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How Jason Blum turned Blumhouse Productions into a Hollywood heavyweight

"When you empower your filmmakers it makes for better films."
Get Out, Happy Death Day, Split
[Image: Blumhouse Productions]

Over the last decade only Marvel’s Kevin Feige can rival Jason Blum’s impact as a Hollywood producer. The huge success of the “Paranormal Activity,” “Insidious,” “Sinister,” and “Purge” franchises over the last eight years have now been added to by the triumphs of “Split,” “Get Out,” and now “Happy Death Day” in 2017.

While Jason Blum gives his directors full creative control to make the films that they desire, beforehand he makes it very clear that they’re to have as few locations as possible, a handful of speaking extras, and that they are not allowed to go over their budget at all. These rules have clearly worked wonders, because not only have a plethora of Blumhouse Productions’ films managed to connect with a mainstream audience in a very, very lucrative manner, but they have mostly been met with positive reviews, too.

Last week I had the opportunity to talk to Jason Blum regarding the release of Blumhouse Productions’ latest film “Happy Death Day,” and I spent part of our discussion dissecting the huge success the studio has had in recent years.

What comes first: the filmmaker, the story, or the potential audience?


“I think it is all three. Mostly it is driven by the filmmaker. If it is a filmmaker I really like I think our tolerance for a script I am not crazy about is higher than other peoples. If it is a filmmaker I really love, unless we really don’t like the script, we are likely to make the movie. I think that’s sort of unusual for Hollywood. “

Why did you become a producer?                                   

“I think my dad made me want to become a producer. He was an art dealer, and there’s a lot of similarities between being an art dealer and being a producer. Which is kind of curating and managing artists and collectors and critics, there’s a lot of similarities, and being comfortable around artists. I wanted to produce from a very early age. I would say our biggest inspiration creatively is Hitchcock for sure. I feel like I always have Hitchcock in the back of my brain when I am reading a script for one of our movies. ‘What would Hitchcock do today?’ I’d go with that. Hitchcock and my dad.”

Do you think your rules get the best out of a filmmaker?

“I agree of course, because they are my rules and I insist we do that. I would try and say objectively that when you empower your filmmakers, and give them more creative control than they are used to getting, not around the rest of the world, but in Hollywood, and you give them final cut, they are more confident. They make bolder choice. They are more likely to solicit my advice. Because they know that they don’t have to take it. So I think it makes for better films.”

What makes Blumhouse so unique?

“We push our filmmakers to take chances. That's the whole point of low budget. It’s great that it is possible. We can make a lot of money doing a lot of other things beside low budget movies so that’s not the main reason that we do it. The main reason that we do it is when you are not risking a lot of capital you can take chances and try new things. I always encourage filmmakers and ask, ‘What have you always wanted to do in a movie that you haven’t been able to do?’ And then say, ’Try that.’ I think if you choose a commercial script, and then let the filmmakers be the filmmakers and add their voice to it, it often makes for a compelling movie.”

Which film are you most proud of?

“I can’t answer that question. They’re like my children. I can’t single one out. I can tell you that the film that changed the course of the company the most was definitely the first ‘Purge.’ When we did the first ‘Purge’ people kind of looked up from their desks and went, ‘These guys are onto something.’ We did ‘Paranormal Activity,’ ‘Insidious,’ we did ‘Sinister,’ and then we did the first ‘Purge’ and it was at that point that people realized we were taking a different approach. I’ll answer your question that way.”

“Happy Death Day” is out in cinemas now.