We are impatiently waiting for the second season of Creeped Out. With that waiting comes checking IMDb for updates every ten minutes, hunting for screenshots that may have leaked online, taping together shredded paper from DHX Studios’ dumpsters, and bombarding the writers with questions whenever they break from their laptops to come back to planet Earth.
We had no success with the first three approaches, but we are proud to announce that we pinned down writer Robert Butler for information. He was actually nice about it, which allowed us to nix plan B where we abduct his spacebar key until he gives up the goods.
Read below to find out what inspired Creeped Out and what we can expect so far from Season Two.
Dread Central: I read that Creeped Out was inspired by Amazing Stories in The Twilight Zone, which I can totally understand. What in particular inspired you from these shows?
Robert Butler: I think it was growing up with Amazing Stories first off. It was sort of a first entrance to horror, along with Goosebumps and Are You Afraid of the Dark? But I suppose the tone we were going for initially with Creeped Out was kind of an enchantment, a kind of Spielbergian-enchantment rather than straight out horror. Although, some episodes I think you can class as horror.
But we wanted to be able to go to those different places, to allow a different tone for each episode. I think Amazing Stories did that so well. It just really influenced us. And I think the same thing with The Twilight Zone. My first introduction to The Twilight Zone was the movie actually, which I still absolutely adore to this day. I think it so brilliant. As I got older and a bit up for watching black and white stuff that I guess I wasn’t really into as a kid, I just realized how incredible the stories are and how you can be transported in such a short space of time, and be moved, and be scared, and be inspired. I think that’s why Bede the co-creator and I loved them, and that’s where the inspiration came I guess.
DC: Perfect. And that is something that I love about Creeped Out. It’s not just horror. There’s sci-fi, adventure and mystery. Is there a particular genre that is your favorite?
RB: Probably horror if I’m honest. I like mysteries and sci-fi as well, but horror is something that I grew up with. I always sort of feel at home in the horror genre—or in the horror section of the VHS video shop that I used to go to when I was a kid. So, for me, that’s probably my favorite of the genres.
I like to be moved as well. I think that’s very important.
DC: Do you have a favorite horror movie?
RB: I’ve got hundreds really. But mostly, it’s the 80s for me. I love Critters. I love Gremlins. I love Tremors. Oh God, I can’t even list all of them. I love the Nightmare on Elm Street series. The not-so-popular ones, I still love them. I like horror on in the background. Like Creepshow is a huge influence for me. I can’t think of how many horrors I love. I love them all.
DC: I saw that you had Critters as your header on Twitter. It is such a fun movie.
RB: Yeah. What I really love about it is that it’s got so much heart to it. Like the characters. It’s very Spielbergian, you know? The love between the family. The love between the little boy and his friend. I think all of that stuff really stuck with me, probably more so than the horror. You get some horrible little creatures that kill Billy Zane and that just does it for me. That’s the perfect movie. Nothing against Billy Zane.
DC: Of course not. It is kind of a shocker that it happened. I remember watching it as a kid not knowing who Billy Zane was. Then I watched it as an adult and was like, “Oh my gosh, you guys killed Billy Zane.”
RB: Yeah, and it quite a gory way. It was quite shocking but brilliant.
DC: With Creeped Out, what was your writing process like for such unique story lines?
RB: I think a lot of it is stuff that happened to me and Bede growing up—or our fears as we were kids. The Trolled one in particular, that actually came from a thought of just coming up with a new episode idea. Somebody penned in what if an internet troll turned into an actual troll. We set about putting together a different scenario. We wanted a different background for it so we set it in a private school with a choir boy and all these things. So that’s where that came from.
Other ones like Slapstick, the one about the girl whose parents turn into puppets, came from the thought of embarrassing parents and what do you do if you could control your parents, which is kind of a thing I suppose all kids dream of doing for a bit. Then the reality of it is probably pretty disturbing. Then, what if you couldn’t get them back? It’s like the bit in Big where it stops being cool that you’re this older guy. It starts being genuinely disturbing.
That’s kind of how we looked at all of them really. What would be fun if you could freeze time? What would that mean if something was coming for you while you were freezing time?
