SCREAM – Interview with directors Tyler Gillett & Matt Bettinelli-Olpin

Twenty-five years after a streak of brutal murders shocked the quiet town of Woodsboro, a new killer has donned the Ghostface mask and begins targeting a group of teenagers to resurrect secrets from the town’s deadly past. Neve Campbell (“Sidney Prescott”), Courteney Cox (“Gale Weathers”) and David Arquette (“Dewey Riley”) return to their iconic roles in Scream alongside a cast of newcomers.

We caught up with directors Tyler Gillett & Matt Bettinelli-Olpin for a behind the scenes chat about taking on the legacy of such an iconic franchise.

Congratulations on Scream. How does it feel to have your names up there with Wes Craven in a horror franchise?
Tyler: It is surreal, every single stage of this process from getting the call that they wanted us to come in and read the script to showing up on set with the cast to looking at marketing materials with the title card for the first time. Every single step of this has been an out of body experience. We can’t believe we made a Scream movie. I don’t think it’s ever going to go away.

Mat: Yeah, I mean, same and it genuinely doesn’t feel real. Like they’re in large part because nobody’s seen it yet. So, we’re still very siloed. It’s just the thing that we made with our friends. It still sort of feels like a we made a Scream fan film that somehow, we got Neeve, David, and Courtney to be a part of. It’s just somewhere between surreal and fake. I’m going to wake up and it was all a dream.

You were the prime age demographic when this first came out 25 years ago. How does that feel because like you said, it’s almost like a fan film, but with the with the characters, you grew up with? How does that feel?
Matt: I think the answer for this might also be surreal. It’s one of the things that is always funny for me is I’m basically the same age as the characters I saw. I graduated high school in 1996 and I saw Scream when it came out right after Christmas vacation. I remember going to it a friend of mine in college. He was one of the kids at the party in it, you know, they shot it up from Northern California. It was absolutely insane to know somebody that was a part of it. Like that’s the level of fandom back then, you know, it was just like, holy shit. Ryan was the guy on the couch in the party scene. Like that was the thing. So, it was you know, it hit exactly the right notes with me. I was 18 I loved it.

Tyler: I was a little younger, I was 15. When I saw it for the first time I didn’t see it in theatres, I saw it at a sleepover. And I was not a kid who was like raised on horror stuff so, it was truly like it felt it felt dangerous. You know, it felt subversive, like, oh, we were too young to see this, and I haven’t been terrified like that again. I mean, that was such a specific and memorable moment for me. I was completely hooked from then on.

And it’s funny you say that, because you guys obviously were also a part of Ready or Not, which is a subversive, modern horror. Would you say that’s almost like preparation, going into screen even though you had no idea that you would be a part of this?
Tyler: I mean, I’d say I’d say preparation in the sense that I think we’ve been so influenced by Scream and by Wes’ that we, we sort of found ourselves. I think we sort of found our own way, our own tone and our sort of own path and our own voice. But it’s so heavily influenced by what Wes did that weirdly, you know, we were I think trying to sort of craft and hit similar notes to what he had done and because that’s what we’d love. We love to watch as fans as you know, as well as moviegoers. And so, I think that you sort of can’t separate our style and tone from the movies that influenced us and certainly was such a huge part of that influence. And so, you know, yes, I think I think it was the first time for us that we made a feature that felt like it was really ours and it was Ready or Not was like the tone that we love. And like we, you know, we took the risks that we wanted to take. And I think the outcome far exceeded what we what we’d hoped for in it.

Matt: I agree with everything Tyler said. And the only thing I think is worth adding is that when we were going around, trying to set up Ready or Not, and actually get it made, that, you know, it’s the tone is interesting. The tone is unique, I guess, not to us. But that’s what we get told in these meetings.

And nobody wanted to do it because everyone was like, well, is it a comedy? Is it a horror is a comedy is a horror? We’re like, well, it’s kind of both, but it’s not a horror comedy. It’s like a funny horror, you know, trying to describe that. And then we finally landed on Oh, we just need to give people combos. And we gave people three combos, and the combos were Jaws, Aliens and Scream. We were like, these movies all are very successful at being what the headline genre is, but they are also very fun. Once people started hearing, Jaws, Alien, Scream, they went, oh, I get it, you can do that. And that was kind of the thing that like really landed with people. So, it was quite literally integral to us making Ready or Not.

What was it like bringing back the legacy characters, you know, Neve, Courtney, and David? You said it was a surreal scenario situation, but what was it like, bringing them back and getting them on set?
Matt: Surreal. We had to do two jobs at once where we had to make the movie and direct the movie and be productive human beings at work every day. But we also were fans and so we have those moments of feeling like oh shit, we’re on set of the new Scream. This is awesome. This is a fan experience on one level and then work experience in the other. Also Neve, David, Courtney and all the people who had been in the earlier movies, they were all so welcoming to us, and so friendly and so nice. I mean, they’re trusting a thing to us that they’ve been a part of, for a quarter of a century. So yeah, there was a lot a lot of weight, I think that we felt they alleviated that, and they made it feel okay, you know we’re in this together, we’re going to make this, let’s go do it. And let’s have fun. And that’s what happened.

Of course, it’s not just the legacy characters, we now have new original characters who are joining them. We have Jack Quaid, just to name one of the possibly bigger characters. What was it like to bring these characters in and have the two casts mesh?
Tyler: It was one of the most fun parts of the process, you know, building out who the ensemble is. After all it a who done it story. And especially with the script that we had where everyone is such an essential part of the story, you know. We wanted to make sure it was clear in the script, in the blueprint of the movie, that no one feels like a throwaway character. That everyone was their sort of archetypes, but there’s a twist on the archetype in a way that’s fun, subversive and interesting as well as original. After all it’s what we love about that first movie.

And, you know, the Scream franchise is known for its gore. The first one particularly because people were surprised by its intensity. What was it like going into this one with these scenes, because I don’t know how it’s done?
Matt: Well, it’s fun. Making this is always fun. That’s the funny thing. I think it’s one of the misconceptions about horror movies for some people. I have a lot of friends who work in comedy who have asked me very directly: Is it scary on set? What’s the thing? And you’re like, no, we laugh after almost every day, it feels like a comedy.

Yeah, it feels like you’re making comedy. It’s a blast to make. One key element was that every time there is a kill, it goes further than you think it’s going to go. And then there’s another gear when you really clench up and just go Jesus, when is this going to be over?

You know, and obviously, I think the Tatum one is a great example of that where it’s, it just keeps going and then she’s in the thing and then you’re like, oh my God, they’re not going to show it and then they show it and wow. And we wanted to make sure that ours really did that. It feels like a popcorn movie. You know, people talk about Scream a lot like it’s a gateway to horror movie. But part of the fun is, is that it feels like it’s a fun popcorn movie. And it’s extremely hardcore.

Tyler: I think the other thing that we really dug into when we were in prep was how and this is just a testament to Kevin Williamson and Wes and what they designed. It is how specific every kill is. How they all have like a personality that you can ask a group of Scream fans and they will all tell you something different like what their favourite kill is and can describe it to the moment and for us we wanted to make sure that like that’s a part of the DNA.

And there’s always a level of kind of gamesmanship happening in those kills. And because of that, it allows you to design specific and bespoke sequences. We wanted to make sure that every kill in this movie has that real sense of an identity and that you can make trading cards for every kill from the Scream franchise.

Words – Graham Day

SCREAM is at Irish cinemas from January 14th