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Interview: William Brent and Matthew Peterman

03.15.2006

March 24th 2006 sees the Theatrical release of the horror and video game themed effort STAY ALIVE. To be honest, I initially had no intention of seeing it. PG-13 rating + Frank Muniz + Hollywood Picture distributed = I'm too old for this crap! But this insightful interview with the team behind the film; William Brent (Writer) and Matthew Peterman (Writer/Director) that is, and the decent trailer convinced me to give it a look! Here's what the STAY ALIVE boys had to say about their baby!

William Brent & Matthew Peterman

Would you say that you guys are horror fans? If so, what are your favorite fear flicks?

Yes. Halloween. The Omen. The Ring. The Shining. Alice Sweet Alice. Carrie. The Exorcist.

How did the Stay Alive project come about?

Growing up, there are two hugely important things in a young man’s life: movies and video games. We wanted to create a film where we could blur the lines between the world of a video game and the real world (without cheesy virtual reality). The first script we sold was an espionage film that did just that – but it’s been dying a slow death on a shelf at Universal for years.

However, we still loved the idea of using a video game as a story engine. So, against all advice, we decided to write Stay Alive, another ‘game in a movie’ project. We then built the game in the movie around a character we had researched for another movie idea: Elizabeth Bathory, the real-life Countess who butchered young girls and bathed in their blood to stay young.

We shopped Stay Alive to studios but they didn’t want to do a video game movie that wasn’t either an adaptation of an existing game or a remake of another horror movie. That forced us to put the movie together from the ground up – securing the first major piece of financing ourselves. Before we knew it, it was a year later and we were in New Orleans shooting the movie.

Taking into account the “Malcolm in the Middle” and “Agent Cody Banks” kiddie history that Frankie Muniz has tagged to him and the heat that you’d get from genre fans due to it...what was it about him that made him your ideal choice to play the character of Swink?

We met with Frankie and immediately saw his passion for the project – and he wasn’t even pushing to be the lead character. Frankie passed on bigger parts and much higher pay to do this movie. He saw this – and so did we – as a chance to show a slightly different side of Frankie. We wouldn’t say this is the complete reinvention of Frankie Muniz, but it’s definitely a transition for him into other things. Frankie isn’t the lead in this film – he probably lost money on this gig. But he is an actor playing a character. And he’s great in the part.

What kind of violence should we expect from the film? Suggested? Graphic? A little bit of both?

Definitely a little bit of both. First off, we intended Stay Alive to be rated R. However, we were never interested in making a campy teen horror flick. While we love certain movies like that, we were looking to do something a little different. Although originally rated R, we always intended to play around with the concept of implied gore while still holding onto a certain amount of “violent death realism”.

It’s like, if we can set the stage and plant something into the subconscious mind of the audience, their own sick imaginations might create something far more frightening than anything we may have introduced on screen. That means every person in the audience can have their own uniquely horrific interpretation of that special violent moment. In the end, we truly believe we’ve pushed the PG-13 rating to its limits. To compare Stay Alive to a movie like When a Stranger Calls would be like comparing South Park to Charlie Brown.

Any visual effects in the film? If so, are we talking practical, CGI or a mix of the two?

The focus of Stay Alive is a next generation horror survival game, so naturally we tackled a lot of visual effects for that. It was important to us to make the game to look and feel like a next gen game – not too cheap but not too overdone. We tried hard to stay away from the Hollywood movie version of a video game. To help keep us honest, we brought on Cliff Blezinski as our game consultant. He helped us make sure that the game in the movie would be on par with titles gamers could buy and play at home.

Most of game-related movies don’t really understand gamer culture. Besides being lifelong gamers ourselves, we’ve written more than a few film scripts with heavy video game use within the story. We’ve also written game design docs for people like John Woo, Sega, Zombie Games, and Universal Interactive. With this combination of our game/movie background and Cliffy’s expertise, we hoped not to fall into the category of no understanding gamers. Overall, our goal was to respect the intelligence of both video game and horror movie fans alike.

Any female nudity in the picture, yes, we care (well I do anyways)!

Unfortunately the answer is no. But goddammit we tried hard to get Jimmi Simpson naked.

What type of game play should we expect from the video game that will be released alongside the film?

The game is a “rated M for Mature” game with some naughty, bloody action. Our characters spend some quality time blowing away droves of undead ten-year-old schoolgirls.

Originally, the intention was to create a game to be released day-and-date with the film. Unfortunately, games can take more than twice as long as a film to produce. We begged the powers-that-be to finance the Stay Alive video game so it could be released day-and-date with the film. Unfortunately, investors weren’t willing to finance a game based on our independent horror movie before it had distribution. Bummer. Currently, the game is still in the development planning stages but if all goes well, people will have something playable with the DVD release.

Disney is distributing the film. How did that come about? And why did you think they’d be the best company to put out your horror film?

We weren’t terribly involved with that aspect of the process but it went down like this: Spyglass shopped the trailer around and made a distribution deal with Hollywood Pictures. The cool thing is Buena Vista Distribution is releasing Stay Alive on the Hollywood Pictures label. If they are happy with the outcome of the movie, Buena Vista may re-launch Hollywood Pictures as their version of Dimension or Screen Gems. As a result, the marketing team is trying some new things.

Does the film have franchise potential? If so, is a sequel something you guys would be interested in tackling down the road?

You bet your sweet ass it has franchise potential. We originally conceived Stay Alive as a trilogy because the concept and story has so many more layers to and a lot of room to grow. This first film has only tickled the surface and would love to tackle that beast.

What kind of distribution can we expect for the film? Wide, limited, STD?

Wide. We just don’t know how wide yet. 2000 plus screens is all we know now.

What would you like to hear audience members say when coming out of Stay Alive screenings?

That was something a little different. And more importantly, it was worth the ten bucks.

What’s next up for you guys? Any other projects on the horizon?

We’re in the middle of writing a new script. It’s in the vein of Flatliners set on the campus of the Vatican’s exorcism school in Rome. We’ve also got a handful of projects set up at different studios. In the meantime we’ve applied for jobs in the Best Buy video game department.

What were the first drinks you lads kicked back at the Stay Alive wrap party?

This wasn’t at the wrap party but…When we were deep in the suck of putting this movie together, the fate of the project had come down to Paramount Pictures completing the last part of financing – or no movie. The two of us were waiting for the call at our favorite watering hole, Cabo Cantina. Soon, the word came down that Paramount was a no-go. Stay Alive was dead deadski. As a toast to our now dead movie, we ordered a round of Washington Apple shots.

Before those shots even got to our table, we got another call telling us that Spyglass – who had previously backed out of the running – was back in. And just like that, those shots went down. So for us it’s been a real battle to get this movie made and, at the end of the day, we’re really luck to be in the position we’re in. We’re just video game and movie fans like so many other people. The harsh swings of Hollywood.


Will you stay alive on March 24th?

I'd like to thank William Brent and Matthew Peterman for this "telling" (for me anyways) interview and would like to wish them the best with the film! ROCK ON GUYS!

VISIT THE OFFICIAL STAY ALIVE SITE HERE

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