While it’s been available since last month on DirecTV exclusively, A24 and DirecTV will release The Blackcoat’s Daughter in theaters and On Demand March 31st, 2017. Osgood Perkin’s stunning feature film stars Kiernan Shipka, Emma Roberts, Lucy Boynton, and James Remar, and it explores demonic possession and the tragedy that follows such a horrific presence.
Daily Dead recently had the opportunity to speak with one of the producers for The Blackcoat’s Daughter, Bryan Bertino, who is no stranger (pun intended) to the world of modern horror. In 2008, Bertino’s directorial debut, The Strangers became a breakout success, taking in over $80 million worldwide and helping to launch his career as both a filmmaker and a producer.
During the interview, Bertino discussed working with Perkins on The Blackcoat’s Daughter, the struggles they faced throughout the four-year process of getting the project made, and how the initial script jumped out at him before he even finished it. Bertino also chatted about his own recent genre effort, The Monster, and reflected on how the industry has changed since he began working on The Strangers over ten years ago.
It’s so great to speak with you today, Bryan. I really loved The Blackcoat's Daughter, and I'll geek out for a second and say that The Strangers is still one of my top horror movies that we've seen over the last decade. It’s a movie we watch a lot in our house, and it still works so incredibly well.
Bryan Bertino: Thank you. That makes me happy to hear. I'm always amazed that that movie seems to have resonated with people over the years. You never think these things will happen. I used to work at a video store growing up and I feel like The Strangers has found its place as one of those movies that people would have grabbed off the old movies’ shelves and gone up to the front to rent it, so that's pretty cool.
Back when I talked to Oz, he mentioned how The Strangers was a huge influence on him, in terms of being a visual storyteller. I definitely get that now after seeing The Blackcoat's Daughter, because they both are very emotionally driven horror stories. Had you known, coming onto the project as a producer, how much Oz appreciated your work?
Bryan Bertino: Well, Adrienne Biddle and I, my producing partner, had been involved with the project for four years, and it was something that was initially just sent our way. I knew that Oz was a fan of mine, and when we read the script, you could just tell, even after reading five pages of it, that Oz had such an interesting voice.
I have this weird thing, where sometimes I'll watch a movie or read a script, where if I can feel a love for it, and then also a jealousy as an artist of like, "Oh my God, why didn't I write that?" or, "Why didn't I direct that? I wish I could have done that." Those are the projects that are sometimes the most interesting and that you want to be involved with. I was instantly jealous of Oz's talent and decided right then and there that I wanted to do as much as I could, [give] as much help as I could give, to get this thing made and let everybody see how great I thought Oz was. Little did I know that it would take four years for that to happen.
That was, obviously, hard, but it also gave us all a chance to really work with Oz. When we saw the first cut of the movie, it was brilliant. Sometimes when producers see the first cut, they're shocked. For us, it was like, "No, this is exactly what Oz has been talking about for years."
While you were going through this process with him, in terms of the script and eventually getting the cast and everything going, did you just give him some guidance, or were you a little more involved, just because this was still early on in his career?
Bryan Bertino: Not really, because so much of the final movie was in the first draft of the script that I read. As a producer, I've always felt like because I'm a writer, I'm not here to tell a writer what to do. I'm here to just help get on the same page and say, "These are ideas, or thoughts, or notes that I might have to just help bring out what you're doing and the story you're wanting to tell." We certainly worked with Oz on the script, but Oz had such a passion, that it was really about fine-tuning or encouraging him to explore, because this isn't your typical script.
He didn't have a goal to make some cheesy, boring, school slasher movie. If anything, we were there to say, "Go further than you're going," or, "It's okay that you're having patience with the story," because you said earlier that it's an emotionally driven horror film, and those are the kinds of stories that I like to see. Those stories require a certain amount of patience. On a development level, that was what we offered to the script.
For Oz and I, it was about talking about movies and watching movies. Oz had such a great background, because of his acting and growing up in the world of movies, that it was really about just encouraging Oz to pursue the kind of movies that we both gravitated towards when we think about horror, which is a lot of ’70s stuff and a time period where you were allowed to create these high-concept movies that have a lot more patience than they do today.
With you saying this was about a four-year journey for you guys, does that mean that while you were working on getting this going for him, you were also working on Mockingbird and The Monster?
Bryan Bertino: Oh, yeah. There were definitely pauses in the process, because when you're searching for financing and you're searching for partners, sometimes it's not a day-to-day action, so there’s a lot of sitting and waiting. Sometimes you're sending the script out, sometimes you're setting meetings that end up going nowhere.
