We were able to talk to director Matt Eskandari about his new film 12 Feet Deep. If you haven’t seen it yet, stop everything you’re doing and go and watch it! We caught up with Matt to ask him about the filmmaking, the film itself, and his upcoming projects.
PopHorror: Thank so much for taking the time to do the interview. How you get started in filmmaking?
Matt Eskandari: Thanks for having me! It was great pleasure to read your great reaction to the film. I’ve been in the indie film scene since graduating film school from USC. Storytelling has always been my passion and a way to create and express myself as an artist. I can’t imagine doing anything else!
Pophorror: What was the inspiration for 12 Feet Deep?
Matt Eskandari: Exploring my own fear of water and claustrophobia within the confines of a self-contained story. At the same time, every story has its own themes. With this one, I really wanted to touch upon redemption. I go through periods in my life where I swing from a pessimist to an optimist on human nature, but when this story came to life, I was looking for something redemptive and filled with hope.
PopHorror: You also took part in writing the film. What scenes did you enjoy writing?
Matt Eskandari: It was a challenge to write because we purposely set out to do a movie without the crutch of sharks or wolves or some external threat that could have easily created a fallback for us in creating conflict. Instead, we had the character of Clara, who had to be a believable antagonist. She isn’t evil or out for revenge. The idea is that she takes advantage of an opportunity offered to her and things spiral out of her control. She makes her own mistakes along the way that felt true to her as a character. In many ways, she is a sort of dark future foil of Jonna, so it was interesting writing their interactions.
PopHorror: What challenges did you have while filming?
Matt Eskandari: Too many to name! Being in water for an entire length of a shoot is incredibly challenging. I could go on forever about trying to make a micro budget movie filmed in the water and why it is a bad idea from a million different angles. We lost a day over water constantly leaking into the expensive camera blip, the actors get cold quickly in water, there are numerous safety concerns and everything just moves a hundred times slower in water. Not to mention finding ways to visually create a high production value look with only a single location provides its own challenges. Thankfully, by some miracle and diligent preparation, we pulled it off in only 14 days.
PopHorror: What was it like working with Tobin Bell?
Matt Eskandari: Tobin is a consummate professional and I enjoyed my time with him immensely. Between takes, we would go to the side and chat on filmmaking and he would tell me stories about how he struggled for years as an extra. He would sit in and watch how other big name actors and directors would work on set and just take mental notes. The best part of having Tobin in the film is he plays with audience’s expectations as an actor. I love doing that with casting. Hitchcock was famous for casting in ways that toyed with audience expectations and, as a filmmaker, it’s fun to use the actor’s own persona in a way to subvert the narrative in interesting ways.
PopHorror: What you do you look to for inspiration?
Matt Eskandari: I go through periods where I become obsessed with a certain director’s work and just watch everything they did incessantly. Kurosawa, Cameron, and Spielberg are big inspirations. Recently, I’ve been on a John Carpenter binge. Just looking back at all his films from the ’80s and the insane resume of timeless films blows my mind. He could jump back and forth between horror, action, drama and suspense so effortlessly. It is definitely something I aspire to as a director.
PopHorror: Why is being trapped innately scary?
Matt Eskandari: I think being trapped taps into an innate fear of death. It takes you into the coffin, so to speak. The whole experience triggers suffocation and anxiety because there is seemingly no way out. Bruno Bethlehem wrote several interesting books on what he called the “uncanny.” The things in everyday life that cause us dread and fear but we can’t explain why. As a filmmaker, I love exploring things like that. Instinctual human fears are so fascinating.
Pophorror: Where was the film shot?
Matt Eskandari: We shot the film in a single location. A public pool in Crenshaw in Los Angeles.
Pophorror: What is your favorite scene in the film?
Matt Eskandari: Every film, I think it ends up being the simplest scenes that I appreciate the most. The little nuanced moments between the characters that’s unplanned but adds so many layers to the story. I’d say on this film, the moment where Clara shows up and the girls have a heart to heart between them was my favorite. The way they seem to connect was genuine and honest. All three of these characters are flawed, damaged people and in that moment, they saw through each other’s masks.
PopHorror: What other projects are you working on?
Matt Eskandari: I have a few scripts I’m finishing up now that I hope we can get moving on soon. I’d love to continue to tell interesting stories in horror, as well as explore sci-fi and action. Indie, low budget filmmaking without a studio or millions of dollars is always challenging, but the key is to stay persistent and tell the stories you’re passionate about.
We’d like to thank Matt again for taking the time to complete the interview. We look forward to what he has in store for the future. In the meantime, check out his new film 12 Feet Deep.