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Director Oren Peli told MTV News how the actors — who are professionals, just with little experience — were able to play their roles so convincingly.
"They knew their own characters as well as I did," Peli explained. "In almost every case, it was just their words as they would be coming up with them. They were not memorizing lines or anything like that — it was always spontaneous."
This improvisational technique certainly allowed for more realistic dialogue, especially during scenes in which the characters are merely going about their routine or having an argument. Much of the time, it's hard to believe that Peli wasn't simply documenting Featherston and Sloat as they went about their day.
"Part of their own personalities definitely came through," Peli said. "But they did have specific characters and a specific relationship that they had to have in the movie. And they fell into it right away. That's probably why the movie feels so natural, because they really were just being themselves. Or actually, they were acting like they were being themselves, but it looked so natural and easy that people don't even realize they were acting."
As their director, Peli can also be commended for maintaining some distance and letting things happen organically. When it comes to making a film as frightening as "Paranormal Activity," the best rule is to keep things simple. And one way to do this is to avoid too much planning.
"We would either surprise them with something that was happening during the night, or, if it was any of the daytime scenes, we would just give them the generic setup and let them do their own thing and improvise everything," he said of his interaction with the actors. "In a few other cases, depending on the scene, it would be more involved. In many cases it was very collaborative. I would tell them, 'This is the scene we're about to do,' and we would kick around ideas."
He makes it all sound so easy.
Check out everything we've got on "Paranormal Activity."
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