Hello, boils and ghouls! Recently I watched 8ight After (read my review – HERE), a phenomenal found-footage film that blew me away. The perfect story to put you in the spooky spirit. I had the opportunity to chat with Vincent Rocca, the director of the film and it was a great experience! Check out the this in-depth interview and learn about the inspiration behind the film, if it’s real or not, Rocca’s experience as a VLOGer, and more.
PopHorror: 8ight After is one of my favorite found footage films ever. It delivered on all aspects. I actually wasn’t sure if it was real, then I saw the credits and they were so minimalistic, so my question is, is 8ight After a true story?
Vincent Rocca: I loved the Blair Witch Project. I thought the end was brilliant, but then the credits rolled and the first credit up is: Written, Directed and Edited by and I was like bummer, they spoiled the mystery. Although, many people still did believe The Blair Witch was real. Then 10 years later, Paranormal Activity comes along and when the credits roll on that, it’s just a copyright disclaimer and I was like awesome. That sells it. I wanted to do that, but since I already had a YouTube audience and I was obligated to credit the JAWS theme, I figured I’d go with an edited by, produced by, music by and special thanks which allowed me to thank those who helped make 8ight After.
Up to this point, I’ve tried to maintain the mystery that the story was true. Reddit.com/r/NoSleep has a mantra; everything is real, even when it’s not. I love that. I’m not a person who wants to know how the magic trick is done. I just want to be entertained. But Halloween has passed, so its time to spill the blood, No 8ight After is not real. The whole thing was written and directed by me.
PopHorror: Speaking of JAWS, I did catch some familiar scenes from popular horror movies. Why did you choose to do that?
Vincent Rocca: There are many layers to this answer. To begin with, I have a career as a reality television editor and a hobby as a YouTube VLOGger, both of which exercise my editing skills. But as a television editor, you come onto a show midseason and you aren’t there to reinvent the wheel. I’m not there to re-envision Hell’s Kitchen, as if it were Top Chef. I’m there to make the current season look like the previous seasons. So I guess it’s in my DNA to emulate other styles.
Also, I love watching movies and spotting references to other movies. Whether it’s a camera angle or a whole scene. Film school used to harp on being well read and creating your film through influence of historic writers. But many people, like myself, didn’t grow up on the written word, we grew up on the visual medium. So it is natural that I reference other movies in my movie just as previous generations of filmmakers referenced Shakespeare in theirs.
In addition, 8ight After follows my wife and I as real VLOGgers. I have a history of parody on my YouTube channel. I’ve done a number of parodies, including the Simpsons, Better Call Saul, and Fast Times at Ridgemont High. So it makes sense for me as a VLOGger to parody horror movies as well. VLOGs and VLOGger’s are notorious for parody and emulation. So in reality, if two VLOGgers were going to make a horror movie and fake it, they would do so by emulating other movies. It makes natural sense when my character re-envisions a scene from Lights Out. I took it a step further a few scenes later, and I admit I faked that scene. This allows me to take you on a journey through the movie of not knowing what is fake and what might be real.
Plus, movies emulate life. They chronicle the actual events as they happen. Movies become our reference for real life. If a ghost slams a door in a movie that must be because ghosts actually slam doors. Therefore, if you are going to make a ghost story, they should do what ghosts do. When you watch a movie and see a door slam you can be in one of two camps; either you’re like, “Oh god I’ve seen that a million times,” or you’re like, “Yeah, that is exactly what real ghosts do.”
So to me, the art of movies is real life. Therefore, Life shall imitate art.
8ight After opens with an homage to The Conjuring in a Paranormal Activity style. I figured, put it up front and show people this is the movie they are going to see. I put the style right in the trailer. 8ight After totally delivers on the trailer. Anyway, I open the movie with the Conjuring homage, then a few minutes later I parody the opening of JAWS complete with a mock theme. A little while after that I blatantly explain though an opinion of Quentin Tarantino that he doesn’t steal from other movies but pays homage. He wants to share his love of film with everyone, and that is precisely what I am doing. I’m sharing my love for my favorite horror movies with the audience.
PopHorror: Do you feel you added to the horror genre?
Vincent Rocca: 8ight After is a haunted house story or a ghost story and those have their tropes, so from that aspect, it is just like any paranormal (things go bump in the night) movie. My spin on it was the Portate cross. The Portate cross is a completely original idea. It’s never been done. Most movies go with the sinister upside down cross, but not our story. A Portate cross is an angled cross, much like an italicized lowercase t. When the crucified are dragging the cross to the crucifixion site, the cross is angled or portate. The wearer of the cross bares the cross as if they are on their way to be crucified. This is a totally unique spin on the common sinister ghost story. Passed that, it’s a story of a guy trying to save the woman he loves. And that part of the story is… well pretty much every story.
PopHorror: 8ight After is an exciting new found footage film that you directed, wrote, and star in alongside your wife. What inspired you to make 8ight After?
Vincent Rocca: My wife Deanna and I are real VLOGgers, with a real YouTube channel. We’re not just playing VLOGgers in a movie. VLOGging is a weird thing to do though. You play a heightened version of yourself. There is a balance of trying to host a video with charisma but not come off as obnoxious. VLOGging in general is a superficial act, you have to think high enough of yourself that you believe the world wants to see you and that is obnoxious. It is a weird thing to try and pull off. Sadly, we probably don’t always achieve that balance.
I got this idea; what if a ghost started to attack a VLOGer? I wanted to take it from the angle that a couple is just going about their lives, not being mean to anyone, but gets dropped into this situation. Everyday in the news people are thrown into unique situations, but this time it would be someone who happens to film their lives constantly.
