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Interview: Actor Gavin Brown discusses his film debut, ‘Found’

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After playing at more than 40 festivals around the world, and winning numerous awards including Best Feature, the indie coming-of-age/horror feature, “Found,” will be releasing to limited theaters and VOD this Friday, Aug. 15. The film marks the directorial debut for Scott Schirmer, as well as the feature film debut for its young stars, Gavin Brown and Ethan Philbeck.

Based on the novel by Todd Rigney, “Found” tells the story of Marty (Brown), a fifth grader who has an obsession with horror films, gets good grades at school, and stays out of trouble. But Marty is also bullied at his school, and his parents aren’t the most supportive people in his life. Marty has an older brother, Steve (Philbeck), with whom he shares a love for horror films. But Marty soon discovers that Steve is a serial killer, and he fears for his family’s safety.

The Chico Movie Examiner recently conducted an over-the-phone interview with Brown about his performance as Marty. Brown talks about his decision to take on this role, even though he hadn’t really acted in anything previously; how he’s not much of a horror fan; and what he loves about VHS tapes. Check out the full interview below.

David Wangberg: I was watching a behind-the-scenes video earlier today, and Ethan Philbeck said that you hadn’t really acted a whole lot before doing this film. What was it about this film that made you want to make it your feature film debut?

Gavin Brown: I think that it was just that I was young, and I like acting; I like watching it. I was always interested in it, but I never really have done it, so I was waiting for something to come along and give me that opportunity. It just so happened that it was a local film, and it was like, “Oh, that’s pretty d*** cool, too.” I think that’s just what geared me toward it.

And it just kind of happened; I didn’t really think about it. At first, I didn’t want to do it, because I was nervous, but my mom technically forced me into it, because she knew that I would probably like it afterward, which is usually true. I just kind of did it, and she got me to stick with it, and I just ended up loving it.

DW: Do you usually watch horror films?

GB: I do not. I will watch them with friends if they want me to go watch them with them or if my girlfriend wants me to take her to a horror movie or something, I’ll watch them. But it’s not like what I stride toward watching.

DW: What would be your genre of choice for movie-watching?

GB: I like comedies and action movies.

DW: What I love about the film is all the movies they rent or watch are on VHS. I’m going to assume… you were 12 when you did this movie, so you’re 14 now?

GB: I am almost 16, actually.

DW: Oh, OK.

GB: August 26 is my birthday.

DW: So, you were born around the time that DVDs were starting to come in, and VHSes was just starting to fade away. Did you grow up on VHSes at all?

GB: Yeah, we actually have a bunch of VHSes at my house.

DW: In your opinion, what do you think are some advantages VHS tapes have over DVDs?

GB: For me, I’m into retro stuff like that. I like have VHSes because they look cooler, and I like having records because they look cooler. I think an advantage for me is the way they look and… I don’t know; there aren’t really advantages. I like DVDs to play movies off of, but the look of VHSes are cool.

DW: In the film Marty and his brother are horror film fanatics; they practically watch them all the time or they talk about them all the time. I know you said you weren’t much of a horror fan, but if your friends were to host a horror movie night, what would be the films they’d usually watch?

GB: Those stupid movies that now come out like “Paranormal Activity”; “Insidious”; and, of course, “Friday the 13th” and classics like that – you never know. A lot of my friends honestly ask me to watch “Found,” and I’m always like, “No. You can watch it if I’m not with you.” I just don’t want to watch it again; it’s too many times. We just watch the classic stuff that everyone watches.

DW: Have you seen “Found” at all or no?

GB: Yeah, I’ve seen it like 40 times.

DW: Oh. [laughs] I just didn’t know if you had not seen it, because you said you weren’t much of a horror fan.

GB: No, I just get tired of seeing it so many times; it’s just repetitive.

DW: I get that. When you were watching it for the first time, did you look at yourself and say “I can do that better.”? Were you kind of criticizing yourself?

GB: Oh, yeah. That’s the whole entire time. I was like, “D***, I screwed up there.” “Oh, I messed up there.” I’m just criticizing it myself; I’ve never really seen it as a movie. Every time, I find more and more things that I can critique myself on because now that I’m older, I notice more things.

