People who become highly determined to gain the attention of those they admire can often times take drastic measures, without any regard for the harmful consequences that may plague them along the way. But those repercussions can sometimes lead to surprisingly beneficial outcomes. The people they affect can learn how to appreciate their lives, particularly the unpredictable connections they have formed along the way. That’s certainly the case in Jon Heder’s new paranormal-inspired comedy film, ‘Ghost Team.’ The story chronicles the actor’s relatable protagonist learning how to embrace all that he has in his life.
‘Ghost Team’ follows Louis (Heder), the owner of a nondescript copy and print store that’s located in a suburban strip mall. He spends his monotonous days making lost pet signs, visiting the same bar after work and returning home to watch his favorite show, the paranormal investigation reality series, ‘Ghost Getters.’ His best friend, Stan (David Krumholtz), has also recently moved in with him, after he believes his fiancée was abducted by aliens when she didn’t show up for their wedding. When Louis then learns that the show is holding a contest to find a new ghost hunter to join their team, he convinces Stan to help him find visual evidence of the paranormal, so that he can enter the contest and hopefully obtain his dream job.
In addition to Stan, Louis recruits several other locals to help him record his contest entry, including his nephew Zak (Paul W. Downs), who works in a Micro Center and can obtain the equipment they need to conduct their search; the electronic store’s overzealous security guard, Ross (Justin Long); Victoria (Amy Sedaris), a local television star who claims she’s clairvoyant; and Ellie (Melonie Diaz), the beauty salon worker who works next door to Louis’ shop.
Louis assembles the team after one of his customers asks him to print several No Trespassing signs for the nonoperational barn and surrounding land he owns on the outskirts of town. As the man describes the property he wants to protect, Louis’ interest only becomes engaged the customer says it might be haunted. Realizing this might be his best change to get recognized by ‘Ghost Getters,’ Louis and his newly-formed Ghost Team travel tho the deserted farm with a variety of equipment from Micro Center, and ultimately discover what they truly want out of life along the way.
After exclusively debuting on Google Play on July 21, the film was released today in select theaters, and it will also expand to additional On Demand platforms on August 30. ‘Ghost Team’ was directed, produced and edited by Oliver Irving, who also helped craft the story with screenwriter Peter Warren.
During a recent phone interview, Heder generously took the time to talk about playing Louis in ‘Ghost Team.’ Among other things, the actor discussed that he was drawn to portray the main character in the comedy because not only did he instantly enjoy the story when he first read the script, but he also appreciated the vision Irving had for the story. The performer also noted that valued shooting this type of comedy independently on location, as it allowed him and the rest of the cast to use their intuition to connect with the physicality and emotions of their characters, who are striving to improve their lives.
Heder began the conversation by discussing what drew him to the character of Louis, and how he became involved in ‘Ghost Team.’ “I was sent the script, and when I read it, I liked it a lot. I spoke with the director, and we Skyped a bit. We talked about the character and the project,” the actor explained. “I was interested in the film and he wanted me, so the whole process was great.”
Further speaking about the process of working with Irving on the comedy, Heder described the experience as being great. The actor noted that filmmaker has “done some other projects, but he’s still a fairly new director, and I love working with them. This was a personal project for him, and it’s based on ideas that he had, and things that he did, even as a kid.”
The performer also divulged that the helmer “watched a lot of these ghost hunting shows. As a child, he not only wanted to make movies, but also looked for ghosts himself. So mixing those two ideas was pretty much the concept here, so it was great to see them come together in this film.”
Heder also explained that the filmmaking process with Irving was “very collaborative. He had a clear of what he wanted, but also listened to what I said, including what my take on the character was. We also collaborated on some of the casting process, as well,” The actor also revealed. “But that process was mostly him.”
With Louis, much like the movie’s director, being interested in the ghost hunting shows, the filmmakers decided to showcase a similar series in the comedy. That process helped “establish this character, as well as his friend Stan. They hang out every night. We get the idea that they both have day-to-day jobs that are pretty boring and don’t have a future in them. So in their free time, they sit at home, drink beer and watch these shows,” Heder revealed.
“That’s the extent of fulfilling Louis’ dream of being on one of these shows. But has he ever done anything about it? No-he just continues his job, until one day he hears about the opportunity to investigate a haunted farm,” the performer further explained. “He realizes that could be the catalyst to push him into go beyond himself, and step outside his box.”
Heder added that Irving “knew that comedy would go along with that, because the story’s about these people who are roped into the investigation. My character is the only one who really has the passion for the investigation, so he becomes the unwilling leader who strings them all along.”
With all of the characters having their own arcs, none of them were searching to participate in this type of job. But like Header pointed out, “Like Louis, they were all stuck in a rut of doing nothing, but wanting to do more.” The character of Ross “wants to be cop, but is stuck being a mall security guard. The medium has always done this fake show, during which she pretends to listen to spirits, and is a little bit of a con woman.”
The actor also pointed out that Ellie “can relate to Louis the most, because their shops are next to each other. That’s why she really helps the team. Everyone else has a “skill” that they can provide. But like Louis, she really has the day-to-day job of doing nothing. So I think she wants something more out of life, and do something exciting.” He added that investigating the farm “offers the characters the chance to do something with their lives, or prove something, which drives them all.”
