This year’s Sundance Film Festival was graced with a genuine shock entry: “Escape From Tomorrow,” by first-time filmmaker Randy Moore. Its hook: It was filmed on the sly inside both Disney World and Disneyland. Depicting a father’s increasingly loopy meltdown while on family vacation, its creation is only slightly less amazing than the fact that Disney hasn’t sued it out of existence. Instead, it comes to a theater near you.
Despite its origins, it doesn’t look guerilla. It’s very clean.
I did not want it to look like a found footage film, especially someone’s home video that was discovered or something like that. I wanted it to have a cinematic quality, which is one of the reasons why we chose to shoot it in black and white.
Did you do a lot of tests before shooting?
Tons. Originally I was going to go in with some friends of mine who weren’t professional actors. Then I would go there while I was working on the script. I would take one or both of my kids with me. I thought it was too creepy to go by myself, even though there are a lot of people who do that, which is… weird.
You shot with the high-resolution Canon 5D Mark II, which looks like a classic, regular camera for photos. Was that helpful in making sure you weren’t busted?
I imagine it was. Although while we were shooting we saw a bunch of college freshmen running in with a Sony EX3 on tripod legs. That’s almost as big as a studio camera. And no one stopped them at all.
Disney seems to be shockingly lax about people shooting in the park. They even allow tourists to upload videos of rides to YouTube. Have you had any contact with them, that you can talk about?
I can talk about everything because I’ve had no experience whatsoever with them. They have not contacted me or anyone else with the production.
Did you talk to lawyers to make sure it was all legal?
I didn’t while I was making the film, because I knew if I did I would instantly start second guessing story points or shots or things in general. I wanted to have a pure cut of the film the way I wanted it before I started to think about legal matters. Once we got a distributor that’s when we started vetting the film to lawyers.
Is that why the name Disney is bleeped out in the dialogue?
Actually that’s in the Sundance version. And that was just more kind of a dark joke. We emphasized a few things more to make it obvious that we were parodying these corporations.
How were you directing your actors while in the park to make it look like you weren’t directing them?
Very subtly. [Laughs] We’d wander up to them and say, “Maybe you should say this slower,” then wander away. We rehearsed in the hotels in the morning before we’d go to the park. And we had extensive shot lists that we followed religiously. When it came time to shoot, it was just bring the actors, place them there and say, “OK, hope you remember what we did this morning!” If we were in an area with a lot of people, I would try to limit takes to four max. We’d try to get things in two takes or three.
In between takes they were just trying to look like they were on vacation? Yeah. [Laughs]
It would seem directing children would be a bit more difficult in such high-wire circumstances.
The girl was very professional. The boy was great, too. He was younger than the girl, so he really wanted to go on the rides. That was the hardest thing sometimes, because we just didn’t have time to take him all the time. We tried to keep his schedule as light as possible so his mom or dad could take him on rides when he wasn’t working.
Is this based on your own experiences as a parent or a parody of family life?
I think a little of both. Certainly I’ve felt the same way that the characters do — all the characters. I’ve felt like the little boy at times, I’ve felt like Jim the father, and gotten frustrated just like the mother. I’ve spent a lot of time going to those parks when I was a boy, so I have a pretty deep connection there.