Ti West Talks with the Film Connection – Part 3
Originally from Tucson, Arizona, Dave Baker is a writer who has worked for Universal, Fox, and numerous other companies. He also writes and co-illustrates the webcomic The Action Hospital.
Film Connection: I’m Dave Baker and today we’re talking with Ti West about story structure. One of my favorite movies of yours is The Roost. Despite, the, like, lack of resources that were available to you I think you really excelled at one specific goal, which was story structure subversion. What is it about writing plot intricacies, specifically, that fascinates you?
Ti West: I don’t really think a lot about plot and structure because I just don’t know what a lot of that really means necessarily. So for me it’s sort of following what I just kinda would be interested in or what I would be interested to see. So like in the context of The Roost, it was an opportunity to make a movie. And all of their movies are different, but there is some sort of thread that connects them. For me, it was like, “Well how can I tell this story like through the ‘me lens’”. This just sort of like well this is how this scene should go because it’s what makes sense in my brain. And then hopefully what makes the movies interesting is that my brain works a little differently than other people’s brains.
Film Connection: Is there a set of influences, now that you can kind of look back at this body of work that you’ve made, that has influenced that, kind of, your point of view?
Ti West: There’s like what happens in a movie and then what the movie’s about. And I think the best movies are operating on those two levels at all times, and like every scene should sort of be that way. So there’s ultimately like what you’re watching and what’s happening. And then there’s like what the subtext of it all is. And for me what it’s about is always more interesting than what’s just happening. What’s happening is just like the vehicle to get what it’s about out to the world. So for me, like House of the Devil was about when I graduated college and didn’t have any money and didn’t know what to do and was like oh I went through this whole experience and now I’m just here. And it’s just kind of like, I’m a little smarter and I’m a little more experienced but I’m really not in a different place than I was four years ago. And I didn’t know what to do and then you’re just like left in the world.
And so, that movie was about being like broke and not knowing what to do. And when you’re broke, you make desperate decisions, and when you make desperate decisions you make bad decisions. And that’s scary. That’s scary in real life. That’s scary in terms of just, like, you know, just like getting through the days and like what’s your future gonna be and things like that. And so that personal scariness is just as interesting to me as like movie scariness. So I just thought like well the context of the movie will be this Satanic thing and this babysitter movie and all this. But what the movie’s about, is about like that desperate time. And most of my movies are about that. Like, the desperation and personal fears make you make bad decisions. In the context of House of the Devil, it makes her take a job she shouldn’t have taken and then that leads to the most absurd circumstances and then she has to deal with it.
Film Connection: In a broader context, do you see filmmaking as a device for kind of cultural change or is it just about entertainment for you?
Ti West: I don’t think of filmmaking as pure entertainment, that to me is commercials. You do make something that’s more likable and accessible, but you definitely make something that’s more bland and derivative because people are just go with whatever the cyclical phase is at the time. But like whether someone likes a movie or not, I think is very subjective. And I think trying to make a movie more likable is a bad idea. I think that you’ve gotta make the movie you want to make and say what you’re gonna say. And then people will take from it what they will.
Film Connection: Thank you very much for coming in, Ti. I really appreciate it.
Ti West: Glad to do it.