After working on a wide-release studio picture, it’s not hard for Bryan Woods — co-writer and producer of A Quiet Place — to imagine his characters in high-stress situations. “Imagining the worst case scenario is a great metaphor for the film business,” Woods told a crowd at FilmQuest on Friday.
Woods co-writes and co-directs with his filmmaking partner Scott Beck, which includes A Quiet Place, 2019’s Haunt and the upcoming Adam Driver-vehicle 65, which is produced by Sam Raimi. During the “Creating a Franchise” talk at FilmQuest, Woods stressed the importance of learning to take notes.
“We’re almost to the point where no note is a bad note,” said Woods. “You have to get kind of zen about it… Oh, interesting thought, studio — we never thought about it like that!”
“You have to do your best to figure out where the note is coming from,” he continued. “What’s the note behind the note?” When in need of a more practical solution, Woods suggested, “Filter everything back through the vision of the movie, of the story you are trying to tell.”
To express the anxiety inherent in a horror film, Woods and Beck add flavor to their screenplays through formatting. “We’re big believers in the words on the page can tell a story, in the way words hit the page,” Woods said. “If we’re writing something suspenseful, we like the writing to get broken up… two words… four words… back to two words.”
When it came to A Quiet Place, “there were whole pages that were just blank except for one word in the middle of the page, to communicate that tension,” Woods said.
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Woods also shrewdly discussed how scalability should be factored into any screenwriter’s creative process.
“Scalability is a huge factor in everything we write because every financier, every studio’s job is to say no — so we try to remove those barriers as much as possible,” he said.
“You could make A Quiet Place for a half of a million dollars,” he added. “If Paramount didn’t want to make that movie, we would have made the half-of-a-million version.”
While Woods preached scalability, he admitted it was something Woods and Beck had to learn themselves.
“I would encourage everyone to think in those terms,” Woods said. “The first screenplays we wrote were these $200 million dollar Star Wars-esque movies nobody is ever going to let us make. So that was a lesson hard-learned.”
FilmQuest wraps today.
Main image: Emily Blunt in A Quiet Place, co-written by Bryan Woods.