If you caught the Witching Hour episode with Timur Bekmambetov back in August of 2018, you know that I’m endlessly fascinated by the screenlife format. In case you haven’t seen Searching or other recent releases that bring the style to the big screen, screenlife is an approach to storytelling where the entirety of the narrative is told only from digital devices. In the case of Searching, the story plays out on David Kim’s (John Cho) computer screen. It’s a marvel of an achievement for a number of reasons, from the production challenges to the unique access it gives to the main character and more, and now we’ve got yet another film making the most of the format – Spree starring Stranger Things’ Joe Keery.
He plays Kurt Kunkle, a wannabe online influencer who just can’t seem to find a fanbase. Now, working as a ride share driver for a company called Spree, he thinks he’s cracked the code for building an audience. Kurt outfits his car with a whole system of GoPros so that he can livestream his rides. The thing is, Kurt’s methods of creating maximum mid-ride entertainment have extreme and violent results.
It was a real treat to have Keery and director Eugene Kotlyarenko at the Collider Studio at the Kia Supper Suite in Park City because I had a laundry list of questions for the duo about how they pulled off this elaborate production. Check out the video interview at the top of this article to hear about the genesis of the idea, what the set looked like and how Kotlyarenko communicated with Keery while driving, the massive amount of user comments Kotlyarenko had to write for the film, whether or not the experience making the movie made them rethink how they use social media, and loads more.
Finally, I’d like to give special thanks to our Collider Studio Presenting Partner, the Kia Telluride SUV, the 2020 North American Utility Vehicle of the Year. Additional thanks to support sponsors Glenfiddich Scotch, Peroni Beer, Marbl Toronto, mou footwear, ic! berlin sunglasses and clothing lines, Laundry by Sheli Segal and Orginal Penguin.
Joe Keery and Eugene Kotlyarenko:
- 00:22 – What is Spree about?
- 00:58 – Where did the idea for the film begin for Kotlyarenko? Was it the ride share element or the social media component?
- 01:59 – What was it like for Keery reading the screenplay for the first time when the format is so heavily dependent on the edit?
- 03:35 – Prepping for the movie by watching influencer videos.
- 03:57 – Did working on the movie make them rethink how they use social media?
- 05:25 – How did Kotlyarenko nail the complex tone of the movie?
- 06:20 – What did the set look like? Was it really a whole bunch of GoPros in the car?
- 07:30 – How much footage do they shoot in one take? How did they map out the driving routes?
- 08:40 – The technical challenges Keery had to keep in mind when filming this way.
- 10:17 – How did Kotlyarenko come up with the character name Kurt Kunkle?
- 11:14 – What was the most challenging scene for them to pull off?
- 12:40 – Kotlyarenko on his experience working with the screenlife format.
- 13:15 – Kotlyarenko had to write over 8,000 viewer comments with unique usernames for the movie.
- 13:48 – What is Kotlyarenko hoping for as far as distribution goes for Spree?