Interview with the crew behind Unknown Dimension: The Story of Paranormal Activity

Last week, we got the chance to sit down and talk with the crew behind the new documentary of how Paranormal Activity all came about and the impact of its success.

1. How did everyone get involved with the documentary?

Nate Ragon (Co-Producer): I was introducing my (then) 8 year old son Channing to the original Paranormal Activity. After it was over, he started asking me how they did a lot of the effects and shots. I didn’t really know because that information was never out there for the fans. It then donned on me that there was never any bonus features on any of the 6 films. So I called Anthony and told him that and said “lets make a Paranormal Activity Documentary!”

Anthony Masi (Producer): Since my company has specialized in documentaries in the horror genre, this was a no-brainer. When meeting with Paramount and showing them the documentaries MasiMedia produced for the HALLOWEEN, FRIDAY THE 13th, SCREAM and PSYCHO retrospectives, they immediately saw a way to re-engage PARANORMAL ACTIVITY fans with a similar type of project, so after we got about 30 interviews filmed, the studio eagerly hopped on board.

Rachel Belofsky (Producer): Anthony Masi and I had been looking for a project to collaborate on. He suggested doing a documentary on the Paranormal Activity franchise since he knew the first Paranormal Activity was discovered in Screamfest. I reached out to Oren Peli, Kate Featherston and Micah Sloat to get them onboard and set up their interviews.

Joe Bandelli (Director): I was working on Hell House LLC 3: Lake of Fire in Pennsylvania, and I brought Nate on to show him some cool stuff on set. Nate told me about the documentary that he was working on with Anthony and Rachel and said he thought I’d be a good fit. So a few days later, Anthony called me and asked me if I’d be interested. Paranormal Activity has always been my favorite found footage franchise, so I jumped at the opportunity to work on this. I think in two weeks I had a 30 page outline sent over to Anthony, Rachel, and Nate, explaining my vision for the film. And then from there, Rachel contacted Oren, Katie, and Micah and it all started falling into place.

2. What were some of your favorite memories shared on the documentary from the previous cast members?

Joe Bandelli (Director): I really enjoyed listening to Jason Blum, Christopher Landon, and Oren Peli talking about the things they did on set i.e. hiding behind beds, on the floor, pulling blankets off characters as if they were the demon, etc. in scenes that were so important to the film. When we hear names like that we think of these major players in Hollywood, but like the rest of us, they all got started grinding on sets and jumping into pools to make things look better for their project. Everyone was willing to sacrifice time, money, and sleep to make the best possible product and that’s exactly how I feel us indie filmmakers are. We all have to start somewhere. It was refreshing to hear that they went through similar experiences.

Rachel Belofsky (Producer): One of my favorite memories shared was Sprague Grayden recalling the scene when the cupboards blew open and her reaction to not knowing exactly how big the effect was going to be. Nate Ragon (Co-Producer): I really loved hearing Oren tell the story of how he casually got the idea for the film.

Anthony Masi (Producer): A few really spooky things happened during the making of Unknown Dimension! The first was something that happened to one of the Paramount executives that we had met with after the pitch. When I got home, I received an email from one of the women we met with who said the framed PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 2 poster in her office came crashing to the floor when she returned from the meeting, and this as a poster that she said was bolted to the wall! Another spooky moment was an unexplained fly infestation at one of the studios where we filmed some interviews. Our crew showed up to set up for the interviews and while we were setting up, suddenly hundreds of flies appeared swarming around us. I called the person who rented the space to us and she didn’t believe me, and then came over to see for herself. When she saw all of the flies she was just as confused as we were, saying this had never happened previously in the studio.

3. I had forgotten Kathryn Newton was in the franchise, what were some moments you may have forgotten about the franchise but was glad was brought up in this documentary?

Joe Bandelli (Director): I think it’s really easy to forget that Steven Spielberg actually had a major role in Paranormal Activity getting some of the traction it did. We know the Paranormal Activity films are synonymous with Paramount, but it was actually Dreamworks that was first interested. I knew the story, but hearing everyone talk about it was a good reminder and also hilarious. I can’t imagine watching Oren’s face when he found out that Spielberg liked his movie.

4. I remember the “Demand It” campaign of the original film, then taking a group of friends to the original and being blown away. What were your first encounters and experience with Paranormal Activity?

Joe Bandelli (Director): I wasn’t as big of a found footage fan before Paranormal Activity. I knew of found footage through The Blair Witch Project, like most of the world, and that film was great, but never quite sat well with me. I wasn’t scared because it was in the woods in Maryland, and I am not going to the woods in Maryland, so what’s there to be scared of? With Paranormal Activity, it did what Nightmare on Elm Street did with Slasher films. It took the terrifying thing that only a few people could be scared of and brought it into your home…but not just Katie and Micah’s home, everyone’s home. I remember seeing the trailers and then going to see it with friends and hearing everyone shriek and scream in theaters. That one stuck with me.

Anthony Masi (Producer): It was absolutely, hands-down, the best audience I’ve ever experience in a movie theater. The crowd was extremely invested in Katie and Micah, and all of the scares worked. For personally, the movie reminded me why horror movies should be viewed in theaters on the big screen, and not solo in your living room watching the TV.

Rachel Belofsky (Producer): We discovered Paranormal Activity in 2007 and premiered it in Screamfest 2007 in October of that year. A month before the screening we took it to CAA who ended up signing Oren Peli a day after it premiered in Screamfest.

5. I knew the first one was huge at the box office, I never knew how big the others were, do you ever think another found footage movie could make the same impact as Paranormal Activity?

Joe Bandelli (Director): I do. I think found footage has been beaten to death in the horror genre, but I don’t quite think it has been utilized the way it can be in other, more mainstream genres. It all starts with an idea, and I think the next big idea is out there waiting. We are in the world of iPhone and pocket cameras, someone will come up with something that is captivating in found footage again. I’m sure of it.

Rachel Belofsky (Producer): Never say never. I’m sure after Blair Witch no one thought there would be major box office success with an independent found footage film. Ten years later a little unknown film called Paranormal Activity created box office history.

Anthony Masi (Producer): I absolutely do think a found footage film could have an equally-huge impact on audiences, and I have an idea that I think may work! Any investors reading? Contact me!

Nate Ragon (Co-Producer): I think anything is possible, however may be difficult with the current same day streaming model.

Written By: AJ Friar

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