Once we had honed in on the exact script and felt great about it, a lot of it was just waiting. I directed The Monster actually six months after Oz directed this. This has taken a long time since the movie was finished to actually be released. The timing ended up being that I think he finished sound mixing Blackcoat’s when it was about two weeks before we were about to start shooting The Monster.
As you were going through this process with him, did those experiences from the producing side of the work inform anything for you on the director's side of your own projects?
Bryan Bertino: Part of why I wanted to produce was because I wanted the opportunity to work on projects I want to see. As a writer and as a director, I'm very specific about the kinds of things that I want to do. The opportunity that producing has given me is that by working with different writers and trying to get their movies made, or developing their script, or making their movies, every time I'm doing it, I'm learning and then bringing something to my own work. I like to think that there's a little bit of back and forth that goes on.
I certainly think that—especially with the challenges of making movies now, where you're making them in 20 or 30 days—the more experiences that you can get on those kinds of movies, where you have to use a lot of your problem-solving skills that maybe you wouldn’t get on a film that takes three months, that, to me, has just been amazing.
I always say that every time I direct a movie, I really enjoy the next script I write, because I'm bringing all those experiences into that process. I feel like it's the same with this, that producing helps fuel me as a director. I'd like to think that the experiences that I've learned, whether it was on The Strangers or Mockingbird, I was able to pass on to Oz, where I could say to him, "Watch out for these things as you're diving into it."
If we could talk about The Monster for a moment, there's a lot about that movie that really hit me, especially that garage scene. What I loved was that you made that monster this allegorical figure for the things going on between this mother and daughter who were at odds, and it was heartbreaking because it was so different from the things you'd done before. Was it fun to do a creature feature this time around?
Bryan Bertino: Absolutely. As a writer, I love the genre and I love fear, and so as I continue to work within it, it's really trying to think about different ways. Not everything is a killer knocking on your door. As I started thinking about it, I remember being a kid and reading Cujo or whatever, and I always appreciated the way Stephen King would jump from vampires to haunted hotels to killer animals to anything, really.
I did decide I was going to push myself to explore different kinds of fear, but finding my window in is always going to be the victims first. Even though monsters aren't real, it was fascinating to me to think, "Okay, I'm going to write a story in which I'm not necessarily here to tell you if monsters are real or not, I'm just saying what would happen if you broke down on the side of the road and there was a monster? What would you do? How terrifying would that be?"
It's been—I wouldn't even say a challenge—it's been exciting. I build my stories character-first, and so whether it's a monster or a ghost or a serial killer, the fear of something dark interrupting life has just always been something that matters to me as a storyteller, or what I keep finding myself drawn back to.
It’s been nearly ten years since The Strangers was released. Have there been changes that you've noticed from your end in terms of navigating your way through horror over the last few years?
Bryan Bertino: In the ten-plus years I've been in the business, the horror genre is completely different. I think back on The Strangers. I was a first-time filmmaker, being handed $10.5 million to make a movie of two people staying in a house. I think about the fact that if you were making that movie today, or even two years ago, I would've been making the same script at a $1 million or $2 million level, and still being excited about it.
There was this giant financial change in the genre. It took a while for it to balance out and for people to realize, in an incredibly exciting way, to recalibrate the kind of stories and the smaller budgets that, for a while, may have been limiting for people, but I think now we've hit a sweet spot, where people are figuring out this can actually be an opportunity, in some ways, to tell more interesting stories.
It's created this environment now where it's almost similar to how there was this revolution with television in the past ten years because of all these different networks. There's this revolution with horror, where you can have different kinds of these movies, and fans will find them. I remember that The Strangers sat on the shelf for almost a year after I made it, because they were like, "Well, what do we do with this? Where do we put it?" It didn't fit into a slot. So I feel like now there's just so many more opportunities for people to watch movies and ways for people to watch movies that that question of "slot" doesn't factor in as much.
I feel like, as a filmmaker, I've weathered the storm. Sometimes people ask me, "You never made any more movies." Or, "What happened?" I was trying to, but the entire industry changed, and so it was hard to figure out, "How am I gonna tell the kinds of movies that I want to tell?" It's really in the past two years. It took us four years to get The Blackcoat's Daughter made. I feel like it is a part of these movies now that are saying, "You can have an interesting story within the horror genre." That's a long-winded answer, I know, but really I'm very hopeful of where I think the genre can go. I feel like we can build off of what I think was probably one of the strongest years for horror in the past 20 years, in 2016. Because 2016 was easily one of the best years of horror movies we’ve ever seen, in my opinion.