The Innkeepers Director Ti West Offers 5 Pro Tips For Breaking Big in Horror
If there's anyone who knows how to break into horror these days, it's Ti West, the 30-year-old writer/director whose feature films The Roost, Trigger Man, The House of the Devil and Cabin Fever 2: Spring Fever (which he disowned after extensive re-editing by the producers) have made him a well-known name and respected auteur in the scare community. After showing his latest movie The Innkeepers at the Los Angeles Film Festival last week, Movieline asked the filmmaker to share his pro tips for breaking into the horror genre.
1. Take advantage of the free tools, and don't be afraid of video.
"I think now our culture accepts video as an acceptable medium after seeing so much reality TV. Five or six years ago, audiences might have said, 'This looks too low budget' but now people are comfortable watching a movie on video so you can get away with making it cheaply. [...] I think one of the keys to me being kind of successful is that I've developed my own kind of mini brand so people recognize, 'Oh that's a movie from that guy.' People can do that really cheaply now -- not just make a movie but establish their own kind of brand."
2. Don't settle on an idea that is not worth two and a half years of your life.
"I don't make horror movies to see people get killed. That is not my intention behind it. I just don't think I could have an idea like that -- not that I am opposed to it, maybe one day I will have one -- but at this moment, I would not spend two and a half years of my life on a project where I spend 40 minutes torturing my characters."
3. Don't let the industry bum you out. You can't always be a great businessman and a great filmmaker.
"I think the industry is just kind of a bummer. I think there is an element to making movies that is very personal and still an art form but being a good filmmaker and being a good business person are two very different things. It's a hard line to straddle and some people are better at it than others. I think there are a lot of people out there that just want to make great movies and it's about seeking those people out."
4. Take advantage of film festivals whenever possible.
"The festival community is really fantastic because it is a good, safe environment to get your movie shown to people who are open-minded about seeing the kinds of movies you are making. And you are going to meet people that are going through the exact same things you are going through. That means a lot more than people think. Independent filmmaking is a career but it is also a lifestyle. To me, I was fortunate to be able to get out of my day job after my second movie but it's a lifestyle choice because it takes a year to make the movie, a year to promote the movie. You end up feeling like a weird carnie. But having that community of filmmakers that is supportive goes a long way."
5. Be ready for the challenge.
"The process of making a movie is very traumatic and it's very difficult. It's kind of like hearing your voice on tape. You know when you leave an outgoing voicemail on your phone and you play it back? You think you sound like an idiot but you don't. That is how you should sound and that is the only way you are going to sound. At one point you just have to accept that your voice is okay. Multiply that feeling by like 200 and that is what every day of making a movie is like -- or me, anyway, because I'm doing this for personal reasons. [...] The whole process is a challenge because I'm trying to meet my own expectations or visualize something that is my brain. Sometimes you just have to accept the closest thing you can get to that idea or something completely different. The whole process is traumatic -- not in a bad way necessarily but this is what it takes to make a movie and then get people to actually see your movie."