Interview: Gareth Evans and Timo Tjahjanto (V/H/S/2)


When Hubert did his crazy mass-interview at Tribeca featuring the directors of the upcoming V/H/S/2, there were two significant people not in attendance: Timo Tjahjanto and Gareth Evans. The pair, hard at work on films in Indonesia, were not able to make time and come to New York. Fortunately, we were given an opportunity to have a short phone conversation with them to make up for it. The interview was much shorter than I would have liked, and I didn’t get to ask about most of the things I wanted to, but it was still enjoyable to be a part of (and hopefully to read).

Note that the first question is a pretty big spoiler for the pair’s V/H/S/2 segment, which is by far the best short in either film. The answer, however, isn’t really, and there are no more spoilers from there on out. And for those who want to see what all the fuss is about, V/H/S/2 is currently available On Demand and will be seeing a theatrical release on July 13th. 

Gareth Evans

[Gareth Evans, via GeekTyrant]

So, whose idea was it for a giant winged goat monster to burst out of a pregnant woman’s stomach?

G: I think that was Timo’s idea.

T: The thing is, I can only write so much and it will be, like, okay so Gareth, how do we do this, really?

G: I think yeah, Timo had the idea for the demon goat.

T: I’m always fascinated by goats and giants.

[They laugh.]

G: Yeah, we were kind of work shopping the idea. The whole thing about the design of it was that we had both been contacted separately by [producers] Roxanne [Benjamin] and Brad [Miska], and I discussed with Timo, I said, “I’ve been asked to do this thing. I don’t really know if I want to do it by myself. I’m not sure. It’s in horror. It’s not really my thing. I’m more with action.” And he said he’d been contacted about it, and we’ve been friends for about six or seven years, and then he was saying, “You know what? This could be that one thing we could collaborate on.” Because we’d always been looking for some project that we could do together. That was kind of the starting point of it. And Timo had the general story line in place, like the idea of “What would it be like to be investigating a cult on the fucking day of the apocalypse basically. And so, yeah, that was the starting point. Then we started doing a little bit of research and brainstorming ideas and how we could fucking do the, where we could take it and how we could present it in a found footage format. And yeah, it kind of grew from there really. I think a little bit on the subconscious level, because I was coming at it from an action point of view, I felt like I had to prove myself, in terms of the horror. So I think there was only one set piece that I might have come up with that made Timo say, “Oh for fuck’s sake.”

T: For fuck’s sake, Gareth! Why’s a grandma fucking young dudes, man?

[They laugh.]

G: Nah, it was a woman. In the lab.

T: Oh yeah, the vagina lady.

G: Yeah, the vagina lady was the one we had come up with. Yeah.

Timo Tjahjanto

[Timo Tjahjanto, via The Bastards of Young]

When you guys work together, do you work primarily in English together and with the actor. How was that language barrier? Was there one?

G: Not really. We were kind of lucky in a way, because obviously me and Timo speak English fluently, and most of the cast spoke English as well. I mean, the lead cast, the Indonesian documentary crew, they all spoke English fluently, so we could direct them equally. And then when it came to the cult members, I kind of relied a lot on Timo because the actors speak Indonesian only. So we shared duties in different areas there as well.

T: And the idea works better in that, because like Gareth said, our four main protagonists speak fluent English, so the idea that we wanted to have initially regarding the fear of going into the unknown is still there within the story, because there’s supposed to be the element that’s slightly xenophobic. Like when we have these guys who are entering this sort of more indigenous… not really indigenous, but kind of closed off society.

G: Yeah, a kind of closed off society.

Did you ever feel like you were cheating the found footage genre by using so many different cameras?

G: We kind of discussed that a lot at the beginning, but then we decided to just fuck it and do it anyway.


G: Nah, it was one of those things where we decided that what we wanted to do was… in order to tell this story, we could never have  it be just one camera’s perspective. I’ve always thought the issue with found footage was that idea of “Why are you still filming? Put the fucking camera down.” And so our approach, because we knew we wanted to have this story set in various different places and feel like someone goes off to investigate this room, someone goes off to investigate that room. How do we show that? Well, how about we put spy cameras on them? Then we can cut into the perspective of the characters and within a line of dialogue, you know where you are and who you’re with. And at the same time it helps solve that problem of… the reason why it’s still rolling is because they’re wearing the cameras and the cameras are rolling automatically anyway. So what you’re seeing helps that logic.

