It's a good time to be a horror fan. The genre is currently in the midst of a renaissance, with new and original content being released every few months. Rather than stale franchises or predictable slashers, filmmakers have been making bold choices in the world of horror, which has resulted in a spike in theater attendance and critical acclaim. After all, Get Out managed to win an Oscar this past season. Acclaimed director Steven Soderbergh is doing some genre defying with the new psychological thriller Unsane, which was shot entirely on an iPhone 7. I recently asked the cast how that changed things onset, and got a glean into what it was like shooting the project.
I recently had the chance to speak with both Jay Pharoah and Joshua Leonard about their respective roles in Unsane. Leonard is known for his role in The Blair Witch Project, and spoke to how filming was unique with an iPhone. He said,
It was really fun to shoot a movie on an iPhone because it's portable, and you don't need a ton of light. And it's also such an omnipresent piece of technology in all of our lives at this point that it removes the kind of barrier, and that sense of elevation that you sometimes feel on film sets. Where it's film with a capital F and this was much more like 'let's get in the room and play.'
It looks like the use of an iPhone helped to break down some of the barrier that sometimes affect film sets. Because there is so much equipment and crew involved major projects, there can be a disconnect between the actor and director. But the Unsane set felt like guerrilla filmmaking, as it was clearly a fun experiment between Steven Soderbergh and his cast.
SNL alum Jay Pharoah piggybacked off of Josh Leonard's comments, revealing Steven Soderbergh's vision and unique way of filming Unsane. Namely, that he'd be instantly sure that he got certain shots.
Steven Soderbergh was so good at just being in a place of getting a shot where you'd probably think we'd need to do that again, and he'd be like 'Oh no that's fantastic. I got it, trust me.' It's quick. Very quick.
While Steven Soderbergh's vision is what made him known for projects like Traffic and The Knick, it's not the only thing he bring to the table. He's also got abilities as a film director. In fact, the use of an iPhone to film made it so that Soderbergh could begin editing the movie together while they were still filming. This was mind boggling to Jay Pharoah, as he told me:
One of the craziest points for me just being on set was actually going up to his room and seeing the room 80 percent done as we're shooting it. Because he did it on the iPhone. And he's like 'Wanna come in, have a drink? Watch it!' And I'm like 'Watch it, we just shot it! You already put this together?'
Clearly Steven Soderbergh was having fun working on Unsane, which was a major departure from his most recent project Logan Lucky. It's this excitement that ultimately made the new thriller so exciting. Now we'll just have to see if audiences agree.
You can check out my conversation with Jay Pharoah and Joshua Leonard below.
Unsane hits theaters March 23, 2018. In the meantime, check out our 2018 release list to plan your next trip to the movies.