This past weekend, horror fans all over were introduced to a new era of Scream movies, with the filmmaking collective known as Radio Silence taking over the directorial (and producing) reins for this fifth installment of the popular horror franchise that had been kicked off a little more than 25 years ago now by Wes Craven and Kevin Williamson. During a recent press day for Scream (2022), Daily Dead had the opportunity to speak with the directing duo of Tyler Gillett and Matt Bettinelli-Olpin as well as producer Chad Villella about the pressures of taking on a new Scream film and celebrating the legacy of this franchise as well as Craven’s contributions to the genre as well.
During the interview, the trio also discussed their approach to Scream (2022)’s opening scene and how it had to live up to the fans’ expectations of what has become such a crucial scene in this series, the challenges of creating a film that honors the past but also looks toward the future, and more.
Scream (2022) is currently playing theaters everywhere, courtesy of Paramount Pictures.
You're coming into a franchise that has been largely successful, stepping into the shoes of somebody like Wes Craven and trying to find a way that balances nostalgia and but also gives fans something new. How on earth did you wrap your head around that? Because to me, it seems impossible but here, you guys make it look easy.
Tyler Gillett: If somebody came to us right now and they were like, "Hey, do you guys want to direct something in the lineage of Wes?" I still would be like, "No, that's fucking crazy" (laughs).
Matt Bettinelli-Olpin: I mean, it was one of the absolute first things we started talking about when we knew we were going to make the movie is how do we make this feel like it is a part of Scream and also make it feel like it's something new and something fresh? And it was one of the main assignments we gave ourselves throughout the entire process. I still remember the first time we met with Brett Jutkiewicz, our DP on this. And we were just saying, "Hey, hopefully we're going to do Scream," just very preliminary. And the big conversation was, we want it to look like the Scream movie, but we also want it to be fresh and new.
And those two things are, that's a hard balance to find. But we found that at every step of the process, that was the conversation we were having is that this needs to live in that world. This needs to feel like Woodsboro, this needs to have that warmth that the Scream movies had. This needs to have all of the things we love, but it can't just feel like nostalgia. If we feel like we're just doing this for nostalgia's sake, we've failed, because, in our minds, that's not what a Scream movie would do. Right? A Scream movie would continue to push the boundaries, to set expectations and then subvert them and to keep you guessing. And so from the jump, we set out to do that. So it wasn't necessarily hard, but it was something that we were conscious of at every single step of the process and in every single detail along the way.
When James and Guy did the screenplay, were you guys there working with them, or did you give them the freedom to go and find those beats? There's so many things that I really love that it felt essential to what we expect out of a Scream story, but also what I really appreciated about it is there are certain touches where I knew immediately that this was something coming from your team as well.
Chad Villella: So basically, we went in to meet Gary Barber to have a general meeting and he told us that Jamie was actually writing the new Scream with Guy, and we were all just insanely excited that somebody we know and love and respect was writing a Scream movie. And we didn't know we were involved or were going to be involved at all at that point.
Tyler Gillett: We were essentially auditioning. Right.
Chad Villella: And then Jamie called us about a week later with William Sherik and they brought us into their offices at Project Dex. We all sat down in the conference room and we read paper copies of the script and it took us about three hours to read it. And it was just fantastic. Honestly, we can't say enough about Guy and Jamie. We obviously love Guy's work from Ready Or Not, and we also worked with Jamie on the producer side for Ready or Not. So this has just been an absolute blast. When we did get to set, though, there were little things that we could add to it that were a little bit us. There was just a lot of collaboration and discussion and knowing each other's sensibilities in terms of, on the writing side, on the directing side, on the producing side that has all really come together here. Once we brought in the cast, we were able to add in all these little elements and little flares that are Radio Silence, too.
I wanted to talk about the opening scene, and obviously, we won't get into spoilers or anything like that, but this is a franchise that set the bar with opening scenes, right? They've become iconic now where each raised the stakes. I thought it was really interesting about the way that you guys did it here, where you were able to take elements that we expect, the phone calls and things like that, but you brought them into where technology is today and added a few other elements as well. How hard was it to get that particular aspect of this Scream right then?
Tyler Gillett: That's amazing to hear, because for us, when you're shooting a sequence like that, and when you're shooting any sort of tense moments or scares, you're never really scared when you're crafting those moments. So you have to have so much faith in the process that the footage is going to go through before it becomes what the final product is. And I think with that sequence in particular, what you said is very true. These movies are known for these very captivating short films that kick off every movie. But I think for us, it was just really clear in the script that Guy and Jamie understood what the movies were and what made them interesting on a very deep level, right outside of the plot of, "Oh, someone is going to be in peril, there's going to be a phone call."