I guess it is kind of a cheat in the sense that it gave us more to play around with in terms of the edits by being able to cut it with some of the CCTV footage and use some of the production cameras as well, but I felt that we utilized it in a way that still felt true to the genre.

Safe Haven

I read an interview that said that Timo is super into practical effects and The Raid was much more digital. The effects on Safe Haven seem a bit of this a bit of that. Were there a lot of arguments about whether things should be done practically or digitally?

G: I think that what happened was, to mention two members of the crew that we have, our makeup artist [Kumalasari Tanara, AKA] Sari, she worked with Timo before on his previous movie [Macabre, 2009], and everything he’s done since. Basically, I hadn’t had a chance to work with her yet. I’d worked with a couple of different makeup artists in Indonesia but I’d never worked with her. So I ended up becoming a little reliant on my online guy Andi [Novianto] to help fix things we just couldn’t achieve in a practical sense. It’s not that I have a preference towards digital, it’s just that I’ve been let down by the results of practical. And the time that it takes to set them up sometimes is very limiting when you’re trying to shoot on a  fast schedule and a low budget, so when it came to this end and working with Sari on the effects, she brought this level of professionalism to it that, it reached a point where we were only really going to digital with things where we could just could not possibly do it practically or just to enhance some of the practical effects on the way. So by having these two, Sari and Andi, working together on the look of the film, I was less reliant on digital. And then Timo became a little more reliant on digital as well. So we found a meeting point in the middle.

Can you tell me a bit about the next projects that the two of you are working on? I know there’s one that Timo is directing and Gareth is producing.

T: My next feature film will be called Killers. It’s actually… I think you’re talking about The Night Comes for Us, but even Killers actually, Gareth has some say in it, because he’s basically the producer in it as well.

Oh! Okay.

T: Actually, Gareth had a lot of say, because I wrote the whole script and he knows that I wrote it two and a half years ago, and he’s helped me a lot since. We were both trying to make films at the time, and Killers will be a psychological thriller set in Japan and Indonesia. It’s pretty much a study of violence and how reliant we as men are with violence and our violent surroundings. The next project is The Night Comes for Us, which will be involving Gareth more closely in the sense that he will be lead producing this project and he will also be choreographing, along with his silat team, he will be choreographing the film. And that will be an action noir with martial arts.

Safe Haven

Gareth, what do you think about them?

G: I’m finishing up Berandal at the moment. The Raid 2. We’re still in production right now. We’ve got about another month and a half left to shoot. It’s going good so far. We’re kind of taking the film in a slightly different direction. So we have the same action discipline and the same sort of action beats, but we’re changing up how we shoot it. We’re going a little bit more cinematic on this one, and sort of like expanding the universe. That will probably be finishing post production by the end of the year, and we’ll hopefully be ready for release sometime in the first quarter of 2014, maybe like summer of 2014. In terms of my involvement with Timo and his projects, I was writing the original version Berandal, back when he started writing Killers, and my project fell through so I ended up making The Raid instead.

And so when The Raid came out and luckily, thankfully we had the success we did with The Raid, and it put us in a position where I could not only be involved in terms of trying to provide support and help him spitball ideas but also be in a position where we could help actually get Killers going. So we kind of joined on board with a couple of other producers who had a lot of faith in the project and so we’re very excited now, because I feel that on a concept level and in the approach that they have taken with the film, that Killers has got the potential to be one of those milestones in psychological thrillers because it’s such a great concept and such a unique hook for a film. So we’re really excited to see this film play out now that it’s done with post-production. We can start these screenings and getting release dates lined up. It’s really great.

And with The Night Comes for Us, it’s kind of continuing that thing of me and Timo sharing a very similar sensibility. We watch the same films. We discuss films from the same kind of perspective, and so when he came to me, he said “I want to do something with Joe [Taslim]. I want to do an action movie,” and he wanted to do it with us at Berandal films, it was a no brainer. Obviously I want to be involved in that. So me and my guys will oversee some of the action beats and stuff like that, and we’ll kind of help guide Timo into the world of action now. It should be a lot of fun. So we’re looking forward to starting very early pre-production sometime in the middle of this year, towards the end of the year, once The Raid 2 is done.

Okay. Fantastic. Thank you so much for talking with me!

G: Thanks so much, man.

T: Thanks so much.