We recently sat down with writer-director-editor Ti West, best known for his masterful The House of the Devil, to talk about his latest film, The Innkeepers (out December 30th on VOD) and it ended up being an in-depth, hour-plus discussion about the unique and borderline obsessive way West approaches filmmaking, how his films are marketed, what really happened with Cabin Fever 2, what the current state of indie filmmaking is like, what it's like trying to make a film in the studio system, and what he's working on next.
Since it ended up being such a beast of an interview (the final transcription came in just shy of 7,000 words!), we've decided to break it up into different sections instead of assaulting you with a massive wall of text all at once. Note, missing links will be added as their respective posts go live:
The Cabin Fever 2 Controversy and What Actually Happened (you are here)
Movie Marketing, Poster Designs and Obsessing Over the Little Details
His Style of Filmmaking, Clashing With the Studio System, His Space Movie and His Werewolf Comedy
The Difference of Shooting Film, Current Horror Trends, You're Next and Joe Swanberg
Movies.com: During the Fantastic Feud, someone blurted out "Cabin Fever 2!" -
Movies.com: And you responded with "Too soon!" Is that really a "too soon" topic for you?
West: No, it isn't. I've never really cared. I'm not a precious person, I'm just a very honest person about things and it's a sh*tty scenario and it sucks, but I've made two movies since and I feel like in that time, anyone who is aware of me is aware of the fact that something went wrong with that movie. All I wanted was to get my name off of it so I wouldn't have to explain myself over and over again, but, ya' know... It's a shame, but it's not something that I can't talk about or anything.
Movies.com: Is your name off of it? I don't remember.
West: No, I couldn't get it off. It was a really complicated, bureaucratic process to get it off.
Movies.com: Did the problems with that movie stem from you not being able to work with your normal crew?
West: No, actually. There were a lot of new people on that movie who I've brought onto my subsequent movies. No, it was without a doubt the best experience I've ever had making a movie, including the recent ones. Until halfway through post production, and then it was a total disaster. Up until then, though, I felt totally supported.
Movies.com: I'm guessing the animated sequences weren't yours?
West: Well, they weren't, and those were done long after I was gone, but the reason they exist in the movie is because I was going to do that. They were like, "Well, I know he wanted to do that, so let's just do it," but they made these Flash animations. The way I had it was this kind of Savage Steve Holland, very interactive A-Ha type music video pencil drawings. So they did take the information that I was going to do that, so in fairness they were like, "Well, he was going to do that, so let's just do that," but it wasn't what it was supposed to be.
They're not bad people. It's not particularly Lionsgate and it's not particularly the producer, it was just a combination of a lot of bad stuff happened and the way I looked at it was, "We can get through all this bad stuff if I take the lead on things." And they looked at it like, "We can get through all this bad stuff if we take the lead on things." We were just going in different directions.
I think they thought I would compromise and just go with them, but I didn't. I stuck to my guns, which really made things even more polarized. Then it got to the point where I was just like, "Look, with what you guys are trying to do with this thing, I'm just in your way and it's better if you just do it without me." So I quit, which was a heavy decision to make.
I made this, for lack of better terms, John Waters, Todd Solondz type movie that everyone was on board with, but at some point they decided that they weren't on board with it anymore. It wasn't that they just changed their minds about it, it's that I don't think they quite grasped what I was talking about. And when they were faced with it and the way I edit things – I don't temp a lot of stuff – and I think, the producer didn't, but Lionsgate had a hard time wrapping their head around what we were making because of the way they were being presented it.
I come from a Glass Eye Pix world and presenting to the people I always work with, and so it was partly my ignorance in how I presented it to them. I didn't realize how much I had to spoon feed it to them. And that's not a diss to them, it's just what they're accustomed to and what I'm accustomed to is very different. So that's kind of where it went wrong, and I just thought, "Give me two weeks to temp the sh*t out of it and cut some things and I will make the movie you want," but the option was, "No, we'd rather just get a new editor and start over."
That to me was just pulling the rug out too soon, but I even agreed to that! But it was six months before they even hired a new editor, and that was in the time that I got the money to make House of the Devil. So when they finally came back and said, "Hey, we got a new editor, but we don't want to make the movie without you, so can you come work on it with us?" But I was already making this other movie, so I asked if they could wait till I got back, and they were like, "No, we'll just finish it without you." And then they didn't finish it without me. It was a weird thing.
Movies.com: It's actually a freakishly fascinating movie, because you can see the seeds of what was yours, but it's like this other movie just keeps getting in the way.
West: People always say, "Well how different can it be? You wrote it and directed it," and it's like the best way I can describe how much the music and the editing is a part of filmmaking is by saying the movie is to me like Dane Cook telling Seinfeld jokes. The material is not that bad, but the delivery is causing it to not work at all. It's like Dane Cook enthusiastically going, "WHAT IS THE DEAL WITH..." – and no one would laugh.
It's not the content, it's the delivery. I always say it's like a local band covering a Michael Jackson song. They're like, "What? It's the same words, doesn't it sound the same?" And that's not to compare myself to that level, it's just to say that even if the material is the same, the delivery is everything.