Talk To Me INTERVIEW: Meeting with Danny and Michael Philippou
Updated: Jul 30
I was fortunate enough to interview the directors of "Talk To Me" Danny and Michael Philippou for their first feature film with A24. I had the chance to see the movie at Fantasia which was great and thanks to the folks at Horreur Québec I sat down with them to talk about their directorial debut.
The full interview is here:
Matt: First of all, I want to say you're fucking insane for making this movie and I love you for it. What made you feel like Talk To Me was the right project for your first feature film? Was it just timing, or was there something about the story itself that interested you?
Daniel: Yeah, I think it just caught momentum, caught fire. We've been riding a whole bunch of different stuff, and this one seemed to just have legs and start running. Our producers were super interested in it, and it was getting a lot of attention. I don't know, it just felt right.
Matt: Was it the concept that interested you?
Daniel: It was more the characters for me. I was really attached to the characters, and I was really excited about some of the set pieces we came up with. It just felt right.
Matt: What about you?
Michael: I just felt like it had an infectious pace, and we were writing a bunch of different things at the time, but it was something that we were able to have work on multiple levels. We wanted something that would work as a horror film but also as a drama film, and I feel like that was the perfect merge of both, so it felt like the right first film.
Matt: What was the most challenging scene that you had to shoot?
Michael: There's a shot in a hospital hallway, like a one-shot, and that was...
Daniel: Oh my gosh. We were so overtime, and we couldn't afford overtime, but the lights kept not working and little elements weren't getting put together.
Michael: And then the light works, but then something else didn't work. Now we know why people don't usually do one-shots.
Daniel: It was such a difficult shot to get, more difficult than the opening one-off in the hospital hallway.
Matt: Yeah, I was thinking about the opening shot, and there's also the montage you were talking about at the screening. That was the most fun?
Daniel: That was so much fun.
Michael: Yeah, because we had so much to get through in such a little time, and we set two cameras and a Boombox, and the energy translated to the screen. We had so much fun. Some of the crew maybe didn't have fun, but we all certainly did. The cast and us had a great time.
Daniel: But the crew was struggling to keep up with the pace. It was literally like a bomb hit the set. It was so much fun.
Matt: What's the thing you're most proud of in the movie?
Daniel: I think it's giving Sophie a chance to be seen globally. We're so in love with Sophie Wilde; I think she's an amazing performer, and we know she's going to be a star. So just to be part of helping present it to the world is the thing I'm most proud of.
Michael: Yeah, I'd say the same. For all the cast, because we have a lot of people that weren't really "names," but showcasing their talent and then also being able to pull off a story cohesively maybe. Because it's always a question we were wondering, if we would be able to pull off a feature.
Daniel: Because we're used to 2-minute videos.
Michael: 2-minute videos of Nerf Battles.
Matt: What was the transition like going from 2-minute videos to a full feature film?
Michael: Having a script that we were confident in was a big thing.
Daniel: But also the crew members we got to work with and the head of departments, to have all these incredible masters of their craft put all their powers into this one thing is the greatest feeling ever and accomplish something we couldn't accomplish by ourselves.
Matt: The crew you work with, is it the kind of people you want to keep working with?
Michael: Oh yes, there are people we worked with before YouTube. We crewed on films, and we had worked with a lot of them before in all different departments, so it was awesome to bring them back because it's like making a film with all your friends.
Daniel: Yeah, production designer Bethany Ryan that we met on this film, we love her so much.
Michael: Aaron McLisky, the DOP (director of photography), Samantha Jennings the producer, these are the people we want. Greg Cobain, the first AD (1st Assistant Director), we want to bring them all back, that's for sure.
Matt: What was the decision-making process with the casting because most of the cast is relatively unknown?
Michael: It was just going through casting and audition tapes, and when we did find each cast member, we knew it from the first reading.
Daniel: Yeah, we were like, "oh my gosh, we can't believe we found them." It was literally if we connected with the auditions, and we connected with them when we elected those initial meetings, then we just knew that they were right. We felt so lucky with the cast we landed.
Michael: It's so awesome having a talented cast because we're used to trying to squeeze performances out of friends and family. "Act scared, Dad!" You know, it doesn't work. Having people that's their whole craft elevates the material to a point we wouldn't imagine possible. So much fun every day on set.
Matt: And you did bring some of your relatives into the movie?
Daniel: Yeah, our Dad is in the final scene, our family is in a lot of scenes. My sister is the first girl that is shown on the camera that's being possessed. We were trying to discover and find out what the possession makeup was going to look like, so it was one of the first things that we shot.
Michael: There are even some big YouTubers that came to support us, and they're in the background.
Daniel: Out of focus.
Matt: I also have an older brother who I'm close to in terms of age, and I grew up making home movies with a JVC Camera. How does your relationship help you achieve that level of success?
Michael: I think that directors who are brothers or co-directors have a bit of a cheat code because it's such a mammoth task doing a film, so having someone that has the exact same vision as you can relieve you from a lot of the stress. So we were able to focus on different departments, especially in the post-production process. To end up throwing things back and forth...
Daniel: That being said, we saved our arguments for post. We were arguing a lot in post.
Michael: Through edits, we'd send... So, if Danny had a cut that's different from mine, we'd export both, send them to someone, and say "which one is better," and like, mine was usually the better one.
Daniel: I just don't believe that's true. *Laughs*
Matt: What's advice you'd give to young filmmakers?
Daniel: Don't work with your brother.
Michael: No, just start. Start making stuff no matter how bad it is, just make stuff because everything you do, you learn from even if it fails completely and doesn't work, you take those lessons into the next one. We shot so much stuff growing up when we were kids and posting it on YouTube that didn't work and we weren't proud of. It's taking that experience that always makes you a stronger filmmaker. So just start.
Matt: Thanks so much. I need to wrap this up, but one last question. Can you share one influence/inspiration that you had for this film?
Michael: Bong Joon-ho's "Memories Of Murder".
Daniel: "The Exorcist". "Let The Right One In".
My score for "Talk To Me": 9/10