My initial viewing of James Byrkit‘s Coherence was on my Macbook Air, so I decided to catch last night’s 9:45 pm show at the Los Feliz 3. Almost as engrossing, definitely worth it, big-screen detail, etc. Emily Baldoni was chatting with admirers in front of the plex when I got there. Coherence is almost certainly the coolest low-budget flick playing anywhere right now, but that doesn’t imply it’s anything but a very creepy little mindfuck. Wells to Byrkit #1: Forget the Manohla Dargis pan — everyone has their blind spots and she has hers. Wells to Byrkit #2: After reading about the Twilight Zone influence, I naturally assumed that the specific trigger was “Mirror Image,” the 1960 Vera Miles-Martin Miler episode that most closely resembles your film. I was more than a bit surprised, therefore, when you said in an interview with Complex.com’s Matt Barone that “The Monsters are Due on Maple Street” “is definitely the biggest influence on the movie, no question.” May I respectfully disagree? Never trust the artist — trust the tale.
From my original review: “A highly engrossing, visually confined, eight-character ensemble piece that’s mostly set in a large living room in a home on a suburban street, Coherence is a metaphysical suspense flick about — I’m perfectly serious — quantum entanglements. Or, if you will, Schrodinger’s Cat.”
Byrkit: “We shot over five days, and instead of a script I had my own 12-page treatment that I spent about a year working on. It outlined all of the twists and reveals and character arcs and pieces of the puzzle that needed to happen scene-by-scene. But each day, instead of getting a script, the actors would get a page of notes for their individual character, whether it was a backstory or information about their motivations. They would come prepared for their character only. They had no idea what the other characters received, so each night there were completely real reactions, and surprises and responses.
“This was all in the pursuit of naturalistic performances. The goal was to get them listening to each other, and engaged in the mystery of it all. [But] they were completely in the dark. All the surprises you see are real. They didn’t know the power was going out. They didn’t know the knocks were coming. There were knocks that surprised me, even, because it was, like, the pizza guy at the door. It was uncontrolled mayhem. You’re improvising along with the actors as a director, and cameraman. My dp, Nic Sadler, and I told them, ‘You can go anywhere you want in the house and we’ll follow you. We’re not going to rehearse it or block it.’ We just treated it almost like a documentary unfolding in front of us.”