It was originally intended to just be a YouTube video. I was going to give it away for free. As a matter of fact, there are parts of it on my YouTube channel. You can kinda see 8ight After take shape and as the project took shape, it became bigger and in the end required insurance. That E&O insurance cost me $5000. So now I had to recoup that money on my micro budget movie. And to recoup that I had to do publicity and buy ad’s at a cost of another $5000. So 8ight After’s micro budget quickly ballooned to $10,000 that I had to try and recover which is why it ended up on Amazon instead of YouTube.
PopHorror: I bet that was a lot of work. What’s it like to not only direct something but star in it as well? Does it feel good to have so much control over a project that you love?
Vincent Rocca: For me, acting in 8ight After or in my YouTube videos is out of necessity. It isn’t something I love or hate, just something I need to do to make the video.
As far as control goes, it was amazing. I highly recommend everyone, make a movie and do every job. It is liberating and will expand your skillset and ultimately make you a better filmmaker. I’m a huge proponent of YouTube. Never before have filmmakers had access to an immediate audience. Even a small audience is great. You can create a short, or a how to video, upload it to YouTube and maybe only 10 people watch it, but that’s 10 that you couldn’t reach before. Maybe your second video will reach 100 then 1000. You have to start somewhere.
Today, almost everyone walks around with a mobile studio in their pocket. You can shoot, edit, add titles and effects and upload all from a phone. It’s amazing. And the subject matter can be anything. It can be an unboxing, tutorial, or a plastic bag floating in the wind. The possibilities are endless. When I meet aspiring filmmakers I advocate for them to VLOG everyday. In the 20+ years I’ve been editing, the one thing that made me a faster and better editor was when I started to daily VLOG. I committed to producing a new video every morning. At first I’d spend hours editing the video, but within days I became more savvy on the shots I needed to tell that story. You become more efficient. Plus VLOGging allows you to hone your camera skills, lighting skills, sound skills. If you make 30 videos in 30 days, you WILL be a better filmmaker.
PopHorror: What was it like to work alongside your wife and recreating such a personal experience?
Vincent Rocca: Deanna is my rock. She is the most awesome human being on the planet and I adore her. In real life she is a bit shy a reserved. She has no interest in acting or being the center of attention, but she is always willing to help me out and ham it up in the silly videos we post on YouTube. So when I proposed making a horror movie she was onboard. As you learn from the movie and our YouTube videos we’ve been together for 30 years and we’re inseparable. Making 8ight After was another excuse to hang out together.
PopHorror: How much did you spend on the movie?
Vincent Rocca: Up to the end, before I got insurance, I spent a couple thousand. I was able to make it so cheep because I took on every job. That was also what inspired me to make the movie. Each step of the way, I’d say, how hard can lighting be? And I’d take a crack at it and do some tests. I did this all the way through and in the end of post when I was like, can I actually score a movie?
PopHorror: You didn’t hire out any departments?
Vincent Rocca: No, I literally did everything. I wrote, Directed, gaffed, gripped, boomed, mic’d, operated the camera, and I even built the props. I hand crafted the portate cross and the puzzle box it comes in. My wife Deanna and I even painted art for the walls. I also designed the practical effects and figured out how to rig them. Then in post I did it all, I obviously edited it, but also did the special effects, color correction, recorded ADR, did the 5.1 sound mix, crafted the score, did the Quality Control and made sure it met broadcast specs. Everything on this movie is done by one person and that cost nothing. I even created the movie poster, the 8ight After logo, the trailer and built the website.
I do have three producers, my close friends, Michael Hutchinson, Tom Ayers, and Jay Beeber. I bounced the script off them and they helped cast and wrangle people. They would also come over and help make things go bump in the night. They’d slam doors while Deanna and I slept, stuff like that.
PopHorror: What inspired you to get in the filmmaking business?
Vincent Rocca: The typical answer is love of movies, but my answer is really love of editing. As a teenager I used to DJ house parties, then at some point I fell in love with computers, but instead of pursuing digital music, I went after digital video. But to edit video, you need video, so I started shooting. It was all out of necessity to feed my editing habit.
PopHorror: Do you love acting and directing equally or do you prefer one over the other?
Vincent Rocca: Directing is the greatest job ever, but no one hires you for that. You need to drum up cash and put in a ton of effort just so you can spend a few weeks being a director. Editing is another version of directing, One which I can get paid to do over and over. So what I ultimately enjoy most is being an editor. I love crafting the final story and having a hand in manipulating the audiences perception and emotions. Mostly, I’ve worked as a Reality television editor. I love reality tv, love it! I’m always surprised when people scowl at it, they say that it isn’t “reality” and I’m like, but Star Wars is? It so crazy, to hate reality TV because you don’t believe its real, it doesn’t need to be real, it just needs to be really entertaining.
PopHorror: What was the hardest part about creating this film?
Vincent Rocca: The sound at the end. I was the dialog editor, SFX editor, Rerecording mixer, 5.1 mixer and music composer. These were jobs I dabbled in but none I had actually done. So it was new territory for me. I just kept moving through it, I’d ask my friend and sound guru, Michael Kammes tons of questions and, I’d play stuff for him, and be like is this okay, and he’d nod. In the end I’m super impressed and proud of the mix. If nothing else came out of 8ight After, the skills I learned on sound make the movie worth it.
PopHorror: Any upcoming projects you’d like to talk about?
Vincent Rocca: I’m always making YouTube videos. I have a back log of travel videos to edit for YouTube, so keep an eye on my channel https://www.YouTube.com/VinceRocca