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The Purge: An Interview with Producer Jason Blum

 

What if one night a year you were legally allowed to commit any crime you wanted? This is exactly the premise of The Purge, a new horror movie starring Ethan Hawk. HC GWU was lucky enough to attend an advanced screening of the movie in Georgetown. The movie did not disappoint, with both a definite scare factor and a political edge. It sparked a conversation in the perfect time to discuss gun control, human nature towards violence, and the typical what would you do?

 

Producer, Jason Blum, shocked the world with movies such as all Paranormal Activity movies, Insidious, and Sinister, which got major box office results with a microscopic budget. Paranormal Activity was named the most profitable movie in Hollywood history when it came out in theaters. HC GWU sat down with Blum to ask about his new movie The Purge and this booming business model.

 Producer, Jason Blum, answering questions from GWU students after an advanced screening of The Purge.

You started in indie films. Why the switch to horror?

What I do is I make movies independently and then I release them with a studio…the movies that most fit that model are horror movies. It’s really fun to have total creative freedom, but then also not to do movies that are only seen by 11 people. It’s frustrating to work for all that time and not get the movies seen. I like to think that we get the best of both worlds, where we make movies low budget, and then, when we get them right, studios release them.

 

Were you ever worried that this model wouldn’t work whenyou started your own company, Blumhouse productions?

I was very nervous when I started my own company in 2000. I was always nervous all the time. It’s hard to go out on your own. I had a great job and I quit. It was hard for a long time. But it got a little easier eventually. After Paranormal Activity.

 

Were you nervous for Paranormal Activity to come out? It eventually became the most profitable movie in Hollywood history.

I was, I was. It took 3 years for the movie to actually finally come out. No one ever thought it would work except the director and I. It was a long struggle, but it was very satisfying when I finally did it. And it opened up this business model that we created.

 

Are there any disadvantages to this model or do you think it’s pretty fool proof?

That’s a good question (pauses). It doesn’t work for all genres. You can’t do drama, and you can’t do comedy. It works for horror; I think it also could work for action or for thriller. Comedy and drama are much more movie star driven. If there’s a disadvantage, that’s it.

 

What about special effects? Aren’t those usually very expensive?

Yeah, we have almost no special effects in our movies, which I like. I think special effects budgets take a director’s eye off of what is important, which is the storytelling. I think when you have big special effects budgets the director gets distracted by that and loses sight of what people are coming to the movies for. And what people are coming to the movies for are emotional moments between characters.

 

Another theme in a lot of your movies is suburbia and having something abnormal happen in a normal place. Why do you think that’s scary for people to watch?

I like situations that are relatable. I think it’s scarier when, instead of being in a made up world, you’re in a very real world. “Suburbia” is very real-feeling, but also isolated.

 

Would you ever direct or do another facet of movies?

Never. I don’t wanna direct, and I don’t wanna write. I think it helps me as a producer because know a lot of producers secretly would like to do that, but I will never direct. I really love what I do, which is producing; that’s putting it together, sending them out there in the world, guiding someone to make them, and then watching them when it’s done. I think that’s very satisfying. But that’s as far as I would go. I would actually hate directing.

 

How come?

God, I think directing a movie is incredibly hard. People can’t do it. Most directors can’t do it. But why wouldn’t I want to do? I don’t have the skill set to do it. I like doing things well, and I don’t think I would do it well.

 

So, The Purge, your newest movie, isn’t in theaters yet. Why have an advanced screening for college kids and why DC?

JB: Well, we have this very specific thing that we’re looking for which is low cost, high concept. And we don’t always get that right, but I think The Purge kind of hits that exactly and it’s the perfect Blumhouse movie. So I came to do a multi-city tour because I’m really proud of what we did and I want to come out and talk about it. Also, it works on two levels – I think it works great as an entertaining scary movie, and I think it works on a political level as well. So whether people like it or not, it definitely evokes strong feelings afterword. I like to engage people in that discussion.

 

How did this screenplay come to you? What’s the process been like start to finish?

JB: The director is a friend of mine and he pitched me this idea and it rang on my alarm bells because of what I just said; I think it’s a great concept. It’s amazing that the concept hasn’t been done before. Anytime you think a concept has been done before and it hasn’t, that’s always a good sign. Then 3 or 4 months after that he sent me the script, and 6 months later we were shooting this movie. It came together really quickly and, it’s never easy, but there was no major drama. We partnered with Platinum Dunes, which is Michael Bay’s company.

 

So if you were in the world of The Purge, what would you have done?

JB: I definitely would have gone to my house and locked the door, put my head under the pillow. I think I would just hole up and hope for the best.

