Paranormal Activity’s Oren Peli talks about his new film “Chernobyl Diaries”

Oren Peli is known best for his working on the “Paranormal Activity” series. Oren also produced last year’s amazing horror film “Insidious” and recent TV series “The River”. His latest project is being released on May 25th called “Chernobyl Diaries”, directed by Brad Parker (click here for our interview with Brad). Media Mikes had a chance to chat with Oren about not only producing this film but also co-writing.

Mike Gencarelli: Can you give us some of the films origin?
Oren Peli: I was killing time one day by browsing on the internet. While I was looking around I came across a link posted by someone who had gone to the city of Prypiat which is near the Chernobyl site. I guess in the last few years the town has been opened up as a tourist site. People can go there with a tour guide and walk around and take pictures. I had always known about the Chernobyl disaster but it never occurred to me that there was an abandoned town right next to it. The town was evacuated over night and left empty for 25 years. I thought it was sad but also fascinating. It was a great setting for a scary movie.

MG: How did this films writing differ from your previous work?
OP: In some aspects it was fairly similar. You start with a grain of an idea which you develop. You have to come up with the characters and the setting. Because it’s a horror movie you also have to think about what would be scary and how to put those scares into the movie. For me it was the whole idea that you are in an abandoned town where there is not supposed to be anyone or thing around. You become stranded in the middle of the night and you hear what you think could be a human scream from a distance. You now know that you are not alone. That is the core scare factor of the film.

MG: How did Brad Parker become attached to the project?
OP: After meeting with my producing partner we decided we were going to make the movie. We then joined forces will Phil Mason who financed the movie. I knew I wasn’t going to be able to direct the movie because my schedule would just not allow it. We met with a lot of directors that were very talented but some of them were not available and some we didn’t think were right for the genre. When we met Brad we were very impressed with his visual sense. We got along great and luckily he was the right guy for the job.

MG: What is your biggest challenge when working with a smaller budget?
OP: Low budget generally means you don’t have two months to shoot. You have to work in a smaller time frame. In this particular film one of the most important characters is the city. We had to make sure that we portrayed it accurately. We didn’t have an infinite budget for visuals and set building. We had to be very creative and smart in order to maximize our budget. It’s a challenge all around.

MG: Are you concerned at all about the film opening up against “Men in Black III”?
OP: I am sure “Men in Black III” will do very well but it’s a different audience. That film is more of a family film where ours is an R-rated hardcore horror film. The tradition of opening films on Memorial Day weekend has been very strong so I think all the films will do very well.

MG: What do you like most about producing films over directing?
OP: I think the main thing is directing islike a full time job. You are working on a film for a year at a time. When you are producing you are able to juggle several things at once. If I was directing “Chernobyl Diaries” I wouldn’t be able to do it because of all the other things I have going on. As a producer you are able to over think projects.

MG: What other projects are you working on next?
OP: I actually have a policy of not discussing any projects that I have in development. Sorry.

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