Interview: Scott Beck and Bryan Woods on Writing A Quiet Place
It’s interesting that a film built around the premise of silence should roar into theaters with a $50 million opening weekend but that’s exactly what A Quiet Place did. Stunning audiences and critics alike, the film, directed by John Krasinski (who also stars), is wowing nearly everyone who sees it. It’s also probably the first movie in a long time to make people feel ashamed for uttering anything louder than a standard breath.
While the film is boosted by the star power of Krasinski and his wife, Emily Blunt, we can’t forget that the story began with Scott Beck and Bryan Woods, the duo behind 2015’s supernatural horror film Nightlight. Today, we’re thrilled to bring an interview with the pair to discuss how they conceived the story, what elements went missing with Krasinski’s rewrites, and their reaction to the film now that it’s been seen. You can read everything below.
“If they can’t hear you, they can’t hunt you. A family lives an isolated existence in utter silence, for fear of an unknown threat that follows and attacks at any sound.”
A Paramount and Platinum Dunes production, A Quiet Place stars John Krasinski, Emily Blunt, Millicent Simmonds, and Noah Jupe.
Dread Central: Tell me about the inception of the script and how you thought up the idea of a film where dialogue, usually one of the most important aspects of a movie, took a backseat to a more audio-driven end result.
For years we were obsessed with the idea of writing a modern-day silent film. Back in college, we were consuming tons of silent movies by filmmakers like Buster Keaton, Charlie Chaplin, and Jacques Tati, and it was beautiful to see how they could communicate their ideas, character, and emotions without speaking a single word. We’ve been incredibly sound focused ever since we were making movies in high school, so we love a good film that can create mood and danger through its sonic palette. A Quiet Place felt like the perfect marriage of concept and technique to test out these ideas. From the outset, our main goal was to weaponize sound, and to make it feel as dangerous as the shark in Jaws.
DC: How do you tackle the challenges of writing a story that feels rich and full when there is such sparsity of dialogue?
Writing A Quiet Place was a massive challenge, because you couldn’t rely on dialogue to convey any information. We knew two things immediately: one, we had to write the script visually on the page and two, the story had to be rooted in character even more than it was rooted in its B-movie concept. To the first point, we looked to Walter Hill & David Giler’s draft of Alice for inspiration. That script has a beautiful sparseness on the page, and we followed that template, occasionally writing only one word on a blank page in order to emphasize a sound or a scare. Other times we would Photoshop images into the script, like the Monopoly board, or thread in newspaper headlines to convey rare occasions of global backstory.
But we were also aware that A Quiet Place had to be more than a gimmick. At the core of the story is the family, and we felt the film needed to be a metaphor for communication issues. Without giving too much away, the family had suffered a tragedy and needs to learn how to move on, but they’re unable to talk about it literally and figuratively.
DC: Where there any elements gone from Krasinski’s final version that you wish had remained?
There was one major sequence that didn’t make it to screen, in part due to budget limitations. In our estimation, it was an exciting pursuit set piece that landed in the back half of the film, but ultimately it had to go and we are still quite happy with the way the final film came together in the third act.
Over all, we were really impressed with the personal touches John added as a filmmaker and father, while still remaining faithful to our original vision and screenplay. When John came on board, he had just had his second child, so our script really resonated since it carries strong themes of family and how far you would go to protect your children, and we believe his personal experience made those elements even stronger.
DC: The reaction to A Quiet Place has been nothing short of stellar. What’s it like for the two of you to not only see your script come to life but to see such a strong love for the final product?
We couldn’t be more humbled by the incredible response to the film. The goal, on a macro level, was always to write something universal, that had no language barrier, especially since the film required little to no dialogue. But from the inception of this idea, we had zero expectations in terms of getting the movie made, let alone on such a massive scale. Likewise, we could have never anticipated how audiences have embraced the film, both on a visceral and emotional level. The hope was always to move people as much as we could scare them, and we’re fiercely proud of the team that brought A Quiet Place to life with that same passion.
DC: What’s next in store for the two of you? Can you tell us about some of your upcoming projects?
We are currently in post-production on Haunt, a Halloween-centric thriller we wrote and directed. The movie is similar to A Quiet Place, from the standpoint that we love taking B-movie ideas and elevating them through characters and unexpected twists and turns. Eli Roth is one of the producers, and he’s been an incredible collaborator and champion. We were also lucky enough to shoot the film over Halloween, while A Quiet Place was shooting in New York. In addition to HAUNT, we have a couple film and TV deals at Paramount and Sony, and are working on a few new projects that we will hopefully be able to discuss soon.