Two years ago a man named Oren Peli decided to make a movie. He didn't know exactly how, but he knew he had a good premise, and he knew he had some helpful friends, so he spent roughly $15,000, hired a few actors and then spent a mere seven days filming in his own home. What came out of that was Paranormal Activity, a haunted-house labor of love that barely made its way around the festival circuit before being purchased by DreamWorks (only after Steven Spielberg reportedly experienced some paranormal activity of his own after watching a DVD of the film by himself).
The studio's initial plan was to buy the film with the intent of having Peli remake it, but reactions to a test screening intended to attract new writing talent were so strong, the producers at DreamWorks decided that trying to bottle lightning twice was pointless. The film was slated for release in 2008, but got delayed due to an internal conflict between DreamWorks and Paramount. But studio politics couldn't hold the film back forever, not when calculated screenings at events like Fantastic Fest yielded monster buzz and sold out midnight showings.
Now after an unprecedented launch campaign in which fans literally got to demand that the film play near them, Paramount is ready to roll out Oren Peli's Paranormal Activity nationwide, a film I feel safe calling the scariest I've seen in years.
Cinematical: What is your background pre-Paranormal Activity? And how did you lead up to it?
Oren Peli: By trade, I am a software programmer, so I never really had any experience with movies before. I started out with Paranormal Activity.
So this was your very first stab at filmmaking?
Yes, pretty much, I never even made shorts or anything like that.