Earlier this week Josh Trank, director of the much-hyped, genre-blazing, teenage superhero flick “Chronicle,” was kind enough to sit down with us. He talked a bit about collaborating with up-and-coming superstar screenwriter Max Landis, and how this film differs from other superhero movies.
“Chronicle” is a bit of a trailblazer in the sense that it takes a fledgling genre: ‘found-footage P.O.V.’ typically associated with horror (a la "Blair Witch Project," "Paranormal State"), repurposes it with a superhero bent, and then opens it up into a traditional superhero-meets John Hughes teenage wish fulfillment story, while attempting to keep the characters accessible and relatable. Tune into my review coming on the heels of this piece to find out if this stylistically ambitious movie succeeded. Regardless, both Josh and Max are rising stars in Hollywood. Put them on your radar, America. You heard it here first. Unless, of course, you heard it somewhere else first. In theaters February 3rd.
Q: First, congrats on the movie. This is the first superhero movie I’ve wanted to see since “Batman Forever.”
J: Great! I do love it. I hope that this movie can be for everyone.
Q: How did you and up-and-coming screenwriter Max come together? How was working with him? I hear he’s a bit of a ‘brilliant genius’
J: He is indeed a brilliant genius. I mean that. He is one of the most impressive minds I’ve ever come across in my life and I feel like I’ve met a lot of brilliant and talented people I briefly knew him as a teenager. We didn’t know each other very well. But he was somebody who shared the same exact passions for particular movies and video games and anime and comic books. And I had always remembered that he was, that this guy that I shared so much in common with.
I ran into him a couple years ago. We had seen some videos that I had done that were online, and I read a couple of screenplays of his. We were sort of stalking each other in a weird, stalker-y way and ended up running into each other a couple years ago. I had had this laundry list of ideas that I wanted to shoot of little viral-y scenarios of a group of kids that have telekinesis and they’re demonstrating their powers in public and messing with people and having fun, but it’s sort of a private joke. I knew that there was something beyond just that and that that was a part of a larger story, like the beginning of the second act of a movie before one of the kids goes a little too far and there are major consequences.
I flushed out this sort of larger idea that I would make a very strict, stylistic choice of making this like a personal documentary where the entire movie, there’s no hybridization to the style. It’s purely coming from a camera, being shot by a kid that is more talented than most POV camera operators. He has an eye for framing up his world. He can hold a camera, he has a steady hand and once he realizes he can operate his camera with his mind, it evolves into this much bigger movie. Because you can have very movie-like shots, but to really have this reality behind it the whole way.
So I ran into Max and I ended up telling him about telling him about this idea because think how many great things we can put into this, you know, film. And he stopped me in the middle of it and said he was going to write this amazing screenplay and he’d be right back in two weeks. And that’s exactly what happened. He went back, wrote the script and it was amazing. It blew me away. I wanted to give him a huge hug when I finished it. I called him up and told him that and suddenly I had to live up to a very fine piece of material as a director.
Q: You did good, kid. Is this your first feature?
J: (laughs) Yes, it is.
A: I just want to back up a bit and talk about Andrew’s ability to manipulate the camera, almost as an appendage. It feels like in the beginning when he started chronicling his life, he was sort of cemented to the camera, but as his confidence in his powers grew and he opened up, and so did his camerawork. Was that an intentional metaphor, or am I being ridiculous?
J: No, absolutely. There is a lot of thought poured into all of that. That’s what was so exciting about the movie. You could put that much thought into all of the decisions, and there was a real logic that you could break down. And there isn’t a lot of typical sci-fi or fantasy jargon that alienates most people that watch these kinds of films, like yourself.
Q: It humanizes them…
J: Yeah the relatability of it is key. That’s exactly what we were going for.