The Fear Factor: Writing Horror For Ghost House Pictures & Blumhouse with Jamie Nash

Tuesday 9 July 2019

This week's interview at Into the Script is with Jamie Nash, a screenwriter born in Baltimore, Maryland who optioned his very first screenplay in 2004 to Hexan Films. That option turned into Jamie’s first produced horror film, Altered and was the start of a 10-year long collaboration with Eduardo Sanchez who is best known for The Blair Witch Project.

Jamie has worked with some of the biggest names in the horror genre which include Blumhouse. Rogue Pictures and Sam Raimi’s production company Ghost House Pictures.

His other credits include Exists which marries the found-footage subgenre with Bigfoot and V/H/S 2.

So if you're interested in writing horror and working for some of the biggest horror names in hollywood such as Jamie has - read on for all his top tips and advice!

Your feature script, Altered, began a collaboration with Eduardo Sanchez (The Blair Witch Project.) 

How did this collaboration come about and what did you learn from this experience - as a writer and about the business? 

Altered was about my 6 or 7th script...maybe my 10th. 

Stuff had just started to click with it takes a while to sort of harness all the skills.

Part of it was I had been mostly writing Farrelly Brothers-style comedy before that. And while those scripts had just started to garner some modest wasn't really what I had deep in my bones. 

My favorite movies were Spielberg Stuff and Robocop and the horror movies I saw in the 80s. I grew up reading Stephen King and Clive Barker and Dean R Koontz.

So when I finally turned to horror, I realized I might not be Farrelly Brothers funny...but I was probably one of the 'funnier guys in horror'. 

It had been a few years since The Blair Witch Project and Ed was looking for his next movie. He didn't want to repeat himself and his sensibilities were 'independent'. 

A producer had put up a listing saying he was willing to look at scripts on 
I sent it. And they responded. Turns out Ed had recently moved about 40 minutes from me in Maryland.

As a Blair Witch fan I thought all of the team lived in Orlando. So it was a shock.

I'd say a few big things came out of that on-going collaboration. 

1. It takes a few scripts before things get started. 

2. Even if you make a movie as big as the Blair Witch Project you still have to hustle your ass off. That's what struck me about Ed -- he was a very harder worker and constantly thinking about several projects. He still does. And so do I.

3. You tend to work a lot with the same people.
Once you find people you click with, don't burn any bridges...try to be an asset...most of my professional work comes from the same 2-3 circles of people. I love them, they love me. We look out for each other. If that circle can be JJ Abrams...lucky you!

4. It takes a lot of rewrites and notes and changes to make a movie. You really have to be willing to roll up your sleeves, park your ego and work with others.

The bulk of your work is in horror. What do you think draws you to the genre? Or do you think the genre chooses the writer?

It might be genetic, to be honest.

From a very young age, I liked to jump out and go "BOO!" at my friends. I liked to make haunted houses in my backyard. I wanted to read Fangoria.

I didn't really have any horror influencers in my life. My friends weren't into it. My family wasn't. And I was a scared kid too.

Haunted Houses and horror movies scared me...but I dabbled in them. I kept testing myself. Pushing my limits on the scares. 

And while I'm a pretty non-confrontational/easy-going person, I tend to have a dark sense and get a sinister pleasure out of people getting scared at my stuff.

Probably even more than getting laughs. 

I love all kinds of movies but I notice I especially like the ones that have horror influences. Raiders of the Lost Ark had crazy gore and like evil looking ghosts coming out of the Ark. Lord of the Rings has all kinds of monsters and gore and violence.

I love the body-horror and dark humor of Robocop.

In some ways, all genre movies have a taste of horror and so do all movies.

They're tension machines that make you squirm.

I guess horror is just the one that pushes that tension past the point of uncomfortable and I like the extreme both as an audience member and a creator.

Can you talk us through your process as you brainstorm concepts? How do you ensure your stories are both terrifying and original when you’re in the development stage? Where do you find your inspiration? 

I used to spend a lot of time brainstorming concepts.

A lot of it was spent trying to throw new wrinkles on things I wanted to dabble with.

Like with Altered -- Fire In the Sky scared the crap out of I said...well, what happened next? What would it look like for those guys five years later? 

I had a concept that Blumhouse was working on for a while called was the same idea...we've seen the Exorcist but what happens 20 years later after someone had that experience.

What if the demons came back...

Lovely Molly simply just came from thinking that no one (at the time) had done demonic possession as found footage.

So I was thinking about why someone would videotape themselves while possessed. The original concept was they were trying to prove it was demons and not mental illness.

The movie changed from that -- it moved away from found footage and amped up the psychological aspects --but that was the original genesis. 

VHS2 was similar.

I thought a zombie apocalypse would be interesting as found footage but needed to find a reason to keep the camera running. So I came up with the whole biker w/gopro gets turned into a zombie idea. 

All of these are new twists on old things.

Usually the ones I work on are the things I can't shake from my brain. 

You have worked with some big names in the horror genre - Blumhouse, Rogue Pictures and Ghost House Pictures. 

Can you share with us what that experience was like? And for those aspiring writers who want to get their work to big Hollywood studios, what advice can you give them?
It's not too different really than anywhere else.

The pay is better than the independent world.

As much as people give crap to studios, I have to say the people are usually wicked smart and are in it for the same reasons you are.

Maybe I've been lucky. The key is the collaborative element.

You can have disagreements and respectfully state your case but you have to be able to go all-in and turn the page once a decision has been made. 

As for getting your work to them...there's no one way to do it.

But it'll usually come about through tenacity.

Finding representation is the common route (no easy task) but I know I worked with producers more than managers and agents early in my career and that was the key to getting material to reps and studios.

Outside of horror, you write family films such as Santa Hunters for Nickelodeon. This is vastly different - both in tone and in the target audience. 

Do you think writers who prominently work in a specific genre should take a break and branch off into another genre ever so often? Or do you let the concept dictate what genre to choose? 

It's really just the way I'm wired.

I love movies. Not a specific genre. I have superhero stories I want to tell, animation, biopics. If you just love horror that's cool too.

I think growing up in the 80's just instilled in me a very broad spectrum of pop-culture love.

And that's really what it's about, keeping that inner-80's child going ;-)

Scott Baker is a screenwriter and producer with a passion for the horror genre. 

You can find Scott on Instagram and on his Twitter


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