Interview: Producer Jason Blum on the Future of Blumhouse and Always Chasing Scary Movies

Interview: Producer Jason Blum on the Future of Blumhouse and Always Chasing Scary Movies

Jun 25, 2015

Producer Jason Blum's Blumhouse Productions really only started to branch out beyond the Paranormal Activity franchise three years ago, but those three years have been ridiculously prolific. In that short time, Blumhouse has established itself as a powerhouse in Hollywood horror, with a consistent string of hits like Insidious, Sinister, and The Purge proving that low budgets don't have to equate to bad movies.

Blumhouse has even begun dipping its toes outside of the horror genre, most notably with last year's Best Picture nominee Whiplash. And it's all because Blum had this crazy plan to enable filmmakers to make the kind of movies they want to make so long as they aim high and spend low.

Last week one of Blumhouse's most recent hits, The Lazarus Effect, hit Blu-ray, DVD and DigitalHD, which gave us the opportunity to hop on the phone with Blum for a chat about the current state of Blumhouse and all the new things he's working on, like books and even a Paranormal Activity virtual reality experience. In the early days of Blumhouse, it was natural that you'd hit the press circuit to promote things. But now that Blumhouse is clearly up and running, you're still regularly taking on press duties. Do you enjoy the process?

Jason Blum: I guess I have a belief that when you make something with someone else, especially if it's with someone else's money, you have a responsibility to do it. First off, it wouldn't be fair to say I enjoy all of it, but there's a lot of it that I do find interesting. I always learn stuff when people ask me questions. It makes me think of things in a different way, so that's part of it.

And then part of it is that we make this stuff and I'm invested in it. My heart is in it. I wouldn't do it if I didn't have a relationship with it. If people want me to talk about it and promote it, I do. I don't do it every time I'm asked, but if I can, I do. I don't think it sends a great message to work on something so hard and so long and then say "I'm not talking about it." That always bothered me. Blumhouse has been in the news twice today before this interview and it's not even the afternoon. Do you keep track of all of your own news breaks? And how do you even keep track of all the projects you have in development? What is that routine like?

Blum: Well luckily we have a big group at the company so it's not just me. One of the things I've been trying to do this year is wrap fans into the company, so it's not just me. We let employees use the social media. We did a producers conference recently hosted by Eli Roth and had several employees on that. If it was just me, I'd have a heart attack.

I know about every release, even if I don't know exactly when it's going to break. I knew the Hellevator news was coming out this week, but I didn't know it had already broken. But we do sign off on all the releases before they go out. When it comes to tracking a project through development, how early do you get involved? Does a project have to reach a certain point before it tips onto your radar?

Blum: There's no hard and fast rule. Some things we're involved with from the very early idea stage and some we're not involved with until it's a final movie, or TV show. Does it seem like there's more competition now than there was three years ago?

Blum: The movie business is healthier now than it was three years ago, but no, not really. Our part of the business isn't really the sexy part. I see more movies getting made, yeah, but people tend to equate success with bigger budgets in Hollywood, and I really have the opposite idea. We're really trying to do as little that's more than $4-5 million as possible. There are a couple bigger things that sneak in here and there, but I really try not to do them often. Whereas a lot of companies will do a low budget movie here and there in between their big budget stuff. But as for companies that are set up just to do low budget movies...I don't see that too often. Do you know about someone I don't? It's less specific companies and more that the VOD marketplace seems to have blown up in recent years.

Blum: VOD is totally different. The VOD market for us is way better than it use to be. Some of our movies go straight to S-VOD or VOD and do very, very well. A few years ago a movie could sell that way for maybe $300-400,000 and now it's six, seven times that amount, which means there's more demand. That's not how we stay in business, though.

