Writer, Director Drew Goddard Talks CABIN IN THE WOODS, CLOVERFIELD 2 and ROBOPOCALYPSE
Twitch was created because so many good little films fall through the cracks of fandom. When one of those movies is rescued from obscurity, or especially from studio politics or just plain because we get a little crazy around here. When one of those movies involves major contributions from Joss Whedon- well.... YEAH BABY!!!! IMO The Cabin in the Woods is indeed every bit as fun as you've heard. I got the chance to sit down with director and co-writer Drew Goddard who is tall, much better looking than me and a heckuva lot better at what he does. He's also impossible to hate and has a lot of insightful things to say about the life a writer in Hollywood. He's also, and this blew my mind a little going in, one of the few people to have worked with J.J. Abrams, Joss Whedon and of late, the legendary Steven Spielberg for whom he is penning Robopocalypse. Oh, and he wrote Cloverfield. I'll shut up now. Drew Goddard is talking.
Is it still easy for you to get excited about the film now that you've been living with it so long?
DG: When we've watched this film with an audience people just lose their minds. That has been awesome. Joss and I embrace the aesthetic here, no punches pulled, no playing safe. It's a movie full of monsters and blood and gore. At one point Joss and I were talking a lot about horror movies and how much we wanted to make one. Joss had this basic idea and the title and as soon as I heard it I was in. I'm really proud of it.
I'd think it would be pretty daunting to tackle something like this at this point in your career. Not only is the movie extremely violent, definitely R rated, but it's also tackling a pretty shop worn premise.
DG: I learned early on not to take the easy route. I got offered writing gigs on some big shows but did a small little WB show about vampires instead. It confused people. Same thing when I decided to go with J.J. He was really on the fringe at that time. It wasn't like I knew all this shows, all these people, would be a big success. I did know what interested me and what didn't. If that stuff hadn't worked out career wise I'd still be able to look back on that time and know I made the right choice because that was where I wanted to be. Cabin, same thing. I wanted to see what Joss and I could do with the material and I'm glad it worked out. But even if it isn't a huge hit I'm still glad I did it.
Traveling back and forth between Joss and J.J. you've watched TV become more and more like the movies. Do you have a sense that is gonna continue?
DG: Oh yes. In terms of quality I think we're already there. I've seen just as much beautiful cinematic storytelling on television, maybe even more, than I'm seeing in theaters. There are inherent differences between the two mediums but their less noticeable than ever before.
In film I guess I'm thinking about Star Trek, or the last two Mission Impossible films, and certainly Cabin and the current crop of superhero films. The rhythm of those action sequences, the way a lot of them are shot, and the way characters are carried through storytelling arcs seems very TV influenced.
DG: Oh it absolutely cuts both ways.
Moving between those mediums has given you an extraordinary amount of access to shaping the popular culture of things you love, types of characters etc. Are you haunted by that responsibility sometimes?
DG: I try not to think about it a ton. I think if I did it would paralyze me. I certainly wouldn't work as well. I've always been sort of introverted. I like sitting alone in a room writing. I really do feel uncomfortable in crowds. Where I think that has served me well is that I'm living in an age where every single move I make as a writer (even as person) is subject to being second guessed, commented on etc. I'm like anybody else. A hundred people can say something really nice but it still only takes a few to tear you down. Heck. I've been in the position where I've had worked praised by a lot of people even though I knew it wasn't my best work. Things I've thought were my best work didn't get the attention I hoped they would. At the bottom of it all is story. I loved stories before I became a writer and I have come to believe that I must trust that part of myself that wants to hear good stories.
Do you think storytelling in TV is better than when we were kids?
Well I mean just look at the Twilight Zone. Those guys were pumping out tons of episodes a year of amazing quality. They would laugh at us today with our 22 episode schedules, even when the special effects were cheesy the stories, more often than not were great.
But of course what people remember from their childhoods about TV are these larger than life shows. People are far more fond of Twilight Zone or Wild Wild West than Perry Mason or Playhouse 90. Having written key episodes of Buffy, Angel and Lost do you think that's still the case?
DG: This is absolutely at the core of Cabin in the Woods. I think that's absolutely the case. We want archetypes. They are what have made up the vast majority of stories that survive the test of time. We have a need to know that these things we yearn for, and our heroes and characters in stories, are bigger than who we are. Even in an apocalyptic horror story like this, and we nod to Lovecraft all over the place in Cabin, the characters represent not just individuals we can relate to, but bigger, abstract concepts that have to do with our loves and hates and despairings and hopes. In the end we want meaning. We especially desire for our desire to have meaning.
Speaking of desire, I have to ask about Cloverfield 2.
DG: Oh that makes me happy. The truth is we don't know. Usually when a film is that successful the studio will come along and say, "We're making a sequel, you can be part of it or not." But because of J.J. we have breathing room. We only want to do it if we can maintain the spirit of the first one which was a desire to do something different something new. Of course the downside of time is that Matt, J.J. and I have all become really busy. All these damn other movies have gotten in the way.
I know. Damn. You have to work with Spielberg on Robopocalypse. Damn, damn, damn.
DG: LOL, I'm not complaining. Here's what I've learned. Planning for the future is always fun but the plain truth is you never know who you'll be two years from now. When I was younger I had it all mapped out. But it changed. Who knows what I'll want to write about, or make a movie about in two years. A chance to make a movie about robots with Steven Spielberg? Yes, jumped on that. But doing what interests you at any given time will do nothing but encourage your creativity and your ability to tell a good story. When you make a movie you are crawling into a trench to go to war with a whole bunch of people. If my meeting with Steven about Robopocalypse had revealed that I wasn't a good fit for the project then so be it. The worst place to be lost is in the middle of making a movie.
You know, incidentally, most of the time, you find you aren't on the same page in those meetings. You meet lovely people, and there's a lot of mutual respect but the fit just isn't right for that project. At those times it's really important to remember when you were making $12,000 a year.