Paranormal Activity 3 invites us to Tea With Toby

Producer Oren Peli discusses Paranormal Activity 3 with his cast during the Tea With Toby event

Friday the 13th is a day that always has a special meaning for fans of the horror genre. Last week on that fateful day, I was invited to a tea party in Hollywood to celebrate the successful horror sequel Paranormal Activity 3, which arrives on Blu-ray and DVD January 24. We were joined by producer Oren Peli, cast members Katie Featherston, Micah Sloat, Christopher Nicholas Smith, Chloe Csengery, and Jessica Brown to discuss the past, present, and future of this successful horror franchise. There was even a seat reserved at the table for the evil spirit Toby, although he didn't say much...

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Oren Peli, who directed the first Paranormal Activity and has been on board as a producer in the sequels, revealed the franchise continues to be built one movie at a time.

"Well, usually we work on them one at a time, but as we were doing the second one, we saw that there was a mythology emerging so we figured let's kind of build on that and plant some seeds. Then, depending on whichever direction we decide to go for a third one, if we were lucky to get to do a third one, we have options to go forward in time, go backward in time or really go any direction we wanted to. And all of those choices allowed us to expand or explore the mythology more."

Christopher Nicholas Smith plays Dennis in the sequel, and, like Micah Sloat before him, the actor shot some of the footage himself, using a unique camera they built.

"They built this camera that they put into the body of an old VHS camera. When I was shooting it, I would look into the viewfinder, and it was really for shots that would catch me in the mirror. I would look into the viewfinder, and I couldn't really see anything. So what they had to do was they put in a little monitor in the viewfinder, basically, that was transmitting the video it was recording in the body of this old VHS tape. So I was basically watching a little monitor in the viewfinder, which was really cool. That was like week 6 that they figured it out. If we were shooting anything that required that VHS system they had set up, it would just be blind. The DP would be hiding behind me, and we had this system where if I was too far crooked, she would turn a knob so that I would straighten out, without her saying anything."

11-year-old Chloe Csengery plays Young Katie in Paranormal Activity 3, but she still hasn't seen the whole movie yet, or the first two films.

"I have seen parts of the movie, but I haven't seen the last 15 minutes. I wasn't allowed to see the first two, but my mom told me how the other movies were. I watched clips on YouTube, of how my character was."

Jessica Brown, who plays Young Kristi Rey, talked about the family atmosphere on the set.

"Once you get involved with everyone and start to get comfortable, then you start to feel like a real family. And I felt like we were a real family."

Oren Peli also praised directors Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman, who make their follow-up to the controversial Catfish with Paranormal Activity 3.

"I have to say, Henry and Ariel were absolutely fantastic, with the way they worked with the crew in general. They kept an amazingly great atmosphere, and they worked so great with the cast. They did a fantastic job."

Katie Featherston, who has starred in all three films as Katie, talked about following the reactions of the fans online, and getting to come back in the sequels.

"The whole thing was sort of unbelievable. I still have people who come up to me daily and congratulate me and talk about how much they like the movie, or on Facebook and Twitter. It never gets old and I never get blase about it. I think Micah and I are both so unbelievably thankful for the people who were excited about it from the very beginning, who paid attention to it. It's overwhelming, the amount of excitement. I was shocked there was a sequel. I still remember sitting at California Pizza Kitchen with these two guys (Micah and Oren), brainstorming about the first one. To have as much success as we've had, and to be here for the third round, is still mind-blowing. I still haven't really come to terms with it. I don't know if I ever will."

Paranormal Activity 3 follows in the footsteps of its predecessors by shooting in the summer and hitting theaters in late October. Oren Peli talked a bit about the pros and cons of such a quick turnaround.

"The fact that you have a release date that you know is unmovable, you know you have to get the movie made no matter what. That's both a blessing and a curse. It's a blessing in that you know the studio is going to put whatever resources are needed to get it done, and their full attention is going to be on it. It actually does force you to move quickly, which can be a good thing because, in feature development, you hear stories about movies that take years or decades to develop. Here, you know, one way or another, it's going to be done in October, and hopefully the movie is good. You always wish you had more time. There's always this panic that builds up, like, 'We have 10 weeks until release, which means we have to lock picture, in four weeks, and we're still shooting.' That's kind of scary. But, at the end of the day, if you want to bring up an idea, usually on another movie it's like, 'OK, lets set up a meeting in two weeks, and we'll get back to you with notes.' Here, if you have a new idea, you're talking about it today or tomorrow, then you're shooting it two days later."

While Oren Peli wouldn't say much about Paranormal Activity 4, ("We have some ideas, but I can't say anything"), he did speak a bit about planning out the franchise as a whole.

"For me personally, I consider every single movie as the one we're going to concentrate on. Every time, we're thinking, 'OK, lets think of a great idea for a sequel, and hopefully it works. If the fans embrace it and want another one, we'll think about the next one.' Now, as we have done the second and third one, we do have this mythology that's emerging, and it's kind of cool that we were actually able to go back in time and explore more of it. We do have quite a few directions it can go, and we probably have material for more than one movie, but we're always looking at it one at a time. But I just think it's greedy to ever think about anything beyond the movie you're currently working on."

With the Paranormal Activity 3 about to hit the Blu-ray and DVD shelves, Oren Peli also talked about whether this franchise is most effective in theaters or in a home setting.

"I think it's a different experience. I think they're both cool experiences. To some degree, there's nothing like watching it in a theater, with the energy of the crowd around you. It's a much more communal, fun experience, hearing everyone around you scream at the same time. It's much more of an event type of experience. Watching it at home, we've heard people say it's scarier because it's much more intimate, and, also because of the subject matter, you watch the movie in the evening, and then you have to turn off the TV and go to sleep. I've heard people saying the movie really messed with them, and then they went to sleep and they were conscious of every little noise in the house."

Paranormal Activity 3 hits the shelves on Blu-ray and DVD January 24.