LAist Exclusive: The Origins Of Cloverfield With Matt Reeves

Matt Reeves with Lizzy Caplan on the set of Cloverfield

I love emails like this. Zach Behrens, an Editor at LAist.com had the great fortune of sitting down with Cloverfield Director Matt Reeves. He sent me a little message about the article written by Julie Wolfson and it's a fantastic read for any Cloverfield fan. Reeves goes into depth about the film style and other technical aspects for all you film junkies. You can read the entire article here and I've grabbed some of the key points below.
"It's a great and lengthy article where director Matt Reeves spills the beans on where the name Cloverfield came from, his reaction to all the rumors floating around the internet, how the Iraq War influenced the filming style and how he met J.J. Abrams through the original YouTube of the 1970s, the Z Channel in Los Angeles.

Legions of curious fans have been waiting for January 18, 2008 for months. Many comb for clues online and speculate about every detail. LAist spent an afternoon with the director, Matt Reeves. We asked him to spill some juicy details about the film (including what the title really means), about his longtime friendship with J.J. Abrams, and to describe the wild ride that is Cloverfield."

LAist: Over the years you have been very selective in your choice of projects. What made you want to direct your first monster movie?

Matt Reeves (picture below, filming Cloverfield): Well, I guess it had to do with the approach. At the time, there was a project I had written and will be directing called The Invisible Woman. I was putting together the cast and we had an actress cast for the lead and then she fell out twice and it just didn’t work scheduling-wise. During this time, J.J. Abrams had been putting together this deal for his new company. He’d been doing television stuff, but he was going to also be moving into producing features in addition to the stuff that he writes and directs. So he was really excited about doing this monster movie, and that was the thing he was telling me about all during my work on The Invisible Woman. It sounded really intriguing and fun, but I never thought that I would have anything to do with it.

One day when we were dealing with all this casting stuff, he and Bryan Burk, who I’ve known since we were kids and introduced me to J.J., asked me to consider doing the movie. They talked about the idea that the movie is obviously a monster movie and there’s that kind of outrageous aesthetic, but they wanted it to feel very naturalistic and real and that was very exciting to me.

I read the outline, which was written by Drew Goddard, who is a writer from LOST and also has a big following of people who knew him when he started on Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I thought the outline was outrageous, so I met him, and I loved him. We just started talking about how we would sort of further take that character approach to the story. For me, the reason that it was interesting to do was that I’d be doing something that I’d never done before.

Was the monster in the film inspired by H. P. Lovecraft's Cthulhu?

It was not. Here’s the thing—there’s been a lot of speculation, but J.J. has already answered the question. What really happened was that during Mission Impossible 3, J.J. took his son to Japan for the premiere. While they were there, they visited a toy store in Tokyo. They saw shelf after shelf, row after row, of Godzilla toys. Just this huge toy store filled with toys. The image was really striking to J.J. He said, “Look at this. This is like a national monster.” He started thinking, “You know, we need our own national monster.” Obviously King Kong is kind of a national monster but not really in that way. That’s a great movie and he’s a legendary figure in film lore, but it’s not really the same thing. So the way that Godzilla was sort of a metaphor for the time, and for that place, the idea of creating a new monster for this time and place came about. It’s an original monster, and a monster that was inspired, really, by Godzilla.

Which films did you watch to prepare for directing Cloverfield?

I watched a lot of really weird and disparate things. I watched Children of Men because of the continuous shot aspect of it, and I thought it was really amazing, the tension that they were able to build in that. I was so impressed because the camera was very eerie and almost Kubrickian. The camera was in the middle of the space—handheld and right in the action—but it was also detached. I watched Alien, Jaws, The Shining, movies that I’ve always loved that are creepy and scary.

The thing that was most helpful, the stuff that I watched that really informed the aesthetic, was a lot of YouTube videos. Actually, a lot of the stuff that was in that first trailer, the teaser, was directly inspired by just looking at footage that people had of parties and events.

Then I looked at footage of terrifying events. I just wanted to see what happened when people were in the middle of these terrifying events and how they were filmed. There was some kind of gas pipe explosion that was online, really terrifying things. You would see the way people would keep documenting in these moments, what they would see, and how something would happen. They’d kind of miss it and then they would find it. There was also some footage I saw where they gave cameras to troops in Iraq. I was looking at the stuff from the Iraq documentary because it was like, these guys are in a crisis. Where does the camera go when you’re in a crisis? What happens?

There was this one clip in particular that I found absolutely terrifying where some troops were in a tent in Iraq and their camp was being mortar shelled. As the bombs were falling, they took the camera and put it on the ground. The shot itself was absolutely horrifying. There was a troop lying in front of the camera on the ground. There was a tent and the flap of the tent was open, but was so bright outside that with the exposure, you couldn’t even tell what was out there. You see a leg of a table that they’re hiding under and you see the other troop’s foot. You hear indiscriminate screaming and explosions getting closer and closer outside. It’s all obscured, but you could feel it. I thought we have to use that as a driving aesthetic to try and think about how to take these characters in these situations, and know that the camera is supposed to be there. We would be filming in a way that’s not from any safe perspective.

The film has had a very successful viral campaign. What do you think of Ethan Haas and the other people who took it upon themselves to capitalize on it?

All I knew was that we made this teaser trailer and had not given any information about it. People immediately started making connections, some of which connected to things that we were setting up, but others had nothing to do with us.

Some were amazing. The thing that was most funny was that when we were doing the trailer, we knew that it would have a realistic feel, and we wanted to let people know that it was a monster movie in some way without saying, “Hey look! It’s a giant monster movie!” As a result, we decided after we made it, and while we were doing the mix, to put in some dialogue to make reference to the fact that there was a creature of some sort. One of the things we put in there at the last minute—during the last 20 minutes of our mix when I was there along with J.J., Bryan Burk, and my girlfriend—and I said, “I’ll do one.”

