Click here for updates on the evolving COVID-19 situation at Rice
Rice University’s Student Newspaper — Since 1916

Saturday, October 16, 2021 — Houston, TX °

‘The Final Project’ debuts with found footage aesthetic

By Ryan Lee     2/16/16 7:50pm

Any aspiring filmmaker knows that the film industry is an unforgiving one. Financial- and distribution-related woes inevitably weigh down even the purest of passion projects. Even if the film manages to wring itself through the logistical nightmare, it will be splayed out to the saturated market to be torn apart by the circling critics. Under this spotlight is Taylor Richard’s directing debut, “The Final Project,” in which a group of college students investigates the paranormal activity of a historic plantation in Louisiana. 

“The Final Project” marries a Lovecraftian South with the found footage aesthetic. Unfortunately, found footage is the low-hanging fruit for pundits, who are quick to challenge the genre’s apparent contradictions. The form begs the audience to suspend their moment of disbelief yet consistently breaks the rules of cinema by drawing attention to it. As a practical challenge, its cost effectiveness and handle to the horror element make it an attractive but crowded arena for many student filmmakers. Despite its current reputation as a hackneyed trope, it has its roots in experimental filmmaking. The frequent reminders of self-awareness and the use of the shaky-cam effect lead critics to dismiss its excessive impulses. However, found footage is really an exercise in restraint — restraint in that it calls for the director to relinquish creative control such as lighting. It is a hard ball to juggle, as the trade-off for a believable illusion is a filmmaker’s apparent skills. Ri’chard shares his experience with the genre and its difficulties.

“This will be my one and only found footage film; I had a great time with it,” Ri'chard said. “But it’s time for me to move on to something different and to show my directing talent in a different way.”

Micro-budget films can serve to fill in where Hollywood misses. Especially in light of the “Oscars So White” controversy, “The Final Project” reflects timeliness with its diverse cast of characters. Notably, Arin Jones plays one of the people of color in the ensemble and carries a worthy performance. Ri’chard discussed the importance of diversity in his vision.

“What I bring to the table is diversity,” Ri’chard said. “Diversity will be my driving factor because I want everyone to take part of what I’m creating.”

The film industry is a cutthroat business, and in that regard, like any enterprise. College students can especially relate to the Sisyphean struggle a first-time director experiences. Just putting oneself “out there” feels like an immeasurable task. And even so, sometimes effort does not correlate with reception.

“The Final Project” had its limited release on Feb. 12 and will be widely released on March 4.

More from The Rice Thresher

A&E 10/13/21 1:28am
Review: ‘What If…?’ is a worthy watch for Marvel fans

At the heart of Marvel’s “What If…?” is, unsurprisingly, the question: “what if?” The series, which is the first animated entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, is based on a popular comic book series of the same name. “What If...?” opts for a similar anthology format, with semi-standalone plots in each episode that eventually converge toward one storyline in the finale. Unlike the comic series, which has the expansive Marvel Comics’s canon at its disposal, the show opts for a smaller scope with only characters that have already appeared in the MCU. These creative guardrails on “What If...?” are the central problem of the show’s first season, which has flashes of immense storytelling potential amidst a more inconsistent affair. 

A&E 10/13/21 1:15am
Haunted houses that call H-Town home

October is here, and with Halloween right around the corner, many of the more brave owls will find themselves looking for a frightful time beyond the hedges. With that, the Thresher delivers, with some of our favorite haunts around Houston. Most of these are not for the faint of heart, but we did include some family friendly ones so your friend who was too scared to watch “Squid Games” can tag along. Go visit, if you dare, and scare away your semester sorrows in fun costumes and screams galore. 

A&E 10/13/21 1:13am
Review: ‘No Time to Die’ thrills audience with James Bond’s latest adventure

When “No Time to Die” first was delayed due to COVID-19 in April 2020, many felt that this film was doomed. With great controversy surrounding the script, casting and even Daniel Craig himself stating that would only play Bond for the money, the consensus was that Craig’s final outing as 007 would be mediocre at best and disastrous at worst. Now releasing nearly 18 months after its anticipated release date, I can safely say that “No Time to Die” is one of the best films of the franchise.


Please note All comments are eligible for publication by The Rice Thresher.