Jeruzalem out now on DVD and Download is by far the best found footage film made in years packed with inventive ideas, crazy creatures and some truly scary scenes all wrapped up in a modern day Biblical story line set to shock and awe the audience.
I was lucky enough to meet up with the The PAZ brothers Doron and Yoav Paz who wrote and directed this horror epic that seamlessly blends ancient evil with modern day technology. Chatting after their screening at Frightfest we talked about the trials and tribulations of making a found footage film, the state of Israeli cinema, the very real Jerusalem Syndrome and so much more.
Love Horror: I watched the film last night and really liked it. I have to say when I saw it was found footage I was a bit worried…
Yoav Paz: Everybody says that!
Love Horror: Yeah I guess it’s the curse of the genre because so many of them have been so bad but with Jeruzalem you really did something different with it. Taking that wearable technology and really playing with it was an extremely innovative idea. What came first the story or the style of filming?
Doron Paz: The thing is that for years we had many ideas but the one that was our favourite conversation and we knew it would make for a great film was a point of view horror film because we always said it was such a strong tool for telling a story. We had an idea about backpackers coming to Jerusalem and we always said the old city is such an amazing scenario, everywhere you go you feel history all around you, we always said we have to do a horror film in Jerusalem.
So we had these ideas but something was missing for many years but then a few years ago when they started talking about wearable technology and Google glass and everything we said “this is our chance, let’s do a film that’s entirely point of view using this!”
Yoav Paz: We wanted two things, we wanted an excuse for this point of view and we also have the other technological layer like in the sex scene where you have another layer of storytelling with social media with other stuff.
Love Horror: I loved the way you used it in the sex scene with the messages from her Dad popping up. You should have had a major plot point in the texts and seen if anyone noticed it like “The way to defeat the demons is…”
Doron Paz: So you weren’t busy on just the nudity then?
Love Horror: (Laughs) It was distracting!
Yoav Paz: We were thinking at one point as the glasses are left on the side of having the whole scene filmed upside down just to make it really disorientating.
Doron Paz: One of the problems in a found footage film is you always ask yourself “why the hell do they keep filming?” why don’t they just run away and save themselves.
Yoav Paz: The only movie you didn’t ask this question is Blair Witch and after that movie everyone asked that question.
Doron Paz: Yeah so we wanted to do something rough because we love the roughness of the found footage film so the point of view through the glasses she doesn’t actually record it we just see through her eyes and this helped us to overcome this question.
Yoav Paz: It’s a POV movie trying to take found footage to the next level.
Love Horror: You definitely did that. I think a lot of other lesser filmmakers would have wasted the opportunity and not utilised all the other functions of the glasses that you do by introducing things like social media pages, maps, music players and more but all of them having very different and interesting effects within the film on the characters and story.
Yoav Paz: Exactly like you said we like this extra layer because you can’t do this in other movies to add in all this other information. It’s a tool.
Love Horror: It also says something about our modern society where we are constantly bombarded with information on a daily basis as it means we are capable of taking all that content in at once unlike other generations before us.
Yoav Paz: Yeah everyone’s watching two screens at once you can’t just watch television you need to be checking your cell phone, it’s all about this second layer all the time. Let’s hope that when people watch this film at home they won’t watching something else because that would be a third screen (laughs)
Love Horror: Was it always the intention to have that mash up of the old and new with the old city and ancient biblical myths mixed in with the new technology.
Yoav Paz: Exactly, completely we loved this idea. You know we shot on location we didn’t fake anything we shot on the streets of Jerusalem and it’s such an ancient city it’s stood for 3 thousand years and everywhere you go you feel history around you. We shot in the most holist places and then shooting it in a different way, in a much more rough way regarding the camera but then you have all the technology layers above so it was fascinating for us. As filmmakers we had so many tools to play with.
Doron Paz: We based our story on a very old mythology. Every story even modern stories are based on ancient myths there is an evolution of storytelling everything comes down to the old storytelling myths about whatever, in Jerusalem it’s this kind of story in other countries it’s another one. We love dealing with mythology they contain so many details and so much information in them.
