The Spierig Brothers talk about Daybreakers
Interview conducted by Jack Giroux
If you've grown tired of second rate vampire films that lack any presence of blood then you'll be more than happy to know that Daybreakers will satisfy your needs. In a time of Twilight and The Vampire Diaries it's refreshing to see someone put a spin on this overly populated genre. That someone is the Spierig Brothers. They've delivered a true original with a fully realized world, unique ideas and a heap of well-executed blood-work. It's a hybrid of science fiction and horror and it works. It also happens to be a great amount of fun that marks for an impressive second feature film for the Spierig brothers. Daybreakers is now in theaters and it is definitely worth while.
Congrats on the film guys, I saw it yesterday and really enjoyed it.
Peter Spierig: Oh good, it would be painful talking to you if you hated it (laughs).
Yeah and I hope you don't mind me saying this, but while I enjoyed Undead I think this blows that movie out of the water.
Peter Spierig: No, that's fine. I mean Undead was like a student film (laughs). Undead was an experiment and we never even thought it would get released (laughs). No, you can certainly say that.
Undead is a fun movie, but Daybreakers is just a big leap forward for you guys.
Peter Spierig: Oh great, it would be horrible if we were taking a step backwards!
While Undead was successful it was mostly a success in cult terms, but was that enough to help get financing for this?
Peter Spierig: It absolutely was helpful in getting financing. Undead was released by Lionsgate in North America and the executive producers at Lionsgate are the same guys who were the producers on Daybreakers. They were the first guys we went to with this idea. It was sort of the same team again.
One aspect that really worked is how you kept inline with what's known as the vampire mythology while also making it your own thing.
Peter Spierig: What we wanted to do was sort of tap into the pop culture understanding of what vampires actually are. Having them cast no reflections, having them burn in the sunlight, and things like that. We wanted to try to add something new to the mythology, but doing it in a way that seemed to fit into the world. Not something that just seems completely out of place. The cure for vampirism I think fits in with the mythology. It's not so left field and the cure isn't just some magical green potion, it's something that I think is a logical step. Also, as for the additions to the mythology I've never seen before where if you're deprived of blood you start to transform into a bat-like creature. I think that's sort of a new addition to the vampire lore. The way you cure yourself I've never seen that before and I've seen almost every vampire movie ever made (laughs). Things also like the car chase and using the lights through the bullet holes like lasers is something we've felt like we've added to the mythology. Also just the general world itself with people driving with video cameras and modifying their homes for their new existence is something I think is a new take on a very saturated genre.
You also show vampires as being very arrogant and they don't realize the issues with immortality. They're not thinking about the future.
Michael Spierig: Yeah, well that's true. That sums up humanity pretty well doesn't it?
Yeah, it's an obvious allegory.
Michael Spierig: Yeah.
Peter Spierig: Definitely.
But it's not heavy handed at all and I think you guys keep it grounded in the George Romero sense where it's still a lot of fun, but there's still of course some messages.
Peter Spierig: That's absolutely right and that's something we were consciously trying to do; to sneak that in... It's not even snuck in, it's pretty out there and it's pretty obvious there is a social commentary in there. If you bog it down with that then you take away the fun and ultimately we want the audience to have a good time when they see this movie.
There's also this interesting aesthetic choice where the vampire world is very cold and grey while the human side is very warm and colorful. How did that idea come about?
Peter Spierig: That was pretty much in the script and it's also that the human world has a completely different light. In the vampire world we decided to use a lot of big florescent light panels to kind of give the illusion of a window without actually using an external light source. That was definitely always planned where you have the warm and earthy side of humanity while you have the dark toned side for the undead. It was always a conscious choice, but you have to be careful with decisions like that because it can always be seen as derivative... We were always conscious of trying to make it not Underworld with black leather and I have all the respect for those films.
With how they used blue lenses.
Peter Spierig: Yeah, exactly. You try to find another angle to take it without trying to copy what's already out there.
That part was actually more of an afterthought for me.
Peter Spierig: Oh good, I hope there's quite a few elements that on repeat viewings you'll notice that you didn't pick up the first time.
There's also this interesting design with the vampire's fashion where it has this very timeless feel. They dress as if they're in the fifties.
Peter Spierig: Yeah, absolutely.
