Nightlight is the first feature length movie for filmmakers Bryan Woods and Scott Beck. Both were eager to speak with Wicked Horror about how their collaborative approach to writing and directing, as well as how their decades long friendship influenced the project. They also provide a rebuttal to those horror fans who are turned off by the first person perspective and those who wrongly get the impression that this is a ‘found footage’ film.
Wicked Horror: You have been working on film projects for over a decade now. How do you think that your history and working relationship influenced Nightlight and your other projects?
Scott Beck: Right well yeah Bryan and I have known each other since we were…eleven or twelve years old, and we met in middle school and we just started making movies at that same age. [We]…decided to join forces and from there we found we had the same sensibilities and grew up loving the same movies. But I think directly how it influenced Nightlight was that we were friends first and foremost before we were filmmakers, and back in Iowa we used to play flashlight games in the woods. …It was all about (in terms of creating Nightlight) trying to tap into that fear that you feel when you’re eleven or twelve years old, all alone in the forest with a flashlight.
Bryan Woods: Well we have always, absolutely always, loved the Horror genre. It’s always a great kind of vehicle for a director, really. Horror movies tend to be visually experimental and very edgy and the best horror movies, when we think about some of our favorites like Night of the Living Dead, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, The Exorcist–I mean the list goes on and on–those are always movies with a social conscience. They have something to say. So, as filmmakers, I don’t know that there’s a better genre to kind of make your first statement. I mean for us Nightlight is our first feature film and…it felt like the perfect way to come out of the gate and show the world what we have.
Wicked Horror: What do you hope that audiences really get from watching Nightlight? You said it’s a great way to express when you have something to say–is there something in particular that you guys were trying to say through this film?
Scott Beck: Yeah I mean, first and foremost we do hope that audiences just enjoy the roller coaster ride we tried to set out for them. But certainly there’s an undercurrent of teenage issues that Nightlight does address. Part of it’s just not fitting in and not feeling like you’re a part of the crowd, but there’s also the issue of suicide that lives in the back story of Nightlight. That’s certainly something that we feel is relevant, and there’s not necessarily a better genre than horror where you can have the jumps and scares but also aspire to say something. Which is exactly what Bryan was kind of touching on about the Night of the Living Dead comparisons, where you have the theme that kind of substantiates the story and the characters.
Wicked Horror: Definitely. I know that many of the previous projects you’ve worked on have been smaller projects where you have had to wear many hats. So, for Nightlight what was it like for you guys to be able to step back and just play the roles of writer and director?
Bryan Woods: Well I think the job is always the same. The job is always coming up with a story and then communicating the story to the audience. What was amazing about this process was having so many collaborators and so many people helping us to carry out the vision. We’re guys who are very collaborative by nature because we’re a writing/directing team so Scott and I are collaborative with each other but we’re also collaborative with our DP and our first assistant director and our cast. We’re always looking for [the best idea]. Best idea wins essentially, and we had such a great support system on the film.
Wicked Horror: That’s great! I think you guys took a unique approach to the first person horror film that we’re used to seeing. Most of those tend to be in the found footage genre. I know that a lot of horror fans feel like the first person or found footage trope is a little tired. I know you guys did things a little bit differently, but how would you counter that perspective?
Bryan Woods: Listen, I mean, we share that kind of fatigue for that sub-genre to a certain extent. We understand when people are like ‘oh I’m so tired of found footage’ because there is a stigma associated with those films. They tend to be low budget, poorly shot, and sometimes they’re just cash grabs–so that’s not at all where we were coming from. We really appreciate you differentiating it and calling it a point of view film.
Scott Beck: Yeah, I think what Bryan and I really react against–there are certainly found footage movies that we love like Blair Witch or Chronicle or…
Both: Paranormal Activity
Scott Beck: Those movies certainly work for us, but we felt a similar fatigue and also the pitfall of the found footage genre often is that in the second or third act you’re really wondering why these characters are still running around filming all these scary things that are happening. And so, to kind of take it from a point of view that isn’t about hitting a record button or seeing it through the lens of the video camera enables us to substantiate why we’re still seeing the movie when things are really hitting the fan.
Bryan Woods: It also gave us an opportunity to create a slightly more stylized, elevated looking film that relied a little bit more on you know, camera choice and lighting design and it didn’t have to look like a handicam. We tried really hard to make it…more beautiful looking than the typical found footage film.
Wicked Horror: Personally…I thought it was a gorgeous film and I really liked the fact that the first person perspective gave you the ability to be just as freaked out as the characters whenever something would move off in the distance… Well played!
Scott Beck: Thank you, we appreciate that.
Wicked Horror: I’m curious about what you guys hope Nightlight will add to the current horror climate, and what separates it from “the pack” of what is out there?
Scott Beck: You know first and foremost I hope that people see it’s not a found footage movie necessarily. We feel the fatigue and we’re trying to do something different and I hope that inspires others to do something different and just breathes even more life into the horror genre. We don’t want to see it die and we don’t want to see movies being overdone so it’s always about aspiring to go above and beyond what has been done before.
Nightlight is out on March 27th in select theaters and on VOD from LionsGate Entertainment.