Love Horror: How hard was it filming in such famous locations?
Yoav Paz: It’s very complicated to film in Jerusalem it’s one of the most complicated sites in the world for so many reasons. The religious aspect you have to be sensitive you don’t want to offend anyone can’t just close down the holy spaces you can’t just go to some guy and ask for two hours of shooting. It would be like shooting in the centre of the Vatican you can’t do it. There are security reasons obviously its sensitive so most of the shooting was under the radar.
Doron Paz: We had permission to shoot a documentary actually so once in a while when we pulled our script out our producer said “Go on put it down!” we had to do it quickly as we don’t want anyone to see we are shooting drama and doing rehearsals with the actresses. We had to keep a really low profile.
Yoav Paz: We tried to bring the authenticity of the original Jerusalem not faking it.
Love Horror: And what about technically achieving that first person perspective?
Yoav Paz: Well technically we had all sorts of rigs. We had a helmet that the main character wore with a DSLR camera but then you have to have weights at the back of the camera so it became a pretty heavy rig so used it only a few times. Most of the time it was just our camera man and the main character Sarah played by Danielle Jadelyn so even though there would be days where you would just hear her speak she was always there with us to record her voice to have real feedback.
She was always there running through doors and crawling and everything. Our cameraman Rotem Yaron he is a very talented cameraman he was just part of her body. They were fused together like a walking Human Centipede (Laughs) but without the stitching.
Love Horror: That musty have been odd for her.
Yoav Paz: Yes! We were lucky to find Danielle because first of all she is an amazing actress and she knows drama but also she is a filmmaker so she had a point of view as a director so she helped us a lot.
Love Horror: I was going to ask what it was like for the cast making a found footage film? It must be strange as its one of the most real forms of cinema but also the most fake as you are constantly looking into the camera like it’s a person.
Yoav Paz: Right and also it was a clean set most of the time because we were shooting 360 degrees so the crew needed to hide away so sometimes we were so far away from the action that the only guys there were the cast so they were alone on the set most of the time. There was our cameraman, Danielle and the cast around her and that’s it. All of the crew we were all gone far away because we were shooting all around all the time.
Love Horror: As brothers working together how do you divide up the writing and directing process?
Yoav Paz: Everybody asks us that. It’s very intuitive for us it’s not like we are dividing the jobs as in one is doing this and the other that. We do everything together we write together, we direct together everything.
Doron Paz: This is our second feature film and we are also doing a lot of drama TV series in Israel together so it comes very naturally for us. Especially doing a feature film with a small budget it’s such a difficult war it takes years to do since you have the first idea to the final product and still it continues with the marketing stuff etc. etc. so when you are a two headed monster in a way it makes things a bit easier. You need someone to fight with, you need someone to have a dialogue with.
Yoav Paz: When you wrestle with ideas it’s a good thing because if we both decide something and agree on something it’s a good decision. If there is a doubt you know it’s wrong.
Doron says that I am more uptight and he plays it cool. We did a TV series in Israel and one character she was always pushing us. If she wanted to do something she would come to me and say “let’s do this and that” and I would say “that’s not a good idea” and she would go to Doron and say the same!
Doron Paz: It’s like Mum and Dad “but Dad told me I can do it!” She was checking us all the time!
Love Horror: So you mentioned before but was it a very small budget movie?
Yoav Paz: Yes it was a very small budget we were lucky enough for the Epic guys to jump on board and believe in us.
Doron Paz: It got bigger and bigger as we rolled on. The thing is we took the guys and colleges and people we work with in the commercial industry and TV shows we do who are the top league professionals but they all helped us and did it purely for the sake of art and the passion. The camera man, the art department they are all cutting edge people who make their living from commercials and stuff like that but they wanted to do something else.
Love Horror: Did it mean you had to be more creative as you didn’t have so much money to play with?
