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Happy Death Day, the new horror-comedy from director Chris Landon, isn't structured like most movies. Rather, it takes a page out of Groundhog Day's book and has a narrative that follows a protagonist as she finds herself reliving the same day over and over again -- with the added twist at each day ends with her murder. As you would imagine, this kind of storytelling demanded a different approach to the shooting schedule of the production, and as I recently learned from stars Jessica Rothe and Israel Brossard, making the film was definitely a unique experience:
Jessica Rothe: We block-shot a majority of it.
Israel Broussard: We got all the dorm scenes done in, I think, four days.
Jessica Rothe: Three. Three days. We did all of...
Israel Broussard: Well, including the...
Jessica Rothe: Oh, reshoots. Three days initially with a fourth one - which was really intense! When I first heard that, I was like, 'They're doing what?!' Because it was also one of the very first things that we shot. But it ended up being this huge gift, because we were able to kind of map out how the film was going to progress. And Chris Landon, our director, who is so brilliant, was incredible at kind of assisting us, like, 'Well, it's Day 4, so we should probably be about here because we don't want to be where we're going to be on Day 6, but we need to pave the way for that.' It was amazing working with him in that capacity.
I had the pleasure of meeting Jessica Rothe and Israel Brossard late last month as they were paired for interviews during the domestic press day for Happy Death Day in Los Angeles. During our conversation I asked about dealing with the repetition that is inherent to the story, and they explained that it was a very different production experience, but that it also helped them nail down the pacing and progression of the movie.
Having been on film sets to watch movies while they are in production, I have a degree of sympathy for Jessica Rothe and Israel Brossard in this situation. As cool as movie making is, the worst thing about shooting is the endless repetition -- both because of multiple takes and multiple angles. It's bad enough when a movie is just trying to finish a normal sequence, but Happy Death Day was the experience of filming variations on that one sequence over the course of four days. It's impressive that it didn't drive them nuts, but even more impressive that Rothe got something positive out of the experience.
In Happy Death Day, Jessica Rothe stars as Tree Gelbman -- a college student who finds herself having a really rough birthday. She wakes up in a dorm room with a stranger (Israel Broussard), has to deal with her constantly-complaining sorority sister (Rachel Matthews), is ducking calls from her father, and, as the cherry on the sundae, discovers that there is a killer out and about who wants her dead. Fortunately, every time she's killed she finds herself waking up to repeat the day all over again, leading her to find some way to stop the homicidal maniac and stop the loop.
You can watch Jessica Rothe and Israel Broussard discuss the atypical production schedule of Happy Death Day by clicking play on the video below.