In “Chronicle,” amateur filmmaker Andrew Denton (played by Dane DeHaan) picks up a camera to document his life, and it’s through his lens that we witness his and his friends’ transformation when they find a crystal deep in a cave which imbues them with telekinetic powers. He keeps the camera rolling as they test out their newfound abilities.
Shot in the “found-footage” style established by the likes of hit thrillers” The Blair Witch Project,” “Paranormal Activity” and “District 9”, it marks Trank’s debut feature film, and a change of approach for a studio used to financing some of the highest-budget sci-fi and superhero movies of our age.
Born in Los Angeles to Oscar-winning documentarian Richard Trank, Josh Trank began his career as an editor, working on independent feature “Big Fan.”
His directing career began when a short film Trank had made, “Stabbing At Leia’s 22nd Birthday,” became a viral hit on YouTube. Working with Spike TV, Trank wrote and directed several episodes of web series “The Kill Point” before he and screenwriter Max Landis sold “Chronicle” as a spec script to 20th Century Fox.
In his own words, Trank explains the path to making his debut feature “Chronicle” starring Dan e DeHaan, Alex Russell and Michael B. Jordan.
“One day I was on a plane and I was looking out of the window, just staring at the clouds,” explains Trank of the genesis of” Chronicle.” “I thought ‘What if I wasn’t nervous about flying and I could fly myself?’ I thought I had to do a video where it’s guys throwing around a football on a cloudbank and then a plane comes out and hits one of them. And I suddenly realized that there was a movie in that. It just instantly popped and I saw the whole thing in front of me.”
Trank took the idea to his friend, screenwriter Max Landis, whose father is veteran genre director John Landis. “In telling Max about it, it turned into this big, elaborate pitch,” Trank remembers. “Max got really excited, and went away and wrote it really fast.”
For Trank and Landis, the goal was to throw out any preconceptions about what a “superhero” movie should be, and start afresh with a core group of well-realized characters. “I didn’t want to be too obsessed with making an homage or in making the movie a certain way,” Trank explains. “The whole mantra is just to go the opposite and make it as relatable as possible. Max and I, in characterizing these kids, wanted to make sure they were as normal and close to us as possible, but set them in middle class suburbia.”
Rather than set its sights on mimicking a Marvel or DC movie for which the budgets run into the hundreds of millions,” Chronicle” instead draws inspiration from Rob Reiner’s coming-of-age classic “Stand By Me. “There’s no genre or fantasy element. It’s just a story about people,” continues Trank.
Attempting to redefine the event movie for a modern audience, the style of shooting helps make the tale all the more relatable. And Trank was keen not to deliver another nausea-inducing shaky-cam experience to his audience with a very controlled, thoughtful-looking movie.
“I think this generation right now, in high school, is the most self-photographed generation ever. Every single person has a camera on them now. Whether or not they use it, and for the most part they do, everybody is photographing themselves every three seconds and uploading pictures on Facebook and Twitter, and I think there’s a real emerging aesthetic coming out of that. We’re seeing a lot more of television and film inspired by that aesthetic. It’s cool and exciting because we can create this new style of shooting things without having to do it the way everybody has been doing it for the last 100 years. We can be a little more outside the box,” concluded the young director.
Check out the trailer below:
A jump-off-your-seat thriller, “Chronicle” opens February 2 in cinemas nationwide from 20th Century Fox to be distributed by Warner Bros.