That kind of stuff started building. Then when there was all this weird Ethan Haas stuff, I remember Bryan and J.J. and I turning to each other and saying, “What is that? We don’t even know what that is.” That’s what happens when you confront people with a mystery. You can’t be surprised if they start making connections that have nothing to do with you. That’s exactly what happened.

When I look at the message boards to see what’s going on, and there will be somebody who has purported to have seen the movie and they’ll give details—very specific details—that have nothing to do with the film. I think, “People are amazing!” It’s fascinating and it’s just something I’ve never really been a part of prior to this. I mean, we had online fans during Felicity, but it was very different.

The drink Slusho appears in Alias and Heroes. With all of the speculation about whether there is a Slusho connection in Cloverfield, it seems that the fans are looking for any kind of clues. Many are looking forward to finding secret messages hidden in the film.

I feel like the movie is its own complete experience. Yet in another way, because of all the viral stuff and the meta parallel story we’ve had building all along, that that’s also part of a puzzle. So, in a way, at the center of the whole thing there’s this one puzzle piece, which, if you knew nothing about Slusho or Tagruato and all of those things, it would play completely by itself.

When we were making the movie, we have the Statue of Liberty moment in the teaser trailer. One of the things that I thought was that because, in a lot of the footage we looked at, there were people pulling out their video phones the moment something crazy started to happen and we started thinking that’s what should happen here. One of the things that we were all thinking about was the idea that if you could find all these other peoples’ video phones or video cameras, then you’d find another movie. All these viral things are like different prisms looking at the same story.

Is there really a Slusho shirt at the party?

Well, you’ll have to see the movie. Slusho does have a connection though...

Be sure to head over to LAist to get the rest of the Matt Reeves interview. There's a lot more to read and a lot more analysis of the movie.


Click on the "OLDER POSTS" above to start up the Cloverfield archives and see how it all began.

What is Cloverfield?

Welcome to 1-18-08 Project Cloverfield Blog.

Cloverfield is the J.J. Abrams (Lost, Alias) produced monster flick directed by Matt Reeves. Get caught up on all the Cloverfield news including the viral world of Tagruato, TIDOwave, and Slusho!? And now Aladygma?

However, I love viral campaigns. Cloverfield taught me the fun of being involved with the viral world of movies and TV. That's why I'd like to branch out this site to cover some of the major viral campaigns as they are developing. Feel free to drop me a line or tip on any you find interesting.

Welcome to Cloverfield

Very few facts emerged from the viral campaign that was Cloverfield. It all started after a short, teaser trailer for Cloverfield appeared with the Transformers movie in early July of 2007. Since then, speculation surrounded what the title of the movie would be (Monstrous, Overnight, etc...) and what the monster really is and why it is tearing up New York City.

A few pictures and covert videos from the film showed up online and there were only a few core facts we knew of including the poster, the teaser trailer, and a few websites at 1-18-08, Tagruato Corp, and Slusho .

In November, the official full-length Cloverfield trailer was released that helped open up the story as well as cement the "Cloverfield" name for the movie. A short glimpse of the Cloverfield Monster was seen but for most people they still had little or no clue as to what it was.

The movie centered around five young New Yorkers throwing their friend a going-away party the night that a monster the size of a skyscraper descends upon the city. Told from the point of view of their video camera, the film is a document of their attempt to survive the most surreal, horrifying event of their lives. Cloverfield opened the weekend of 1-18-08 and set box office records for a movie in January with a monster take of over $40M. Continue to check back here for updates on the mystery and viral campaigns of Cloverfield.

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Get Started with the Cloverfield Viral Marketing

If you're new to the Cloverfield viral world than let's get started. First off, for the beginners let's look at what we're talking about.

What does viral marketing mean? Click here.

1-18-08.com Updates with pictures randomly. Each picture is layered onto of the previous update and all can be dragged and moved around the screen. Click and hold the mouse to 'grab' an image and move it around. While holding the image, shake it back and forth quickly and it will flip over. Some images have writing on the back.

Slusho This is the Japanese frozen drink made from a secret ingredient gathered from the bottom of the ocean. Slusho gives you a kick and makes you extremely happy. Prior to 1-18-08 Slusho was not sold in the US. However, recent FDA approval gave Slusho clearance to come to the states. Rob Hawkins, the lead character, was recently promoted to vice-president of Slusho and was on his way to Japan the night of the attack. Slusho is owned by the Tagruato Corp. of Japan. Slusho also first made an appearance on J.J. Abrams Alias during a scene where characters buy the drink at a store.

Tagruato This ficticious Japanese company is the parent company of Slusho as well as the Yoshida Medical Research, Bold Futura, and ParafFUN! Wax Distributors. Besides drilling the oceans for Slusho ingredients, Tagruato builds everything from space satellites to medical gear.

T.I.D.O wave An activist group set out to bring to light all the damage Tagruato has done to the envirnoment.

Jamie and Teddy A minor character from the movie, Jamie popped up on a 1-18-08.com picture and the MySpace profiles for the movies characters before getting famous for her "Jamie and Teddy" website. The site is comprised of video journals from Jamie. The site is password protected but can be accessed by the password "jllovesth"

What Is Slusho?

Slusho ! You Can't Drink 6

Cloverfield Poster

Poster Official Cloverfield Poster. The poster was officially released the week of the 2007 Comic-con in San Diego.

Project Cloverfield 1-18-08

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