 

The Purge is set to hit theaters June 7th and is sure to cause a stir with its combination of gore and thought-provoking themes. What if one night a year you were legally allowed to commit any crime you wanted? This is exactly the premise of The Purge, a new horror movie starring Ethan Hawk. HC GWU was lucky enough to attend an advanced screening of the movie in Georgetown. The movie did not disappoint, with both a definite scare factor and a political edge. It sparked a conversation in the perfect time to discuss gun control, human nature towards violence, and the typical what would you do?

 

Producer, Jason Blum, shocked the world with movies such as all Paranormal Activity movies, Insidious, and Sinister, which got major box office results with a microscopic budget. Paranormal Activity was named the most profitable movie in Hollywood history when it came out in theaters. HC GWU sat down with Blum to ask about his new movie The Purge and this booming business model.

 

You started in indie films. Why the switch to horror?

What I do is I make movies independently and then I release them with a studio…the movies that most fit that model are horror movies. It’s really fun to have total creative freedom, but then also not to do movies that are only seen by 11 people. It’s frustrating to work for all that time and not the movies seen. I like to think that we get the best of both worlds, where we make movies low budget, and then, when we get them right, studios release them.

 

Were you ever worried that this model wouldn’t work whenyou started your own company, Blumhouse productions?

I was very nervous when I started my own company in 2000. I was always nervous all the time. It’s hard to go out on your own. I had a great job and I quit. It was hard for a long time. But it got a little easier eventually. After Paranormal Activity.

 

Were you nervous for Paranormal Activity to come out? It eventually became the most profitable movie in Hollywood history.

I was, I was. It took 3 years for the movie to actually finally come out. No one ever thought it would work except the director and I. It was a long struggle, but it was very satisfying when I finally did it. And it opened up this business model that we created.

 

Are there any disadvantages to this model or do you think it’s pretty fool proof?

That’s a good question (pauses). It doesn’t work for all genres. You can’t do drama, and you can’t do comedy. It works for horror; I think it also could work for action or for thriller. Comedy and drama are much more movie star driven. If there’s a disadvantage, that’s it.

 

What about special effects? Aren’t those usually very expensive?

Yeah, we have almost no special effects in our movies, which I like. I think special effects budgets take a director’s eye off of what is important, which is the storytelling. I think when you have big special effects budgets the director gets distracted by that and loses sight of what people are coming to the movies for. And what people are coming to the movies for are emotional moments between characters.

 

Another theme in a lot of your movies is suburbia and having something abnormal happen in a normal place. Why do you think that’s scary for people to watch?

I like situations that are relatable. I think it’s scarier when, instead of being in a made up world, you’re in a very real world. “Suburbia” is very real-feeling, but also isolated.

 

Would you ever direct or do another facet of movies?

Never. I don’t wanna direct, and I don’t wanna write. I think it helps me as a producer because know a lot of producers secretly would like to do that, but I will never direct. I really love what I do, which is producing; that’s putting it together, sending them out there in the world, guiding someone to make them, and then watching them when it’s done. I think that’s very satisfying. But that’s as far as I would go. I would actually hate directing.

 

How come?

God, I think directing a movie is incredibly hard. People can’t do it. Most directors can’t do it. But why wouldn’t I want to do? I don’t have the skill set to do it. I like doing things well, and I don’t think I would do it well.

 

So, The Purge, your newest movie, isn’t in theaters yet. Why have an advanced screening for college kids and why DC?

JB: Well, we have this very specific thing that we’re looking for which is low cost, high concept. And we don’t always get that right, but I think The Purge kind of hits that exactly and it’s the perfect Blumhouse movie. So I came to do a multi-city tour because I’m really proud of what we did and I want to come out and talk about it. Also, it works on two levels – I think it works great as an entertaining scary movie, and I think it works on a political level as well. So whether people like it or not, it definitely evokes strong feelings afterword. I like to engage people in that discussion.

 

How did this screenplay come to you? What’s the process been like start to finish?

JB: The director is a friend of mine and he pitched me this idea and it rang on my alarm bells because of what I just said; I think it’s a great concept. It’s amazing that the concept hasn’t been done before. Anytime you think a concept has been done before and it hasn’t, that’s always a good sign. Then 3 or 4 months after that he sent me the script, and 6 months later we were shooting this movie. It came together really quickly and, it’s never easy, but there was no major drama. We partnered with Platinum Dunes, which is Michael Bay’s company.

 

So if you were in the world of The Purge, what would you have done?

JB: I definitely would have gone to my house and locked the door, put my head under the pillow. I think I would just hole up and hope for the best.

 

The Purge is set to hit theaters June 7th and is sure to cause a stir with its combination of gore and thought-provoking themes. 

 

Melissa Minton is a junior at the George Washington University from New Jersey. She is majoring in Journalism and Mass Communications in the School of Media and Public Affairs. Along with being the Campus Correspondant for HC GWU, Melissa is the Vice President of a community service sorority, Epsilon Sigma Alpha. She has interned at Elle Magazine and hopes to one day write for a top fashion magazine.
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