Found footage impresario Oren Peli is extremely busy at the moment. Not only is Paranormal Activity 4 (which he produced and wrote) in cinemas, but spooky horror series The River (produced) is hitting Syfy in the UK, Rob Zombies’ The Lords Of Salem (produced) is getting epic film festival buzz, Insidious 2 (probably produced) is in the planning stages and Chernobyl Diaries (wrote/produced) is coming to DVD and Blu-ray on 22 October 2012.
We caught up with the prolific horror creator to talk about his various projects…
The fourth Paranormal Activity film is about to come out. How involved have you been with the franchise?
I stay involved – as a producer, I obviously don’t have the same sense of ownership or level of involvement that I have with the first one; we have directors, we have a writer, we have other producers and the studio is very involved, so you know, I’m one of the voices and I get to express my opinion and ideas and contribute suggestions. I definitely have some role in it, but not to the same degree as I did with the first one.
Looking back now, did you ever think it would become such a massive phenomenon?
Definitely not. I mean, I would have been happy, when the first one came out, with just a theatrical release that would do moderately well, so the fact that it’s done better than anyone could have hoped for, and turned into a franchise, that’s definitely not something I anticipated.
You’ve been involved with a lot of horror films, and you’re also partly responsible for the current trend for ghost movies and found-footage horror movies. Are you a horror fan?
I wouldn’t say that I’m specifically a horror fan. I do like a good horror movie, but I don’t only watch horror movie; I like anything that’s good, whether it’s a drama or a comedy or whatever, I like movies in general. I’m definitely more involved in horror movies at the moment, but eventually I’ll start branching out.
How did you come to be involved with Rob Zombie’s The Lords Of Salem?
After Paranormal Activity came out, me and a couple of partners felt that we might have a unique opportunity to create a label and partner with other filmmakers to create low-budget horror movies. The first movie to come out on that label was Insidious and the other two are The Lords Of Salem and The Bay, which was directed by Barry Levinson, which will be out I think in a month. So those three movies were all part of the same label, which was designed to see if we can create low-budget horror movies that give a lot of control to the filmmakers.
So you’re fairly hands-off? You weren’t heavily involved with making Insidious, for example, right?
Correct. It was all James Wan and Leigh Whannell, they were the creative force involved, and we stayed out of the way.
Will you be involved with the potential Insidious sequel?
We have nothing to announce. We’re hoping something will happen, but there’s nothing to announce yet.
You’ve written, directed, and produced; what do you see yourself as, or do you like being involved in many levels?
I’m feeling that I’m lucky having the opportunity to do a bit of everything, and they each have their own advantages; it can be fun to come up with an idea and write it and be the producer and let the director do all the hard work, so you’re still involved, but someone else is carrying the load! Directing is very stressful and hard, but when you do direct a movie there’s much more of a sense of ownership. You feel like it really is your baby, so it’s very rewarding to be the director, but sometimes it’s just more fun to be the writer or producer.
Finally, then, with your label, are you only intending to make low budget horror films, or might you make other kinds of films, too?
There’s nothing specific to announce, but I’m not limiting my options, so if any project comes along that seems to make sense, where I have the opportunity to collaborate with people I respect and admire, I’ll definitely consider it. I’m keeping my options open.
So you might produce a rom com or a buddy cop movie or something if the right project came along?
Well, I don’t have any specific plans for a romantic comedy, but you never know.