Even Jeremy Saulnier, the writer-director of the seriously disturbing horror movie “Green Room,” has his limits when it comes to violence in movies. Saulnier recently addressed a seemingly endless list of questions from fans in post on Letterboxd, delving into topics ranging from negative reviews to the box office performance of his films to what his dream directing job would be.
Here are some of the highlights from his nearly 10,000-word Q&A, slightly condensed for clarity:
On “The Texas Chain Saw Massacre”:
“The Texas Chain Saw Massacre” has certainly influenced me as a filmmaker, and I certainly see some parallels, but it wasn’t a primary reference for “Green Room” (perhaps subconsciously?). My main reference was “Straw Dogs,” and that was the only film I watched and broke down before I wrote the script.
On what he finds difficult to watch in violent movies:
I hate when guns are pointed at infants or children who are not old enough to ‘consent’ to being part of on-screen violence. It just creeps me out.
On the box office performance of “Green Room”:
I know it could’ve done better at the box office. Tough to gauge exactly what the circumstances were, but the film tested very highly with audiences compared to other indie horror/thrillers but didn’t perform as well. But I do think it’s a good time for indie horror, it’s just a matter of how much marketing will be done on the film’s behalf. I wish I didn’t have to worry about terms of distribution, but it’s certainly part of the overall picture so it’s good to be informed. My long game is to build a library of films that have a long life, that will be discovered by film nerds for decades to come, and that will generate revenue for my partners over the long term.
On whether he wants to venture outside of genre films:
I absolutely want to branch out, but genre films are too damn fun to make and offer the most exciting visual opportunities. I actually started out making comedies and hope to explore many different types of films throughout my career…I will eventually make a film my whole family can watch!
Big action would be a dream, but there’s not a lot of opportunities out there to do it right. “Sicario” is a rare exception. Comedy and sci-fi aren’t off the table either, as long as I can tell those stories in a ‘grounded and artful’ way!
On his biggest filmmaker influences:
Biggest influences would be Peter Jackson (for over-the-top gore), the Coen brothers (for their singular mix of realism/comedy/tragedy in their portrayal of violence) and Martin Scorsese, especially “Taxi Driver,” for the awkward and brutal small-scale effects that I emulate in my films.
On how he builds tension in his movies:
A key element to building tension is knowing how to play with the concept of information deprivation, as it applies to both the characters and the audience. Knowing (or not knowing) something can be absolutely terrifying.
On dealing with negative reviews:
A director should not take reviews too seriously and must ultimately acknowledge that their work is in the public sphere, subject to and vulnerable to all that lay eyes on it. But as a person, negative reviews certainly have a negative effect.
It’s just about training yourself as an artist not to engage (which I’ve done in the past and always regret). I never have beefs with negative reactions to my work (I’ve got plenty of issues with my own films), but I do get ticked off, and must resist responding, when a reviewer makes incorrect assumptions, assigns false intentions, or somehow tries to ‘diagnose’ what didn’t work behind the scenes…Ultimately, it’s best if I stop checking Rotten Tomatoes and looking at snarky comments in IMDB message boards, but it’s hard to resist.