Jason Blum, of Blumhouse productions, is probably best associated with the Paranormal Activity pictures, but he's also produced other low-budget, big box-office scare pictures like Insidious and Sinister. I spoke to him before the weekend about his movies past, present and future, about low budgets, creative control, the problems with found footage and more.
Here's some of what he told me, starting with his response to my proposal that Blumhouse were the masters of low-budget horror, and my question if he was driven by potential profit margings, or perhaps by financial responsibility.
That's what we do at Blumhouse, that's correct but it's not driven by profit or responsibility. The way in which can give our directors creative freedom is to keep our costs very low. If the movie makes money, everyone makes money, if it doesn't, no one loses – or they lose very little.
It allows me as a producer and the directors to have total creative freedom. I have final cut on our movies, sometimes I give it over to the directors, sometimes I give it to other producers that we're working with. More often than not, if the directors have a certain amount of experience, they get it.
And so we have good relationships with our directors. I'm about to do another movie with James Wan, there's a couple of movies I'm speaking to Scott Derrickson about. The company is a director driven company. It's really about letting directors do what they want to do in a very contained way.
The first Paranormal Activity is the ultimate example of what I'm doing. It's auteur filmmaking but for commercial movies. Low cost commercial movies are, more of than not, horror movies. Horror movies depend on cast less than comedy, drama or even an action movie. And more often than not they're contained. Scary things happen in small places, not big expanses. A big expanse, generally, is not so scary. The Paranormal films are very intimate and very relatable, and I think that's one of the reasons people enjoy them.
On hiring the directors of Catfish to make Paranormal movies.
I am real good friends with Andrew Jarecki who was a producer on Catfish and he showed it to me very early, way before Sundance. I was super intrigued by it. I loved it. I thought that whether it was true or not, there were a lot of parallels between it and Paranormal Activity, in an abstract way. I did think it was real when I first saw it… I don't think… what's the general consensus on that these days? I think it's better if it's not real.
On building the Paranormal Activity mythology.
The Paranormal mythology has very much been built one brick at a time, but each time we lay a brick, we're thinking about the future. Then again, every time we talk about the mythology early on and we think we know where we're going, we never go there. It's turned out being one brick at a time. And now I would say very definitively that we have no idea where we're going next.
On Paranormal Activity: Tokyo Nights
The Japanese film was a remake. On the first film, we sold the rights territory by territory and the Japanese buyer got the rights to make the film. So we gave the rights away along with the first movie but we're not licensing rights to remake any more of these movies. We aren't going to sell format rights.
On the new, Latino-cast Paranormal Activity spin-off teased after the credits of part 4.
The new spin-off is separate from that. We don't know when we're going to release the spin-off yet. It doesn't have to be October…
And so I asked if this spin-off would build on the main mythology. There was a long pause, then…
I think I've gotta keep that secret. That's under wraps.
On releasing Paranormal films in IMAX
The IMAX release was a gamble when we first did it. We've done it since the second movie. It works great. Before we did it, we had no idea if it would work but it's really fun to see it in IMAX. It's pretty intense, actually.
On the found footage format
I feel that most stories are better told conventionally but some stories, Paranormal in particular, can only be told in that format. Certain stories, that type of filmmaking works well for. I really like it when it's used for the right story, but I agree that there's a lot of found footage movies that shouldn't be found footage movies.
On his future projects
Every now and then I deviate from horror a bit, and there's a couple of things I'm developing away from the genre.
We hope that Insidious 2 is going to happen. We hope. It's not that I'm being coy, it's that a lot of different things have got to happen, and a lot of them have, but not all of them. Though we're getting close.
And finally, on Area 51, the MIA second feature from Paranormal Activity director, Oren Peli
We're… we're… we're going to… we're actually still working on the movie and there will be more to come on that, believe it or not.
Thanks again to Jason for his time. He also told me a thing or two about his haunted house endeavour, The Blumhouse of Horrors. More on that in a full report soon…