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Interview with Dan Farrands from “Scream: The Inside Story”

April 04, 2011

We had the opportunity recently to speak with Dan Farrands and Thommy Hutson the Director and Writer of “Scream: The Inside Story.”  You can find our interview with Dan Farrands below, and our interview with Thommy Hutson here.  “Scream:  The Inside Story” airs on A&E Biography on April 6th.

Before the Trailer: How did you get started creating documentaries for the horror industry?

DF: I really am a film maker first and foremost. I produced “The Haunting in Connecticut” for Lionsgate. I wrote one of the Halloween films. So my background is really a writer and producer of films. I really grew up loving the Friday the 13th series, the Nightmare on Elm Street series, and it was my love of those two series in particular that led me to do first “His Name was Jason” and all of the special editions of Friday The 13th for Paramount. And then we followed those up with “Never Sleep Again” last year which was the definitive look at the Nightmare on Elmstreet series.

BTT: How did you become involved in particular with the A&E “Scream: The Inside Story”?

DF: It was actually kind of a combination of things. We had obviously done, “Never Sleep Again” which actually became “The Inside Story: A Nightmare on Elm Street” for the Bio Channel. So it was based upon that relationship and the success of that show. They asked what else we were up to and what we would like to do and we talked about several ideas. “Scream” was one that we were excited about and they were very excited about it knowing that “Scream 4” was coming up. And obviously we had such a good existing relationship with Wes Craven from the “Elm Street” project that it just sort of made perfect sense to do “Scream” right after that.

BTT: That sounds like that worked out pretty well then.

BTT: When you first knew you were going to do the “Scream” documentary, what were you looking for? What was the goal?

DF: We really wanted to do it as a real inside story, rather than “Elm Street,” which was created kind of as its own stand alone documentary which we initially released on home video. This was to be a real Inside Story, and they have a very specific format, done with a lot more narration then we typically use. But what is interesting is that series typically focuses on the original film. They did a great one on “Silence of the Lambs,” they did one of “Halloween,” they did one on “Jaws” and if you look at those, and they are all really well done, but they’re very comprehensive looks at the first film. So we were kind of excited about doing that because the sequels to me aren’t as interesting, although we touch on them. Giving the fact that “Scream 4” is coming up and there’s going to be a five and six, I don’t know that there’s a need yet to do the definitive look back. But I think there was really something interesting to be told about the first movie and how that came about.

BTT: You said you had a change to talk with Wes. Did you also have a chance to talk with Kevin Williamson?

DF: Kevin Williamson? No. We actually did not. Kevin is involved in a number of projects including “Vampire Diaries,” so he was not, unfortunately, during our schedule available to meet with us. That being said, he gave us his blessings and we have a lot of footage of really interesting archival bites of him that I think fans are going to enjoy. So, in fact we even get to talk to his agent who sold the script at the time. So that was kind of an interesting perspective to hear sort of how the bidding war for that script came about.

BTT: That will be interesting. Going back to the beginning. Do we learn what the original inspiration was?

DF: Yeah. “Scream” was born out of a number of things, but I think the timing was the perfect synergy. I think the whole horror genre itself had kind of run its course at that time. The slasher movie genre wasn’t in vogue anymore and that’s when Kevin came up with the idea that – let’s do a movie where the characters can reference these other movies, but make them like the kids that grew up watching them. So I think he really tapped into something with that and it reinvigorated things. They were smart in their casting. It was just really good timing.

BTT: Why do you think “Scream” was so successful in reigniting the horror genre?

DF: That’s a good question, there’s probably a hundred different answers for it. But I think it was the right movie, the right time. It was a combination of smart marketing with a smart story that we hadn’t seen before. I think that’s sort of what drove people to see “Scream.” Bob Weinstein, head of Dimension films, took a risk at opening a film like at Christmas time. Not many studio executives would be brave enough to do something like that. He took a chance and it really paid off.

BTT: During your interviews what were you surprised to learn about the story or the production of the films that most fans out there won’t know?

DF: Well there is a lot of them, and I certainly don’t want to give away anything in an interview right now because the show hasn’t aired.

BTT: Certainly.