There's going to be a game of sorts. We all know and sort of expect that, but what that actually is and how that plays out, they handled it well and they know how to make stuff interesting, I think that just comes from a real deep, deep love and understanding of what makes a Scream movie a Scream movie. And for us, what ultimately, we really loved about how modernized this new opening feels is that it does take those things that are in our everyday lives, right? The technology, the feeling of being safe and secure in your home, and it makes all of those things real obstacles to your safety.
And that is ultimately what was done so successfully in the opening of the first movie and what we think they achieved beautifully in all of the movies that followed, is that feeling of, "Alright, we're in something that should feel pedestrian and familiar." Then all of a sudden, all of these things that are supposed to feel safe are not only threatening but are obstacles to your survival. We loved how they just kicked this script off in a way that felt like it was as much a throwback as it is a totally modern and unique approach to the opening sequence.
Matt Bettinelli-Olpin: I'd also just add that the other key ingredient is Jenna Ortega. I think we'll be thanking our lucky stars that we got to work with her for the rest of our lives, because she's not only an incredible actor, she's also one of the coolest people ever. She understood the inner workings of that scene so well, and if I feel like a lesser performance and that whole scene falls apart because you have to, for all of the other stuff, all of this stuff that Tyler was just talking about, to work.
You need to be invested in that character and you need to really just feel for her. And the difficulty with that being the opening scene is that you have no time to do that. Because the movie starts, the phone's already ringing and you're off to the races. And so, Jenna’s performance had such empathy and vulnerability that you were able to just fall in love with her within a minute of her having a conversation. So she just brought that scene to life when the mechanics of the scene were so perfect. Then she was able to move it into this humanity that we can all just latch onto so that we're feeling like we are with her, and we are terrified for ourselves through this entire process.
Chad Villella: I'm just flashing back to just the prop work that Jenna had to do in that scene where she’s shooting while using two phones and multiple things are happening on both phones and then a knife. And even just that created its own kind of weird physical obstacle where you're like looking at a screen, but you're also on the phone and you're texting, but you're watching a video. All of that stuff was really fun and interesting to us and it presented an opportunity to tell a story, and to create tension, in some new and fun ways.
For you guys, you're doing this movie, you're doing a new Scream. What do you hope that the legacy of this movie ends up being with fans? Have you thought about that at all? I also want to say that this feels like something that's really great for old fans, but also is inviting to people who aren't nearly as die-hard as some of us Scream nerds are (laughs).
Matt Bettinelli-Olpin: That's exactly it. I think we wanted this movie to do for people who haven't seen the originals, what the original did for us and open that door and invite them in and be like, "Look, there's this whole genre that's incredibly fun and rewarding if you allow yourself to partake." And you know, I think that Scream did that for so many people and to be a part of that is crazy. But I think that in terms of being 10 years down the line, we hope this becomes the same way that Scream is for us where, it's become like a comfort movie for us, and for so many people. You just, you put it on and you feel like you're hanging out with old friends and even though you've seen it a hundred times, and that's the magic of the entire franchise. Especially that first Scream which is one of those rare movies that never ages. It never gets old.
Tyler Gillett: Yeah. It's weirdly timeless.
Matt Bettinelli-Olpin: Which is funny because part of what's so great about it is that it's so strongly set in a time. And I think, the honesty of that movie and the fun that it has and that sardonic edge has just allowed it to age so well. And if we can achieve even a percentage of that with this, that'd be incredible.
Tyler Gillett: And I'd add to that all the Scream movies are also time capsules. Some of them are very prophetic. I'd say all of them are prophetic even. We're really living the reality of Scream 4 in a lot of ways, but I also think it's just really fun to be a part of a franchise that really wants to have an honest and lighthearted and fun and self-referential, and also self-deprecating, conversation about the state of the world and the state of movies. And I think it's, for us, very exciting to be a part of that specific legacy. This movie clearly is having a very specific conversation about some of those topics and fandom being one of them and it'll be really interesting to see how that idea evolves as this movie gets released, as it picks up new fans and introduces new people to the Scream universe.
Chad Villella: And for me, the highest compliment we could get is that it fits as a Scream movie. It is a continuation of the story. It acknowledges the past and it saves the road forward a little bit. And I think that's what we want from the fans that are familiar with the franchise, and the ones that go back and rewatch the originals, and they can see that connection.