Spanish filmmakers go low-budget

Like their scary characters, zombie films never die. They just go through iteration after iteration to feed their fans’ insatiable appetites.

Filmax Intl.’s “[REC]” series is no exception. A hit in its native Spain when it was released in late 2007, “[REC]” spawned “[REC] 2,” which debuted in October. The sequel quickly rose to No. 1 in the Spanish box office and will start rolling out in the U.S. on July 9 via Magnolia Pictures. (A U.S. remake of the first film, “Quarantine,” was released in 2008.)

Both films see the world through videocamera viewfinders in which the word [REC] indicates the units are recording as the people holding them jerk their way — “Blair Witch”-like — through a quarantined Barcelona apartment building where a virulent contagious disease has broken out. Transmitted via bodily fluids it immediately turns anyone who contracts it into a raging bloodthirsty killer.

The idea for “[REC]” emerged “during conversations in cafes” between co-directors Jaume Balaguero and Paco Plaza.

“We’re fans of the horror genre all the way back to the Universal classics of the ’30s,” Plaza said. In August 2007 they took their brainstorm to producer Julio Fernandez at Filmax; by October they were shooting.

“It was an accident that we ended up directing it together,” Plaza said. “That wasn’t the idea at the beginning.” The budget for “[REC],” he adds, was less than a1 million ($1.23 million).

For the sequel, which was “a bit” more expensive, the helmers took a less documentary approach. “Our inspiration was what James Cameron did with ‘Aliens’ — being respectful to the first film but changing the genre from horror to more action,” Plaza said.

“[REC] 2″ begins with the last shot of “[REC].” The directors maximized continuity by using many of the same crew, including d.p., art director, costume designer and editor. “We had so much fun with the first one that we wanted to work together again,” Plaza said. “Our film community here in Barcelona is like family.”

“[REC]” was shot entirely on location in an abandoned apartment building in the Spanish city. For the sequel, with its complex visuals, some shooting took place on stages. The lower budget combined with a raw, realistic look a precluded the use of effects in the first film. On the second one, however, “we were able to explode heads,” Plaza said.

Both used Panasonic high-def cameras, and some scenes in the second film were captured on Sony digital camcorders. Everything was shot entirely handheld. “I’ve almost forgotten what a tripod looks like,” Plaza joked.

The cult will continue with a prequel — “[REC] Genesis” — and another sequel — “[REC] Apocalypse,” for a total of four films.

Bookings & Signings

Paradigm feature bookings: d.p.’s Mark Irwin on Rob Meyer Burnett’s “Free Enterprise 2″ and Luc Montpellier on Sarah Polley’s “Take This Waltz”; editors Steven Mirkovich on Michael Brandt’s “The Double,” Wyatt Smith on Rob Marshall’s “Pirates of the Caribbean 4,” Christian Wagner on Justin Lin’s “Fast Five,” Bruce Cannon on John Singleton’s “Abduction,” Gregory Plotkin on Kip Williams’ “Art Craft” and Robert Dalva on Tarsem Singh’s “Immortals”; production designers Matthew Davies on Polley’s “Take This Waltz,” Gary Frutkoff on Aaron Harvey’s “Catch .44″ and Cynthia Charette on John Schultz’s “Judy Moody and the Not so Bummer Summer”; costume designer Johanna Argan on Aaron Harvey’s “Catch .44″; and stunt coordinator/2nd unit director Andy Cheng on Catherine Hardwicke’s “Red Riding Hood.”

Montana Artists has signed costume designer Durinda Wood (“Brothers”). Agency has booked costume designers Roberta Haze on ABC’s “Body of Proof” and Suttirat Larlarb on HBO’s “Cinema Verite”; 1st a.d.’s Chad Rosen on Aaron Harvey’s “Catch .44″ and Jay Tobias on NBC’s “Outlaw”; producer Paul Marks on NBC’s “Chuck”; d.p. Feliks Parnell on NBC’s “The Event”; editor Jordan Goldman on Fox’s “Ride Along”; and production designers Jeff Knipp on NBC’s “Friends With Benefits,” Rachel O’Toole on CW’s “Life Unexpected,” David Sandefur on Steven Quale’s “Final Destination 5,” Alfred Sole on ABC’s “Castle,” Loren Weeks on CW’s “Gossip Girl” and Vincent Peranio on Fox’s “Ride Along.”

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