Tyler Shields is a professional photographer who has recently branched out into directing films. His first feature is the very impressive and visually stylish FINAL GIRL, starring Abigail Breslin and Wes Bentley (our review can be found here). I was fortunate to talk to Tyler recently about the film...
FLASH-BANG: It touches on a subject which is quite close to my heart to be quite honest. The whole concept of the final girl so yeah it’s really cool.
TYLER SHIELDS: That’s awesome. Who will be your favourite final girl
FB: Oh that would be Eliza Dushku in a Wrong Turn.
FB: Yeah and the reason is, it really sort of made me think - the way that the film ended and sort of the way she looked at the end of the film you know, she looked like she's been through the worst and she made me really really curious as to what would’ve happen next with that particular character. Because it’s one of those things in horror films in particular, they never really sort of wary or concern with the human characters. It’s all about carrying on with the franchise with the monster or the killer or whatever, so it’s not many films with sort of carry on the human character of the story.
TS: Interesting. Very good point.
FB: Sorry, ah if we can talk about your film. Ok, so the first thing I want to talk about is the visual style of the film. So it has a very strong of visual style especially with the back lighting.
TS: Yeah, I mean you know the idea for the lighting was to create almost another character. I want to use it to enhance the world that these people lived in. I kind of create some of that fantasy or fairy tale.
FB: The film also has this timeless quality to it. You’re very careful not to show too many or any gadgets at all, that you would normally see. Was it particular sort of time frame you’re looking at or…
TS: Yeah, the idea was ah, the joke on set was the movie takes place in "Tyler time", you know because it’s kind of my own view but to me. It’s like you have this town where these people live and it’s kind of very 50’s Rockefeller town of vibe to it which I thought was very interesting and I didn’t want you to be able to pinpoint when or where the movie was.
FB: It's one of the things with modern films, especially you know with people saying about horror films, they're almost spoil by the use of cell phones. They are having to sort of find an excuse why they can’t use their cell phone whereas yours, you just cut that out altogether.
TS: I hate you know, when you see cell phones when you have to deal with that whole thing because the truth of it is now you know “hey I’m being kidnapped right now, I’m in a fuckin’ trunk of a car, oh cool I’m gonna find my iphone. Ok, the police are on their way. Ok,
FB: Yeah, movies over in ten minutes
TS: Yeah, exactly.
FB: You have an interesting cast, with Abigail Breslin and Wes Bentley especially, how is it working with those two?
TS: Wes Bentley is one of the funniest and most interesting people that I ever worked with. Such an incredible guy and really fascinating.
FB: That’s interesting because he comes across very intense onscreen. Funny enough, I've just watched him in another film called 3 Days in the Desert and he just got this intense stare the whole time. Its interesting to hear that he’s more relaxed off-set.
TS: You know, we have a staring contest on set and it was 9 ½ minutes. And I’m happy to say that I am the only person that ever defeated him in a staring contest. But the funny thing about Wes and he’ll tell you this you know, he looked so intense but if you go into his mind its like rainbows and butterflies. He’s the happiest, funniest guy like so funny makes him look insane.
FB: So just talkin about the motivations of the characters, um coz Wes Bentley’s character William, he recruits Veronica at an early age just to train her as sort of killer or assassin. But then they sort of hook on to this particular case. Was it that this is their first case together or chance of proving herself or had there been other things that they'd done before?
TS: Yes – no, I think all training. This was the perfect case for them because these guys are hunting blondes and she’s a petite blonde, I think it was just the perfect marriage.
FB: You got a brilliant bad guy there as well, Jameson played by Alexander Ludwick. There’s one particular moment, it’s a tiny thing but particularly struck with me. When Jameson comes in to the diner for the second time and he sees Veronica. The way he sits down at the table. He sits down with a very open manner, you know what I mean. He’s very relaxed, he’s legs crossed, he’s leaning back and he seems really at home. And it really struck me because in a lot of films you know when you have an actor sitting at a table, at a diner or something, they always hunched over, so try to make themselves look as small as possible.
TS: Uh huh. It’s funny that you picked up on that coz I told him exactly that. You have to be big, you have to be commanding, and you have to be very confident.
FB: The scene kind of reminded me of a Tom and Jerry cartoon, where Tom is trying to chat up this female cat and the way he does it is start eating her food.
TS: That is awesome. That’s the exact idea you know what better way to display dominance over someone than to sit down and eat their food.
FB; I can think of a lot of girls who would reacted differently.
TS; Oh yeah, of course. Have you ever sat down with a stranger and took a bite down of their food?
TS: Absolutely not.
TS; I’ve done it, it’s awesome.
FB: This is your first feature film, is that correct? That you’ve directed, it’s not the first one that you were involved with I think.
TS: Yes, exactly
FB; What sort of challenges you’ve come across. I know your background is as a photographer but um, was that much of a transition for you?
TS: No, no challenge, no transition, it was just business as usual. We are on set, doing crazy shifts, we’re filming it, that’s it.
FB: Oh right, quite refreshingl…
TS: I wish I could give you the crazy stories, we’re doing it, we’re filming it but at the end of the day it really wasn’t. It was just so natural.
FB: So how did you actually got involved in it? Did you liked the script or were you involved earlier than that?
TS: No – so I basically met the producer, and he was like would you ever want to make a movie. I’ve got this movie. As soon as they said of kinda oh yeah, you can do however you wanna do it. We’re open to your way. And I was like ok let’s do it.
FB: How long did it take to shoot? The whole principal photography?
TS: We shot the whole thing in 16 days.
FB: That’s pretty good.
TS: Yeah. We had original schedule of 20 days. We finished 4 days early. We had a really good team on this.
FB: We talked earlier a little about the visual style of the film. I don't know if this is deliberate or not or budget constraints but most of the film's scenes look like they could play out on a stage, except for the scene on the lake - was that a deliberate choice?
TS: Yeah absolutely, the idea, the diner – we built the diner, I design it myself so you know we build certain things and we use kind of other things that are available, the wood you know so massive. Such a massive expensive kind of place. Just so amazing we have to use it. There was a whole scene with the canoe and all that where not originally planned. When I got into the woods, on the location I was like “what the fuck is this?!” And whoa! Why no one tell that this existed and they were like what you mean? We can make a scene for this.
FB: A lot of films get lots of criticism for having a sort of diminutive female going up against big guys, but you sort of handle that things quite well in a sort of training and the philosophy that she was given...
TS: Oh thank you. I feel like she really done a good job.. Nobody mentions that this movie has lots of bumps and bruises.
FB: I can imagine. Did Abigail have any stunt double or did she do her own stunt-work?
TS: We were required to have stunt double for her because of her age, but Abigail wasn’t even being excited being on set. She was like I’m doing this. Because of age we have to have her there but Abigail wanted to do everything.