I’m in another movie right now, and I see stuff that I can do better. I work off of that for the next part that I do.

DW: I like how the film has newcomers like you and Ethan, and Louie and Phyllis have been around a while, but they haven’t really done anything big. If they had cast A-listers, do you think it would lose that authentic feel that it has?

GB: You mean like Johnny Depp and all of them?

DW: Yeah, like Johnny Depp, Angelina Jolie, someone well known…

GB: I feel like it wouldn’t be as good, honestly. I feel like, after seeing so many actors in tons of movies, you don’t watch the movie because you’re like, “Wow, this is deep; this is a really good movie.” You watch it like, “Oh, my god, my favorite actor is in this.” So you don’t really get to connect to the movie and get the enjoyment out of it.

For instance, the new “Fault in Our Stars” movie was great, because I had never seen those actors before, and I could connect with them as people and not like, “Oh, that’s my favorite pop star actor that I’m in love with.”

DW: There are several scenes that can make the viewer uncomfortable, especially when they’re watching “Headless” and Marty envisions his brother as the killer in the film. When you are filming a scene like that, do you want to just go through it and hopefully get it done, or are you OK with the director doing multiple takes just to get it right?

GB: Honestly, none of that stuff really screwed with me. I was like, “Oh, this is kind of cool to see how they made this.” I was interested in it, and it didn’t really disgust me. I mean, I’m a teenage boy; I’ve probably seen worse.

DW: What I love is how this is a horror film, but it’s also a coming-of-age story. You see Marty grow up and you see his life building and all that. And they address a lot of issues. One of them is a movie that might have inspired his brother to kill. That’s usually brought into question after a mass murder or some other heinous crime takes place. In your opinion, do you think there are some films that can inspire people to commit heinous crimes?

GB: Honestly, I don’t know. I gear toward yes, but I geared toward no. It’s the same thing with dogs. They’re always like, “Pit bulls are bad because they’re bred like that.” Or some people are like, “They’re bad because people are teaching them to be like that.”

With movies, I can’t really tell if it’s the way you grew up and what you saw or were raised around, or if you were just born that way, and you eventually just come out. I can’t tell if it’s a movie that inspires them or if it’s just how they grew up. In “Found,” the parents were mean; they were racist; and they didn’t really appreciate a lot of things. I can’t tell if the brother grew up like that, and he started a hatred toward things.

DW: Here in the U.S., “Found” is unrated, and, in Australia, the film is actually banned. So it now joins films like “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre,” “I Spit on Your Grave,” and many others that have been banned over the years from Australia. How does it feel to know that your debut film is banned in Australia?

GB: It made me laugh really hard. It made me crack up. I mean, I didn’t really care that it was banned. I have an award from Australia at my house, so it didn’t really bother me. I was like, “Wow, we’re really that disgusting and good at horror films that people ban them? That’s awesome.”

DW: What do you think it says about the director and the writers that the film is banned? What do you think it says about them in their professions?

GB: I feel like people are like, “Wow, these people are really effed up – blah, blah, blah.” But, honestly, I don’t like people that do that just because they are normal people making movies. The writer and director are awesome people, so people can look at them how they want, but I know they’re nice people, so it doesn’t really matter.

DW: I love that moment when Marty and David are watching horror films, and Marty mentions that he has the unrated version of “Headless.” Over the years, when I was younger, unrated meant it was going to be something great. Nowadays, I don’t really see it that way. Do you think there’s been a change in how R-rated films and unrated films are over the years?

GB: Yeah, I feel like nowadays, they let anything slip into categories of R-rated and PG-13, so unrated doesn’t really mean anything anymore. It means, maybe, there’s a little bit more of whatever you’re watching, but I really don’t feel like it really restricts as much.

DW: And there are times where I look at the back and the R-rated says it’s 120 minutes, and the unrated says it’s 122 minutes – not that big of a difference really. 30 minutes might be different.

GB: Yeah.

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