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Jason Blum Has a Secret for Making Great Horror Films: Hire from TV

The king of low-budget horror gems like "Get Out" and "The Purge" is mining TV producers for his films: "The best directors for our movies are showrunners."

Blumhouse The First Purge, Sharp Objects, Get Out

Blumhouse Productions’ “The First Purge,” “Sharp Objects,” and “Get Out”

Annette Brown / Anne Marie Fox / Moviestore/REX/Shutterstock

Jason Blum made his name in the movies, but he loves television. The Blumhouse founder loves television so much, he wishes he could be a showrunner.

“My wife is a writer, and I always say the one thing that I would aspire to more than anything else is the job of a showrunner,” Blum said in an interview with IndieWire. “The single most interesting job to me in Hollywood is a showrunner. The idea of creating a world, getting to see the world live and breathe over multiple years — if you’re good at it — is fascinating.”

This admiration, in part, is why Blum respects television enough to know what separates it from film.

“It is different,” Blum said, ticking off divergent examples like TV’s “rhythm” (“It doesn’t matter if it’s 50 minutes or an hour or 47 minutes or whatever it is — there’s a beginning, a middle, and an end”), or how its time restrictions are really creative gifts in disguise (“parameters create better storytelling”), or even just the shooting style: “[TV] is shot different — you gotta have more close-ups. It’s a different art form, and you have to embrace that.”

Blum is embracing it in a big way. The “Get Out” and “Paranormal Activity” producer upended the indie horror world with low-budget movies that rake in megabucks at the box office, and is now getting serious about television. He’s got a TV adaptation of “The Purge” hitting USA Network in September, the Hulu anthology series “Into the Dark” in October, and his years-in-the-works limited series “Sharp Objects” premieres July 8 — the same weekend the latest iteration of “The Purge” franchise, “The First Purge,” hits theaters.

Sharp Objects HBO Henry Czerny, Patricia Clarkson, Eliza Scanlen, Amy Adams

“Sharp Objects”

Anne Marie Fox/HBO

One would think Blum is taking what he learned from the film world and applying it to the small screen, but the Emmy-winning producer of “The Jinx” doesn’t believe in a 1:1 comparison between mediums, such as the oft-used adage that “TV shows are just 10-hour movies.”

I bristle at the notion of making [a 10-hour movie]. A 10-hour movie sounds so boring to me. But a 10-hour series, I’ve watched many of them and been riveted by them. I don’t think it works to just think of it as a long movie,” he said.

“Jean-Marc [Vallée] did an amazing job on [‘Sharp Objects’] — and it’s really hard to direct all the episodes, which he did — but all the other limited series we’re working on have multiple directors,” Blum said.

Many established film directors are coming to television, including Vallée, the Oscar-nominated helmer of “Sharp Objects,” but Blum is trying to reverse the migration. Instead of hiring film directors to make his TV shows, Blum is trying to hire as many showrunners as possible to direct his films.

“The best directors for us, for our movies, are showrunners,” Blum said. “Better than the man or woman who had the hottest movie at Sundance or the greatest resume or anything else, the best prototype to direct a Blumhouse movie is a showrunner.”

Why? Blum credits TV’s rapid production schedule for preparing directors to make the most of their time on set, as well as for the flexibility needed to make changes as demanded while shooting.

“Showrunners are used to our pace in the movie business,” he said. “We have a somewhat TV-pace in [our] movies, but also the movies are much more successful if the director writes, because you can do stuff on the fly, and the showrunner has a kind-of producer mentality.”

“Get Out”

Justin Lubin

Looking at the Blumhouse production slate, there are a slew of directors with meaningful experience in TV. Jordan Peele immediately comes to mind as the Oscar-winning writer and director of “Get Out.” Though the filmmaker didn’t serve as showrunner on “Key & Peele,” his breakthrough Comedy Central series, he’s the co-creator and produced every season. James DeMonaco worked as an executive producer on “Crash” and “The Kill Point” for two seasons before helming “The Purge” and two of its sequels. Christopher Landon (“Happy Death Day”), Jeff Wadlow (“Truth or Dare”), and Henry Joost (“Viral”) all had TV producing experience before directing a Blumhouse picture.

Still, finding available directors with showrunning experience isn’t easy to do.

“We can never get showrunners to direct our movies because a) they make too much money showrunning, and b) TV is too fancy now, so they’re like, ‘Why would I slum it in the movie business?’ But I’m always trying to get showrunners to direct movies for us.”

Blum pulled it off for three upcoming films. David Gordon Green is directing the “Halloween” reboot; the indie darling has also produced and directed TV series like “Eastbound & Down,” “Red Oaks,” and “Vice Principals.” Craig Zobel will direct “The Hunt,” a new horror movie written by Damon Lindelof, both of whom worked on “The Leftovers.” (Zobel also produced “Kitchen Cousins” for two years before directing his breakout film, “Compliance.”)

“[Veena Sud] is another example,” Blum said. “She just directed a movie for us. It’s called ‘The Lie,’ [previously titled “Between Earth and Sky”]. It’s awesome. I saw it about a week ago for the first time, and, hopefully, we’ll do a lot more with her, but [‘The Killing’] was a great show where I saw something on TV and was lucky enough to talk her into doing a movie.”

With that, Blum laughed; perhaps he wants to be a showrunner so badly because then he’d have one more director for his movies. That’s two dreams in one, and a fitting ambition for the producer who’s trying to have it all.

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