Talk to Me: RackaRacka’s Philippou Brothers Make the Jump From YouTube

Talk to Me: The Philippou Brothers Make the Jump From YouTube

Talk to Me is a riveting exploration of the youthful quest for thrill and attention, wrapped up in a spine-chilling tale of spectral communication, one that we at CGMagazine enjoyed. Crafted by the sibling duo Michael and Danny Philippou (known on Youtube for their channel RackaRacka), the film navigates the uncharted territories of terror and intrigue, leaving audiences on the edge of their seats. So when we got the chance to talk to the up-and-coming filmmaking team, we jumped at the chance.

In a candid conversation, we delve into the fascinating world of filmmaking with Michael and Danny Philippou. As they navigate the trials and triumphs of working together on their feature film Talk to Me, they reveal how sibling rivalry can either fuel or flounder their creative process. From their unique delegation of tasks to their differing views on post-production, the Philippou brothers offer an enlightening peek into their dynamic relationship.

Talk To Me: The Philippou Brothers Make The Jump From Youtube

What is it like working with your sibling in the film industry in general?

Michael Philippou: It’s good because you can settle disputes with a good fistfight at lunchtime.

Danny Philippou: We had a pretty united vision on set. We’d argue more in post but doing press him every day is awful. You know, we’ve got a bit of sibling rivalry.

Michael Philippou: Having someone with the same vision is good because it’s such a massive task doing a film. Being able to delegate different parts of the film to each other was a bit relieving. I feel like having a Co-director, or a brother that you’re working with is a bit of a cheat code.

How do you delegate working on Talk to Me? How do you figure out who does what in the filmmaking process, and are there ever any fights?

Michael Philippou: We found out through like making stuff as kids, so even through RackaRacka, Danny would do a rough cut, he’d shoot it. I’d usually act in it, and then I’d do a fine cut. I’d do sound effects in music, he’d do colour and VFX. So we kind of lead in those departments, we’re more involved in those departments with the film.

Danny Philippou: Yeah, and then I would mostly argue about edits and cuts because like, I didn’t edit the movie, he didn’t edit the movie, and the editor didn’t edit the movie.

Michael Philippou: The poor editor. When we rocked up there, we had like two edits of the film as well when he had one, so it was going through and seeing each moment from each cut of the film and which one tells the story more cohesively.

Danny Philippou: It was matching all the different moments. And then also, like we would argue whose cut was better, so we’d always like export out a scene. Export his scene, export my scene and then we send them to people we trust and say which version’s better. 

Michael Philippou: No one could ever tell the difference because it was always only a few frames difference.

Danny Philippou: Yeah, it was always so small, the difference.

Talk To Me: The Philippou Brothers Make The Jump From Youtube

How did you get involved with Talk to Me, and how did it all come together?

Danny Philippou: We just knew that we wanted to step outside of the YouTube stuff. Around 2018 we felt like getting into YouTube was our way of building up to making a feature film. We were just ready, and we knew we were. So it was around then that we started really taking writing seriously and approaching producers and doing everything we could to make it happen. It was just it was time. 

Talk to Me was the first script that really gained momentum and felt like it had legs. The first draft came so quickly, and it felt like we’d just been sitting on this for so long. It felt like it was time.

The hand iconography in Talk to Me quickly becomes a symbol of dread. How long did it take to get that concept in place, and how many revisions to that hand sculpture did you go through?

Michael Philippou: Probably around 20 sculpts because finding it was difficult. We even tried different people’s hands. It didn’t rock up until the second it was needed on set on day three, so we had started shooting the film without our prop.

Danny Philippou: The actual idea of it came into the second draft of the film. It was just a physical representation of all the themes that we’re talking about already in the draft, and hands and touch were such a motif in the original draft. We found that the second draft, and it felt like it’d been there the whole time.

Talk To Me: The Philippou Brothers Make The Jump From Youtube

Communicating with the spirits in Talk to Me has a very similar feeling to a film like Trainspotting with drug use. How did that come to be, and what was your intention? 

Danny Philippou: Well, there were so many things at the hand represented, and it stood for a whole bunch of different things. One of the things that it did stand for was vices in general, whether it’s alcohol or drugs or sex, and we wanted this hand to be a representation of that in some instances. 

We just knew that for possession, we wanted it to feel modern and real. That the kids weren’t scared by this, they were more intrigued by it and excited about the idea of it, and there’s a peer pressure element to there as well. And I think of today’s youth, there’s a bit of a thirst for attention too. So these kids are sort of doing this thing for attention as well, that was.

Michael Philippou: Not just the youth. You, too, are an attention seeker.

Danny Philippou: I would definitely do the hand if it were real, yes. Each of those spirits that they were connecting with is drawn to each of those kids’ mental headspace and the emotions that they’re going through at that time. So like, whatever they’re feeling while grabbing that hand, they’re drawing in a certain spirit.

Talk To Me: The Philippou Brothers Make The Jump From Youtube

It seemed like there was a lot more lore in Talk to Me than was actually shown on the screen. Did you have more?

Danny Philippou: We have the thickest mythology Bible that broke down everything. It breaks down everyone that’s had the hand, every single rule for the hand, and where it came from. So we knew we wanted the kids to be out of their depth and in over their heads and not really understand what it was that they were messing with. 

It’s like Chinese Whisper, this thing’s being passed down between all these different kids, and they just don’t understand what it was that they were messing with.

Michael Philippou: They have a set of rules that they abide by, but that’s not necessarily the true set of rules.

Can you expand on that a little bit for anyone that might be seeing Talk to Me?

Danny Philippou: Well, we want to leave it up for interpretation and know that they can sit down and freeze frame and look at their hands and can probably get some clues. There are little hints everywhere.

Michael Philippou: It was the same like we wanted the kids to be in over their heads and not understand what it is that they’re messing with.

Danny Philippou: I just said that.

Michael Philippou:  So we didn’t want to have the scene where they go to the library and find out a complete history. [To Danny] That was rude.

Talk To Me: The Philippou Brothers Make The Jump From Youtube

Horror is a great genre for commentary, criticism, and social change. Were you intending of any of that with Talk to Me?

Danny Philippou: Well, I think there are so many things that are thematically going on, and we are talking a lot about mental health as well. Just when I was writing, I was just expressing myself and what I was feeling at the time and what I was personally scared of. There are so many different things that you can take away from the film [Talk to Me], and I hope that everyone’s experience is different and it will be fun as well, and then interpret it as they will.

Everyone in Talk to Me seemed to be perfectly cast for the characters they were playing, and they encapsulated those roles so well. Was the casting process difficult, or did everyone just fall into place?

Michael Philippou: We had an amazing casting department, and we found them all through auditions. It was difficult to find everyone, but when we saw the audition, we knew that was them straight away, for Otis, who played Daniel. Zoe played Hayley. For Mia, Sophie originally read for Hayley, but we already had Zoe, and then when the idea came, “What about for Mia?” it just all clicked into place. 

It was a blessing in disguise with COVID because we were able to cast for two years. It all fell into place as soon as we found Sophie as well. And how to read against all the other actors that we had, it was like heaven.

I love the film. I’m excited to see how the audience takes to it.

Danny Philippou: Hell yeah, nice to meet you! Thank you.

Michael Philippou: Cheers!

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