Scott Davis chats with producer Steven Schneider…
In an exclusive interview with Flickering Myth about his new film Shut In, producer Steven Schneider sits down with Senior Staff Writer Scott Davis to discuss the film, his upcoming projects Paranormal Activity, Insidious and everything in between…
Scott Davis: Congratulations on Shut In, you must be happy with the reaction to the film so far even before its official release?
Steven Schneider: Very happy, yes! It’s always a little scary exposing a new movie to the world, since there’s inevitably a chance it won’t be as well received as you think it deserves. Fortunately, in the case of Shut In, the initial response has been great and we’re hopeful that the positive word-of-mouth will continue.
SD: What was it about this script and idea that made you want to make it?
SS: I’ve always had a thing for contained, high-concept thrillers, even before I got into producing. Lady in a Cage (1964) is a personal favorite, for example. The script for Shut In was very tight and I particularly appreciated the strong character work. I jumped at the chance to get involved when given the opportunity by my associates at 1821 Pictures.
SD: Was it always part of your plan to get involved with Hollywood and producing films, or did you fall into it?
SS: The latter much more than the former. I spent most of my 20s in graduate school studying philosophy and film, and was preparing for a career in academia. But I guess my sensibilities have always been more commercial than academic, so after getting into a dialogue with Roy Lee (producer of The Ring, The Departed, and The Lego Movie, among many others) in 2002 I decided to take the leap and moved to LA.
SD: You have had great success with producing films like Insidious and Paranormal Activity. How did you first get involved in producing those films?
SS: I got involved with Paranormal Activity while I was working on the Paramount lot – I had a first-look deal with the studio at the time that ran through Blumhouse Pictures. Oren Peli’s agent sent me an early cut of the movie as a directing sample, but when I watched it I was blown away and thought it had viability in the marketplace. Fortunately, Jason (Blum) felt the same way, and with his acumen we were able to get it sold and, eventually, theatrically released.
As for Insidious, that was the first of a multi-picture deal Jason, Oren, and I entered into with Alliance after Paranormal Activity came out and helped brand us in the “micro-budget” horror space. James Wan pitched me this really cool idea – a fresh take on the haunted house genre, where the supernatural entity basically follows the victim from one home to another – and Jason, Oren, and I all felt immediately that it would be a perfect fit for our new slate.
SD: You have worked of course with Jason Blum and Blumhouse with those films, amongst others, and he has become a big influence in Hollywood. What is it like working with him?
SS: Let’s see… Fun, because he’s a great guy who obviously loves what he does and has a keen sense of humor about both himself and the industry. Intense, because he’s very driven and hates to lose. Educational, because by now he’s pretty much seen it all and can usually predict how a given situation is going to turn out. And empowering, because he really looks for – and seriously considers – input from his executives and colleagues.
SD: With many of your films popping up in the horror genre, are you keen to branch out in the future into others genres?
SS: Well, I enjoy all kinds of movies, and if the right “non-horror” project came around I’m sure I’d be excited to work on it. But my area of expertise is horror, and since I’m still passionate about the genre I don’t see myself straying too far afield in the near future. One thing I’d say, though, is that I tend to use the term “horror” very broadly, so it can easily cross over into the sci-fi, thriller, even fantasy realms.
SD: Do you have a favourite film/ experience from your career in Hollywood so far?
SS: The ride we went on seeing Paranormal Activity make it to the big screen was truly unforgettable. I fell in love with the movie, and it was such an underdog in every way. When it finally got released, and became something of a phenomenon, the feeling was euphoric.
SD: Any other horror films that you haven’t been involved with that you have enjoyed? Do you get time to watch many movies when you are always working?
SS: Plenty. I really dug Adam Wingard’s You’re Next, as well as David Robert Mitchell’s It Follows. Some others I’ve enjoyed recently: Mama (dir. Andres Muschietti), Evil Dead (dir. Fede Alvarez), and Kill List (dir. Ben Wheatley). And I’m eager to check out Patrick Brice’s Creep, which looks awesome. Sadly, I don’t get to watch nearly as many movies nowadays as I used to… but if I’m being honest that’s mostly because I became a first-time daddy last year and not because I’m always working!
SD: You are currently working with Adam Wingard and Simon Bennett, creator of The Guest, You’re Next, and The Woods. How has the experience of working with them gone so far? What can you tell us about the project?
SS: My experience collaborating with Adam and Simon thus far has been fantastic. I’ve known them both for a while now, and have admired their work for years. They make a great team, and now I can say that their creativity is matched by their professionalism. Unfortunately, what I can’t say at this time is anything specific about The Woods… other than the fact that it’s going to be amazing, and that more details will be released soon.
SD: Are there any other talents (actors, directors, writers) that you would like to work with in the future?
SS: Far too many to list! Well, okay, here are a few directors: Juan Carlos Fresnadillo. Neil Marshall. Bryan Bertino.
SD: Finally, we are of course aware that you used to be a film critic in your early years. Any advice to us writers and bloggers to be a success?
SS: I guess I’d just suggest not being afraid to take a strong position with respect to the movie (or movies) you’re writing about, even if it’s a controversial or unexpected one. Personally, I prefer criticism that challenges me and makes me think hard about the text being discussed, even if I ultimately disagree with what is being said. Avoid over-reliance on description, and back up opinions with arguments. (Hmmm… apparently I have a lot more advice to dole out than I realize!)
Shut In is set for release sometime in the later half of 2015 and stars Martin Starr (Silicon Valley), Rory Culkin (Scream 4) and Beth Riesgraf (Criminal Minds). Adam Schindler makes his feature directorial debut with the film.
Many thanks to Liz Rodriguez and the team at EMR Media for setting up the interview, and to Steven Schneider for taking the time to chat to us.