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Q&A with director Taylor Ri'chard about his film THE FINAL PROJECT

Six college students have organized the ultimate graduation project… a documentary film about one of the most notorious haunted houses in America, the Lafitte Plantation in Vacherie, Louisiana. A Civil War landmark with a dark past, complete with stories of mutilated soldiers, murdered families and restless shadows roaming its abandoned corridors… no one has entered Lafitte in years- until now. Outfitted with high-tech recording equipment in order to capture every moment of their great adventure, these intrepid young filmmakers bravely venture deep into the misty backwoods of Louisiana. But on this plantation that time has forgotten, something evil still waits and watches. When darkness falls, their deepest fears come to life, as one by one they’ll learn the horrifying truth that awaits all who dare seek the secrets of the Lafitte Plantation. The dead are awake, and there are some places the living should never go.

Utilizing real locations in and around Georgia, THE FINAL PROJECT features a crew and ensemble of dedicated locals well acquainted with the haunted history of the South. Combining the “found footage” genre with authentic local folklore, it updates the classic American ghost story by tapping into a history too chillingly real to deny. The backstory of THE FINAL PROJECT combines an Old Hollywood touch with a real-life twist. Chretien Point Plantation in Sunset, Louisiana, the real-life model for the film’s Lafitte Plantation, was also the inspiration for the interior of the legendary “Tara” from Gone with the Wind. Its true claim to fame, however, lies closer to home. The site of a pitched and bloody battle between Union and Confederate soldiers at the height of the Civil War, with a bullet hole still embedded in one of its front doors, Chretien Point has long been rumored to be one of the biggest supernatural “hotspots” in North America. Ghostly sightings have been reported for decades, with stories of buried treasure, a vengeful “house mistress”, and even a nearby haunted bridge. THE FINAL PROJECT is the debut film from indie filmmaker Taylor Ri’chard and hits theaters beginning Feb 12th in Atlanta and Houston, March 4th in New York and Los Angeles, and then expands nationwide.

What drew you to the horror genre? 

I have always loved horror. I’m a huge Wes Craven fan. But when I saw The Blair Witch Project I wanted to make a movie like that. I consider The Final Project me paying homage to a legendary film.

Did you have the found footage conceit in mind going in or was this conceived as a traditional narrative?

No I wrote this movie as a found footage from the beginning. I actually love the genre and wanted to make my contribution to it.

The casting in your film is really strong, how involved are you in the casting process?

I was involved with the casting from the beginning. I had a certain idea in mind of what I was looking for, so every actor was able to meet me and work with me throughout the casting process.

Leonardo Santaiti, Arin Jones and Amber Erwin all brought a depth to their characters that you normally don't see in genre work. Was that something you were attempting in the writing process or something the actors brought to their respective roles?

Well what you see from these actors is them being their selves. I wanted actors who walked into the audition with natural personality traits of the characters I wrote. The most important thing in my opinion when casting for a found footage film is that the characters already posses the traits you are casting for. It provides a natural feeling when directing them on script.

Your film is something of a slow burn. Thank you for having faith in the audience, we don't need a scare every 30 seconds to keep us engaged. That being said, how conscious of pacing are you in the writing, shooting and editing stages of the film? Do you worry about loosing the audience?

Well I find that in most found footage movies the narrative gets lost in the need to be edgy. I wanted to take my time and try to actually develop a narrative that would possibly allow the audience to connect and develop some type of connection with the characters. I think that if the audience allow themselves to connect with the characters and receive what they are saying during the slower times in the movie they will have a great time when the movie picks up the pace later.

Do you plan on sticking with genre films?

Honestly I plan to create as it comes to me. I consider myself a versatile writer and plan to make movies that reflect the stories that I need to tell.

It seems like there are ton of talented filmmakers and actors in Atlanta right now. What the hell is going on down there? 

Well Georgia has some great incentives for the movie making business and that is also providing platforms for filmmakers and actors to make a living here.

Carolina or Denver?
Carolina of course!