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Jason Widgington [Celluloid 06.08.15] Canada scifi thriller drama adventure

Reality television and science fiction would seem to be two diametrically opposed concepts, but with Man VS. writer/director Adam Massey has merged them into a fascinating character study that just so happens to turn into an edge-of-your-seat thriller in the third act, all while keeping the protagonist’s psychological voyage front and center.

In Man VS., which had its world premiere at The 2015 London International Festival of Science Fiction and Fantastic Film, Chris Diamantopoulos plays Doug Woods, host of his own hit WebTV series, "MAN VS". Doug must survive for five days in remote locations. No crew, food or water are permitted, just the cameras he carries on his back to film his experiences. While making an otherwise routine episode, set in remote woodland, Doug is awoken by an earth-shaking crash and it quickly becomes clear that he isn’t alone. Someone or something is watching him – are they mimicking or taunting him?

As the film progresses, we witness Doug going from strong, but vulnerable, to scared and self-doubting, and finally to the desperate and determined hero ready to do anything to survive. Whatever the threat is, Man Vs. is really all about Doug’s psychological progression. And regardless of its importance to the true intent of the film, the threat itself may seem too familiar once it is revealed, but there’s a clever twist that actually renders it rather refreshing, if somewhat dark, for the genre.

In an effort to gather some insight into the film, we reached out to writer/director Adam Massey, who graciously answered our questions about his first foray into genre filmmaking.

Q: Hi Adam. First of all, congratulations on having the world premiere of Man Vs. at Sci-Fi-London 15.  While your film contains some sci-fi elements, it's not exactly a traditional model of science fiction.  How was it received by the audience at the fest? 

A: The reception was very positive. I think the audience enjoyed the non-traditional sci -fi execution of the movie. The film is really more about the character Doug Woods and how he changes in the face of this otherworldly challenge.


Q: Found-footage is such a prevalent device in genre cinema these days. When done well, it can be a very rewarding experience for the audience. When it fails, though, it usually fails miserably.  The concept fits well with the "lone man in the woods making a TV show" idea of your film. Can you discuss the use of found footage in Man Vs. and whether you tried to add anything new to the concept?

A: I wouldn’t call Man VS. a found footage film, but rather a film with a found footage feel. The fact that Doug Woods makes a self-taped TV series on lone survival lends itself to having a found footage element, but the film is always breaking away from that found footage execution to a more cinematic observational point of view.

The found footage elements really help sell the idea that Doug Woods is alone in the woods, but at the beginning of the third act Doug loses all his cameras and from that point the film is strictly shot third person. I think the combination of these styles is what makes Man VS. unique when compared to other traditional found footage films.


Q: Man VS. has a great setup that includes some lightly comedic moments showing that these "survivor-man" types are actually fallible and can have normal problems like anybody else.  Is it just me, or was this some subtle social commentary regarding society's fascination with reality TV and idolatry of its subjects? 

A: Yes, I wanted to make this film more about Doug Woods, the person, and how that contrasts to his “on air” persona. This film is really about the battle of the Id, Ego, and Super Ego of Doug. We establish him as a somewhat arrogant self-consumed individual who has the same problems as any of us. What I feel makes this movie special is watching Doug’s character start strong but then unravel into a man with weaknesses and raw exposed emotions. 


Q: Chris Diamantopoulos turns in a fantastic performance as Doug Woods (perfect name, by the way).  He's able to convey the vulnerability of Doug when he's not filming for his show and instantly switch to the bravado required when he hits Record on his camera, not to mention his confusion and outright terror as things escalate.  Did you audition many people for the role? How easy was it for you to cast Chris as Doug?

A: Chris nailed the role of Doug Woods. Fortunately the casting process was easy. I met Chris on the set of another film I was visiting. Chris and I just chatted about things, life, family, films. When I left set and was driving home I had this gut feeling that Chris was my Doug Woods. Chris is a very talented actor and also a fantastic human being. His range of performance from egocentric and confident to vulnerable was perfect for this role. His ability to also bring some comedy into the character really elevated the human quality of Doug Woods. 


Q: Doug's nerves become increasingly frayed as his ordeal progresses, and we see him go from the strong, confident outdoorsman to doubting himself, then on to being completely unhinged.  How difficult is it to write that sort of psychological progression, and was it tightly scripted or was there any improvisation on Chris' part?

A: The unraveling of Doug Woods was always the idea behind this movie. For me as the director that was always the primary story in this film. Chris and I worked very hard each day at establishing where Doug was on that range of emotions. There was some improvisation but mostly every line of dialogue was scripted. Chris just had this incredible talent to make the written word feel honest and real. 

Q: I'm assuming Man Vs. will be doing the festival circuit to some degree.  Do you have any prospects for distribution yet? Do you know when fans can expect the film to be released to theaters and/or home video?

A: Sci-Fi London 15 was our first outing with the film, and we are hoping to hit a couple more festivals. We are really gearing towards festivals that specialize in the Sci-Fi world. Sci-Fi fans are a great loyal audience to the genre. As far as distribution goes, we are in talks already. A release date has yet to be established but we are hoping to see Man VS. out before the end of the year.


Q: Finally, I'd like to thank you for taking the time to answer our questions and I personally wish you every possible success with Man Vs.  Do you have any final comments?

A: Well, thank you for your time and wanting to help get the word out on Man VS. I am proud of the film; I had a great team of dedicated and talented filmmakers and actors that made this movie what it is. I look forward to getting it out there in the world for people to see. Being at Sci-Fi London 15 and getting such great feedback from the audiences was an amazing experience, and I look forward to having more people see the film soon.

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