Writer-director and CalArts alum Patrick Brice (Film/Video BFA 11) re-teams with actor-writer-producer Mark Duplass, for Creep 2—a sequel to the pair’s cult horror film Creep (2014). Released last week on all video-on-demand platforms, Creep 2 is essentially a two-hander that once again follows the adventures of psychopath and serial killer Aaron (Duplass) and his new prey Sara (Desiree Akhavan). Fans of the first film might remember that Brice not only directed, but starred opposite Duplass in the original, until his character was—spoiler alert—killed off.
Brice has also worked with Duplass on The Overnight, which Brice wrote and directed. Mark and his brother Jay Duplass served as executive producers on the film, which starred Adam Scott, Taylor Schilling, Jason Schwartzman and Judith Godrèche.
We recently had a chance to chat with Brice about Creep 2, his latest projects and his time at CalArts.24700: Did you and Mark Duplass always have a trilogy in mind for the Creep films?
Brice: No. We had no idea we were going to be making sequels when me made the first movie. It was definitely something that we had to reverse engineer once we knew there was a demand for it. When we had sold the first movie, we had sold it as three movies, but that deal ended up falling through. So once we brought it to Netflix and gave it to them, having that requirement of making two other movies went away, which was nice.
I didn’t want to have to create something unless there was a demand for it, too. It felt presumptuous. Thankfully, the movie caught on, especially through Netflix, having access to that many viewers, and it did become this cult thing. It was really Netflix coming to us and saying, ‘Just so you know, this is one of the most watched horror movies on Netflix. If you guys want to make a sequel, we’ll pay for it, basically.’ We had that in the back of our head, but we didn’t want to make it unless it was something that felt right for us. We actually came up with three or four different versions of potential Creep 2 situations before we landed on the one we eventually shot.
Can you tell me some of the reject [ideas]?
I can’t [laughs] because some of them are ones we might want to reuse at some point. What I can say is … that it’s a lot different going into a project knowing there’s a set audience. It’s something I never experienced before—so there’s this other voice, while you’re trying to be creative saying, ‘Give us what we want.’ That had to be something that we kind of let influence things, but not overtake things. The conceit that we eventually landed on was one that not only worked for the form, being a found footage movie and [in the] found footage horror genre. It was one that made us happy and taking things to a new place, creatively.”
The tension of the first movie is that you know that this guy is a weirdo, and you know that he’s a liar on some level, but you don’t know whether he’s capable of murder or not. So we answer that question at the end of the movie. And so going into making a sequel, the biggest challenge associated with that was how to recreate that kind of tension. We couldn’t do the same thing because people already know. Just showing him killing people would not be that exciting. We needed to add some mystery to it so what we came up with was ‘what if he reveals himself to be a serial killer at the very onset of the movie? And then we have a character that we may or may not believe that’s true and has her own personal motivation that’s hopefully justified for her being there the whole time. It’s less of a cat and mouse game that the first movie was, but it’s hopefully more of a tit for tat between two strong characters who are kind of lying to each other.
Are you committed to do a third film?
We’re not committed to it. I’m looking forward to seeing what the response is to this movie and that will help dictate whether or not we’re making a third and how soon that will be.
Talk about the logistics of filming. How long did it take you to film the sequel?
We filmed it in six days [in Los Angeles and Lake Arrowhead]. I guess New York was one day that we shot maybe six or seven months later. It was a very quick shoot.
As opposed to the first movie which had only two people—it was just me and Mark out with a videocamera—on the initial production, filming each other. This movie had five people. So it was a big upgrade.
You and Desiree are basically the cinematographers on Creep 2?
Yeah, we would pass the camera back and forth between each other. That was weird that credit showed up online because one of the things we love about these movies is that there’s no cinematographer, it’s whoever’s holding the camera at any given time.
Part of what was different about making this opposed to the last one was that I wasn’t acting in it. So that level of stress was sort of stripped from me. I was there to be able to do a little ballet dance with Desiree. There are moments that I wanted her to be with him, and then there were moments where it was required [to show] 360 degrees, so I couldn’t be there. It was really moment to moment.
Did you block shots on the fly?
Yeah. We would film a scenario a couple times, watch the tape back and make adjustments based on that. And that’s how we made the first movie, too.
That’s not typical.
It’s not typical at all. Normally when you’re on set you’re not able to watch takes back unless it’s something specific you need to see or watching the dailies. But because we’re able to do it quickly, and because it doesn’t require a whole other setup, and there are a lot less moving parts, it kind of behooves you to do it that way.