Michael Spierig: We mixed it up for the fashion. There is that fifties voice and that fifties feel then there's also that contemporary look with the all of the humans. We were trying to make a film that is kind of timeless that we hope doesn't date too much as the years go by. The way that you do that is by looking into the past and find a few things that really haven't changed that much. That fashion really hasn't changed that much over the years.
The film is obviously this hybrid of science fiction and horror, but I think that costume design choice adds this film noir feel.
Michael Spierig: Yeah, that was definitely what we were going for.
Peter Spierig: We see this film certainly as a horror film, but we also see it just as equally as a science fiction film. We really do love science fiction and this is very much a science fiction film.
That's one of the main reasons why I admire the film so much is that it is this very high concept film that I haven't seen before.
Peter Spierig: Oh, good. I'm glad you think that because that's what we were trying to do. It's funny, I had someone come up to me today and say, "I feel like this has been done before, but it hasn't. It feels like an idea that somebody should have done years ago." I kind of understand what they mean by that, because it seems like such a natural progression of a vampire story where everyone becomes a vampire.
Could you talk a little bit about your collaboration with George Liddle? I heard how he re-used a lot of sets and helped save quite a bit of money.
Peter Spierig: George, well we love George Liddle. He's an amazing production designer and George did Dark City, which I thought was one of the best visual films I've ever seen. It's funny when you meet people and you just connect and have the same sort of ideas. George was so good at understanding what we wanted and just offering us so much more. He was also both the production designer and the costume designer so George was all over the design. He also collaborated with an amazing cinematographer named Ben Nott. The interesting thing about production design and cinematography particularly when you're making a film that has a lot of sets is that those two guys work together in terms of building lights into sets as a part of the design. So much of this film has to do with light and it's very much a character in the film. We spent a lot of time with those guys testing lights, testing designs and making sure that everything felt different when you went from the vampire world to the human world.
The budget was about twenty million, correct?
Michael Spierig: Yeah, something around that.
It was astonishing to find that out since this is an extremely good looking movie. If you compare it to a big budget film like Wolverine it just puts that film to shame. What were some techniques you used to stretch the budget?
Michael Spierig: The way you stretch a budget... This comes from doing low budget [films] and Australian filmmaking. Australian filmmaking in general is all low budget, but you learn a few tricks like how to recycle a set. We recycled a few sets and you can't even tell that Sam Neil's office is also the boardroom. We just kept reusing a lot of different things. Another way to save money is Peter and I did a lot of the visual effects ourselves.
On your macbook right?
Michael Spierig: Yeah, exactly. Another thing to is that we've collaborated with people like Steve Boyle and the WETA guys who are the makeup effect guys. I've known Steve for years and years. He'll come in and offer so much more than perhaps the budget would traditionally allow. Since we're such good friends he gets involved on a collaborative level and does it nice and cheaply for us (laughs).
Peter Spierig: Maybe not after this one (laughs).
Michael Spierig: (laughs) Maybe not.
I know you guys have an idea for a sequel, but I know you don't want to get ahead of yourselves before the movie even comes out. But would you ever consider taking it further than just a sequel? I'd like to see this become something similar to the Planet of the Apes series, having a few sequels and even comic books.
Peter Spierig: Absolutely, we would be very interested in doing a comic book. For a comic book we see it being set before the film started. There's this ten-year history of what happened when the plague started and how it started. We don't really get into it in the movie. I think if we did we would have a six hour movie and we'd definitely like to do a comic book that tells the story of how this all started. We certainly have an idea for a sequel, but we don't want to jinx ourselves and we'll wait and see what happens this weekend. We'll know about that further [away] whether or not there will be a sequel.
It would be interesting to see a whole batch of sequels not just following the main characters, but instead even focusing on new characters.
Peter Spierig: Exactly and it might be interesting to even do a TV show that is set in the vampire world and make it about a whole different group of people. It would be interesting to see how they live and you could almost do a suburban drama, but make it in the Daybreakers world where they're all vampires (laughs).
You guys also got Captain Blood coming up and after this it will be odd to think of you guys doing a PG movie.
Peter Spierig: Oh, no. I mean we're absolutely interested in making a PG movie and we just do whatever...
Whatever is the best story.
Peter Spierig: Yeah, a lot of my favorite movies are PG movies. I think back to stuff I love with Indiana Jones, Star Wars and a lot of the stuff that was PG that I quite love. It all depends; you don't want to make a PG horror movie. There's no such thing as a PG horror movie. That's just bullshit, but you can make a PG adventure film. Whatever works for the story.
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