The upcoming A Quiet Place is one of the most anticipated horror films this year, and for good reason. Following its world premiere at SXSW Conference and Festivals, the film was met with overwhelmingly positive reviews and audience reactions. Directed by and starring John Krasinski and co-starring Emily Blunt, A Quiet Place was written by Bryan Woods and Scott Beck.
Following SXSW, I had a chance to speak with Woods and Beck about their work in the film industry, challenges they met while writing A Quiet Place, and their upcoming film produced by Eli Roth. A Quiet Place will be available in theaters on April 6th from Paramount Pictures.
Horror Geek Life: You’ve worked on several projects together now and launched your own company, Bluebox Films. Can you give a bit of background on your partnership together and your company?
Scott Beck: Bryan and I go back to when we were 11 years old and both grew up in Iowa and made short films with our action figures. That was the inception of our collaboration at that point. Our film school days were really in high school when we were doing these way too ambitious feature films for no money whatsoever; being inspired by our heroes like Paul Thomas Anderson and Martin Scorsese and just making these ambitious character dramas that we had zero life experience to really predicate any of our stories on.
Bryan Woods: We always just did the whole process from beginning to end. We learned how to shoot our own movies, how to record, do audio, and sound design and we would test all our movies at the local IMAX. We had friends and family come and fill out cards and tell us what wasn’t working and why and that was how we learned how to make movies.
Horror Geek Life: Obviously, you learned a lot because here we are in 2018, and your screenplay for A Quiet Place was sold to Paramount and ended up in the hands of the super talented John Krasinski. Is it all still surreal and what was it like seeing your project come to life?
Scott: It’s incredibly surreal and it hit us at SXSW. We were talking to Michael Bay, who is one of the producers on the project, and afterwards Bryan and I couldn’t help but reminisce. Back in 1998, in Iowa, Bryan and I together went and saw Armageddon on a July afternoon and that was our introduction to Michael Bay. We couldn’t believe that things have come full circle 20 years later, almost to the month. It’s been really bizarre.
Bryan: With A Quiet Place in particular, we thought the idea was a little bizarre. We always loved it, it was like a passion project for us, but we had no idea that anyone else would find it interesting. We thought, here’s this weird little movie where no one can talk and it’s all about silence. We didn’t know if Hollywood would respond to it or not. We didn’t know if we had to go take this back to Iowa and make it for half a million dollars or something. We had no expectations, so to be here and to see the level that the film is executed on is a joy for us.
Horror Geek Life: I can only imagine. Right now in the horror genre, the community’s number one complaint is that there isn’t enough original content. However, with A Quiet Place, the word “original” is almost always mentioned. Has that been incredibly satisfying for you both?
Bryan: That is hands-down the most gratifying thing about this experience, and thank you for saying that. When I think of Alfred Hitchcock, Steven Spielberg’s early work like Close Encounters of the Third Kind and Poltergeist, M. Night Shyamalan’s work like The Sixth Sense, Signs, and Unbreakable…we fell in love with original ideas. We crave and want to see new fresh things, so it’s an honor to be a part of that.
Scott: I think on top of that too, sometimes where we see a void in the genre is the character work. Like Bryan was talking about Poltergeist. You watch that film and you fall in love with the family, like the imperfections of the parents. It’s not just an idea, it’s about who are these characters and what are the problems they’re going through. I think the marriage of concept and wanting to see something new in the horror genre mixed with the characters was all in inspirations that we were trying to throw together while writing the script.
Horror Geek Life: I think it’s safe to say that most films with strong characters rely on dialogue to make the audiences understand and connect. A Quiet Place, however, has very minimal dialogue and still manages to hold audiences. What challenges did you face there?
Scott: Everything was a challenge, to be honest. (laughs) You can’t use dialogue to communicate intent, you can’t use it to communicate emotion, you can’t use it to communicate backstory.
Bryan: What are these characters thinking? You can’t just have them say their feelings.
Scott: It was super challenging in the writing process to try and figure out how to be economical in the storytelling and it always came down to trying to be as simple as possible in terms of figuring out the core problem in this movie, what the core threat is. I think figuring out the simplicity actually brought out more originality in terms of the execution because we had to constantly challenge ourselves on what’s the best version of this.
