Behind the Lens: Interview with Scott Beck and Bryan Woods, the talented writing team behind “A Quiet Place” and the wonderful new film “Haunt”.
Haunt is an awesome new film, just in time for Halloween, that explores the deepest fears people have about going to haunted attractions and makes those fears a reality. Co-writers and producers Scott Beck and Bryan Woods also wrote/produced the phenomenal thriller from last year, A Quiet Place.
These guys are on a serious genre roll, and I got a chance to talk to them about this amazing experience. Interesting and fun to talk to, Scott and Bryan will inspire writers to just get out there and just follow their dreams, because you never know what might happen.
INTERVIEW WITH SCOTT BECK AND BRYAN WOODS
Los Angeles Zombie Girl: Scott and Bryan, thanks so much for chatting with me today. I’ve seen Haunt and A Quiet Place and love them both. But since it comes out this week, let’s start out by talking about your newest release – Haunt!
Scott Beck: Thank you! Haunt is essentially a Halloween themed film, that follows Harper, a college student who has been dealing with a lot of baggage and abusive situations in her life; and everything all comes to a head on Halloween night. She and some friends go out to find a haunted attraction and finally end up at one where they discover everything that is scary there, is 100% real! That’s where the stakes really start getting worse.
Bryan Woods: I think for Scott and myself it was an opportunity to kind of marinate and roll around in all our favorite horror tropes and all the amazing ideology of what the Halloween season brings. This was an opportunity for us to create some monsters and just have a blast with all our favorite genre essentials. We love horror so much!
LAZG: Are you both fans of going to interactive haunt type attractions?
SB: When Bryan and I were kids, part of the reason we were even inspired to write Haunt, was because of our haunted house experiences. Bryan and I have known each other since we were 11 years old, grew up in Iowa together and the haunted house attractions they had there were actually very shady.
They would take over abandoned factories in the middle of nowhere, pretty much like in the movie, and it would just be populated by volunteers who just loved scaring people in the worst way possible. So, it didn’t feel like it was an overproduced haunted house, it really played to leaving these breathing spaces where you walk down dark corridors and didn’t know what was coming out at you. It wasn’t an assault on the senses with sound, it was just very mean, scary and you felt unsafe going into it. But as teenagers, you of course wanted that experience.
LAZG: Cool! I’ve worked in the Haunt Industry for more years than I can count, and trust me, scaring is an adrenaline rush, and we do live to scare the crap out of people! (Laughs) You guys have been quoted saying, “What you imagine is scarier.” Why do you think that is true?
BW: We think movies have a tendency to impose what they think is scary on an audience and in a way, haunted houses do that as well. Like where you go into a haunted house and it kind of assaults you with noises and things that they think is scary. Sometimes an audiences’ imagination is the most frightening thing.
So, when we think about cinema, well, let me give you an example. When I was in high school and I saw the Blair Witch Project, that movie affected me so profoundly in terms of how scared I was when I went home after seeing it in the theater. The movie doesn’t show anything, it’s very vague there’s hardly any major set pieces, it’s very simple, but the active imagination of a teenager or anyone is frightening.
What were the sounds outside the tent, what is happening off camera that we can’t quite see? That’s a lesson we hold dearly to us and put in in all of our movies. A Quiet Place was very much about, and very much an investment in the belief that sound design is itself is one of the greatest tools a horror filmmaker has in their toolbox. We wanted to make an entire movie about sound; basically, sound is the monster. Because we knew how effective that can be in genre movies.
LAZG: Haunt and A Quiet Place are very different types of films and I heard you were writing them at the same time. How did that come about?
SB: So, it came about because we wanted to write scripts that could get made. Projects we could film in our own backyards if need be. So, when A Quiet Place was written it very much was leaning into; we could get $50,000 and shoot a version of the story.
Haunt was the same thing where we knew there was a location, originally in Atlanta, that we were going to build a haunted house in. A place where we could just create a vessel to scare audiences. They both though, were scratching a different itch of our love of the horror genre.
A Quiet Place was very rooted in our love of The Sixth Sense and M. Night Shayamalan where he blends beautiful character drama with high concept stories. Whereas Haunt was pretty much our love of John Carpenter and Toby Hooper’s The Fun House and just wanting to create a thrill ride from start to finish, that leans into the Halloween tropes that we know and love as fans of the genre.
LAZG: In Haunt you don’t really give us any of the details about the people running the haunt. Did you write them all a backstory?
BW: There is, and I’m glad you picked up on that and are asking about it because it is a philosophy that we also applied to A Quiet Place. There is not a lot know about the monsters in because again it’s kind of our belief that the audience investment and imagination is part of the conversation of the film.
Having said that, our producer Eli Roth was excellent in the script development stage, in challenging us to not share the backstory of the villains. His belief was that we need to know, so that the audience knows that we know. (laughs) We don’t have to tell everybody what these guys are doing and why they’re doing it.
But the confidence, the feeling that we’re on sure footing and we know what’s going on behind the scenes was really important to him. So, that’s something we embraced and absolutely held the key to the kingdom on that. We have all the history and we loved kind of pulling it back and let the audience fill in some of the gaps themselves.
LAZG: Did you share your backstories with the actors, or did they have their own ideas?
SB: Both, it’s a marriage of that. With a collaborator that we work with, we love bringing to the table our assessment and what the story point might be, but it’s a conversation that we share and that extends to all the villain characters. We peeked in as much as we really needed or wanted to, but that certainly is a story that lives beyond what you see on the screen.
LAZG: What was your favorite part about working on Haunt?
SB: Well, first and foremost, being able to build an actual haunt inside an abandoned dairy factory in northern Kentucky. That was incredibly fun! Our production designer, Austin Gorg, had worked as art director on films like Neon Demon, Midnight Special, Her, and La La Land; all gorgeous looking movies!
So, we hired him and unbeknownst to us, it wasn’t until we had him on set that we found out, he had built haunted houses as a kid. Coming out of this film was very much him enacting that childhood dream of getting a chance to build all these incredible set pieces that would be seen on screen.
Beyond that, the other incredibly fun part about the process was, we got to shoot the film over the Halloween season, and on actual October 31st the crew came in different costumes, like Freddy Krueger. Brian and myself, we dressed up individually as Harper and Nathan (characters in Haunt). It was such a fun spirit that imbued the entire set, because we were able to celebrate the Halloween season, while filming