To help the actors bond with each other, and have their characters connect on screen, the cast “had a little bit of rehearsal. But being an independent film, we were always on a tighter schedule. We would get together on the actual farm where we filmed, and have everyone play. We had every type of personality on the team, so everyone played off of each other.” As a result, “the comedy came naturally to us. But the material was funny the way it was written, and it was a very natural dialogue. It was just people joking around and having fun with that.”
With Louis being the leader amongst the joking, he would always say, “‘Okay guys, settle down.’ Everyone put on their respective hats that reflected their character. I definitely had a fun time, but sometimes I would have to step in as the leader role as say, ‘Come on guys, lets hit our marks and do this scene. They want us to come over here.'” After Heder saw how Irving and the ADs (Assistant Directors) “would block the scenes, I would relay that to the rest of the cast, and that was fun.”
Further discussing the comedy in ‘Ghost Team,’ the performer revealed there was a lot of improv. “A lot of times with this script, we already had a fun place to start with. A lot of the comedy also came from the relationships and dynamics between the characters,” Heder explained.
The actor also revealed that he thinks that “a lot of the comedy came from Justin Long and Paul Downs’ characters. They had a lot of fun playing with a lot of the lines, and making things up. They had the most jokey content. Whenever you have lines in the script that are very jokey, that always leaves room for trying new things in different ways.”
But sometimes the scenes between Stan and Louis “drove the story and moved the plot along, so we didn’t want to ad lib too much. But when the whole group was together and we were running around and being scared, we would certainly try different things. We didn’t just try different jokes; we also tried different physicalities.” Heder explained that “We did a lot of running around and hiding, and tried to hide in swampy marshlands and dangerous barns, attics and cellars. So it was a really fun place to be in.”
The performer added that he enjoyed exploring Louis’ physicality on the real locations where ‘Ghost Team’ was filmed. “I rarely get to shoot something where you’re cold. I’m usually shooting out in L.A., or on a hot studio set that has a lot of lights,” Heder revealed.
“Our film is very dark. While it’s light, in terms of story and comedy, it’s physically a dark film. Most of it takes place at night in this creepy barn,” the actor explained, before also noting that “the physicality was so much fun. It was the first time a lot of the cast members, including myself, had to really run around and be scared. There’s really something exhilarating about trying to raise your own goosebumps, and get yourself scared. When you’re in the dark and have lanterns and flashlights, even though you know you’re shooting a film, you really get into it, and can start scaring yourself. That was a lot of fun.”
Heder then further discussed how shooting on a real location is more beneficial to him as an actor than filming on a studio stage. He admitted that “there’s obviously less control a lot of times when you shoot on location, because you can’t always control the environment. When you shoot on a fake studio set, you can put the lights where ever you want, and mic it in the way that you can easily get the audio that you need.”
But “me not being a crew member, and instead being an actor, I love shooting on location, because you can really feel as though you’re there,” Heder further revealed. “You’re really running around in these real places that can actually be really creepy and haunted, but that helps you get into character. But when you film on location, you can much more easily find the spirit you’re trying to capture. I feel like it’s much more authentic, and that reads through on film and the performances.”
In addition to shooting on location, Heder added that he enjoys shooting independent films. “I think with working restrictions and constraints on a budget and time can really force creativity, but in a good way,” he divulged. “It can foster not only an aesthetic, but it can also get the directors, writers and creative powers to really get creative. In my experiences, that can normally create an authenticity, and make the film more sincere.”
The performer also revealed that “When you have so much money, control and time, you try to perfect every little thing, and something gets lost in that process. But when you shoot on a more limited budget, you get something a little more real. Not that rushing is always great-if you take your time, you can really hone a performance. But I think sometimes, actors have to figure performances out quickly, and the initial actions and thoughts are the right ones. A lot of times, that can work to their, and the film’s, benefit.”
Then delving into the comedy’s joint theatrical and On Demand release, Heder explained that “VOD can help make almost any film, whether studio or independent, money nowadays. At the end of the day, iPhones, iPads and other electronic devices are getting nicer, and allows for a more pleasant experience of watching films On Demand. So more often than not, so many indies go straight to VOD or a digital format, and don’t get any theatrical time.”
The actor added that “We’re living in a time where we have to count our blessings if indies can receive even a little bit of theatrical time. But nothing can beat watching a film in a theater with nice sound. I understand that it’s easier to stay at home and watch something digitally. But I urge everyone to take their loved ones out and go to a theater to watch a movie.” Heder added that “My kids are a little bit older now, and really enjoy the theater experience. It’s one of our favorite things to do.”
The lead actor concluded the interview by revealing that since ‘Ghost Team’ ends in a way that suggest that a sequel is entirely possible, he would be interested in making a follow-up film, as long as audiences are interested in seeing another story about Louis and his fellow paranormal investigators. “We had such a fun cast. In the spirit of it all, we had so much fun doing it. If it meant doing the same kind of thing and having fun, I think there are so many possibilities for a sequel, and I would absolutely do it.”
Watch the official trailer for ‘Ghost Team’ below.
Written by: Karen Benardello