DF: But there are a lot of really interesting behind the scene stories that we got to ask people about. Everything from the casting to the people that were up for those roles. You learn about some of the other very very well known people that have gone on to be very popular actors who were up for some of these parts. We ask those type of questions. It was interesting to know what the movie might have been if they’d put someone else in that role.

So again the genesis of the project is really interesting. Kevin Williamson, was really – you couldn’t have been anymore down on your luck. He was literally having to house sit for friends because he was so broke at the time and didn’t know how he was going to pay his rent. So he was house sitting for a friend and he happen to come across this Barbara Walter Special on serial killers and one in particular really really scared him, and rightfully so. It was the story of the Gainsville Killer in Florida, which was very much – when you hear that story and really do delve into that – it was really like a horror movie. A true-to-life horror movie. It was watching that special and then calling a friend – because he was in a strange house, house-sitting – calling a friend saying ‘God, I’m really freaked out’ and then the conversation turned into ‘What is your favorite scary movie?’ (Laughs)

And that’s how the whole Drew Barrymore opening scene was created. It came out of his own experience and watching something really scary and then a voice on the phone freaking him out.

BTT: I like that, I think that will really resonate really well with the “Scream” fans out there. To kind of get that back story.

DF: It’s really interesting and it gives you an appreciation more for that opening scene which obviously harkens back to “When a Stranger Calls.” I think he took a little bit of all of the things he loved, and I certainly loved.

On a personal side of the story – I had done one of the Halloweens at that point, and so Kevin and I kind of knew each other. He had just sold the script for “Scream” and it turned out that they filmed the movie in the town where I grew up, which is Santa Rosa, California, and that resulted in a big big controversy because the very high school that I graduated from was to be the high school for “Scream.” And they turned them down after they realized what a violent movie it was going to be. And it became a huge controversy, I mean to the point where it made national news. Because the school had a contract allowing them to shoot there. They did a movie when I went to school there called “Peggy Sue Got Married.” It was a situation where they were kind of judging the content of the film. And there was a big local board meeting that took place in the townhall. Ultimately the school decided not to allow them to shoot there, and at the end of “Scream” if you look at the credits there is “No thanks whatsoever to the Santa Rosa High School governing board.” So it was a big big deal. So I actually got to go to my high school and interview the board members that had made this decision back then. So it was very interesting, not only to hear their side of it, which was an interesting side. They did bring up a number of interesting points of why they would chose not to allow it. But also on a personal level – to go to my old high school that I haven’t been to in many many years. It all kind of comes full circle.

BTT: The original plan for “Scream?” Was it planned to be a trilogy, or was it planned to be a stand alone film?

DF: Interestingly, yeah – it was always intended to be a trilogy. Kevin had very smartly written the treatment for at least “Scream 2” which when his agent sent the script out the treatment for “Scream 2,” or at that point it was called “Scary Movie,” “Scary Movie 2” was clipped to the back of the script. When they bought the original screenplay which was, like I said, called “Scary Movie” before they retitled it “Scream,” there was already a game plan for what “Scream 2” would be. So I think he always thought of it as being the first of a number of these. And boy was he right.

BTT: Why do you think that “Scream” was so successful in blending the humor with the horror?

DF: I think that is the risk that he took and Wes took and the cast took. Will this work as a scary movie because there is so many inside jokes going on? I think they did the right thing in terms of balancing the humor with the horror, so when the deaths happen they’re very real and they’re very scary, but there is enough lightness in between that it keeps the audience entertained. But I think that’s what they did that made it a little bit different.

There’s a lot of fans that are die hard horror fans who despise that film and really think it was kind of off-shooting the era of the teen cast and now all of these faces have to be in the poster. It turned it from a genre that was kind of marginalized to something that was kind of popcorn and family friendly, and the die hard horror fans out there really dislike the movie. And to this day there are message boards where people talk about how much they hate the “Scream” films and how much they ruined the horror genre. My argument there would be that you may not like that particular movie but you can’t deny that it made a $100 million and it opened the door for other film makers to come in and make brutal horror films like “Hostel,” “Saw” and everything else that’s come out after that. I don’t think they would have been given a chance if Scream wasn’t as successful as it was.

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