We continue our chat with Matt Bettinelli-Olpin of Radio Silence and co-director of DEVIL'S DUE.
I saw an early cut of this film and one of the things that struck
me was how much time you spend building up the characters so that we
care about them when things go horribly wrong. It's rare to get a
horror film where the characters feel like real people, and surely some
of that is because you don't often have the luxury of doing a purely
character scene. Was it challenging to preserve that character depth as
you went through the post-production process?
to fight a little to keep in a couple scenes that were more character
based, but for us that's what we love about all great movies. And it's
one of the things that at the end of the day we could have easily cut
down but Fox acknowledged that it's falling in love with Sam and Zach
that makes the rest of the movie work, it's out linchpin. It's part of
makes ROSEMARY'S BABY so incredibly special -- the amount of time you
get to really understand Rosemary and who she truly is.
one of our collective favorites, does the same thing -- you get to fall
in love with the Fuller brothers and laugh with them for a large part
of the first act so that when Rusty Nail begins fucking with them, you
hope them survive on a guttural level, not just a surface "I hope the
hero lives" type thing, but a deeper feeling of "I truly like these
people, they feel like my friends, I want to spend more time with them.
And I hope some psycho doesn't kill them!"
obvious of course, every great movie is about the characters, but
unfortunately FF doesn't always lend itself to that type of storytelling
but we really wanted to hold onto that from day one. Hopefully it comes
DEVIL'S DUE also marks the first time you
four work on a script that you didn't generate yourselves. What was
that process like?
It was a fun challenge but
everyone involved was up for it and we really spent a lot of time
molding the script into something that we felt was unique and ours,
something we could go out and have fun with and tell a story that might
have familiar themes but that ultimately we could make our own. It felt
like a very malleable story that was constantly shifting as we tried to
discover out the version we loved.
We also had the extra job on constant camera justification. And after
DEVIL'S DUE, V/H/S and the shorts, we've had way too many conversations
and way too many headaches about why the camera is filming, but it's
only because of those conversations and headaches that we're ultimately
able to tell the story we want to tell in an authentic and intimate
Also, on set Zach Gilford and Allison Miller's (Zach
and Sam) contributions were invaluable. We spoke at length during the
entire process about camera motivation. Zach (who actually films a lot
of the scenes his character is filming in the movie) was instrumental in
helping us never lose sight of the camera as an extension of his
character. We really functioned as a team throughout and that dialogue
was always happening.
Let's talk about casting. Most
of the time, found-footage films go for total unknowns or
nearly-unknowns. While Zach Gilford and Allison Miller aren't quite
household names, they've become fairly familiar faces on TV. The same
could be said of Sam Anderson, who's recurred on everything from Growing Pains, to Angel to Lost.
We don't usually see actors like that in found-footage because of the
attempt to preserve the "this all actually happened" artifice. Was
there any discussion of this? Why go in this direction?
was a very intentional choice during casting. Initially, we had talked
about casting unknowns but with Zach (we're all huge fans of FNL)
we decided he was the best for the role and shouldn't NOT get it
because people might recognize him. We never wanted to pretend this is
real. As soon as we settled on that we solidified the idea by casting
Sam Anderson, who we loved on Lost.
and CHRONICLE did this wonderfully, was that we should focus on making
an entertaining movie, not just a FF movie. That doesn't me we abandoned
the rules of FF (we didn't) but it allowed us to be more creative with
the story and the casting and everything in between.
us, the movie should feel emotionally real, that's the ultimate goal --
audiences are way too smart to have the "this is real" FF wool pulled
over their eyes anymore.
What were the most important
things you guys learned from screening early cuts to an audience, both
for this film specifically and for the process of shaping a film in
Besides previews being nerve-wrecking
part of the experience, they're actually pretty enlightening. Don't get
me wrong, it's an awful experience but even if they go great, it's
generally acknowledged that they don't ultimately mean much. Great
movies get horrible numbers and vice versa.
regardless of all that, I actually think they're incredibly helpful. An
audience filled with strangers doesn't lie. They love it or hate it and
either way we don't get to explain our choices or make excuses. They
talk, we listen. But we got lucky, I think, because Fox let us take what
was useful from the feedback and make those changes but none of it was
do or die. Most of it was left up to us.
sitting with an audience of strangers, there's a deep feeling in your
gut when things aren't working and it sucks but it's much better during a
preview than on opening night, right? And regardless of the feedback
being negative or positive, those gut something-is-wrong-here moments
are things you want to change. And ultimately, I think our movie is
better for having gone through that process -- you get so close to the
material that at a certain point it's impossible to see the big picture.
DEVIL'S DUE hits theaters this Friday!