Interview: Ti West Talks ‘The Innkeepers’ at SXSW
Interview with Ti West – The Innkeepers
Interview conducted by Britt Hayes at SXSW 2011
In the crazy hectic environment that defines the SXSW experience Ti West took a few minutes of his time to sit down and chat with Managing Editor Britt Hayes and talk about his newest project The Innkeepers, and hinted at an upcoming project that would round out his trilogy of terror that includes The House of the Devil.
BAH: So tell me where you got the idea to make the Innkeepers. The fake hotel is a real hotel right?
Ti West: Yes. When we were making House of the Devil we were staying at this hotel called Yankee Pedlar and we would drive about forty minutes every day to shoot at the house in the middle of nowhere. And what happened when we were making the movie is that weirder stuff was happening at the hotel than was happening at the Satanic movie set, you know? It was just a really weird kooky bizarre place. And I didn’t think much of it. It just was what it was. Then The House Of The Devil got finished, came out and did okay and then I was starting to do another movie and I just didn’t want to do it, so I was trying to think about what I could do instead, and what could I do that’s small so it could happen quickly? So I was talking to a friend of mine and we talked about the Yankee Pedlar, and we thought what if we could make that movie? And what if we could shoot there? It would be really cheap because then we could just live and shoot there, and it’s already ready to go because I would just write what it looks like because it’s a real place. They remembered us and they were glad to have us back and it happened super fast and that was it.
BAH: How did Sara and Pat get sold?
Ti West: Pat I knew because he did a movie called Great World of Sound, that a friend of mine directed. I shot Pat an email, he read the script and liked it and that was all it took. Sara was recommended by her agent and I didn’t really know that much about her but then we talked on the phone and we met and she was just awesome and she really got it. So much in the movie has this very specific kind of dry humor in it and not everyone is good at that and she… you wouldn’t know it from seeing Sara Paxton because she’s like this very beautiful blonde girl in movies, but when you meet her she’s a like goofball, and so that’s why I was like “Oh this girl is going to be great” and we put a lot in the script, but I was really able to go a lot further with it because that’s how she is.
BAH: She’s really funny. I really love how natural it is, the comedy, it’s really like two friends that have inside jokes, and nobody is forcing any jokes out or trying to get the comedic timing right, and I feel like that’s why it’s so funny.
Ti West: Right.
BAH: Can you talk a little bit about the comedy aspect to this film, because it’s obviously not a comedy in the end?
Ti West: You know, House of the Devil is about this girl who’s broke and bummed out and I didn’t want to do that again. But also you know it’s like I made a couple movies that are very sparse in dialogue and very slow paced and now it’s sort of a thing and everyone is like “that’s your thing”, and those just got made first, you know? So I kind of really wanted to do something that was contained, that I could do inexpensively, but do something where I could be like, you know… I like movies about people and I had made these more tonal movies before, not that this isn’t, but I wanted to get away from the other things and do… like I have a stack of scripts that are not horror movies, because they’re hard to get made because you need more money. So I wanted to kind of infuse some of that in this way – just make a movie that’s charming, was what I was going for.
BAH: It was very cute and very charming, and then really mean. (laughs)
Ti West: Oh yeah.
BAH: Talk about the effects and visuals that you used and how you decided how much you wanted to show and how much you didn’t want to show.
Ti West: Well the effects are really just make-up on actors. There’s no CGI or anything. It’s an old fashioned ghost story in a Charles Dickens kind of way, so I never really wanted to emphasize, and it’s very important to me that there’s two very clear perspectives on the movie where you get a kind of skeptic look at it where there really are no ghosts, but it’s this kind of paranoia that took over this part of it or it’s a ghost that’s very real.
So I wanted to do two things. But, I didn’t want this jump scare stigma that they [audiences] are used to, and there aren’t really ghost stories like that. It’s all very quiet, so I was just trying to play with expectations a little bit. Like it’s hard to keep it fresh for myself. So, trying to take expectations of weird post-modern, everyone knows how movies work now, so just trying to kind of trick them a little bit, to let them get back to where they weren’t so like…
BAH: Yeah I was saying earlier that your film is like the anti-Insidious, because Insidious is very loud and there’s a lot of loud cues and some places you end up seeing too much, and I feel like here it’s just enough. There are no loud, jarring aural cues and it’s just a very simple story.
So you seem to take a lot of risks as well. Your last few films are kind of risky films to make – what are the things that scare you?
Ti West: I don’t know. Not horror stuff really. If there were any horror stuff it would be ghost stuff, but not really. Stuff doesn’t really bother me. I don’t really believe in it, so I don’t know. I’m kind of a weird work-a-holic kind of person. I just want to keep doing stuff, so making movies is very traumatic in a way, a very unpleasant experience, but it’s also a really great way to meet people who are going to enter your life and stay in your life, like crew members I worked with on this movie I’ve worked with on the last couple movies, and they’re just also really good friends and you go to some weird place in Connecticut and you have these life experiences, and that to me is a big value, because it’s more a lifestyle than career, and so I think the things that do scare me would be not doing them . It’s not horror movies, it’s like not being able to do what I do.
BAH: Are there any projects that you’re working on?
Ti West: Yeah – I have a science fiction movie.
BAH: That would be pretty amazing.
Ti West: Yeah so we’ll see. It almost makes a trilogy out of these other two, so we’ll see where it goes.
BAH: Awesome. Thank you and nice talking with you.
Ti West: Well thank you. It was nice meeting you.