Micah Sloat of the year's biggest sleeper hit talks about the new DVD, the forthcoming sequel and much more
Whether you loved it or hated it, there's no denying that the little horror film that could Paranormal Activity was one of the biggest stories in film this year. Oren Peli's debut film that cost a miniscule $15,000 took moviegoers by storm with its innovative Demand It online campaign and the fans flocked to the theaters in droves when the film was in a local theater, taking in well over $100 million at the box office. Pretty damn good for a film that was originally just going to be remade instead of having the original film shown in theaters. The film also shone a light on two talented new actors in Katie Featherston and Micah Sloat, who recently was good enough to chat with me over the phone just before the holidays for the Paranormal Activity DVD and Blu-ray release on December 29. Take a look at what Sloat had to say below.
The film was obviously quite a life-changing experience for you. Can you talk a bit about your life before you met Oren and Katie and went on this incredible ride of a movie?
Micah Sloat: Well, that's an open-ended question (Laughs). I was living in L.A. just working as a computer programmer, trying to make it as an actor and a musician, playing in cover bands around L.A. There was a three-year period between when we shot the movie and when it was actually released, so even during that time, there was a lot of waiting and a lot going on internally as far as what they were going to do with the movie in festivals and whatnot. At that time I went to music school and it was a lot of waiting and a lot of working, grinding away at the day job. I'm glad I could quit.
I suppose with this kind of a ride, you're never sure what's going to happen next.
Micah Sloat: Yeah, yeah. The hardest thing I can think of is to create an independent movie and to get it released. Hopefully it will be a lot easier now, after Paranormal Activity, for everybody else, now that the big studios are aware of the profit potential in micro-budget movies. For us, it was a real roller-coaster, a lot of ups and downs. I'm just glad to be here because it's a miracle.
I talked to (director) Oren (Peli) a few months ago and he said that when you and Katie (Featherston) auditioned, it seemed like you had been doing this together for years. Was the chemistry really that instantaneous?
Micah Sloat: Yeah, yeah. It was really, really really fun to sit there with Katie and instantly be able to have this rapport and just to launch into backstories of our lives. Literally, the call-back when I first met Katie, was, 'Micah, this is Katie. Katie, this is Micah. Go. Tell us the story about how you guys met.' And we had to come up with a 10-minute story about how we met and our lives together and what that was like. It was so fun just to work with her and to be in that setting. I didn't want to get off that couch.
You both basically created these characters from scratch then? What did Oren have written for you guys before you really jumped into this?
Micah Sloat: Well, Oren had a lot of research done. He's probably one of the most prepared people I've ever worked with. I knew everything about hauntings and exorcisms and possessions and demons. He had us watch some DVD's about actual hauntings and interviews with people who have had experience with those things. So we didn't do any research like watch other horror movies, but we did actually watch a lot of documentary footage about hauntings in real life. We read a lot of materials he gave us so we could get in the zone so we knew what we were doing. As far as our relationship and our characters and our backstories, that was mostly all up to us, except for a couple of key points.
This is Oren's first film and it seems that something might have gotten lost if this was made by a really established filmmaker. Because it was his first film and he had the freedom to experiment with these kinds of things, it really made it what it was. Do you think it really would've been the same film if it was made with a more established filmmaker other than Oren?
Micah Sloat: Well, I can't really speak to established filmmakers in general, but I think what does stand out about Paranormal Activity, is it does have that sense of a singular vision. Oren was not only the director but he was also the editor, the writer, he created the entire thing. So it really has this sense of vision throughout the entire piece and it's very unique and it's very Oren. I think it's really a tribute to Paramount and DreamWorks that they saw that and let that live, and let that breathe. They didn't come in and really destroy what Oren had created but really accepted that it was something special that needed to be preserved. I think it's just a great job all around the board.
Yeah, because it was originally just supposed to be remade and they were going to have the original film on the DVD. When that was in the works, were you both still attached to star in that remake, or how did that all work?
Micah Sloat: Well, it was all very nebulous, what the specifics were of that deal. We hadn't gotten to the point yet, where they were talking about casting. Actually, I remember saying, 'Hey, Oren, are we going to get a chance to audition for the remake?' He's like 'What are you talking about? You have a 90-minute audition tape' (Laughs). So yeah, I don't know how that would've all played out, but I do know that I'm just glad they had the opportunity to just show the real movie in theaters , seeing how audiences were reacting to it. The phone calls we got right after the screenings were just so great. I had a couple of friends in one of the screenings and the reaction of the crowd, you just couldn't ask for anything better.
I saw it on the Paramount lot, with industry and press people, and the reactions were pretty shocking from those kinds of people as well.
