How Did They Shoot ‘Escape From Tomorrow’?
by Erin Whitney
The Magical Kingdom you spent your childhood exploring may not be the innocent perfection you believed it to be. That’s right: Disney World has a demented side and filmmaker Randy Moore is here to show it to us.
Moore’s “Escape From Tomorrow,” a psychological horror fantasy, follows a recently unemployed father (Roy Abramsohn) through the deceiving depths of Disney World during his family vacation. What would normally appear to be a fun day of rides, wonder, and fireworks turns into a psychotic nightmare of erotic perversion, violent death, and evil enchantments. “Escape From Tomorrow” is Disney gone wrong — or maybe just Disney how we don’t want to see it, disillusioned by its sugarcoated grandeur.
Besides the mind-bending story, one of the most fascinating aspects of the film is that it was actually shot in complete secrecy in both Disney World and Disneyland, something that has garnered much controversy. Filmed in guerilla-like documentary style, the crew pretended to be tourists with personal cameras while the actors stayed in character throughout the park. In various interviews Moore has described the unusual and hectic process of shooting the film while avoiding the Disney Police, facing technical difficulties, and getting the incredible shots they needed.
Moore told Ain’t It Cool News that the film was shot over five or six separate trips to Disney parks in both California and Florida, with only one two-week-long trip that included the actors. While spending that much time in the House of Mouse may sound fun, in an interview with Filmmaker Magazine the director said, “The actual shooting was a nightmare.” Each day began with rehearsals in Moore’s hotel room, then the actual shooting would happen in the park where they were able to get only three or four takes before security noticed them. “There was no crowd control… It really all depended on the amount of traffic and visibility and the time of day,.”
In order to blend in with the crowd, Moore said that he even asked the camera department to shave their beards so they’d look like tourists. “We basically lived the movie with the actors,” he said. And as far as the cast themselves? Moore told Indiewire about a close call with park security when the stars remained in character and saved the crew from almost getting caught. Moore described how security asked the “family” why they were walking out of the same location more than once and why people (the crew) were taking their pictures. When the guard asked if they were famous, Katelynn Rodriguez, who plays the young daughter Sara said that she had to go the bathroom. “So they took her to the bathroom,” Moore said, “they took off their mics [and] when they came out there was a parade that came between them and the security person.”
Secretly recording planned footage at the Disney parks is one thing, but you may be wondering how in the world they recorded dialogue. In Moore’s Ain’t It Cool interview, he pointed out the interviewer’s digital recorder and said, “That’s what we used for park sound. They would run for 18 hours on one battery. We wired all the actors and spent a month and a half synching the sound without synch points after we shot the movie.”
Another amazing aspect of the film is the numerous shots of the park when it’s completely empty. Moore said of the crew, “We got there really early in the morning with the crowd, got to the front of the line and when they opened the gate we ran ahead.” Moore, his DP, and Assistant Cameraman each had cameras and would have set areas and rides they’d rush to shoot before crowds interfered with the shot.
Of course the main question remains: is “Escape From Tomorrow” legal? This concern has been on Moore’s mind since the production began and after it screened at Sundance when distribution was still a lingering question. According to a New Yorker article, the film luckily falls within the blurry lines of the fair-use category of copyright law since it’s more of a commentary and parody of Disney. Still, the Mouse has yet to speak out against the movie or present a lawsuit, a strategy many predict is Disney’s way of averting any extra attention given to the film. The less they say, the more the film will fall under America’s radar supposedly. But regardless of the company’s stance or absence legal action, we think “Escape From Tomorrow” is hardly a film that will escape your attention.
This article was originally featured on Moviefone on October 11, 2013.