosts. The only thing I could think of, when I read the script for this, was how excited I would be if something crazy happened on TV to those guys. Not that I don’t like them [laughs], but I think it would make great TV.

Shock: I think you nailed the fabricated seriousness, almost douche-y nature, some hosts embody when the cameras start rolling.

Rogerson: Oh yeah. Oh yeah. I’ve played bad guys before, but I didn’t know if I could pull off the cheesy, douche bag guy. But I found his voice and everything fell into place. I took it too far and I had to pull it back a bit.

Shock: Who are the Vicious brothers? Do they live up to the name?

Rogerson: They’re amazing. Completely on the same wavelength. They finish each others’ sentences. If, at any point in time, direction needed to be given, one of them would come and do it. You can hear them in the background, “You going to take this one?” and one of them would come over. They’re not that vicious. To me, at least. They’re in it for the art and they know what they want to see.

Shock: Where did the production take place and was the asylum a real location you shot in?

Rogerson: We shot up in Vancouver, Canada at an old psychiatric hospital that is somewhat still functioning. All the rooms are exactly as they are. That room with the bath tubs and the sinks were as we found them.

Shock: Were the actors allowed to get hands-on with the shooting? In most instances with these found footage films, they’re not, it’s usually just the director of photography’s camera crew.

Rogerson: We each had a camera in our hands that was running all of the time. All of the night vision stuff, all of it. If there was something they specifically needed, Stuart and Colin would guide the camera exactly where they needed it to go.

Shock: How did they keep the energy high on set? Did they get personally involved in trying to scare the crap out of you?

Rogerson: It was easy to keep the energy high. You just need a five minute walk down one of the decrepit hallways by yourself. The boys would often be off somewhere – while we got ready for a scene – behind a door and make some loud bangs. A lot of what you see on screen is genuine. That’s the “vicious” side, I suppose, they liked to toy with us?

Shock: Any particular favorite moment that stood out?

Rogerson: I keep going back to the rat scene. I enjoyed that. That was a ton of fun. When Lance loses his shit. Everything is out the window at that point. Stuart and I did that scene in the tunnels and we heard a noise, a big, rumbling roar. Stuart yelped and I screamed like a little girl and pushed him to block myself from whatever was coming. I did not “man up” but whatever. [laughs]

Shock: As an actor, are you a fan of this format – the found footage storytelling? I imagine it allows you guys to loosen up and have fun.

Rogerson: Oh, man. It’s a huge treat to be able to do what you want. The only found footage movie I remember is The Blair Witch Project. I was terrified because I thought it was real. Anything that has come out after that, Cloverfield, Paranormal Activity, I guess I didn’t look at them as found footage films because I knew they were made by a studio somewhere. It lost that raw feel for me. I never felt they were found footage. With this, I identified with the Blair Witch aspect and I felt Grave Encounters would allow me to live in the moment. It seems like an actor thing to say, but that’s what we got to do is live in the moment.

Grave Encounters hits VOD and theaters this August.

Source: Ryan Turek, Managing Editor