Sinister Seven: Delivery’s Brian Netto and Adam Schindler

Delivery is a game changer to the found-footage subgenre. Concealed under the premise of a giddy, daytime-television series exploring the adventures of a pregnant couple, Delivery, instead, mercilessly drags us down the path of a pregnancy gone demonically wrong. Currently hailed as a modern rendition of Rosemary’s Baby, and the newest installment from Anchor Bay, Delivery was recently screened at Rue Morgue’s Cinemacabre Movie Nights. Writer/Director Brian Netto and Producer/Co-Writer Adam Schindler join us to discuss how they pulled off their diabolical theatrical debut.

Filmmakers are giving all kinds of sub-genres found-footage makeovers. What was your interest in the demonic pregnancy sub-genre?

BN: The real interest in doing the story the way we did it was the reality television show angle. We loved the idea of taking something that was very much not like a horror film – a reality TV show – and showing a reality show the way they are in the U.S. – very upbeat, very bright – and slowly turning that into a horror film. That was really the goal. When we figured out what the supernatural issue was going to be we found this was the best way to go about it. We didn’t want to mimic Rosemary’s Baby too closely, but it felt like something people would understand.

I loved watching stuff that Ti West was able to do: Slow-burn films that lull you into a false sense of security, and bring you into a world where you’re not exactly sure what ground you’re on. A lot of times a film will start off with a cold opening and they’ll tell you you’re watching a vampire film, or a zombie film, or a ghost story. With us, it was a matter of saying, “We’re gonna take you some place dark,” but we really loved the idea of playing with peoples expectations, and, a lot of times, from people who have seen Delivery we’ve gotten audience reactions such as, “I got so far into the reality show that I forgot it was going to go bad,” and that transition was our goal. I am a really big fan of films that take their time, set up the characters, and lets you get to know them before you put them in peril. You have to give a shit about them before you put them in the ringer. So it was about the format, and the transition, more than it was the demonic pregnancy. It was really the transitioning.

AS: Given the format, I think it was important that people could grasp the idea of what the entity was right off the bat, and you wouldn’t have to go into a bunch of explanation. People are already very familiar with the demon type of entity. They’ve seen it on film, they’ve read about it in books, and they permeate most horror films. This makes it easier for us to tell the story of these characters, and get into the question: Is Rachel crazy, is she not crazy? Is this really happening, or is it not happening?

 Possession films are currently popular; were you looking more towards more modern movies with this theme, the cycle of films in the ’70s that featured evil offspring (there have been comparisons to Rosemary’s Baby), or neither?

AS: We were well aware of Rosermary’s Baby going into this. There’s no way you could not be. We wrote Delivery before the first Paranormal Activity came out. So we had this idea where a reality show would basically turn into Rosemary’s Baby. We said, “Let’s do this. This is exciting!” However, at that point in time, there hadn’t been anything like it. The only films that had come out at that time were Blair Witch Project, ten years prior, Cloverfield came out earlier that year. We called up our manager and explained that we needed to get our hands on some found-footage films. We got our hands on a film called Lake Mungo from Australia, which is similar in tone to our film. It’s a ghost story told with interviews and such. So we used that film as an example of how to format a film – or how this type of film would work. We also got a chance to sit down with Oren Peli before Paranormal Activity came out, and pick his brain on how he cast people and how he created this real world. Once Paranormal Activity came out we said, decided that there was an opportunity to do more than we thought, and that we could scale back at other points, letting the audience fill in the blanks a little bit more.

BN: In terms of inspiration, I would definitely say we leaned toward the older school, given the fact that we play up the whole idea of whether Rachel is or isn’t going through this ordeal. It’s a tight rope to walk, and it required us to really pull back in some scenes, and then examine whether or not we’re giving audiences enough to go off of. What older school films tend to do is use your imagination to fuel what’s happening onscreen. You may hear something; see some hoof-prints in the baking powder; or a door may close. Those are old school tricks that people have forgotten about for a while, which Paranormal Activity brought back to the forefront. So we leaned more toward the ‘less is more’ philosophy and decided it was more about using our female protagonist as our window. If Rachel’s scared out of her mind then we’re going to be scared for her.

In most found-footage films there’s usually a very limited perspective offered from a first-person point of view, but in Delivery you’ve blended first-person with a reality TV show. What inspired that dynamic?