Yoav Paz: Yes because you can do what you want, there’s no studio that you need to report to. It’s good to have limits because it makes you think out of the box. When you don’t have limits it’s like raising a kid if you don’t give it restrictions it’s no good. When you have budget boundaries and production boundaries you have to be creative and that the hard part to win these small battles to overcome the small budget. You think okay I can’t afford these 2000 actresses how can I do it with 150?
Love Horror: Was it always a found footage film and what do you think of the genre in general?
Yoav Paz: We thought we invented the genre (Laughs) No really you are always going to find influences we were very influenced by REC and stuff like that but again we wanted to find our own unique angle and to do it in a different way. Also it’s not a completely a found footage film because of the Google Glass point of view and as you say if people are looking for something familiar yet different we have that. This is our same thing but different.
Actually it’s not as easy to do as you think it makes things so much harder. People say “Oh it’s so easy let’s just take a shitty camera and do some jerky stuff” it’s not easy at all to make it look good. The sound design is much more complicated and directing and choreographing a scene is hard blocking a scene as well. CG is more complicated because of the camera moving all the time it doesn’t make things easier really.
Love Horror: Considering all that the effects where great and I loved how subtle they were. How did you create the creatures and what was your thinking behind their design?
Yoav Paz: We wanted the audience to imagine. Sometimes when you finally see the demon the more you see the less scary it is. Sometimes you see horror films like Mama the first half was an amazing movie you just see her hair and you can imagine her but once you see it all on the screen and the CG and the effects, you have lost everything.
Doron Paz: We wanted them to be biblical creatures so everything is based on doomsday according to the bible. We wanted to have dark angels as you see in scriptures drawn with wings and stuff like that which was all part of it and also the Nephilim the mighty giants that you read about in the bible so it was a combination of things but always the reference was the bible. Sometimes when you read some of those chapters it’s the best horror book ever because everything is in it very detailed. In the bible there are sex scenes and horror scenes and horrible things happen to good people it’s all there and there is such great drama in that book.
Yoav Paz: They should put an R rating on it! The bible is not for kids!
Love Horror: Talking of religion the film mentions Jerusalem Syndrome which is a fascinating phenomenon, have you witnessed it happening to anyone yourselves?
Yoav Paz: When you walk the streets of Jerusalem you see crazy people all the time. One thinks they are King David one thinks he is King Solomon it’s like a real life Comic-Con, a Biblical Comic-Con. It’s a crazy city. The Jerusalem Syndrome is a real phenomenon and about 100 people a year go there and they see all the stories that they were raised on and it affects them in a really bad way. There is a mental asylum near Jerusalem and most of them are getting hospitalised for a few days and then they are fine. It’s all real.
Love Horror: There is also an interesting element of the religious conflicts between the various beliefs in the city with the Americans trapped in-between, was that dynamic important to you to include?
Yoav Paz: It’s not a film about any religion it’s about religion as a whole as a concept. In a way we are saying the religious conflicts are actually stupid because in the end we all believe in the same God it doesn’t matter if you are Jewish, Muslim or Christian in the end it’s about believing in the same God.
Doron Paz: Also the mythology of resurrection is in the movie and everyone calls it a different name and everyone calls the creatures a different name some call them dark angels but they are then same things.
Yoav Paz: All the wars that are going around and the fighting going around this ends that fighting because when the day comes and it will come something bigger will come these things will all look so ridiculous. We are fighting about small territories here or power and stuff like that but maybe 10 years from now something horrible will happen or something amazing will happen and it all will look just stupid.
Love Horror: Horror is such a great genre for examining those ideas without overtly saying it.
Yoav Paz: Yes this is not a political movie but it deals with people and ideas without saying it.
Doron Paz: We didn’t want to dig too deep into that stuff. In the end it’s about entertaining.
Yoav Paz: There are too many Israeli movies doing that already.
Doron Paz: In the end it’s about entertaining.
