Gareth Evans Interview for V/H/S/2 and The Raid 2


On why Evans and Tjahjanto chose to shoot a segment together.

My first thought was from a little bit of anxiety about it I suppose… I’ve done action before but never horror, never full on horror. If I was going to do it I wanted someone to support on that. Timo [Tjahjanto], my co-director, had been asked to do it too. We’ve know each other for years. We’d been looking for something to collaborate on and we realised that we’d both been asked and thought, why don’t we just do this together. He was interested and I needed him for it. There’s no way I could have done it without him.

He had the central concept, it was his idea for the storyline. I was hooked into it and I was like, this is what we’re going to do. Definitely.

Shooting POV and how this differed to the way he approached shooting The Raid and Merantau.

Part of the challenge was, beyond the idea of me not doing horror before, was how the fuck do I shoot POV then. How do we keep making it interesting visually. So much about The Raid was the visceral stuff. With The Raid and Merantau I can cut from this shot to that shot and get all that information in there, and it’s all structured and it’s all controlled.

But suddenly I’m doing POV and I’ve got this angle [illustrates the various angles of the POV cameras in Safe Haven] or I have this angle from this person. You can’t change the lens, you can’t zoom in, can’t get that detail, you can’t get that emotion. How the fuck do you do it. That was part of the thing that interested me, I got to play with that and try and figure out how to overcome those challenges and obstacles that get put in your front of you when you do something like that.

The final section of Safe Haven and how it was constructed to feel like it was uninterrupted.

Our goal line with it was to be able to say what we want to do and what we have to do is find a way to make that last five/six minutes feel like one continuous shot. We knew that it was basically a situation where we introduce a lot of different cameras, a lot of different viewpoints at the beginning. Then gradually you start killing people off and running out of batteries. Then you have less options to cut to.

Then you’re faced with one camera angle left for the rest of the film, how do I make it feel like it’s one continuous take. I didn’t want to do time cuts or cheats. The compound was four different locations in different parts of the city, so in pre-production we would go into all of the places and look around and try and find where the architecture matched up. That corridor connects to this room. Then you start to make this mental blueprint of how this thing looks then. This is where they enter and then when they turn down this part we cut to the stairwell of this building and they go down this corridor and they see these kids skipping, they get to this point and we build a partition wall and we’ll cut to this other building then come around.

How Evans and his crew managed to ensure Safe Haven looked like it was actually all shot on one location.

Me and my assistant director we’d go to the set and I’d have my iPhone and we’d shoot something and then go to the next location and we’d pick up where we’d left off. We’d do that movement again. In camera, just with my iPhone. We’d use splice on the iPhone and start testing it as close as possible. And sometimes it’d be seamless and we’d be like, okay that works.

Shooting cheaply but still getting the shots they wanted.

One example, for instance; when he sees the couple fucking at the end the camera comes in and goes up and glides along this wall and the goes into the basement. There’s a cut then and we go to the next location. How we did it is we had one bit of white wall on that building and in the other location we had a tiny section of white wall, that was all we had.

We had no budget for lighting, we’d run out of money by that point, so me and my AD were there using flashlight on our iPhones to light the wall so we could glide from one place to another. Trying to throw all these little tricks in. The benefit of doing all those and why we experimented on this is that because this is a short film and part of an anthology you feel like you can be a little more flexible in terms of experimenting with different things in camera, with edits. And a bunch of stuff that I ended up doing in V/H/S/2 we carried over into The Raid 2. So you learn all these little tricks.

On shooting the prison scene in The Raid 2 so that the momentum keeps going.

We have a scene in The Raid 2, a prison riot, and I wanted it to feel like for a long amount of time that it was an uninterrupted take. So we started to look at cuts on whip pans but into another movement so it feels like it flows. We keep going, keep going, keep going.

We go up on a crane, come back down and flow so it feels like it’s one shot. But obviously it’s not and we’re not trying to fool people into thinking it is. To keep the momentum going. To feel like it’s one shot. That prison scene is a big, big action sequence. It was a bitch to choreograph whilst keeping it fluid and there were a lot of extras too. We had one hundred and twenty people in there. It gets tough.