AS: What inspired that dynamic is how engaging reality television shows are. I don’t tend to watch a lot of reality TV, but my wife watches them religiously. When you walk through the living room, my wife will be watching them, and I’ll pause, stop, begin watching, and the next thing I know it’s 30 minutes later. It makes you wonder what it is about a reality show that innately makes you get sucked in so quickly. Is it the quick cutting, the polish, the colors? The idea that you could take something so engaging, pop-y, happy, and twist and turn it into something dark, dank, and sinister really excited us.

BN: The thing that a lot of found-footage films have trouble with, something that we also battled with as we were putting the film together, is that audiences spend a finite amount of time with the characters, and can’t get to know them as quickly as you’d like them to. Found-footage doesn’t have a three-act structure. It’s usually an event. You get into a haunted house, you’re a ghost hunter, and you have ninety minutes with these characters, and it all feels very real-time. Our goal was to take these characters and see them throughout the pregnancy – almost a full year you’re spending with these characters and you’re watching them go through this roller coaster. The other thing we wanted to do was – the original Rosemary is so great at getting inside of your head and having you question what you’re seeing through her – which is something really subjective and you cannot really do in found-footage so what we did was we crafted these video diaries of her filming herself going through the process of whatever she’s experiencing, and with the exception of one or two all the video diaries she’s filming – she’s alone. And so it’s our attempt at getting inside her head the way a psychological drama, or psychological thriller would do. Because you can follow a character in a traditional narrative but you can’t in found footage. So that was our goal, and I think it really helped sell the idea of this character who is possibly going crazy and possibly going through this horrific possession experience inside her house.

Are either of you fathers? How did that affect making this film?

AS: I am. This whole production was steeped in pregnancy: My wife gave birth to our first child two weeks after we shot; Two weeks before we started shooting the film Danny’s wife gave birth to their first child; and our director of photography adopted an infant a few months before we started shooting. Now we read a lot on the subject of pregnancy and demonic possession before we shot, but going through the pregnancy beforehand let us in on a ton of minute details during shooting process.

BN: I have a dog. (Chuckles)

Tell us about how you built the mythology for the demon Alastor.

BN: Alastor is a real demon. It was difficult because we wanted to find a name that could be the name of an actual child. We first see the name on the baby name board so it couldn’t have been Beezlebub or anything too outlandish. The great thing with Alastor is that it’s linked to blood ties, sins of the father, and you could play with sins of the father in a familial curse type of storyline, which we did have written into the script, but eventually scaled back.

AS: When we were pulling demon images and doing our research we were looking for something that was a little restrained, but that tonally felt creepy as hell. Previously we had pulled off some stuff that had gone way too far with the blood and dismemberment and it felt way too heavy handed so we scaled back to something that would feel creepy.

BN: His symbol is an actual thaumaturgic triangle which is used to summon demons.

AS: We didn’t want to use the pentagram because it’s been used so often and you get people rolling their eyes when they see a pentagram.

Given the subject matter, was it difficult to cast the film? Did your actors know the ending from the get-go?

BN: Casting the film was difficult. We had a great crew, but we literally financed and developed the film on our own. None of the actors saw the script. We were feeding them the story scene to scene, and they had to trust us. At the end, we pulled our lead actress into a room, and explained what was going to happen in the final sequence. That was the scariest part of the whole shoot – Trusting that she’ll trust you to not write a shitty ending. Early on, we realized that the only way to do something like that was to get people who were skilled at improvisation.

AS: We brought in hundreds and hundreds of people, had our own casting calls, and took a tip from Oren Peli on how he cast Paranormal Activity. We’d bring a male and a female in, like a couple, sit them down, and fire questions at them to see how they would interact with each other. How long have you guys been dating? Where did you guys meet? When did you get engaged? Where was your wedding? Then you hit them with something like, “Why do you think your house is haunted,” to throw them off guard and see where they go with it. There’s a lot of the dialogue from the movie in Delivery, but a lot of it was made up on the fly because we wanted that improvisational component.

What’s next for you both? Will you be collaborating on any other horror films in the near future?

AS: We’re writing something called Method which is tonally similar to Delivery, but it’s not found-footage. t’s about an actor taking on a very intense roll. Then we’ll be developing some other things, which are all genre. Hopefully one of these things will hit, but you never know so it’s best to just spread your fingers, develop projects that are coming in, or write your own stuff, and see where the chips fall, but hopefully we’ll have more news for you in the next couple of months.


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