Bryan: We also had to communicate that “no dialogue, silent film” experience on a page, which was a lot of fun for us. But this screenplay looks like no other script anyone has ever read because it has pictures in it. Certain pages of the script would just be a blank page with one word on it that says, “Ouch” or something to emphasize pain or a sound that’s dangerous. We just wanted it to feel like what, inevitably, the finished product feels like, where this is an unusual movie, it’s something different we’ve never seen before. We wanted to make sure the executive producers, financiers, and studios knew what they were getting themselves into.
Horror Geek Life: Did you find it difficult to keep the pace going while balancing family drama and suspense, but without conversation?
Bryan: Yes and no. You definitely have to find the peaks and balance, but one of the cool residual effects that really didn’t even hit us until we saw one of the early rough cuts of the film is that the audience gets pretty early on that if you make a noise, it’s trouble. So, there’s this air of suspense that lingers throughout the movie. I think it helps us just a little bit and allows us to linger with some of the character moments maybe longer than we’d get away with in a traditional movie because the specter of making a noise is always lurking around the corner.
Horror Geek Life: There is a lot of suspense around the fear of making a noise, which was even felt in the trailers. Were there a lot of changes between your original version and what audiences will see on-screen?
Scott: No, that’s what’s been super exciting about this process. The fear is that original ideas always get eaten up by the system and then come out as a complete 180. But what’s been really satisfying is having those ideas communicated in the final film.
Bryan: Paramount’s first round of notes were so exciting to us. Normally when you get studio notes, it’s like, “Alright, here we go.” But from the very beginning, they totally got what this movie is.
Scott: Yeah, and one of the set pieces that we were really proud of without going too much in depth, but it is in the trailer, is the pregnancy sequence. One of the first ideas that occurred to us is, what is the worst thing that can happen when you’re living in this world where if you make a sound, you will die? And we were like, “Oh, well having a baby!” (laughs) So that’s one of the really fun things to see how John and his team brought to life because, for us, it just feels like a confirmation of an idea that is now executed on film.
Horror Geek Life: I always say that you know a horror film will be really intense when there’s a dog, a cute kid, or a pregnant woman.
Scott: (laughs) That is a great rule of thumb.
Horror Geek Life: A Quiet Place comes out in theaters soon and it is one of the most anticipated horror films of the year, if not the most anticipated. So, how are your nerves?
Scott: Certainly before SXSW, there was no idea how people were going to perceive the movie. John was saying that they were finishing the film up until 18 hours before SXSW. So that was extremely nerve-racking because you have no idea how an audience is going to perceive a movie with no dialogue. But it was such a satisfying experience seeing it in Austin. One thing that’s great about horror movies is you make them for the audience reaction. That’s some of the most fun Bryan and I have seeing these movies and working in the genre. You know if it’s going to work by opening night.
Bryan: It doesn’t matter what the movie is. In that genre, we’re there opening night. We love the experience, we love riding that wave with 100 strangers in the auditorium. That’s what we love about the genre so much. So, it’s all for them.
Horror Geek Life: I imagine that this has all opened even more doors for you both and your company. Do you have an idea on what’s coming next?
Scott: Yeah, of course. We can’t talk specifics yet, but A Quiet Place was an original idea in a marketplace saturated by so many things based on IP and so our focus is always writing original material.
Bryan: We were really lucky, really really lucky, in our careers this year that while A Quiet Place was shooting, we were directing a movie that we also wrote called Haunt that Eli Roth produced. We’re in post-production in that right now. That’s really exciting and we’re excited for people to see that. It’s a very scary slasher film but it hopefully also has an emotional undercurrent, just like A Quiet Place.
Horror Geek Life: I’m a huge Eli Roth and slasher fan, I can’t wait to check that out!
Bryan: We are fans of his as well and he’s just been such a pleasure to work with on Haunt.
Scott: What’s infectious about him is his love of cinema. He has a very deep encyclopedia knowledge of not just horror films, but films in general. He’s a genuinely good guy and really fun to have in our corner on this film.
Horror Geek Life: Thank you both for taking the time to talk with us. We’re excited for opening night and to see what comes next!
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