This Friday, The Bye Bye Man arrives in theaters everywhere, and in advance of the film’s release, Daily Dead caught up with producer Trevor Macy to talk about his involvement with the project, working with director Stacy Title, and his thoughts on trying to keep up with the expectations of modern audiences. Macy also gave us an update on the release of Mike Flanagan’s Before I Wake, which has been delayed due to some issues over at Relativity Media.
Great to speak with you today, Trevor. You've been involved with a lot of really fantastic genre films over the years, so I'm curious, what was it about the story of The Bye Bye Man in particular that made you think, "This is definitely something I want to be involved with?"
Trevor Macy: Well, it has a couple things going for it that I like. One is, I really like the idea where a normal person can step into something horrible happening—those incremental steps are always super fascinating to me in a Rosemary's Baby sort of way, where an ordinary person can really get themselves into this horrifying situation.
The idea of a bad guy who can seep into your cracks and understand your worst fears and pervert your best intentions—that's a super interesting approach. I also like the idea of his name as a beacon. Once you know it, he's just going to come for you. That's a fascinating thing. Those are the two things that drew me to it in the first place.
Touching on that idea, I grew up with urban legends like Bloody Mary and movies like Candyman, and this feels like a type of story that we haven't seen a whole lot of lately.
Trevor Macy: Yeah, I love Candyman, but it kind of doesn't fit well with audiences today. I hope The Bye Bye Man does. And in order to do it, you have to buy into the characters and you have to go with them on the ride so you can put yourself in their shoes, which is why audiences today have different expectations than Candyman or Bloody Mary could meet.
I feel spoiled because I grew up during the heyday of ’80s horror, when everything was fun and there were a lot of opportunities to get scared as a kid. To me, though, it seems like when it comes to audiences these days, it’s harder to scare them, or even keep their attention. Is that something you’ve noticed as well?
Trevor Macy: Absolutely. Mike [Flanagan] and I have done a lot of movies together, and we share the idea that scares are universal. I don't think there's any substitute for the theatrical experience. I'm happy to have people watch movies at home, because we weren’t always able to do that the way we can now. But to me, there's a collective experience that revolves around seeing a movie in theaters along with other people because fear is this universal thing—it has a lot of staying power. Attention spans may be shorter these days, but I don't think that means that fear is not a fundamental human experience, either. We have to work harder, but the fear is still out there.
Going back to Bye Bye Man, can you talk about what you saw in Stacy [Title] that made her the perfect choice to take on the directorial duties for this, and what she brought to the table? It’s pretty amazing that we’re getting two female-directed horror movies in one month.
Trevor Macy: Definitely. Look, on one hand we need more female directors in Hollywood, but that's not why I hired Stacy. I always felt a little weird that if I look at the composition of the audiences for my scary movies, they're 60-ish percent women. I don't think it hurts to have a female voice at the helm of a movie when you're speaking to that audience. And specifically with Stacy, I had known her and her husband, Jonathan Penner, who wrote the project.
This is a script that I had found three or four years back looking for a writer, and hopefully a writer / director. Stacy is somebody I had always believed in. I felt the same way about her that I did about [Bryan] Bertino before The Strangers.
Flanagan's a little different, but—at the risk of patting myself on the back—I don't think most people in the industry saw Absentia the way I did. So I felt like Stacy had that same kind of potential I saw in Mike years ago, and she had a real passion for the material, too.
When it came to rewriting the script, Penner literally wrote the book on horror, and between the two of them, they really had a great approach, and they'd been working in TV for a while. Stacy really had it in her and I'd wanted to do something with her for a while. This came up, and their take was super compelling. I love the fact that she is steeped in the genre in a way that I relate to.
With her husband being the one who wrote the thing [based on Robert Damon Schneck’s story “The Bridge to Body Island”], did you give them room to do their own thing or were you pretty hands-on with them throughout production?
Trevor Macy: I'm a pretty hands-on producer, so this is not about them. I think Flanagan would tell you the same thing. There's lots of stuff a producer can do to support a good director. Although I don't have aspirations to direct, I do care a lot about the creative quality of my movies when it comes time to making sure those movies reach their audience, and making sure distributors see in the movies what I see, but also just straight-up script development. I get involved with movies because the audience really matters to me.
Those are all things that great directors consider, but it's a perspective that a producer can offer a director that really helps the rubber meet the road. I was absolutely involved in every word of the script. I was there every minute on set. I didn't direct the movie, but I'd probably call it my movie as much as it is Stacy's.
One last thing before we go. I loved Before I Wake and I know its status has been up in the air for some time now. Do you know when on earth we'll possibly have a proper release for that movie here in the States, or is it still up in the air?
Trevor Macy: I think it's going to become apparent what happens to it in the next couple months. I'd like to see it reach the widest audience possible, but it is embroiled in the Relativity situation. We're trying to resolve that.
I'm super proud of the movie, though, and Mike did a brilliant job. It's one of those things where I'm always interested when genre movies can offer a window into other genres as well. I don't see a reason why a genre movie can't also be emotionally compelling, and Before I Wake speaks to that. So it’s something we should hopefully have some news on later this year, finally.