Shooting outside, in the mud. I wanted rain throughout the entire thing at first but my producer said that we couldn’t afford the rain for that much time. So I had it raining for the start of the shot and then after that it stopped and we have a fight scene in the mud. The mud got so high after seven or eight days. The art department were just chucking on fresh mud every day and then when they wetted it down again it became like soup. It was coming up to your ankles. You could barely move. I lost a pair of shoes in there.

Getting out of the corridors of The Raid and moving outside. And how he shot his first car chase.

We did a lot of outdoor stuff on The Raid 2. A lot of different locations. When it came to The Raid 2 it just made sense that we’d have these sequences outdoors. I wanted to explore different action designs too.

I wanted to try a car chase for example. The first car chase I’d done. It was nuts. Even then we have restricted space again [as in Safe Haven or The Raid]. We have the car chase but inside one of the cars we have a fight scene going on. There are three or four people fighting inside the car while they’re driving through the streets. We did a couple of modifications [to the car] here and there.

We did one shot that was really fucking hard where we’re inside the one car and then we see a little bit of the fight and then at the end of that moment we pull the camera out and back and we see another car coming up. Then we go into that one and see a little bit of movement and then we go to back window and see the other car.

We didn’t have really good effects or anything, or big rigs. We did it practically. We started playing around with this technique on The Raid of keeping the camera moving through an action scene even if it was something that seemed a bit dangerous. We’d do a pass off. So you have the camera on a rig and then you pass it, then the operator takes it and then passes it on. Da da da da.

So we did a two person pass off during the car chase [in The Raid 2]. Everything moving. We’re driving along and we have to get to same speed. When we’re at the same speed the DOP says now and he puts it [the camera] in. They start fighting and then he pulls it out. He pulls it out, the car slows down and the other one speeds up. The other car starts to come up and as they join speeds you push in and pass off to the next guy. The guy is inside waiting for the camera [mimes someone ducked down] comes in and takes it. Out through the window and then across.

And that was a fucking brutal shot. Because we tried lots of ways to do it and couldn’t do it. We were umming and aahhing about having them all on a flatbed and being able to control it with the dolly track. Then we were worrying about having to paint the road in and that sort of shit, and getting worried about it looking fake. So we were concerned about that. And then we thought maybe we could do it all green screen but that was even more worrying. Then it could look really fake and really shitty. Especially in daylight you can’t hide much. So basically we thought after weeks and months of trying to prep it we were like, lets just fucking do it.

The bad guys in The Raid 2 and the way in which the sequel is more heightened than the first film. 

The bad guys – especially the bad guys – [in The Raid 2] have a certain kind of like a comic book element, but still in a certain reality. Still in the world of reality. They’re not eye patches and shit like that, not that far.

For the hammer girl one what we decided was that it’s a brother and sister double-act. There’s Hammer Girl and Baseball Bat Man. I’m terrible with names. They’re brother and sister. This isn’t in the film but in the back story is the idea that since they were children they’ve been raised into this position of being killers. There’s a certain immaturity in them, they’re violent but there’s an immaturity. And so we wanted to reflect that in the film. We have these little touches, these little flourishes. They almost feel like they’re from the world of a comic book, in terms of how their characters originate. We have little beats and little touches. Shots here and there that hint at that comic book world but at the same time the pain is real and the violence is real.

It’s gonna be different this one. It kind of skirts that idea of, for instance, when we’re talking with the gangsters it’s very much of that genre. When we come to the assassins they’re very much of that comic book genre. When you come to Rama’s (Iko Uwais) life it’s very much of the first film. So it’s kind of like a mish mash of different influences and different styles. And the tricky thing with this one is to find the way of presenting these things, which are larger than life, in a way that still feels grounded in a certain element of reality. We don’t defy the laws of physics or anything like that. No-one’s flying or does supernatural shit but we do stretch at it a little bit. We tug a little bit at the realms of reality.

This interview was originally posted at Bleeding Cool.