But the main thing that we looked for, often one of the first things that we go for, is where is the heart. Where is the bit that we are going to care about these characters for? In Slapstick, it was the underdog who was being bullied. We wanted to find that moment where she made the wrong decision by wishing her parents away before realizing how great her parents were. How she didn’t want them to be like anyone else because they were so beautifully freaky in their own right. And why should they be like everyone else? It’s finding the heart in these stories that is the important thing for us. And then it’s piling on the scares. I guess that’s how we do it.
DC: I definitely see that. I hate to only touch on this out of all of the gems you dropped, but I found it funny how her parents bought her those terrible shoes.
RB: I think we’ve all had those terrible shoes that our parents bought. They mean well, but those were not the culture.
DC: What’s the filming process like?
RB: We film half in Canada and half in England. It is quite intense because we’re filming an episode sometimes in three days, which is pretty crazy. In Canada, we filmed Kindlesticks in three-and-a-half days. That was on a studio set. So, in Canada, DHX, who were the co-producers, have a studio where they filmed Degrassi Junior High, which was another huge thing for me. I grew up watching that, which was awesome. In fact, the kid that plays in Kindlesticks, his mom was Tessa Campanelli in the original Degrassi Junior High. She was on set every day, and she was lovely. But anyway, they filmed that in the studios, where they have an incredible art department team that can transform it all around.
In a way, that is slightly easier whereas in England, we were on location for every episode. Obviously, it made it a lot harder and slightly longer. I think we had about four or five days for each episode, but still not a long time. It was pretty intense. And because each episode has a completely new cast and a completely new story, it’s a huge strain on everyone, so everyone really had to love it. And fortunately, we got a wonderful crew on both sides that adored this anthology and really got what we were trying to do. I think it made a lot of long days slightly easier, hopefully. It was a labor of love really from everyone.
It was one of those shows, certainly the first series, that was very hard because no one had ever really worked on a co-production like that before. You know, sometimes all of it is filmed in one place, whereas here it was filmed half in Canada and half here, all over the country.
DC: I got a chance to look on Twitter and saw people dressed as The Curious for Halloween. How does that make you feel?
RB: I cannot tell you how excited Bede and I were when we say the first person dressed up as The Curious. When we were still writing and even pitching the show, we used to dream that someone would want to dress up as The Curious or even have people just watch the show. It is beyond amazing every time we see that. We did a Grim Fest screening of the episodes in England where a little guy called Jessie—he’s a Creeped Out super fan—came up and gave us a letter that was one of the most touching things you have ever seen. We were nearly crying reading it. So yes, it’s incredible. And because I’m such a huge geek fanboy about all horror, for someone to do that for something we wrote, it’s beyond incredible really. Unbelievable!
DC: How did you and Bede Blake meet?
RB: We were both writing on a show called Hollyoaks, which is like a Degrassi in England in a way. We wrote on separate episodes, but we got together and found out that we liked the same shows and 80s movies: Back to the Future and all those things. We just became mates really.
I think we were having a few drinks one day and said, “Wouldn’t it be cool if we could have our own kid’s Twilight Zone?” We pitched it because we worked with the BBC before. We just pitched a line of it as sort of a kid’s Twilight Zone thing. Luckily, they were looking for something like that. We managed to get it in there at the right time, I think.
DC: How did you get involved with writing and producing?
RB: I used to write loads when I was a kid. I always wanted to write or act at one point. Then I very quickly realized that wasn’t on the cards. Then, I just loved making stuff really. I knew I wanted to get into that sector, so I went to university and studied film. And through that, I became a runner. I built my way up from doing that, and then I happened to say one day that I could write a few things if they wanted me to. I ended up writing commercials and trailers for a company. Then I got a few gigs at the BBC and some kid shows. I just slowly kept writing and writing and people started reading stuff and hiring me. Unbelievably, I’m still doing it for a living. But yeah, just writing really, and having that passion to do it.
I genuinely think anyone can write. I just think that you have to have that drive to not be able to do anything else really. That’s the kind of ability that you need: that relentless drive to want to do it. If you don’t have that, it’s a lot harder to do it, I think. But I believe that there are so many ways that you can learn, but you have to be in the right mindset. Even though it is still unbelievable and every day I want to pack it in and bang my head up against the wall, I still love it at the end of the day.