Yoav Paz: We wanted people to laugh, it’s important to us to have a lot of jokes in the film to keep a good atmosphere especially in the beginning because it’s important to us that the film doesn’t take itself too seriously. In the end you just want people to enjoy themselves. They are giving their precious time to you, and hour and a half, they are going to the cinema they are dressing well, they need to have fun.
Love Horror: Well you delivered that fun and entertainment for sure and the power of the POV is it can make people feel even more involved as if they are caught up in the chaos that’s unfolding before their eyes.
Yoav Paz: As Israeli filmmakers based in Israel we are looking for our unique angle our unique way to tell the story. We won’t do a film about a cabin in the woods because …
Doron Paz: Well there’s no woods!
Yoav Paz: Well there are a lot of woods but they are not scary in Israel actually. But our next film which is a Sci-Fi film is going to happen in the desert because we have amazing deserts.
Doron Paz: The cinematic language is a universal language everyone watching the movies gets it the language is there. But you always need to find your own perspective you know your own local story. If you try to be something you’re not you’re going to lose. You need to find your own voice and that’s what we are trying to do. That’s why I think a lot of Israeli content right now and in the last few years are coming into the rest of the world from Homeland and others there is so much good Israeli content coming because we have so many stories. If you find the international and global language to tell those stories they will get out there.
Love Horror: So is there a good film making scene in Israel now?
Yoav Paz: Yes because I think the younger filmmakers they stopped being afraid. The teachers in film school always say to keep a low profile not to go over your budget so this is why most people go to drama sometimes comedy but no more than that. In the past few years people start to see you can make horror films, you can make genre films like sci-fi and thrillers and there are more and more genre films coming out. I think the people who really wanted to do these kinds of films all of their lives now they realise they can do it. That’s its possible.
The confidence of all the filmmakers is just getting stronger and stronger from every film that succeeds. So we are very proud to be a part of that and the genre scene in Israel because we hope that we inspire young filmmakers to do what they really to do and not just the right thing to do.
Love Horror: What inspired you to make genre movies and what where some of your major influences?
Yoav Paz: We always loved Israeli filmmakers but we were very influenced from British and American cinema. We always dreamt from Indian Jones on and we were inspired by so many movies so when we became filmmakers we wanted to make those kind of films.
Doron Paz: We are not afraid to push the limits of the budget because unfortunately we come from that most of the productions you don’t have the money you need so you always need to think outside of the box. Music videos which we have done a lot of during the years was a great experience and a way for us to experiment with all kinds of different genres and techniques. We just want to challenge ourselves, we don’t want to be in the safe zone or the comfort zone, we always want to challenge ourselves.
Yoav Paz: We had a pre-premiere at a festival in Jerusalem last year which was incredible as it’s a festival that only does drama and highbrow, art house stuff. We where the first genre movie and it took two awards including the Audience award. A lot of the film industry in Israel is based on government funding which is more oriented to drama so we think maybe the next time filmmakers come with a horror film or a genre film it will be easier for them to receive some government funds. Israel filmmaking is in the beginning of a process and hopefully some really good things will come from it.
Love Horror: I think ironically because your film is a horror and a found footage one at that it will be popular in many more countries and although it’s not seen as such in Israel right now Jeruzalem is hugely commercially viable.
Yoav Paz: I don’t think there are any other Israeli movies this year who can say we have sold to so many countries.
Doron Paz: We have a map of the world with all these little pins in and we feel like some kind of dictator putting them everywhere we get sold. Shaked (Berenson Executive Producer) is calling us every day saying “We got Venezuela, we got Bolivia!”
Yoav Paz: “We got India, we conquered Japan!”
Doron Paz: We should screen in the Vatican. That would be great!
Yoav Paz: You were right before this is a popular movie it’s an entertaining movie it’s not a political movie obviously you can go deeper than that but it’s really just for the people.
Love Horror: It more than entertained me. Thanks for talking to us guys.
JeruZalem is out now and you can read our review right HERE plus check out this killer clip!