Friday the 13th may be the day when many horror fans pay a visit to Camp Crystal Lake, but it's also the day HBO invites viewers back into Room 104 for the third season premiere of the thought-provoking (and oftentimes unsettling) anthology series. With HBO kicking off the third season following its debut at the Tribeca TV Festival, Daily Dead took part in a roundtable conference call with executive producer Sydney Fleischmann and co-creator/executive producer/writer/director Mark Duplass to discuss the horror-centric storylines in season 3 (including vampires), the importance of working with innovative filmmakers on the ambitious series (including Creep director Patrick Brice), the challenges (and rewards) of setting an entire series in the same hotel room, and where the ideas for the show come from.
On when season 3 was filmed:
Sydney Fleischmann: We got back and wrapped about a year and a half ago, and then wrapped the post about a year ago. Yeah, it's been a little while. It's exciting to be out out in the world.
On the variety pack of genres and horror-centric stories in the fourth season:
Mark Duplass: Yeah, it's definitely the variety pack, for sure, in terms of every variety pack has its own theme and genre. I would say it's fair that we're a little wilder this year. We're a little more experimental, trying new things, and there's a little bit more of the mysterious and the mystical this year. And yes, rashes, vampires, gorilla, and lots of blood.
On the influences in season 3 of Room 104:
Sydney Fleischmann: I don't know if there are any specific influences. I think that the show is now at a point where we feel really good about just taking risks. I think all all the different people that we collaborate with, that's really the inspiration, is all the different voices, all the different places we can go with it. Just taking these leaps of faith behind new things.
Mark Duplass: Yeah, I think that's right. The major influence really is, we want to make sure we don't repeat ourselves, and so Sid and I need to reach out to as many young, interesting, strange, diverse voices as possible, so that it stays fresh and new. That's really the easiest way to do it.
On the process of reaching out to innovative filmmakers to collaborate with on Room 104:
Sydney Fleischmann: It's kind of all over the place. We have our stable of people that we love working with, and we know that if there's a specific episode that needs a certain type of director, we know Patrick Brice is a perfect example of that. Mark will write an episode that is just right up Patrick's alley, and sometimes there's sort of a specific need that we're trying to fill. With the season 2 episode "Josie & Me," we really wanted a theater director because the episode has a play-like quality to it. We found this young, very successful theater director [Lila Neugebauer] who had never done TV, never done film. This was the first time that she had ventured into that world. It really depends on what the episode is craving and what it needs to thrive.
Mark Duplass: Well, I think that once we started this show and we realized that every possible story you can imagine happens in a hotel room, we realized we want to be able to tell stories in every genre. We were worried that HBO would not be excited about that because the truth is to have a successful television show, traditionally speaking, you'd have to be offering the same feeling to people so that they will continue to show up to get that feeling. That is not what we do in our show.
Once we realized that, we realized that people are often very unsettled in the first few minutes watching an episode of Room 104, cause they don't know what they're going to get. They're very distrusting of what's happening, and it's a very unique viewing experience. I think that subconsciously we lean into that a little bit more, and use that energy of they don't know what the f--k is going to happen. When you're obeying that, it does tend to lead you down to more strange, mystical, horror, thriller, unexpected paths.
On continuing to find new ways to film the confines of Room 104 and keep it interesting for viewers:
Sydney Fleischmann: Yeah, I think it's definitely a mixture of those things. We know the room inside out, so we really know how to manipulate it. I think it's a testament to our crew and our photographer and gaffer, who really make an effort to make each episode feel different and have a different look, and not shoot every episode the same way. That way it just doesn't all look the same because I think being in one 350 square foot space for so long could just get really stale. To just keep it alive is really a big part of it.
Mark Duplass: The writers are always, I don't want to say worried, but we have our minds on, "What are things that we could do?" That's why we invented different time periods, versions of the room to play around with and offer different textures. Opening up season 3 in a space that looks wildly different than what you're used to is also part of that.
