The fifth film in the found footage franchise, Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones takes its arc of supernatural shenanigans to Oxnard, CA, where teens Jesse (Andrew Jacobs), Hector (Jorge Diaz), and Marisol (Gabrielle Walsh) encounter strange forces in their apartment complex. It is written and directed by Christopher Landon, who previously wrote Disturbia and three Paranormal Activity movies. The film stands as the acting debut of Jacobs, who can also be seen performing as a street dancer in Los Angeles. Diaz has acted previously, having appeared in films like Filly Brown, TV shows like "True Blood," "Boston Public," and video games "Grand Theft Auto V" and "Dead Rising 3."
Speaking with the guys a week after the film opened, we talked about not putting the camera down, the demand for more Hispanic characters in movies, what Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones has to say about Martin Scorsese's recent words, and more.
Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones is now playing everywhere.
What do you feel is the biggest misconception about found footage movies?
Jorge Diaz: I don't know if this answers it, but I didn't expect to have as much fun as I did shooting it. It was a blast on all ends. But maybe the biggest misconception is that I always read, "Another movie where the guy doesn't put the camera down!" And I'm thinking, in real life you're going through such crazy circumstances, why wouldn't you want to have evidence of that? I feel like if I'm about to die, I want at least this evidence to leave behind, so they can point at whoever is responsible for my death or whatever happens. No one is going to believe that my buddy is possessed or anything. It would be insane footage to have, and bring validation that there is actual paranormal activity in the world, you know what I mean? That's where there are shows like "Ghost Hunters," you want the evidence, right? Why wouldn't you shoot it? There are so many shows that are about trying to get footage, and then they criticize when we have something that's supposed to be found footage, and we have the evidence of it. Why do we keep shooting? Why not?!
Andrew Jacobs: I think that a lot of people, while they are watching the film, must think that [we] must have been handed a camera, and that it was just three guys running around filming something. In reality, it's a huge process, and a lot of work. I actually feel like -- and this is my first project ever, I've never worked on anything else, no TV show, nothing -- but hearing from people like Jorge and my cast mates who have worked on this stuff, this is a lot of hard work. Everybody from Paramount, everybody works very hard to show this, and it's not just three people. It's a real movie type of thing.
Jorge, do you think what you're talking about concerning people not putting the camera down is a product of our current social media; how we want to document things so much in modern society? If "found footage" were possible when 'Psycho' was made fifty years ago, do you think it would have been done in the same way?
Jacobs: I think social media has an influence on it, definitely. If you see a crazy car crash right now, boom -- we'll definitely take out our phones, Twitter, Instagram it.
Diaz: In [Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones], our characters are uploading stuff on Youtube. It's incorporated in the plot.
And speaking of this film as a big operation, how much secrecy was there? How much could you not talk about?
Jacobs: I'll go backwards. We couldn't tell anybody what we were a part of it until the trailer came out. We were like, "This is what we've been working on for a year, it's Paranormal Activity," and everyone was really shocked and excited. Going to the beginning, going into the audition process, we also had no idea it was a Paranormal Activity movie either. We just knew we had an audition on the Paramount lot, for some project. We had no idea. Basically, for the audition they gave us a character breakdown, [for] my character Jesse. Well, in the beginning I think his name was Angel, Angel Ramone ... thank God it didn't stay like that.
Diaz: It's like a novella or something.
Jacobs: They just gave me my character and said, "He's like this, he just graduated from high school, he's a normal kid," boom. No idea that he was going to become possessed or anything, just talking to the camera as my character. And then they brought us back, and put everybody into groups, two males and one female. What's fun is that the first group I was in was with Jorge Diaz, so we were there from the get-go. We just read an interview that Christopher Landon did, and he said that right after he saw us for the first time, he looked at the casting director and said, "We're done. These are the guys." And they continued auditioning people from all over.
Diaz: I had no idea. But I think we mainly just had fun with it.
Writer/director Christopher Landon is not from the film's setting of Oxnard, CA ...
Diaz: Chris grew up in LA.
Did you guys, and other people that were part of the filmmaking process, have to add in your own ideas to make sure that Oxnard was represented correctly, along with any other facets?