It looks like you used one camera throughout the entire shoot.
We did. It’s the same camera we used for the first movie. It’s kind of a prosumer camera from the mid-2000s that doesn’t require a lot of knowledge in terms of how to operate. It’s a Panasonic HVX.
Mark Duplass has been known to mentor up-and-coming filmmakers. Can you refresh our memory of how you met?
When I moved to Los Angeles to go to CalArts, my wife had just graduated from Berkeley. And the first job she got when she moved down here was Mark and his wife’s nanny for their daughter. And she continued to work for them, and they had a second daughter. Mark was just someone who was mentoring me as someone essentially coming out of school. I was planning on making documentary film. My thesis film was this movie Maurice, a short documentary from CalArts.
So Mark had seen that and liked it, and then put his name on that so it would hopefully help play some festivals, and it ended up playing at Rotterdam and a few other festivals. Out of conversations about ‘what’s next’ came Mark and I deciding to make [Creep] together, realizing we shared a sense of humor, and we shared a love for odd male relationships, primarily. I’d never made a narrative film before. I never made a narrative work while I was at CalArts. I was either making installation work or semi-documentary type stuff.
What program were you in?
I was in the Film and Video program. [Filmmaker and CalArts faculty] Thom Andersen was my mentor.
Did you find that transition easy to go from installation and documentary work to Creep?
It made sense on a certain level because I had the background at CalArts, I’d been exposed to such diverse work, I saw an end to the weird process to what we were doing. One thing that was really helpful and really impactful and sort of informed what I did with Creep was this film realism class I took with Gary Mairs. We watched David Holtzman’s Diary, and we watched this other film about rape, and this woman describing that she was raped, and you don’t know if it’s real or not. So having a movie that’s formally in this weird zone was a normal a thing for me. Having come from a school like CalArts where I’m watching such crazy stuff, that gave me a lot of confidence to go into a project like this that would have normally felt weird for a traditional filmmaker.
How long did it take you and Mark to write the script? Was there an actual script or an outline?
There was a “scriptment” like 15 pages, with major beats. So the major beats were plotted out and there was some dialogue that was plotted out. That took like a month or two after a few false starts in terms of thinking what we wanted to do or not. There was a lot that was determined and decided and adjusted while we were making the film.
What are you working on next?
I directed one episode of Room 104 [an HBO anthology series created by Mark and Jay Duplass] last season and I’m going to be directing three episodes for the second season. I’m very excited to be coming back. That’s going into production in a couple weeks.
There’s a couple bigger projects that I’m attached to that are sort of a long game, sort of a step up from The Overnight in terms of scale and budget. It’s nice because [those projects] take a lot longer to put together and to be able to have these Creep movies almost exist on another plane of work for me. These are the movies that are coming from the braintrust of Mark and I figuring it out. There’s a lot of freedom associated with that that doesn’t happen with these bigger projects where there are so many cooks in the kitchen.
What’s a favorite moment from your time at CalArts?
It was actually my first day of school, at orientation for my department. It was my first day ever meeting Thom Andersen. It was myself and maybe six or seven other students, and we found out that he was going to be our mentor. We went for a coffee as a sort of introductory conversation. He was very quiet for a long time, as he is. And then finally when he said something, the first thing he said was, ‘One thing that I think is really great about filmmaking is that it allows you to be interested in everything.’ And that’s something that’s stuck with me to this day. Something that I think about a lot. It’s a very freeing thought because filmmaking is a tool and medium in which you can pretty much explore anything you want to—political, emotional, cultural, anything in terms of the stories you want to tell.
That’s one of the things that’s also given me confidence in being able to make a movie like Creep and then go make a movie like The Overnight, which are pretty different. There are thematic through-lines, but are pretty different movies. [I learned] not worry about what that means on the grand scale of things. I just know that I am being true to myself and indulging in things that get me excited creatively. That was the biggest thing coming out of that school.
Advice to current CalArts students?
Don’t put so much pressure on yourself while you’re in school. That’s a big thing. I was an older student, so I think I naturally did that. But allow CalArts to be a place where you’re immersing yourself in what you love. That pressure will come in the real world, and you’ll be that much more prepared for it if you have indulged yourself in what you love beforehand and you really used the school for that. That’s what I did and it makes me feel a lot better about monthly student debt payments.