Director Taylor Ri'chard Talks 'The Final Project' and its 'Blair Witch' Influences

Director Taylor Ri'chard Talks 'The Final Project' and its 'Blair Witch' Influences

The Final Project marks the directorial debut for filmmaker Taylor Ri'chard and his newly formed production studio, 3rd Fathom Entertainment. We sat down with Ri'chard to talk about the film, shooting in Atlanta, and how The Blair Witch Project influenced his script.


Shakefire (SF): Why did you decide on a horror film for your directorial debut?

Taylor Ri'chard (TR): Well the reason why I chose horror first was because obviously it’s one of the most inexpensive ways to get going, but I’m a huge horror fan. I love horror movies like Rob Zombie, Wes Craven; I’ve been watching that stuff for a long time so when I decided that I was going to do my own thing and try to mark my own way that just seemed like the most logical way to start.


SF: How long ago did the project start for you?

TR: It’s been almost three and a half years now that we’ve been working towards this. The first one is always a long process, apparently, just getting funding and building out locations and just getting it all together, especially in the beginning. But about four years.


SF: Speaking of locations, you filmed here in Atlanta. How was that experience?

TR: It was actually pretty cool. We filmed in Covington, GA. We filmed in the same region where The Vampire Diaries films and so it was very awesome. We had a little trouble at first as far as finding locations because I needed a plantation that was very similar to the original model, Chretien Point in Louisiana. So finding plantations in Georgia was hard because of the Civil War. A lot of plantations were burned down. This place was one of the last and only ones left that we were able to use.


SF: So the plantation is based on a real location?

TR: Absolutely. Lafitte Plantation is the made up fictional name of the plantation that is the story behind Chretien Point, which is in Sunset, LA.


SF: How important was it to find a plantation similar to the original?

TR:: Well very important. I needed it to be as authentic as I could make it because I’m trying to sell the concept of reality. That plantation needed to be very similar to the original one. We couldn’t film at the original because someone actually lives there. It was very, very important.



SF: Did you grow up in Louisiana? How was the process for recreating that environment in Georgia?

TR: I did. It wasn’t as hard as I thought as I thought it was going to be. Obviously I wanted the accents to sound right. We were able to find a great cast where one of the girls, the main character, she’s from New Orleans so her accent was very authentic. Then the lady in the store. I put people in place to have a Louisiana accent. Picking the plantation was important, but also making sure it looked very rural, very country. Those were all very important because if you ever see Chretien Point it’s very similar in how they looked.


SF:  What have you learned from this entire process of making your own film?

TR: I knew how to write films; I went to school for this. I knew how to film them. But taking it from the script to the screen I can actually say that I’ve been through the entire process. And I would say I’m always learning and ever evolving, but I know the basics of what it takes when I write with a pen and I go back to investors and say, “Hey look, I’m interested in doing this film.” I can get it to the screen. Now I know how to navigate this process. That’s the biggest takeaway for me.


SF: Do you see yourself branching out from horror?

TR: Yeah. This is going to be my only true horror, as far as found footage. My next film is a psychological thriller. Then I’m going to eventually move into drama, sci-fi, and fantasy. I eventually want to make movies like Avatar and Star Wars, that type of stuff. That’s what I’m interested in doing. This is just a good segway into keep me in a similar genre but not my endpoints. I eventually want to move on, because I’m very heavily influenced by James Cameron. I think he’s the best thing since sliced bread.


SF: You mentioned creating that sense of realism. Your main character shares the same last name as yours. Creating that link between the film and the real world…

TR: Absolutely! I intentionally did that. Found footage, they are unfortunately a dime a dozen. People do them a lot. What made my movie different was that I was really playing tribute to The Blair Witch Project. It was an intentional thing that I did. I love Blair Witch. I thought it was phenomenal. And I haven’t seen a movie like Blair Witch since Blair Witch. We have a lot of similarities in our styling. One thing I wanted to do was make sure that when people saw my name attached to the movie they felt like possibly I was a real person attached to it when they see her name just to give it a more authentic could-be-real found footage.


SF: What was filming like? There are a lot of long cuts. Lots of banter. Was it all scripted?

TR: Believe it or not, a lot of it is scripted. I was very intentional. The most improv in the entire movie are the scenes where they’re being scared because I created what I feel is true horror for them. They didn’t really know what to expect. When they’re running through the house they’re really screaming because I had elements in place that scared them. When they came around the corner maybe there was someone dressed in all black in this dark abandoned placed. They didn’t know to expect that. I just told them to run through the house and have this type of conversation. So when they got through the house someone would jump out or touch them, and they were really screaming. So they were very scared. And it translated on film as they were really running for their lives. A lot of it was developing it as we go. We had a script, there was a blueprint for you to follow, but if I needed to change something to make it make more sense I was able to do that, too.



SF: You said that horror movies and found footage are a dime a dozen. What would you say sets The Final Project apart from the others?
TR: What I did in this movie was try to create an interactive viewing. Right now, the demographic we’re looking at, they play Xbox and PlayStation and a lot of the games they love are the first person shooters, the Halo’s and Call of Duty’s and others. So what I did was I created the point-of-view death scenes. When a person is getting ready to die you will see the head cam come on and as a viewer, you’re taking that journey with them similar to a first person shooter. That has never been done before. They’ve had head cams, but no one has ever turned the camera into the viewpoint of the person watching the movie. You’re watching that and kinda experience. It’s minimal, but it was something different that I brought to the table.


SF: How long was the shoot?

TR: Six weeks. It was tough; I’m not going to lie. I think this was probably one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. Getting this project done and getting it to a place where I felt comfortable sharing it. As a filmmaker, when you put your work out there you’re very vulnerable. People are going to tell you things. Some people love this movie, some people will shred it. And that’s okay. I did it as a labor of love for myself. That’s why I make movies. I make them for me. I’m letting you into my world and how I see things from my perspective, and if you enjoy it that’s a plus.


The Final Project opens in Atlanta on Friday, February 12, 2016.

Matt Rodriguez
Interview by Matt Rodriguez
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