YouTube and its variants have become a place to make a name as a filmmaker. Make something that goes viral and you could be the next guy being flown to Hollywood or elsewhere to make the next big thing.
For the guys in Radio Silence their story is pretty similar. Having released a number of “interactive adventures” shorts and series as Chad, Matt and Rob on YouTube the group has amassed nearly 60 million views on their videos. The group’s shorts usual blend comedy with some elements of horror with some thriller elements. This made the group a good fit for the new anthology V/H/S which screened as part of the midnighters series of films at SXSW 2012. I got a chance to catch up with the group the afternoon after the film made its bow at the fest and discuss their punk rock like DIY process as well as how they got involved with V/H/S.
John: I’m here with the makers and creative team behind the best segment from V/H/S, Radio Silence. I found the segment a lot of fun…When your segment kicked I was like holy shit, scared shitless half the time.
Radio Silence: Thanks!
So, how did Radio Silence get involved with V/H/S?
(producer) Brad Miska had been in touch with us for a couple of years, because of stuff we used to do online. He’d been working on this (V/H/S) kind of off and on again for a while, and we had been in talks about it, for the better part of a year. Then finally it was like okay, were going to do it, and we were the last people to be brought in. 10/31/1998 was an idea we had been kicking around for a while. This was where we really got to synthesize it into something that we really enjoyed making and have fun with.
I’ve talked to the others behind the film and there’s been talk about expanding upon the stories that are in there. Is that something you feel you could do?
Definitely. We wanted to create that other world. This is just the tip of the iceberg as to where we can go, like into this world with either the girl or the guys, keeping the girl, or the house itself and really work that story out and tell a lot more. We built a whole mythology around it. Like we know, there is a whole story and this is only so much of it.
Which is what I think is great about all the films in this anthology. They are a small piece of a much larger world. Each film sort of has its own mythology and its own future and its own past to it. Ours has both of those things, a past and a future and a back story and a mythology and all that, that we’d love to explore. It’s like a really fun ride, the consequences of what happens to our characters and that girl getting out is a really fun thing for us to imagine, and imagine it we have…
How is your collaborative effort? It’s the four of you guys and I’m impressed that it doesn’t feel disjointed at all. How do you split the work effort up? Does someone take different duties on different days? Is it a number out of a hat?
Chad does all the work!
I think that from every technical process, from writing to the sound mixing, we all have experience with it to a certain degree. So there is some overlap. We also all have our strengths and a combination of those strengths and our knowledge of what the other processes are have made this a really effective. We are all able to give really critical notes, and we are also able to make things technically polished and perform proficiently in those ways. It’s a real collective….
We also do a lot of our work before we even get on set, so were all on the same page and have the same idea.
Right so if there is problem the solution to it, the right solution is always very automatic for us. Even if it requires a discussion we all know based on the homework that we’ve done and the heavy lifting story wise, like what the right decision is, when somebody finally does have that.
How long have you guys been working together?
It’s like a band, four years give or take.
For the casting did you have every one in mind as soon as you had the story?
The only person we cast for this that we didn’t know was the girl. All the rest is us, and a lot of our friends we’ve worked with on some of our other projects too. We really just love keeping that close-knit group, it really just makes production run smoothly, quickly, and we know what were getting out of the people.
Totally I also think there is a level of trust in working with the people who you know and have worked with before, especially for a found footage movie where things really need to feel authentic. They need to feel very true to life. I think it’s a real challenge in a totally different process when you’re casting people you don’t know to get that effect. So working with people who were automatically familiar with how we are, were you can say “you have to do this stupid crazy thing…” and trust us that its going to look awesome and they would trust us…
Like the guys who got sucked up, coming into our office that is about as big as this table (smallish cocktail table) and hang up in a very non safe manor..
SAFTEY SECOND! (Laughs)
and what you see, like ahhhhh!…okay now do that!
Yeah there is a bit of actual fear on their face there.
We have a motto at Radio Silence, Safety Second…
And it seems to have served us so far.
Until it doesn’t.
And then it’s not funny anymore.
So it sounds like you have a lot of fun with this and have some great chemistry together. I keep hearing challenge when discussing V/H/S with others since it’s the first time these filmmakers did a found footage/first person type film, is this a first for you as well?
We’ve done like three-minute, shorts kind of horror and comedy. Scary shorts. This was the first time we had to tell a fuller story and not just a moment of it.
And the fist time that we were really required to solve the camera.
Right, because in two and a half minutes you can kind of get away with a little bit of like “oh I should probably just throw this camera”
Right , and that was really the longest conversation that we had. Because the idea was something that we had always kind of wanted to make, and then tailoring to fit this anthology, we spent 80% of our creative conversation was, how do we solve the camera? How do we solve that it’s always on, how do we make sense of that? How do we let the viewer forget they are watching? Instead of toning the story down to fit that, because we don’t want them throwing the camera down when they see a ghost, Ahhhhhh throw the camera down, scene roll credits… a one-act movie.
We’re going to make movies. We’ve got some ideas that were kicking around and all the other filmmakers have been really inspiring (to us) on this, they’ve built a creative career out of just telling stories.
And being proactive about it, and creating their stores.
That’s what I love is the horror genre is that the kids from the eighties are starting to come up in the world and its getting back to being good again and its good to be getting back to the type of material we all grew up with.
It’s an exciting time for the horror genre…
And the DIY approach, which is finally such a celebrated thing.
Did you do everything in the film yourselves?
Nice its like a punk film making
Yeah, were a punk band.
Anything else to share with your fans?
We have fans?
Were just really excited to be part of something that’s unexpected and an unexpected success in some ways and were proud to be associated to with people who like really do have fans. And were a part of that fandom.
And its been a perfect bridge into that…into the world we came from doing it ourselves and putting it on YouTube, to like hanging out with these guys that have that cool model of just do it.
And everything we’ve done is taking a step up.
By John Coovert