Found Footage Critic recently had the privilege of reviewing a pre-release screener of the science fiction horror found footage film Encounters (2014) written and directed by Anders Bukh. We were so enthralled with the plot of the film that we reached out to Anders Bukh directly to learn more about the Encounters backstory.
Found Footage Critic: How did you come up with the basic story for Encounters?
Anders Bukh: I was in Sweden on a camping trip, some friends fooled around with a camera, and the idea emerged.
Found Footage Critic: When you first conceived of Encounters, did you want the film to be shot as found footage?
Anders Bukh: Yes.
Found Footage Critic: Why did you shoot Encounters as a found footage film rather than in the narrative?
Anders Bukh: I love the authenticity, and the freedom when you direct found footage. For example, you have no big lighting or camera crew to attend to. You can focus one hundred percent on the acting. In the case of Encounters, everything is shot on location (i.e. a real forest at night and real military base) with a very small crew, making the shoot very claustrophobic and real. Encounters was my first movie, so the budget was limited.
Found Footage Critic: Most professional directors we’ve spoken with have said that found footage is more difficult to shoot than narrative films due to the limitations in camera placement to tell the story. Did you run into any specific challenges shooting Encounters as a found footage film?
Anders Bukh: Yes, found footage has limitations. For example, you don’t usually use music, so you can’t mask potential bad acting. The sound design has to be discrete and very organic, so you don’t notice it, but still makes the scenes more creepy. You have to be creative to make time cuts, and parallel story, of course this can be fixed if the crew has multiple cameras. I’ve of course used all the above.
Found Footage Critic: Encounters includes a couple specific scenes with brief background music, while the remainder of the film uses pure ambient sound or subtle sound design. Why did you include music in those particular scenes?
Anders Bukh: I knew that some of the scenes would be stronger with a discrete score. [To stay true to found footage] I had the character Anders make music for the film (in the film.) The hackers who got hold of their footage also got the music from the crew’s laptop. So I used that as score in the real film. Also, I had an opportunity to pay respect to Morricone score from The Thing (1982).
Found Footage Critic: Encounters includes a few scenes containing nudity, where one is blurred out and the second is not. Was there a reason behind this decision?
Anders Bukh: I thought the male nudity was too much in your face, so to speak, but with Janne’s scene, you couldn’t really see anything. I also felt the early nudity in the film would draw too much attention and ruin the aesthetics in the scene.
Found Footage Critic: The character Fjord performs most of the principal photography in Encounters. Is actor Kristian Fjord actually performing the filming or is there another cinematographer standing in for him? How about scenes where other characters are filming?
Anders Bukh: Ninety-nine percent is filmed by the actors them selves as you see it. I wanted flaws in the filming again to make authentic. In some found footage you can feel and hear it’s fake.
Found Footage Critic: The scenes in the restaurant were interesting and unique in the sense that we have the character Fjord explaining how his steady cam works. It’s rare that we get a glimpse of the “behind the scenes” of filming as a plot point during a found footage film. Was there any particular motivation behind creating this scene?
Anders Bukh: I wanted Fjord to be a likable film nerd and show that he had some degree of knowledge about film techniques, but still he’s a novice. I wanted to put some humor in the scene. That’s why he doesn’t do a good job filming with the steady cam. Also in the the scene where Alex is pursuing the red light they see, I needed a reason why Fjord didn’t go with him immediately – he’s struggling to unmount the camera from the Steadicam.
Found Footage Critic: The characters seemed to be having a lot of fun filming, especially early on during the scenes in the van and restaurant. Was all the banter and joking between the cast scripted or was some of it ad hoc?
Anders Bukh: I allowed the actors to improvise over the original script, most of the jokes are in the script, but in some cases, the actors use their own words, again to keep the feel of the film more authentic.
Found Footage Critic: Where did you film the underground bunker scenes? What was the facility you used actually for?
Anders Bukh: Yes, the underground bunker is a genuine abandoned secret Swedish military base, used during the cold war. We lived and shot there for 5 days. Pretty creepy place.
Found Footage Critic: Were the outdoor forest scenes actually filmed in Northern Sweden as indicated in the film?
Anders Bukh: Yes most of the scenes were filmed in Sweden, and only a couple were shot in Denmark.
Found Footage Critic: How much time did you spend on principal photography?
Anders Bukh: All shooting took approximately three weeks.
Found Footage Critic: What was the budget for Encounters?
Anders Bukh: That’s a secret! But not much.
Found Footage Critic: What are your three favorite found footage films, and why?
Anders Bukh: Actually I haven’t seen that many found footage films, but I think Chronicle (2012) is quite good, and Cloverfield (2008) has some good CGI. Encounters is actually more inspired by Alien, and The thing.
Found Footage Critic: After having created Encounters, would you consider making another found footage film?
Anders Bukh: Yes I still think found footage could evolve. I have some new technical ideas to take the genre even further :-), but I’m not sure my next film will be found footage. We have to see about that.
In a followup conversation with Anders Bukh, we came to learn of many scenes that fell to the cutting room floor or simply weren’t filmed from the original Encounters script. Now that know the full unedited plot of Encounters after taking in all of the plot elements that didn’t make the final version of the film, we want to share that information with our readers.
We will be publishing a second article with spoilers specifically for readers who already watched Encounters and are interested in learning the full end-to-end story.