Hitting theaters this weekend is the sci fi documentary styled found footage (yes it’s a mouthful) PHOENIX FORGOTTEN. The film follows a desperate sister in search of the truth to what happened to her brother and friends. The story of the Phoenix Lights is all too familiar in the UFO sighting world. In the feature from Justin Barber many questions lead to answers that some higher ups may not want to leak out. HMU had a chance to chat with producer and writer T.S. Nowlin (MAZE RUNNER FRANCHISE) about the film. Read ahead for the interview and look for PHOENIX FORGOTTEN in theaters this Friday courtesy of Cinelou Films.
Before taking on this project how much did you know about the Phoenix Lights Phenomenon?
Not much. We knew we wanted to focus the story around a real-life UFO sighting and the Phoenix Lights just gave us everything we were looking for — both in terms of setting and time period, as well as the overall scope and scale of the event. As a sighting that occurred over a densely-populated area, the lights were witnessed by thousands of people, so it seemed like the perfect opportunity for us to blur the lines between fact and fiction.
When writing a documentary styled production what are some of the key factors that need to be included to make it work?
Our main goal was for the movie to feel authentic, so we tried not to over-write it. We had a structure in place and a general idea of how the movie would develop — starting as a character-driven documentary about this unsolved missing persons case, then taking a darker turn into the paranormal once new information is discovered. But it was important to avoid the familiar rhythms of horror movies and procedurals, or else we’d risk losing the reality.
Is there ever a moment when the project creates a life of its own and surprises even yourself on how it turns out?
Definitely. The movie evolved constantly throughout the writing, filming and editing. I’d say the finished movie bears little resemblance to the movie we thought we were making when we started out. Since you’re beginning with less of a traditional screenplay and more of a detailed outline, you’re putting more faith in the actors and filmmakers and the process itself to let the movie develop its own shape and identity over time.
How do you feel the cast represented your story and what is one thing you can point to that made it successful?
The cast brought a lot of their own personalities to the characters they were playing, which I think comes through in the comfort and ease of their performances. By the end of filming they were so comfortable playing their characters, it felt like we could throw them into any situation and they’d know exactly how to react. If the movie is successful I’ll credit it largely to the fact that these characters feel more like real people than horror movie archetypes.
Are there any films similar to Phoenix Forgotten that helped influence or inspire its creation?
At the outset, Wes Ball and I thought it would be fun to bring an authentic documentary-style approach to the subject matter of movies we grew up on like Close Encounters of the Third Kind. We were inspired by the sorts of stories that started in mundane, everyday circumstances before taking an abrupt turn into the unknown.
Are you surprised with the accessibility of camera phones, social media and the like we don’t see as much UFO sighting activity as we did in the past?
Who knows, maybe we’re too busy taking selfies. If we’d only just pan up a little … 🙂