The star of The Room and the Australian director decided not to let a pandemic get in the way of making a movie.
In the microbudget found footage horror film Infrared, an ambitious paranormal investigator (Jesse Janzen) takes a camera crew into an abandoned school with a horrific past, hoping to scrape together enough spooky footage for a TV pilot. However, the school’s caretaker (Greg Sestero) is not what he seems, and things soon take a turn for the terrifying.
A tight, engrossing masterpiece of improvisation and zero budget creativity, Infrared comes to us courtesy of expat filmmaking team Robert Livings (Australian) and Randy Nundlall Jr (British), who have knack for turning financial limitations into creative assets. I got on a Zoom call with Livings and Sestero to fire a few questions their way ahead of Infrared’s world premiere.
Greg, how did you come to work on this project and what appealed to you about it?
Greg: I met Robert awhile back in Perth and one of my favourite things that I get to do is travel and meet people. I love found footage; it was something that I’ve really connected to years ago and I think it’s a genre that people can always have fun with. So, when we discussed the project, I remembered going through an experience a few years back where I lived on a ranch in Arizona and I met some pretty bizarre characters and went through some pretty bizarre things. When I read the concept Rob gave me a lot of space to say, “Hey, have fun with this. What do you see with it?” I immediately remembered this character that I’ve met and sort of channelled him. I thought this was going to be a really fun chance to do something totally different and just have a blast. I thought this is something that’s right in my backyard, it’d be really cool to support Rob and work on this film and just try to do something different and create for the sake of creating.
Rob, what was your initial inspiration for Infrared?
Robert: So Randy and I, we’d done a film previously called The Other Girl which we’re both very proud of, which was very much improvisational as well. And we’ve been talking about how we wanted to do a genre piece, we wanted to do a horror piece and we had this concept in mind. Obviously, we were still in the middle of a pandemic; we’d done the other film during a pandemic with a crew of three and we were expanding out on this, and we thought that if we do it as a found footage film, our crew is also our cast and we can keep it really contained.
My wife is a teacher, and she was able to track down the school district and get us the contacts we needed for this incredible place. It’s been abandoned in Sacramento for 12 years and there’s been talk of development and nothing happens there except police training. I asked why no one else had filmed there before and they said no one’s ever asked. So, with the location secured we had a basis. And then that’s where we got Greg on board, and we developed the film that way.
A lot of it came from making the most of what we could do during the middle of the pandemic, because obviously in America we’ve been pretty much in it since January 2020. So that was kind of it. We just wanted to have fun and do a genre piece.
Greg, how did you find the improvisational nature of the project?
Greg: I had studied improv a while back and I always had fun with it. With this one, we talked about a lot of different ideas but once I started sketching some dialogue, some ideas, it really came alive. I almost didn’t want to give away too much to Rob before we filmed, because then he knew what I was going to do. I really liked that: he trusted me to just roll with it, ’cause I knew it would be a lot more fun for all of us if I just surprised him and gave him something that I wrote. With this type of film, you got to push the envelope and I knew this character that I was channelling from this ranch hand that I met years ago, I knew it could be something unique. So that was very cool that he let me do that.
He’s such a manic character, especially in the final act.
Greg: Normally I’m a very chill person, so this was a chance for me to do something totally different, and what was cool the environment really helped ‘cause the school, as Rob was saying, was very creepy so when we started to build up to the final scene, the energy almost overtook me in a way that… I’d never really gone that direction, which made it fun.
Robert: I’m behind the camera and trying not to laugh because… I’m not saying necessarily everything you said was intentionally funny but it was just so unexpected. There was this great moment where I was talking with Randy on set, where we were like, “Do you know what Greg is doing in this next part?” “I know what he’s getting to at the end, but I don’t know what’s happening in the middle and he won’t tell either of us.” And we were like, “That’s really cool, let’s just go with it. ” It was a wild experience.