Horror Filmmaker Ti West Talks with the Film Connection
why our program works, and how best to make movies that people want to see…
Ti West Talks with the Film Connection – Part 1
Dave Baker is a freelance writer, die-hard cinephile, and comic book writer and illustrator. He’s worked with Fox, Universal and other film, media, and entertainment companies. He’s currently working on the strangely terrific web-based comic The Action Hospital.
Film Connection: I’m Dave Baker and today we’re talking with Ti West about balancing commerce and art in filmmaking. So there’s this kind of ground swell of support right now for low budget films, which is kind of how you came up. How do you view the kind of cultural shift away from maybe big budget movies?
Ti West: There’s just two distinctly different types of movies getting made these days. There’s this very sort of small independent movies, then there’s this like really large budgeted mainstream movies, and everyone likes to talk about how like the middle dropped out, which it did. So there aren’t $30 million movies anymore. There’s like $100 million movies, and then there’s like $100,000 movies. From a profitable standpoint, you can invest $100 million into a movie and then make a billion dollars and, be like, “Cool. I just made $900 million profit,” and like you can understand that. Whereas if you make smaller movies, the risk is bigger because you’re making more like personal challenging content. What’s cool about that is you can have autonomy for the most part, because the risk is small financially. So what’s interesting to me are the small movies that are existing in what’s left of the independent film world and the festival community, and VOD markets and things like that because you’re getting like real filmmaker driven movies, or at least story-driven movies.
Film Connection: Do you think that there’s going to ever be a middle return? Do you ever think that $30 million markets, is it gone forever?
Ti West: We want everything to be so accessible and so instantaneous that it’s very hard to justify spending a lot of money on something that doesn’t connect with everybody, because it’s financially such a risk. People want filmmakers to take chances and be brave, and do bold, new things, and reinvent things, and forge ahead. But people with money, want the safest risk humanly possible. So it’s weird that we encouraged this sort of artist to take chances, but the people investing in the artist want to take no chance whatsoever, and that’s a confusing place to be in. And technology is changing so much that it’s hard to say where it’s actually going. You kind of just have to ride the wave, and hopefully have some sort of integrity that you’re relying on, and that’s the only kind of hope we have I think, is to that the people making movies really believe in what they’re doing and despite whatever the trends are, continue to do their own thing.
Film Connection: The money aspect of initially making your first movie is kind of going away, like before that used to be, how do we afford film? How do we afford film? How do we afford film? And now that’s kind of going away, what do you think that the next biggest challenge for somebody that’s starting to make their first movie is?
Ti West: My outlook is that there are two kinds of filmmakers, there’s like this personal filmmakers who are making a movie for a reason that matters to them, whether it’s a story about them or it doesn’t really matter, but it’s a movie that the choices in the movie are very important choices from that person’s brain. And then, there are people who are making movies specifically for an audiences enjoyment, and those people are making movies that are just like, well whatever makes it more accessible, more enjoyable, more entertaining, more profitable, more exciting are the choices that should be made because I’m making it for them, I’m not making it for me. So I think that people fall into the two kind of camps, and there is people that kind of blur the lines a little bit but for the most part, it’s kind of one or the other as far as I’m concerned. Now that you don’t need so much money to make a movie, you can either do something that proves you are capable of doing something with a lot of money, or you can make something that proves that you have something to say, artistically.
Film Connection: In that context, do you, when you’re starting to write a project, do you think about commercial viability, or do you just go with your initial, like this is the story. It doesn’t matter how dark, or only I’m going to watch this movie it gets, it’s just me.
Ti West: I think I selfishly make movies for me, but I think that my taste or my sensibilities are not outrageously commercial but they’re not so esoteric that people can’t really wrap their head around them either. So, you know, I’m not making something that’s completely non-narrative and confusing. But I don’t think about an audience at all. I think if there’s an idea I have that excites me, and then I don’t lose interest in it in a short period of time and it stays around, then there’s something of value to that to me. And then I just hope that whatever my tastes are, there’s enough people out there that can sustain me, continually, to do it.
Film Connection: Do you think that digital distribution and like direct distribution from filmmaker to the audience members, is going to change the content?
Ti West: Maybe. I mean, I think that’s great. The problem with that though is that movies will always cost money, because it requires a lot of people to work on it. So, the less money you have, the smaller the movie can be just in production value and just everything in general. But if you want to tell stories that are beyond your personal means, you need to partner with somebody that has deep pockets, and in a perfect world you’ll probably have someone with deep pockets who’s like down for what you’re down for, but usually you partner with someone who is close to being down. Then it’s this weird game of you trying to manipulate them into seeing the world the way you see it and using their resources, and it’s a collaboration. And hopefully it’s a positive collaboration, otherwise it’s going be a push and pull one.
But now it just seems like the people with the deep pockets are not particularly interested in film as art, they’re interested in film as entertainment. So if you’re someone who also is interested in film as entertainment, then you’re in a great position. If you’re interested in film as art, there’s less people that there are just like, get out there and make something, like, radical. And what I really think is we just need people that are, whether it’s independently wealthy people or a corporation, whatever it is, people with the money should be like excited about taking risks also, that’s what art and life is about, and until we shake that, this idea of what we’re making should be as safe as possible. I don’t know how much you can really relate to that.
Film Connection: Thank you so much Ti, for coming in and talking about your movies.
Ti West: Yeah, thanks for having me.