First making a name for himself with viral horror hit 12 Feet Deep, writer and director Matt Eskandari has since spent the past couple of years working on a series of thrillers with none other than Bruce Willis.
The latest one, Survive The Night, follows Willis’ character Frank and his family as they are held hostage at their home by criminals on the run after a robbery goes awry.
We chatted to Eskandari about all things his latest movie, working with Willis and the future of independent cinema.
Zavvi: How did you become involved with the project, what drew you to the story?
Matt: Well, I have always wanted to do a home invasion thriller, you know you take this family and put them in a situation where they are forced to confront this threat, and someone entering into your own home is a high stakes and tense situation.
But also one of the main aspects which stood out to me was the relationship between the brothers. It was really interesting as it was almost like we were asking the audience to sympathise with the bad guys, which is uncomfortable.
Most of the time with films like this its always faceless goons, strangers in masks, you never get to see the side of the villains, so that drew me in.
Zavvi: It is a different dynamic. Of course we have to talk about Bruce Willis, how did he become involved? You worked on a film together before?
Matt: Yeah this is the second time I have worked with Bruce, and it was a lot more fun. The first film was an experience understanding the stuff Bruce likes doing. On Trauma Center I noticed he likes doing these intimate character driven scenes.
Anytime there were stakes in the scene, there was a glimmer in his eye, so on this we went back and did a major rewrite to ensure that his character has an arc, and emotional stakes. It was fun to develop that.
From the moment he showed up to set he was super excited, and had lots of ideas. Having him on set elevates everything, and watching him do any scene is fascinating, how someone of his calibre works.
Zavvi: Were you initially concerned to work with Bruce, there are plenty of stories online from other filmmakers, and he has a bit of reputation for being bad to work with?
Matt: Yeah, I had read some stories about that, like the Kevin Smith stuff, but I had a completely different experience.
Like a lot of actors of that calibre don’t want their time wasted, so as a director you gotta show up on set with a plan on exactly what you want. A clear vision.
I had a brilliant experience with him and in a way I try not to go into a relationship with a collaborator with baggage. Even with Bruce, I could intimidate myself looking at the films and directors he has worked with, but you just treat it like any actor you work with.
Zavvi: You had a tight shooting schedule, I believe it was only ten days. What challenges did that present?
Matt: That was definitely stressful! It was actually nine and a half as we lost half a day due to constant rain and lightning. It forces you as a filmmaker when given that tight schedule to really focus. There is no time for second guesses, you have to have a clear vision.
Thankfully the crew I was working on were the same I worked with on the previous movies, so we had good shorthand, but it was definitely a challenge.
Zavvi: My introduction to you was 12 Feet Deep, which had a lot of online buzz about it. When making that movie, did you realise it would become such a hit, and open doors for you as a filmmaker?
Matt: That was a cool experience. I look back on it fondly, it is still my favourite film I have directed.
It was interesting as I was telling the producers a viral concept like this doesn’t come around that often, like the trailer got over 50 million views, which is remarkable for something which had zero marketing. It was an experience and at the time I would never have guessed only a couple years later I would be directing Bruce Willis.
It definitely opened up doors and showed me you can’t wait around for others to give you permission, you just have to create your own opportunities, unique concepts to make you stand out and get attention.
Zavvi: There is a lot of talk at the moment about the future of cinema following this pandemic. You have worked on indie films for many years. Are you concerned about what the state of the industry will be like when we come out at the other end?
Matt: I think any filmmaker right now is mulling it, trying to figure out how we are supposed to move forward. And it isn’t just making the movie, but also distributing it, will theatres exist? How are we going to shoot scenes with crowds?
It has definitely changed things, especially for someone like me coming from an independent background. Unlike big studios we don’t have money to throw at for more days and more safety protocols.
It’s going to be tough. I’m curious to see how independent films will adjust to this, and come up with safe yet cost effective solutions.
Zavvi: What upcoming projects will we see from you next?
Matt: I’m finishing post-production on the last film I shot, another one with Bruce, but other than that I am just developing and writing.
I want to do something different, so we shall see. Right now it is an interesting time, so just going to see what concepts and things we can bring to fruition.
Survive The Night is on Digital Download now and DVD from 27th July from Lionsgate UK.