Make a Found-Footage Superhero Epic in 10 Easy Steps

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Chronicle uses the found-footage formula to tell the story of three super-powered guys. It looks and feels like a real documentary, except with crazy special effects and significantly more action than Super-Size Me. After watching the movie this weekend, you’ll probably be inspired to grab a camera and make your own sci-fi masterpiece. Not so fast, Hitchcock. The cast and director of Chronicle share the secrets of making the year’s best superhero movie. (That’s one of the benefits of being released in February.)

Step One: Try Really Hard to Make it Look Like You’re Not Trying At All

ALEX RUSSELL: You'd be surprised at how much we say was actually scripted. 80 to 90-percent of the dialogue is exactly as it was on the page. Maybe a few scenes were improvised, but a large portion of the scenes are actually scripted and it's a tribute to Max Landis [Son of director and boob enthusiast John Landis] for writing dialogue that was so natural.

Step Two: Become Friends

DANE DEHAAN: We had two weeks of prep where we lived in a house together and got to know each other.

MICHAEL B. JORDAN: I can’t stand them…[laughs]

Step Three: Find the Footage (Hopefully)

DIRECTOR JOSH TRANK: Somebody sent the footage to me in the mail. Kind of a Craigslist thing. You never know what you're going to get with Craigslist, but it turned out to be a great movie. (Editor’s Note: Trank was joking. The movie Chronicle wasn’t sent to him from Craiglist. He actually yanked it off of Megaupload.)

Step Four: If You Can’t Find Footage, Plan Ahead

TRANK: It was all thoroughly mapped out in my head and on the page. I'm a really intense planner. Every aspect of the movie from camera work to production design, to the style of special effects…everything was planned.

Step Five: Pick a Superpower You Want and Own it

JORDAN: If I could have a super power, I’d want to be able to fly. I hate the whole airport thing. If I could skip the TSA and not get patted down a thousand times before getting on a plane, I would be all for that. 

Step Six: Avoid Giving Your Audience a Headache

TRANK: We establish form the beginning that the main character is a bit more talented with the camera than your typical POV character. He has a steady hand, an interesting commentary and a way of framing up his world, and a reason for filming things.

Step Seven: Fool the Audience

TRANK: The film opens up as a personal documentary, something that you would see opening at Sundance in the documentary category. This kid suffers from abuse at home and at school and he's just had enough and he's filming everything. And to the surprise of Andrew and to the audience, 15 minutes in, the movie becomes something different.

Step Eight: Get Another Camera…and a Plot

TRANK: I highly suggest that you always have a static camera running. You can cut away to that camera so that people won't get uncomfortable and walk out of the theater. You also need a strong story or genre twist.

Step Nine: Fix it in Post

DEHAAN: I was surprised to see the finished movie. I got so wrapped up in the making it that I forgot I was making a movie. Watching it, I was like, "This is so cool! I'm really doing these things. It's so real.”

Step Ten: Relate to Your Audience

TRANK: Everyone wants to throw a bus at somebody.

Watch the entire magical interview in the videos below.

Chronicle opens nationwide February 3rd.