DC: Sounds like you’re living the dream.
RB: It’s amazing really. It’s what I’ve always wanted to do. I do have to obviously keep reminding myself when I’m moaning about getting up to go to work, “Don’t be a jerk. You’re doing what you love doing, so shut up.”
DC: When you’re not writing or working on projects, what do you like to do?
RB: I love going to [the] cinema. I’m constantly trying to go there all the time, but work gets in the way really. Socializing, I suppose, is the thing that I most like doing because I don’t get to do a lot of it, trapped in my laptop. I just moved with my girlfriend just outside of London. So, it is really just about getting out and going to see friends. You get to a certain age and it makes it a lot harder.
I’m probably just happiest sitting in a pub, catching up with people I haven’t seen. Having real voices to speak to, not just crazy character voices that are in my head from writing I suppose.
DC: Is there anything you can tell us about season two so far? Things we can expect?
RB: We’ve got a couple of episodes that are slightly different, format-wise, so that’s quite exciting. The style of a couple of them are very different. I think that if you liked season one, you will definitely like season two. I think it is a mixed bag again. There are some that are a lot sweeter, like A Boy called Red in season one is probably our sweetest one there. And I think we’ve got one that is a bit like that this series. And then we’ve got a couple that are a bit on the scarier end, which I think will excite people a lot. Then we’ve got one that’s got a link to another one in the first series, which should be quite fun. And we’ve got lots of references to the first series. Some characters get name-checked. There’s lots of little links. And The Curious is back. I can definitely say that. Also, we’ve got some really exciting names in front of and behind the camera.
DC: I love how the show balances scary and sweet. Also, I did enjoy A Boy called Red. It was such a sweet episode.
RB: We certainly wanted to have a balance. We didn’t want it to be a cruel show. I think Cat Food was our cruelest one. But I think that the tone of the whole thing is kind of fun so we could get away with what happened to his lovely sister.
I think this time around we also have the up and down endings. For me, it’s about bringing something that is a bit surprising.
With Side Show, that was always our favorite script that we ended up making into a tea party because we didn’t want to cut it down. That was probably our favorite twist out of all of them as well. I think that one feels more like a mini-movie. That feels a bit more like an Amazing Stories than all of them. I’m very proud of that one. I think that everyone did a great job on that one.
Bruce McDonald, who is just such a fantastic director, has done so many films that I’ve loved. I can’t believe that he would even consider coming near this show. He’s become a friend really, which is amazing to say. He’s just so talented and so collaborative. A lot of fun bits in the show have come from his twisted brain, so I have to give him credit for that. He did all of the Canadian ones. And considering that they are all pretty much in a studio, except Side Show, which they built kind of a circus for.
The other ones, I think they got such a different look and tone to it. I think that comes down to Jason Webber as well, the cinematographer who I think is phenomenal. Like I said, it is just such a collaborative show that everyone brings in their A game. The best idea is the best idea, and you get to have a lot of fun with how they turn out really.
DC: The cinematography was phenomenal throughout the show, especially on Side Show. Also, I did not see that ending coming.
RB: We haven’t met anyone that has seen that ending coming. I think it’s because it is so ludicrous you wouldn’t even come to believe that. But the actor played it so well, and Bruce did such a great job with its tone, that I think it gets away with that absolutely bizarre thing. And Julian Richings—that was amazing to get someone like that in there. Everyone in it is great. It was really exciting.
DC: Aside from Creeped Out, are there any other projects we can keep a lookout for?
RB: I’m developing a few horror shows. They’re not far along yet to talk about properly, but I think I’m going to stick with horror as much as I can because I think there is such a great world of horror out there now. You’ve got Jordan Peele reinventing The Twilight Zone, which is so exciting. Even things like Happy Death Day 2, which I saw recently. I think it is just so great, and I love that horror is being brought back to the mainstream because it was always looked down upon. I’m not sure why that ever happened because there is so much talent in there. Now, it’s pretty exciting. Hopefully, it will go on and on. I’m just going to jump on the bandwagon and try to do as much horror as I possibly can.
DC: That’s perfect, and thanks so much for taking the time to answer these questions. I look forward to more Creeped Out and other projects you have in the future.
RB: Thank you!