We stay in business by movies that go wide theatrically. The reason that our budgets have been able to creep from $2 million to $4 million is because the movies that don't go wide have been easier to recoup on on VOD. We don't make movies with the intention of going straight to VOD. That doesn't mean a handful don't go that way, but it's never the plan. That's not how we stay in business. In the past you've talked about a courtship process where you had to convince talent to go along with your low budget plan, but now that Blumhouse is a very proven, very successful model, do you still have that courtship process? Are you still pitching directors to join you?

Blum: We always have to court directors. A lot of directors we want to work with have reservations about doing lower budget movies. I'm always, always pitching the model. A lot of people are still skeptical of it. Some time I talk them into it, sometimes I don't, but I'm always pitching. On the flip side of that, do you now find that more and more people are pitching you? Is it hard to go out for a sandwich without someone saying "I've got this great idea for a horror movie"?

Blum: [Laughs] A little bit. A little bit. It's in a nice way. Did the grand reception of Whiplash change the kind of movies you want to have under the Blumhouse banner? Do you have Oscar fever now?

Blum: No, I really don't. Whiplash was a tremendous experience, and on our slate there are maybe one or two other movies that are...I guess more specialized movies is the way to say it? No, the focus of the company is more scary movies and that will continue to be the focus. If a future Whiplash slips in there every now and then, I'm not going to stomp my foot about it, but that's not the focus. When you come across a project like Jem and the Holograms, do you have to get a bit more involved because it's not your normal movie? Does it pique your interest a bit more?

Blum: It doesn't pique my interest more, but I do get more involved.  I spent a lot of time on Whiplash and Jem and In a Valley of Violence, which is a Western we have. When we do movies that are outside of the genre that we're most accustomed to, I think it's fair to say that I may get slightly more involved because we're doing something new and different. But we also just finished Sinister 2 and I was super, super intensely involved in that, so it varies. Blumhouse is constantly getting involved with things outside of movies and TV. You've done Blumhouse of Horrors in the past and the Paranormal Activity VR experience was just announced. Is there a new frontier that you're most excited about?

Blum: We have a book coming out on July 7th called the Blumhouse Book of Nightmares. I'm not very prejudiced about the medium of something, though I am a bit prejudiced about the genre. But it doesn't matter if it's a live event or a short that might go online or a book or a show or a movie. If it's great and scary, we try to pursue it. I don't say "We're only doing TV and movies." I try to say "We're only doing scary." Will the Paranormal Activity VR thing be its own standalone game or does it connect to the movie?

Blum: No, it factors into the movie. When it comes to the Book of Nightmares, is that a sort of beta for you to test out ideas for features?

Blum: No, no, no. It is definitively not that. All of the authors who wrote stories for it have retained all TV and movie rights to their stories. It definitely isn't that, it's really what I said before. We have a lot of imprints and I just want to do scary. The thing that's different about this anthology is that all of these stories have never been published before. These aren't just published stories that I liked and wanted to publish together. These are all people I like who I went to to write original stories. And I definitely want to do more books. Books are not a means to an end for me, they are an end unto themselves. Before you go, I wanted to run down a list of some future projects and get their status. What's the status on In a Valley of Violence?

Blum: The movie is almost done, but not quite. We don't have a release plan yet, but will have one forthcoming. So no big updates there. 6 Miranda Drive?

Blum: Movie is almost complete. Not quite yet. Same thing as Valley of Violence. Since I have a feeling that'll be the answer for all of these, I'll just ask what project in the pipeline are you most excited about exposing people to?

Blum: I could never answer that question because I could never have any favorites. I am very excited about The Gift, Joel's movie, and The Gallows. Scott Derrickson was really involved in Sinister 2 and Cargill was really involved, so I think people are going to be happily surprised by that movie. It turned out great. Night's movie The Visit is really cool. And then Jem and Paranormal are next, which rounds out our slate for the year, so that's what I'm most excited about right now.  

The Lazarus Effect is out now on Blu-ray, DVD and Digital HD.

Read our 2012 interview with Jason Blum here.


Categories: Features, Interviews, Horror
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