Being sealed off from society for hundreds of days can cause serious strains on the psyche, as evidenced in SyFy Films' 400 Days. With the new sci-fi thriller hitting theaters and VOD today, we caught up with writer/director Matt Osterman for our latest Q&A feature to discuss Dane Cook's improv on set, the influence of The Twilight Zone, and much more.

Thanks for taking the time to answer some questions for us, Matt. When did you first come up with the idea for 400 Days?

Matt Osterman: There was this amazing experiment in Russia a few years back called Mars500, where six astronauts went into a fake spaceship for 520 days (crazy, right?). They had a great online presence (posting videos, photos, etc.) and I was hooked. After the mission was over and they got out with their sanity supposedly still intact, I decided to take that idea and make something a bit more cinematic out of it. It’s a great setup for a contained film.

The cast members in this film make for a very intriguing combination. What was it like working with Dane Cook and Brandon Routh, and what made them the right fits for their respective roles?

Matt Osterman: Dane and Brandon were both amazing to work with and a lot of fun. Complete pros that came ready to play every single day. They both have their own vibe and style, but each of them made the characters their own.

Was there a lot of improvisation on set between the actors or in your approach to the story?

Matt Osterman: The short answer is "yes." As a director I find that movie magic lives in those accidental discoveries that you find when working with great actors on set. I really try to set up an environment that encourages improvisation and I don’t treat words in the script as gospel. Few films have enough time to really go wild with improv, but I was thankful we got to play around a bit.

The set design for the hatch looks very sleek and futuristic. What was your experience shooting in that environment?

Matt Osterman: Stressful! The ship was simultaneously made on an incredibly tight budget. There was a huge pressure to get it right and Traci Hays and the entire art department really hit a home run. Shooting in the confined spaces of the ship was incredibly difficult, but c’mon, I got to shoot a movie with a spaceship! I have no right to complain one iota. I’m incredibly lucky.

What was the most challenging scene to shoot?

Matt Osterman: It was easily the press conference. It was our very first day of production, we had dozens of extras, and we shot in a public park next to an airport. Not ideal in any way, but it forced us to get our crap together in a hurry.

When you look back at your time on set, is there a particularly funny or memorable moment that stands out?

Matt Osterman: Too many to mention. The cast are all obviously hilarious, but I spent a lot of time cracking up with the crew as well. I’ll have lifelong memories of watching Dane improvise and land amazing one-liners time and time again. I’m just sad we couldn’t use them all.

Do you have any favorite sci-fi or psychological horror films that influenced 400 Days?

Matt Osterman: I’d say the film riffs a lot from The Twilight Zone. I grew up watching those reruns and loved the tone and how they treated the unknown. Rod Serling also held the audience in high regard and wasn’t afraid to let them think for themselves. With 400 Days, I tried to create my own version of a puzzle and let the audience discover the clues as they watch.

With 400 Days hitting theaters and VOD January 12th from SyFy Films, what projects do you have on deck that you can tease for our readers, and where can they find you on social media?

Matt Osterman: Currently working on a very unique artificial intelligence thing that has me extremely excited. Readers can find me on twitter at @mattosterman. I’m excited to hear a lot of those 400 Days theories!


From SyFy Films, 400 Days is now out in theaters and on VOD.

Synopsis: "Written and directed by Matt Osterman (Ghost from the Machine), 400 DAYS centers on four astronauts sent on a simulated mission to a distant planet to test the psychological effects of deep space travel. Locked away for 400 days, the crew's mental state begins to deteriorate when they lose all communication with the outside world. The feature film stars Brandon Routh and Caity Lotz (who also star in the upcoming Arrow/Flash spinoff series DC’s Legends of Tomorrow), Emmy® nominee Ben Feldman (Mad Men), comedian Dane Cook (Detention, Mr. Brooks), Tom Cavanaugh (The Flash) and Grant Bowler (Defiance)."

  • Derek Anderson
    About the Author - Derek Anderson

    Raised on a steady diet of R.L. Stine’s Goosebumps books and Are You Afraid of the Dark?, Derek has been fascinated with fear since he first saw ForeverWare being used on an episode of Eerie, Indiana.

    When he’s not writing about horror as the Senior News Reporter for Daily Dead, Derek can be found daydreaming about the Santa Carla Boardwalk from The Lost Boys or reading Stephen King and Brian Keene novels.