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Another Chat with the Spierig Brothers
A Conversation with the Spierig Brothers

By Jack Giroux

This is the second time I've had the pleasure to talk to the Spierig brothers (you can read part one here) about their vampire blood fest Daybreakers. The directing duo are reminiscent of plenty of horror and genre directors out there... they make insane blood bath reddened films and yet they couldn't be more friendly. They're a lot of fun to talk with, not just because they're "nice", but because they're also talented filmmakers who are full of interesting things to say. Just take a listen to their commentary track for further proof of this. Daybreakers was a big step forward for them and truly certifies them as directors to follow. This time around we discuss the handling of the tricky tone, the design of the diseased vampires (Subsiders), and their choice of obviously casting against type.

It also must be said the blu-ray for Daybreakers is far from disappointing. If you're a fan of the film you'll be glad to know it's not just a standard bare bones release. It's packed with plenty of special features from an excellent feature length making-of documentary and much, much more. Daybreakers is now on DVD and Blu-ray.

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DVD Talk: Obviously on Undead you were both working on a pretty limited budget and I was wondering if you could compare the process of making Daybreakers versus the making of Undead?

Michael Spierig: Surprisingly, there was a lot of things that were similar. Every filmmaker always says there's not enough time or money and that's sort of our common complaint. We shot it in our hometown so it all felt a bit familiar. The caliber of actors was obviously a bit higher and the budget was much larger, but Peter and I still did a lot of the effects ourselves. We were also doing things pretty low tech in many respects. It felt oddly similar. Wouldn't you say, Peter?

Peter Spierig: Yeah, yeah. Absolutely.

DVD Talk: I know this is a difficult question to answer and it's tough to pinpoint specifics, but after two films how do you think you've changed as filmmakers?

Michael Spierig: I think there's definitely more confidence. On Undead we had no idea what to expect going into a feature film. We had done plenty of short films; nearly twenty of them. It's a very different kind of a discipline. We now know how to pace ourselves and how to deal with the barrage of questions that are constantly coming at you. You're asked so much every single day for months and months. That's not to say there's still not a hell of a lot to learn. I mean, we made a bunch of mistakes on Daybreakers that we didn't make on Undead. It goes both ways. You're always learning something new. With Daybreakers we had these stars which was incredibly intimidating at first. We had never worked with any movie stars before. I feel a lot more relaxed about that now.

DVD Talk: One aspect that I think you guys handled incredibly well was the tone. That's a really tricky thing when it comes to films like this. How do you balance making a B-movie that's also rooted in a social commentary and has serious moments?

Michael Spierig: That is pretty tricky. We always knew we were making a B-movie. You can't make a vampire movie and not sort of delve into that area. What we wanted to do was to have these very talented actors in a B-movie and that really elevates the material instantly. I think all the guys did a great job, but it's not an easy thing. I don't know if audiences... It's clear audiences love the romantic version of vampires and that seems to work really well. We wanted to go back to that bloody tone where we felt the genre should be.

Peter Spierig: We also were also talking a lot about John Carpenter movies when we were making the film. Ethan [Hawke] is actually a big fan of Carpenter and we actually got a 35mm print of The Thing. We did a screening while shooting Daybreakers and it was just to get everybody in the right mood. That's one of my all time favorite movies. It was fun for everybody to watch that and get a sense of what we were going for. Carpenter is a good example of the tone we were trying to get. He can balance the serious with the absurd.

DVD Talk: You guys also mentioned Romero when it came to the tone. You can clearly see that influence.

Michael Spierig: Yeah, George Romero is a good one as well. I do like Romero though, but I haven't seen his latest.

DVD Talk: It's good.

Michael Spierig: Ah, cool.

DVD Talk: Jumping back into casting it seems as though you really casted against type. Sam Neil isn't known for playing villains and Willem Dafoe obviously wasn't much of a badass in Antichrist.

Michael Spierig: (laughs) There's the other thing though that Dafoe has played actually played a vampire before and he had also has played the villain before. We were casting against Speed 2 (laughs).

DVD Talk: A total classic.

Michael Spierig: (laughs) The scene in the bathroom with the leaches gets me every time. It's fun to do that though. Sam seemed to revel in the idea of playing a bad guy because he's often not that at all. I'm sure mainstream audiences know him and think of him as Dr. Alan Grant. He's an actor who's also been in so many extraordinary Australian films over the years. He's great.

DVD Talk: What was the designing process and the collaboration with Steve Boyle like on the design of the Subsiders?

Michael Spierig: We worked with Steve on our first film and he was one of the first people we went to when we came up with the idea. We said that we wanted it to feel like a sickness. It affects their mental state and their whole body starts to alter. It becomes this type of sickness and then we sort of just let Steve run with it. He came up with a lot of interesting stuff. He had the design team at WETA workshop pumping out all these images and they were just amazing. He was taking the look of a vulture and fusing it into the final design.

DVD Talk: I think the design works so well because when you look at them they look scary and also pathetic at the same time.

Michael Spierig: I'm glad you mentioned that because that was really one of our goals. We wanted to make it feel like someone was just sick.

DVD Talk: You just feel like putting them out of their misery.

Michael Spierig: Yeah, yeah. It's like a dog with rabies.

DVD Talk: Just the idea of having an actual guy in that suit makes it even more affective as well. It's not just some goofy looking CG monster. You guys used practical effects really well.

Michael Spierig: That was important for us from day one. We'd rather have a guy in a suit look cheesy rather than a CG shot that was obviously CG. There's something kind of tactile about it and it makes it seem more scarier. One of the the scariest films I've ever seen was the original Korean version of The Grudge. It was just some kid with makeup and it was creepy as hell. That type of stuff is there and it's real. It's far scarier. We also wanted to have the actors to have someone interact with on set. When we casted the person playing the creature we didn't cast a stunt person to do it, but an actor. We trained him to do the wirework and all that stuff. With that you then get a performer who's just concentrating on the mindset of the character and then just thinks the performance through.

DVD Talk: I obviously gotta ask about Captain Blood, is there any update on that and would you consider doing that in 3D?

Michael Spierig: Captain Blood is not the next film we're doing. We're working on something else at the moment that I can't tell you about quite yet. What I can tell you is that every single thing we've been discussing is 3D. It's like there's not even an option anymore. If you're doing a big platform release then you can't make one now that isn't 3D.

DVD Talk: Lastly, I'm still hoping for this to become sort of a modern day horror version of the Planet of the Apes series. Are you guys working on any other stories whether it be in comic book form or even a sequel?

Peter Spierig: We've actually written a comic book for it. We'll see. There's all this material we put together and we'll see how it progresses over the next year.

Michael Spierig: Actually, we've written a prequel graphic novel. It details the whole plague and the history of the characters. It's very much based on what we wrote prior to writing the script. We wrote a lot of material with timelines on the plague and how society formed back together. We've expanded on that in graphic novel form and hopefully we'll be able to tell that story. I also love the idea of possibly doing something for television. You get so much time to develop characters and the story since there's so much time to be had on television.

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