When you get a chance to interview Jason Blum, no matter how long you’re given, the timeframe will never be long enough. With so many projects being produced by Blumhouse Productions, there are so many different questions worth asking.
Recently, Jason was in Austin to promote his new film Unfriended, which kicked my South by Southwest festival off with a horrifying bang, and ten minutes flew by as I pulled a few other titles out of my grab-bag assortment of questions. When you walk into one of his interviews, you better be ready. Time is of the essence, working against your best efforts to touch on projects that are begging for updates or new information.
I started the interview by asking about Unfriended, and how the ambitious nature of a laptop-screen-view presents certain problems, but I quickly found myself begging for some additional updates. Calling back to a previous interview I conducted with Jason in New York City, I brought up a quote claiming Oren Peli’s Area 51 was almost done (something said about two years ago), so of course I asked if there’d been movement on the project since. I also tried to get the possible involvement of Michael K. Williams in The Purge 3 out of Jason, as well as a few plot confirmations. Unfriended is definitely a movie that’s worth talking about, but this is Jason Blum – you only get so may opportunities to strike journalistic gold.
Enjoy the interview!
WGTC: When you introduced Unfriended at South by Southwest, you mentioned that the film has constantly been evolving and changing over time. How many times has your team changed the film around, particularly the ending?
Jason Blum: We’ve changed it a lot, but the heart and soul of the film is very close to the version I saw over the summer, which is when I first saw the movie. We’ve been tweaking little details, like how slow can you get away with the beginning, and the ending is most certainly different than what it was. That’s what’s fun about these movies, you can go back. Paranormal Activity had fifty versions because it was $250 to reshoot. We’d screen it, see one thing wrong, shoot for an hour, fix it, and then screen it again. You don’t have to be disciplined about it. On a regular movie you have to screen it and think of every problem, reshoot for three days and SOLVE every problem, and then you’re done. With a film like this, you don’t have to do it that way.
WGTC: What’s your most horrifying internet experience?
Jason Blum: I’ll tell you what, I’ll give you the scariest experience I’ve ever had. I don’t believe in ghosts or paranormal activity, but one time I think I saw, I might have seen – no, I think I did see a ghost. I lived on Crosby Street in New York City. It was a store-front apartment, rent was like $1,000, and there were three of us living there. That’s $350 each. One of us was in the back, one of us was in the front where the store would be, and I was in the basement, where you couldn’t quite stand up. I was downstairs, and I saw a figure at the end of my bed. It wasn’t menacing, it wasn’t nice, it was just there. It wasn’t a dream. Even though I can’t put these two things together, because I claim to have seen a ghost yet I don’t believe in them, that was the only supernatural experience I’ve had. It didn’t make me a believer, but it was enough to make me tell you the story right now. [Laughs]
WGTC: Were you ever afraid that the whole computer screen gimmick would be hard to pull off, or that the gimmick wouldn’t play favorably for an entire feature?
Jason Blum: Oh, I still wonder about that, but my mind never wanders when watching Unfriended. There’s a lot to look at. You kind of get to direct the movie yourself, because you choose where you look on the screen, and I love that. It’s new, besides a Modern Family episode shot like that, and a few shorts, but there are very few mainstream movies that never leave the computer screen.
WGTC: Well I was going to ask if the film was inspired by movies like The Den, Open Windows, Cam2Cam, and a few other likeminded independent films…
Jason Blum: I actually wasn’t really aware of those films, what did you think of them, as it compares to this?
WGTC: It plays pretty similarly to The Den at parts, but Unfriended sets itself aside by getting all the proper licensing to use programs like Gmail and Skype instead of having to make up fake applications. Your story is completely different, don’t get me wrong, but the tone and feel do hit on some of the same notes.
Jason Blum: Hmmm, The Den? [starts reading the synopsis] And you liked it? I’ll have to check it out.
WGTC: And trust me, to reiterate, Unfriended is different, and especially because it’s more mainstream. Getting back to the programs though, was it hard to get the permission to use actual branding?
Jason Blum: Yes, we do use actual software programs, and no comment. [Laughing] No comment, for sure.