Jacobs: They did a lot of research on everything. They went to Oxnard looking at how kids dressed out there, how they talked, every single thing. They did a lot of research and consultants.
Diaz: On the film, with the culture and language, mainly what Chris wanted to do ... I mean, family is family, and friendship is friendship. He gave us all the freedom with dialogue, saying that if we didn't feel comfortable saying a certain line, that we could make it our own. "How would you say it? And what slang would you use?" He made us feel so comfortable, and I never was hesitant about speaking up, because he was so open to so much. To everyone on the production team, whoever was there on set felt comfortable throwing ideas out, if they had them. It was beautiful. I've heard stories about other directors.
It's interesting that the movie is made by an outsider, but it has specific insider touches, like its lack of subtitles for the Spanish spoken in the movie, or no backstory behind its spiritual moment involving an egg ...
Jacobs: With the Spanish parts of the film, which is important and portrayed very well, in the cleansing, she is talking Spanish in the film, but all she is gesturing is "Jesse, Jesse ... ['sit down' in Spanish]" and the audience is going to know that she is gesturing him to sit down. And the rest of the Spanish she is speaking is the prayer, which I think everybody understands. And in the other moments in which she is speaking Spanish, the film does a good job in scenes where she says in the language, "Oh Hector, Hector ['something is happening to Jesse' in Spanish]," and Hector will say, "What do you mean something is happening to Jesse?" That's how the audience catches on.
Diaz: And we made sure that there wasn't anything that the audience needed to know for the story. That the body language spoke for itself.
Going with that, last year there was box-office hit 'Instructions Not Included' and animated film 'Turbo', both American successes with Mexican characters. Do you guys see, both as performers and spectators, the demand for more of these types of characters?
Jacobs: I think there is a demand. And there is a lot of comedy in this, but it's not stereotypical Mexican comedy, it's just a buddy comedy. With Turbo, there's the taco guy who says stereotypical stuff, but I think putting stereotypical stuff in any type of cartoon or animated movie, any type of race people are going to get a good laugh out of it, because in reality we like making fun of certain things. But now with this one, I think this is the first and freshest and the biggest thing that is starting with an all-Latino thing without making fun of it. It's the start of something new.
Diaz: Yeah, I mean hopefully this sends the messages to all major studios that this is universal, and everyone can connect to it. The family could have easily been Indian, or Korean, etc. It would be beautiful for this to open up doors not just for us as Hispanic artists coming up, but for ethnic actors of all backgrounds. That would be a great thing.
Jacobs: And I think we all relate to each other, especially Americans, for example. Just because you are Mexican American , African American, Caucasian American, whatever you are. People don't view you as, "You come from a lot of Mexican things, so you are completely Mexican." Me, for example, I'm adopted. I grew up with a French mom my whole life. I didn't grow up in a Hispanic household. My mom was born in Versailles, France. But with my friends, they are all Mexican Americans, and that's what brought me to my roots, and taught me to speak my Spanish. But we're all the same people, man. I think this is definitely going to open the doors, because everybody we've gotten reactions from the movie from, they're not like, "Oh, you're those two funny Mexican guys from the movie." No, they're just like, "You're just the two best friends." We just had someone interview us yesterday, and she was an older African American lady, and she loved it, and she related to us. She is not a young Hispanic boy.
Diaz: And in a way, I have had to relate to white suburbia my whole life. You know what I'm saying?
As you may have read, Martin Scorsese wrote about "the future of cinema" recently in an open letter to his daughter. In it, he marvels about the excitement in the new accessibility of filmmaking technology. That being said, now having starred in a 'Paranormal Activity' film, do you feel that what you are a part of now is this future of movies? Concerning how they are being made, distributed, etc?
Diaz: The equipment that kids have now, anyone really can produce really quality work. I feel that if there is an awesome story out there and it is done really well, this could open the doors for just a diverse array of projects and stories. And I think that's beautiful, because suddenly we're getting stories from all over the place, and all types of them.
Jacobs: And I think more people are going to try to make films, and be inspired to do so. One of my closest friends, and this was close to the movie release, he decided to write a script. He's now written two scripts. And with technology now, I think anything is possible.
Diaz: Because if it's really good, I think someone is going to find it.
Jacobs: Well, not all ... but especially if you have a good following, it'll find its audience.