Part I: The path to being Wes Craven's Creative Exec
Anyway, we were talking about Wes as a producer versus Wes as a director. Is there a difference in working with him in those roles?
For sure. On projects he’s producing, even watching dailies you’re watching them differently than when it’s your own work. Obviously he respects the director because he’s in that position, so I think for directors he’s an ideal producer to work with. In the editing process he goes in and gives his notes, but he also gives space.
In these remakes, is he very good at divorcing himself from what his movie was and watching this as its own thing?
I think so. He had a lot to do with the Hills Have Eyes remake and let [director and screenwriter] Alex Aja and [screenwriter] Greg [Levasseur] just do their vision. He liked that they had their own take on it and it wasn’t gonna be the same, it was gonna be it’s own thing. The same with [director] Dennis [Iliadis] and Last House. If you’re going to remake something there’s no point in doing it the same way. He wanted a new take on it and for it to feel like a different movie. I think he was really happy with both results. He was very involved [from the start.] He approved it all. He was watching dailies every day and on Hills Have Eyes 2 he was on set in Morocco.
I’ve read a lot of horror scripts, and a lot of bad ones, and I can only imagine the kind of script submissions that get sent to Wes Craven. Do you get any of a higher quality?
Occasionally you get that adult thriller or you get a young adult novel that’s actually pretty good, or a graphic novel that’s a little more interesting. But you also get the – you know – kids in the woods and guy going crazy after them.
Let’s talk about being a Creative Executive, because I know that some of my readers know what that is and some may not know what the day-to-day is. So you’re reading a lot of scripts…
Yeah, I probably read on average, three to five scripts a day. Obviously not reading every single page. My thing was I’d always read every page until page 40 and then I would see if I wanted to continue reading every page or if I would skim the rest if I knew where it was going at that point. You can tell by then you should be in Act Two and get a sense of the writer.
And you know the characters, the tone, where the plot is going.
And I wasn’t always reading it just for that script. I was also reading it for the writer because we had other projects going that we were looking for writers to rewrite or to write. We were also watching films, looking for projects to remake… We were reading books, reading graphic novels, reading other things.
Were you taking submissions strictly from agents and managers or would you respond to queries?
We didn’t accept any unsolicited material. I would accept it if it came from a lawyer. It was just to protect us and the writer from anyone stealing any ideas.
And also as a CE, throughout the day you have pitches coming in, general meetings with writers and directors for any projects we might have been putting together.
I imagine the ratio of scripts read and meetings taken to projects was ultimately pretty low.
Especially because we were such a small company. There were only five of us working there – it wasn’t like we were this place with like 20 people and something’s always happening. Sometimes when we were shooting something, no one would be in the office because we were all on set. I was on-set trying to do both jobs, associate producing or whatever it was on-set, as well as reading scripts daily and taking phone calls.
What would catch your eye in a script? What were the things that would ensure that once you hit that 40 page mark you’d keep going?
Strong characters definitely. Characters that you relate to, but that’s interesting enough that I want to find out what’s happening with this person. [Rather than] five college kids are in a car on a road trip and they’re all the same. Give me someone I can really care about. That’s probably the number one thing.
And then [a premise] where you can tell me it in one line and I’m intrigued. I personally like supernatural and sci-fi, ghost stories, things like that, so I tend to go to those more. But I also love straight-up thrillers that could really happen, and what would you do in that situation.
It’s hard to find good stuff there, because that’s kind of my genre too. I’m always excited when I find a good one, but you have to go through a lot of “Oh, I’ve seen this before!”
Yeah, I got so sick of slasher scripts and things with rape – and yes, three of the films we did had rape in it. It is shocking and it is a horrible, horrible thing to have on screen and it definitely affects you. But reading it in script after script it’s hard to be like “Do people want to see this?”
And if you’ve read my blog you know that’s something that’s come up perpetually on it, because I’ve read so many of those kinds of scenes where you’re… very uncomfortable with how it’s written. It’s graphic and there’s a sort of unseemliness to it.
It works so well in Last House – I think – because you needed it to have the parents’ revenge be, [the rapists] get what they deserve.
I absolutely agree.
Because if that hadn’t happened, then the parents killing them would have been like “Yeah, it’s horrible they kidnapped them, but did they deserve death?” But [with the rape] it’s like, “Yeah, they deserve to die.”
Yeah and to be fair, you do wonder who’s coming into this surprised by the violence if they know anything about the original. “You’re surprised this is brutal?! All right…” Actually, they had just seen Music of the Heart and thought, “Oh, I’ll see this guy’s other movie!”
[laughs] A lot of people don’t know that Wes directed that!
Really? I always think that it’s interesting that’s the only outside-genre one he’s done. I always think that – even as a gimmick if he wanted to do a romantic comedy - -
His segment of Paris, je t'aime was a romantic comedy. It’s great, if you haven’t seen it.
I just enjoy the picture of your typical romantic comedy trailer with Reese Witherspoon and Paul Rudd and then having “Wes Craven presents…” come up. It’s be a great marketing thing.
He’s great with comedy. I can totally see him doing that.
When I was watching the Red Eye commentary, I remember he says, “Oh this is the first thriller we’ve done.” And I thought, “Really, it doesn’t seem like that,” but I guess everything else he’s done counts as horror, but I always saw Scream as more of a thriller.
I kind of think of The Serpent and the Rainbow as thriller.
Yeah, you’re right because that’s not straight-up horror. It’s a little more psychological.
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