Jemaine Clement and Taika Waititi, Co-directors of “What We Do in the Shadows”

The Truth About Vampires – Revealed!

Feb 13, 2015 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share


The life (or is that un-death?) of a modern-day vampire isn’t all about sparkling skin and fantastic orgies. As the new documentary What We Do in the Shadows sets out to prove, their lives are actually a lot like ours.

What We Do in the Shadows follows four vampires—all roommates in Wellington, New Zealand—in the weeks leading up to the Unholy Masquerade Ball, an annual gathering of supernatural creatures. (It’s a mockumentary, of course.) The film was written and co-directed by Flight of the Conchords’ Jemaine Clement and Taika Waititi, of Eagle vs. Shark fame. Clement and Waititi star in the film alongside Jonathan Brugh, Cori Gonzalez-Macuer, Ben Fransham and Rhys Darby. It’s a lot of fun, as you’d expect; our review described it as “True Blood by way of Waiting for Guffman.

Clement and Waititi took time to answer a few questions about the movie while they were in NYC.

What common misconception about vampires are you hoping to clear up with your documentary?

Taika Waititi: I think that the label “monster” gets bandied about a lot when talking about the undead, and talking about vampires. I think “monster” implies something that doesn’t have any feelings, or doesn’t feel regret, or is callous.

Jemaine Clement: Edward Cullen has feelings, though.

TW: What we’re trying to do is dispel that these people are monsters. Show that there’s a little smidge of humanity still in them.

JC: Unlike Edward Cullen, though, they still [drink blood].

TW: They feel bad about it, but that’s just a part of it. You have to drink the blood of humans. That’s one of the rules.

JC: It says in the film that they don’t all live in castles by themselves. Some of them have social lives. They have parties and friends.

You shot the film by describing what was happening in the scenes to the actors, rather than just handing them the script?

JC: Yeah, usually.

TW: We actually wrote all the dialogue and a lot of the jokes and stuff, but in the end we just wanted it to be a natural performance.

What was the initial seed idea behind this film? What made you think, “Let’s do vampires,” in this sort of mock documentary style?

TW: I think back in 2005, vampires—it wasn’t a popular genre. Not may people were doing it. It was still, I think, kind of tacky, and I think that’s what appealed to me.

JC: Dressing up in tacky stuff.

TW: It seemed like such a dated thing that it would be funny to kind of modernize it. It fit quite well with the idea that these vampires were out-of-touch; that they were this hangover from the old style of vampires. But then, over the years—it was seven years—we both got very busy doing other things. I made a couple of films, [Jemaine] was doing the Conchords stuff. We ended up having tiny little periods of time throughout the years we could talk about it, or write a scene, or something. So, a lot of e-mailing ideas back and forth. And, yeah, so it took about seven years to get our shit together. [Laughs] It was in 2012 that we both found that we had, like, five months free, so we just committed to it.

Over all of those years, with vampires becoming popular again—did that accelerate the project?

TW: It was a little worrying, but in the end I think it was better that we came at the end of it.

JC: During the craze of True Blood and Twilight, when we were making a vampire project, we would say, “It’s about these vampires…” and [everyone] would just go, “oof.”

Were the four specific vampires you focus on part of the idea that whole time?

TW: Pretty similar.

JC: We started, though—there was this one thing we would do on stage. We only did it once. I got up on stage; well, actually, a rubber bat would float around, and then it would go away, and then [there was] a puff of smoke, and I would be standing there. I would get up on the microphone and start telling stories and jokes, and then this other vampire in the audience—played by Taika—would just yell out, “Booooooo!”

TW: [In thick accent] "It’s lies! All lies!"

JC: “Why have you been following me through the centuries, heckling me?” But they were much stranger characters. Less relatable.

***

What We Do in the Shadows in now playing in select cities. For more information about the film, check out its website.



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