On creating unique content in the ever-expanding world of streaming and cable outlets:
Mark Duplass: Yeah, it's a larger conversation. It's certainly a complex one with no easy answers, but there's no doubt that there's a bit of a migration of independent filmmakers into the realm of cable television. That doesn't apply to just anthology, that's serialized, episodic, and everything. I think that there's no doubt that the "streaming wars" and the need to make more and more stuff are going to mean that more filmmakers are going to be headed into this space to get work and tell the kind of stories they want to tell, in particular independent filmmakers who are trying to push boundaries. At the same time I think that we're in a place where as a viewer, like how much more can we fu--ing stomach because there's so much stuff?
I think about that all the time, "What is my worth and my value if I'm just adding show number 428 onto someone's queue that they'll never get to?" I think what that means is you got to find what makes your show unique and interesting. In the case of Room 104, we're offering up something for the weirdos who want to try something different. I for one am not trying to please all viewers now with one show, I'm just trying to do what I do and hope that I get a few really passionate people to show up.
On the different storytelling methods fans can expect to see in season 3:
Mark Duplass: There's a documentary episode, that was different.
Sydney Fleischmann: Another iPhone episode.
Mark Duplass: Another video diary episode. That one's about a rash. You guys will enjoy that one. But yeah, we're always looking for new ways. There's an episode that utilizes projectors, so there's a lot of stuff that was pre-shot and is projected all over the walls in a way that offers different textures and things like that. We're always looking for new ways.
I love it. To me, in particular the video diary form, which to me is a more accurate representation of what we're doing rather than found footage type stuff, is a really great form. It puts a lot of pressure on the performer. They have to be really interesting. It's almost like doing a one-person show, and we have Arturo Castro in an episode where it's basically just him doing his thing. We experimented a lot with that form with the Creep movies. You don't have that much to do and you don't have beautiful cinema, you just have your performance and your writing abilities. To a certain degree, that's what Room 104 is all about, boiling it down to the essence. You can't hide behind the money or the effects or anything, so you better be fu--ing good. It's a really great challenge.
On reteaming with Patrick Brice, the director of the Creep movies, on Room 104:
Mark Duplass: Yeah, there's definitely a vibe of, "I'm with my homies, and we got a small crew and we're just making art the way we used to make it when we were kids." The production scale of Creep is, believe it or not, even smaller than what we do with Room 104.
So, there's even more of a Bad News Bears feeling. Patrick's a really close friend of mine and we both really enjoy the strange humor and odd behavior of Creep. You can see those overtones in the episodes we make together in Room 104.
On their favorite horror movies and types of horror:
Sydney Fleischmann: Yeah, I was never a horror fan, but my fiancée's a huge horror fan, and then figured out a way to get me to really love horror, and really open my mind and open my eyes to new things. I love the Halloween movies. I love Beetlejuice.
Mark Duplass: You love those Creep movies, you know you love them.
Sydney Fleischmann: I'm a huge fan of those Creep movies. I am actually a huge Creep fan.
Mark Duplass: I like daylight horror stuff. It's always been interesting to me when you don't have the right mood and the right lighting, and you've got a wide shot and everything is available to you. How the f--k do you make that shit scary? It's not often that there's an entire daylight horror movie, but a lot of times it's just really excellent scenes that that pop out. I'm always looking for no music effects, no score, wide shot, daylight, terrifying cinema. It's tough to do.
On where the ideas for the show come from:
Mark Duplass: It's a combination of a bunch of things. The first thing is yes, there is a graveyard of failed feature film scripts that make great Room 104 episodes. There is a living graveyard of ideas that we love for Room 104, but we're having a hard time cracking that sometimes we need a new filmmaker to show us the way we could do it that we didn't think of. I was a playwright in college, so I think a lot like a playwright of what kind of story can I tell of a few people in one setting. It's a part of my DNA that really helps for the show. There is a document that exists on my computer and Syd's computer that is filled with hundreds of episode ideas, either too expensive to make or we haven't found a way to crack them yet creatively and make them good, or we just haven't gotten around to them yet. Hopefully we'll be able to make the show for another 15 years.
Keep an eye out for a new episode of Room 104 every Friday this fall, and to learn more about the series, visit its official website.