Micah Sloat: Yeah. From the beginning, we've had such great support from the horror reviewers Dread Central, Bloody-Disgusting, all those guys. The people who watch horror movies because it's their job, they were our biggest fans from the beginning and there's nothing greater that you can ask for that's better than that, to have the biggest fans of the genre to love your film. It's Oren's vision and kudos to Paramount for letting that fly.
I know the DVD has one of the alternate endings, but I heard there were actually many alternate endings shot. Can you talk about some of those different endings, or do maybe have a personal favorite of all the endings that were shot?
Micah Sloat: I think the one that plays the best in the theaters is definitely the Spielberg ending. That's probably my personal favorite because it's just such a bang at the end. It was really fun to film it and it's a Spielberg ending and I'm kind of biased because I love that guy. As far as the endings we shot ourselves, I think the alternate ending on the DVD is pretty awesome. It's really disturbing and you don't expect it, so I'd say that is my favorite. There are probably, literally, a dozen endings that we shot and I haven't even seen and can't remember. There were tons of variations and we were doing them for a long time so I honestly forgot a lot of what they were.
With this being the big breakout film for you, I'm curious about what some of the fan reactions have been, with people that see you or come up to you on the street. Do you have a favorite "crazy fan" story from this whole experience?
Micah Sloat: (Laughs) You know, everbody that has come up to me has been so cool. I really have not experienced any crazy fan stuff. Honestly, it kind of takes me aback a lot of times, because I don't know what to say most of the time. But it's great to meet people and hear their stories about their experiences with the film. It's just another way to connect to people and get to know people. It's great. I love it when people come up to me, so don't be shy.
The movie has obviously been compared to The Blair Witch Project. While that film was a theatrical experience, it really lost a lot when you watched it at home. I'm curious if you've actually watched Paranormal Activity on DVD, in a home setting, and if you think it's just as effective as a theater setting?
Micah Sloat: Yeah, it's a very different experience. The theater experience is so great because it's such a communal experience, people are screaming. I love towards the end of it, you can hear some of the women in the back of the theater freaking out. There's nothing scary happening, but they can anticipate it. I love that. You do miss that, but I think it's replaced by a different kind of dread. I remember watching The Exorcist by myself, when I was about 12. It was raining and it was dark and I was just alone in this room. There was something about that experience about being alone with this horrific phenomenon that got under my skin on a different level. I think Paranormal Activity does that as well. So yeah, if you do watch it by yourself or with loved ones in your home, it's going to be scary in a whole different way.
There has been a lot of talk about prequels and sequels for some time. Are you and Katie both on board for any of these films, or is there anything you can say about the development of these future films?
Micah Sloat: I can't say anything specific about it, but I can definitely tell you that Paramount and the producers are very aware of what happened with Blair Witch 2, and how you can't really take something that's unique like Blair Witch or Paranormal and then follow it up with just a typical, Hollywood horror film. It just doesn't work. I think you can expect Paranormal Activity 2 to be just as unique, or at least have a quality of uniqueness, just like the original did, in its own way and I think it's really going to be a great movie.
Is there any idea you have about when you guys might be getting started on that at all?
Micah Sloat: I don't have any of those details.
I have to imagine you've been getting flooded with scripts and offers at this point. Is there anything that you're close to signing on with?
Micah Sloat: I should have some news in the near future about some stuff, hopefully. Nothing has been signed yet, so I can't really talk about it.
Would you like to stay in genre films, or are you trying to branch out into other things like comedies or dramas?
Micah Sloat: I would love to do anything that has a good cast, a good script and a good director, really. It doesn't matter what the genre is, I'll do anything as long as it's good people with good material.
Finally, for me, the film was one of the coolest success stories of the year with all its success. What would you like to say to all the fans who "demanded it" and made the film such an amazing success?
Micah Sloat: I would like to say I love you guys. Thank you so much. You've made my dreams, Katie's dreams, Oren's dreams, all of our dreams come true. It's really your movie. You've had such a key role in creating this whole phenomena that's opened up so many doors for independent filmmakers. I mean, Paramount has now created an entire micro-budget division, after Paranormal Activity. It's opened the floodgates for independent film, and you guys have done that. So, a huge thank you and if you guys ever have any dreams, don't give up because if we can do it, you can do it too.
Excellent. Well, that's about all I have for you. Thanks so much for your time, Micah, and the best of luck with your upcoming films.
Micah Sloat: All right. Thank you.
You can see Micah Sloat alongside Katie Featherston in Oren Peli's breakthrough film Paranormal Activity, which will be available on DVD and Blu-ray on December 29.