Something in the Dirt directors on making movies with your friends

Aaron Moorhead and Justin Benson in Something in the Dirt.Rustic Film

The directors behind Moon Knight and the forthcoming Loki Season 2 have a new film coming out this week – Something in the Dirt – a movie they made with their friends. Here they explain how you can do the same.

Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead – together with their producing partner David Lawson – made their name with cerebral science-fiction films Resolution, Spring, The Endless, and Synchronic.

The directing duo made the leap to Marvel by helming episodes of Moon Knight, while they have just finished shooting Season 2 of Loki in the UK.

But they’ve also recently returned to film via Something in the Dirt, which they shot during the global shutdown, and dedicated to making movies with your mates. Here they tell us what they learned.

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What is Something in the Dirt about?

Something in the Dirt’s official synopsis is as follows: “Two new neighbors witness what seems to be a supernatural event in one of their apartments. At first terrified, they realize that documenting this phenomenon could provide them the lives they’ve always dreamed of.”

Dexerto saw an early screening of the film at FrightFest, and this is what we had to say about the movie: “The filmmakers star as John and Levi, two troubled souls who meet outside the apartment they share, then start experiencing strange phenomena together. They suspect ghosts, then aliens, then beings from another dimensions, the pair traveling down the rabbit hole and then through the looking glass during their investigation. While hoping to turn their findings into a movie to make their fortune.

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“The duo are soon uncovering perceived conspiracies involving numbers, symbols, and sounds. But as they pull on each thread, so the men themselves start to unravel. Is what they are experiencing real, or is it some shared psychosis? It’s fun speculating as their journey progresses. But as the hold they have over each other becomes ever more concerning, proceedings take a sinister turn, leading to a devastating denouement.”

The film hits screens this week, while the following is Justin, Aaron, and David’s advice for making a movie like Something in the Dirt with your friends…

Write for the resources you have

“So much of this film was employing lessons we learned in the past, but one of the biggest lessons we’ve learned over our careers is write for the locations you have access to. Or suspect you have access to. That’s a big one.

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“And the people. Write for the people you have access to. If you’re writing your script and being like, ‘You know what? This script is a perfect vehicle for Tom Cruise.’ You can write that and maybe you’ll win the lottery. And maybe I shouldn’t be making movies and instead I should be buying lottery tickets. Because maybe I’ll win the lottery. But in the meantime, make the movie you can cast your friends in.

“The resources around you can definitely fascinate you into a story if you actually work at it hard enough. Then you don’t have to wait to make your movie.”

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Be interesting

“If you don’t have access to a certain aesthetic, modify the aesthetic and modify your tastes a little bit. If you can’t make it look slick, don’t try to make it look slick. Above all be interesting, especially when you’re doing something small.

“There’s nothing worse than a small movie that’s also vanilla. And you’re like, ‘Why did I watch that? That was their chance to do something crazy and they didn’t take it.’

“There’s an inverse financial relationship between how commercial an independent film is, and how much money it actually makes. If a small independent film appears like a big-budget film, it will do worse than the interesting, non-commercial independent film. Because people that see independent films want to see something interesting. They’re not there for the broad, they’re there for the specifics. Midsommar isn’t inherently commercial, but it made a lot more money than that $100k homage to Spielberg.”

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Make it personal but not necessarily autobiographical

“Make it extremely personal. But in being personal, don’t be beholden to being autobiographical. Obviously there are so many indie films that are personal and autobiographical, but the box you need to check is personal, not autobiographical.

“We’ve never done autobiographical, just personal, and I don’t think we would agree with 99.9% of the actions of any of the characters in our films. But the stories still came from a personal place.”

Something in the Dirt is released this Friday (November 4) while Season 2 of Loki hits Disney+ next year.