Quibi’s 50 States of Fright: Interview with director Alejandro Brugués

50 States of Fright. Image Courtesy Quibi
50 States of Fright. Image Courtesy Quibi /
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Alejandro Brugues
1999 Heather Donahue Stars In “The Blair Witch Project.” (Photo By Getty Images) /

Alejandro Brugués (Cont.): I had never done “found footage,” but I knew those two and I knew they had my back. The script was much shorter than the finished episode, and while we were prepping we talked about how they did Blair Witch, and I encouraged the actors to improvise.

I never showed them the locations until they shot the first take. No rehearsal or blocking. I’d just say to them “go in and whatever happens, happens”. And we had some pretty f***ed up locations.

There was one where they thought they were prepared, and as soon as they walked in the room they forgot the script, and some of the reactions of the things they encounter there were the real reactions from that first take. Also, by letting them improvise, the story expanded a lot.

Greyston Holt and Danay Garcia (another great friend and Cuban) sometimes came up with something and I was like, “oh, that’s interesting,” and would tell them to elaborate a bit in the next take. The story grew, and so did the mythology.

1428 Elm: Much of Destino is shot in an enclosed area with low lighting, how did you get past that to keep the level of suspense and ensure that viewers would be able to see what was happening?

Alejandro Brugués: To tell you the truth, this was the most stressful part. We were shooting with GoPros, and we couldn’t monitor a lot of what we were shooting, so we were going blind. I trusted our DP Michael Wale, he had also shot Sam’s episode, so I knew we had enough light, but most of the time I was just wearing headphones, listening to the actors and praying we had what we need.

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We couldn’t stop to check all the cameras after every take because it was dragging the shoot, but when I heard a take that sounded right, I’d check that one. Also, I wanted to rely on the darkness. Later when we were doing color, I also made some of the locations even darker. I wanted a progression towards the end.

1428 Elm: Creating a film shown in short “chapters” is a novel approach to film making. What challenges did you encounter while working on Destino, which is broken up into three parts? Do you feel that your experience on the anthology-style Nightmare Cinema and ABCs of Death 2 helped you with this?

Alejandro Brugués: No, it was completely different. When we started working, we didn’t know it was going to be split in chapters. We were aiming for a 12 minute episode.

But when we got to Vancouver we started hearing this talk about Episode 1 and Episode 2, and we were like, what does that mean? Then they explained the whole Quibi concept of 5 to 10 minutes chapters.

They were thinking of splitting it in two, and that’s when Gregg said to me “you can shoot more and split it in three, and do the first act, second act and third act”.  So, it was decided probably two days before shooting.