Watch: The trailer for Welcome To The Blumhouse: Black Box
Back in 2018, horror producer Jason Blum made the surprising statement that: “there are not a lot of female directors period, and even less who are inclined to do horror.” This clearly isn’t true – it’s the opportunities that are scarce, not the creatives.
The Blumhouse boss later apologised, and it appears his company is now making real progress when it comes to hiring women in top roles – not least in their brand new Welcome To The Blumhouse series.
The direct-to-Amazon multiple movie project is headed up by President of Blumhouse TV Jeremy Gold, and consists of eight brand new horror features – the first four being The Lie, Nocturne, Black Box and Evil Eye – that will stream free to Prime Video subscribers.
Of those four features, two are directed by women: Nocturne (directed by Zu Quirke), about a young pianist who finds cursed music notation that could help her career, and The Lie (directed by Veena Sud), which follows parents torn apart after their daughter claims to have killed someone.
That’s a 50% gender split across the project, and Gold is proud of his company’s hiring record.
“Across our series The Purge we had an awful lot of female directors,” Gold says. “Including Gigi Saul Guerrero who also directed one of our Into The Dark movies, with whom we made a deal… We also made a deal with Sofia DeCall, they both made movies on Into The Dark and then we built relationships with them. I work for the TV company, but at the film company as well, there’s quite a number of filmmakers who are women across the movies.”
Yahoo spoke to Jeremy Gold about a range of issues – including diversity, and the future of cinemas post pandemic. You can read our complete chat below.
Yahoo Movies UK: How did Welcome To The Blumhouse come together? The Lie, for example, was made a couple of years ago...
Jeremy Gold: Welcome To The Blumhouse is a very unique slate of eight curated films, all from underrepresented filmmakers, and we did an awful lot of hunting and gathering to get to that collection of material. The Lie was made before we had partnered up with Amazon on this slate, and Veena [Sud] is an extraordinary television showrunner and filmmaker and storyteller.
We were in love with that story, and when this began to take shape, this felt like the perfect outlet for that story, it fit so naturally into what we were doing. All of these stories gravitate around family, and some kind of deception or betrayal within family, it fit quite naturally.
There was an interview with Jason Blum a couple of years ago, where he said there weren’t a lot of female directors and less who are interested in horror. What are your thoughts on that quote, and how does it relate to this collection which has two female directors?
We enjoy a very healthy working relationship with a great number of directors who are women, including across our series as well, predating Welcome To The Blumhouse, on our films and television series, in our staffing on our scripted series, there’s been a number of examples, going back to Kari Skogland who directed two of the episodes, including the first one of The Loudest Voice for example, our limited series about Roger Ailes on Showtime.
Across our series The Purge we had an awful lot of female directors, including Gigi Saul Guerrero who also directed one of our Into The Dark movies, with whom we made a deal… We also made a deal with Sofia DeCall, they both made movies on Into The Dark [Blumhouse’s Hulu anthology series] and then we built relationships with them. I work for the TV company, but at the film company as well, there’s quite a number of filmmakers who are women across the movies.
Watch: The trailer for Welcome To The Blumhouse: The Lie
Certainly in this case we have Vena and Zu, both of whom crushed it – knocked it out of the park. Zu is a young burgeoning filmmaker, we’re all going to see big things from Zu Quirke. She has that amazing thing that a lot of young filmmakers don’t have, she obviously has a great story to tell, but also the confidence and the courage to back her convictions, which belies how relatively young she is. She pushed very hard for the things she believed in, which is what you want from a filmmaker – you want a super strong point of view.
She comes from a classical music background, she trained as a classical musician, before moving on to study the classics at Oxford, and she has this great understanding of the authenticity of what it is to be a young teenage woman studying music classically at a very competitive level, and she was demanding that we got that right, in terms of the people who played musicians and how our lead actors were playing piano so that we got it right.
In The Lie, Vena uses the genre to make some strong, but subtle, comments about race – without going into spoilers – how do you think The Lie’s going to play in 2020? It feels relevant.
I think it’s super-relevant. It’s funny, I went back and watched the film again a little while ago. I’d watched it multiple, multiple times, but hadn’t watched it in several months, and I had that same thought: ‘Oh my god, this makes this only more relevant today.’
I’m very excited to share that movie with the world on a lot of levels, including that one. I think people will pick up on that. It’s not in the foreground, it’s in the background of the narrative, but it’s going to resonate for audiences, as will the rich turning and twisting nature of that narrative. Vena starts you in a family drama that turns into a psychological thriller, which is a good storytelling motif.
Sydney Sweeney (The Handmaid’s Tale) is a really exciting talent – can you talk about how she came onboard Nocturne, and what was she like to work with?
I would say that both Sydney and Madison Iseman punched above their weight, they’re both excellent. There’s always something electric in that movie when those two meet up, in any of the scenes where the two sisters are together, there’s something really special going on.
Of course, we had a relationship with Sydney prior to this with Sharp Objects, where she was incredible and in these intimate and challenging scenes with Amy Adams. When the person on the other side of the scene is Amy Adams, you’re in pretty rarefied air. And Sydney holds her own, you’re just so drawn to her in that series, her performance is so taught.
Watch: The trailer for Welcome To The Blumhouse: Nocturne
Both of these young women really delivered and they’re both excellent individually, and when you put them together, it’s just electric. I’m busy raising teenage daughters – it’s a cautionary tale for people with teenage daughters, maybe don’t let them go into the same competitive field.
Blumhouse released The Invisible Man to VOD early during lockdown – you’re on the TV side – how do you feel about movies going direct to streaming? Welcome To The Blumhouse are a bit like TV movies aren’t they?
These movies – with the exception of The Lie – were originally all made for the Amazon international platform, in terms of the future of cinema, I’d like to think that, while we’re sadly all living in a COVID infected world, it’s wonderful that opportunities are there for movies like The Invisible Man – and, by the way, Leigh Whannell, Leigh Whannell, Leigh Whannell – he’s so talented.
And Elizabeth Moss, that whole cast is extraordinary, and we have other business with Leigh and with Lizzy, big fan of both of them… It’s exciting that in this moment there’s an outlet for those films.
At the same, I really hope and believe that eventually we’ll get back to a place where there is enough to go around, both in terms of a robust theatrical business, and also opportunities in streaming so people can consume their content at home and not have to pay the babysitter.
I do believe eventually we’ll get back to it – this too shall pass, as they say. All entertainment is cyclical, this is the period we’re in now, but we’ll get back. I couldn’t begin to project how long that will take, but we’ll get back to a place where we’re all going to the cinema again on a regular basis – I hope.
Black Box and The Lie are available to stream on Amazon Prime Video now. Evil Eye and Nocturne both land on Amazon Prime Video on 13 October.