Scariest Interview: Sitting down with The Wretched’s Brett Pierce

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Fresh from the successful world premiere of their latest film at this year’s Fantasia International Film Festival, The Pierce Brothers haven’t slowed down. The dynamic writing/directing duo wowed the Montreal crowd with their modern take on the big bad witch, The Wretched, and are already preparing for the next busy festival.

Happily, they responded to our blackmail polite request and Brett has given us a generous slice of his free time in the form of a great Q&A session!

So, enough with the intro! I give you a quick chat with writer/director Brett Pierce…

Starting off with my standard opening question: what filmmakers do you keep a close eye on and/or inspire you?

Oh man, too many to count but as for horror John Carpenter and Tom Holland are huge influences. Love how wide Carpenter shoots his films and how he drops into scenarios with real people who are slowly stalked by whatever malevolent force he’s working with.

Tom Holland makes what we like to call “rollercoaster horror films” and we love them. Fright Night and Child’s Play are just plain fun and terrifying. We miss the fun in horror. It’s not as prevalent it used to be but I feel its making a comeback.

Your first brotherly collaboration, DeadHeads (2011), was extremely well received and even set a record for selling out its screenings at the Newport Beach Film Festival that year.

What does a couple of award winning filmmakers do after such a successful festival run? And whatever it is, does it have to take 8 years? Because, to be completely selfish, we really want to watch your next film sooner than that.

We’re going to do something much sooner this time. Immediately if possible. After the fest run we basically had to go back to work. DeadHeads was such a small budget film, so tight we didn’t pay ourselves, that we had run up our credit card debt and honestly we’re a little trapped by this.

We both went back to working in LA on various studio films and TV in smaller capacities. Drew and I had literally finished directing DeadHeads and returned to LA and had to work as production assistants to keep the lights on and finish the movie. It won’t be 8 years this time. We’re already cooking on the next thing and we’re so excited about it.

How do you approach writing a script together and did the process change at all when working on The Wretched?

It’s always been the same process. I write the first draft which we spend a couple months plotting. It’s our “vomit” draft. We just want to get it on paper and see what we have. We then jam out together on fixing the framework of the story and begin writing together.

At that point we pretty much just pass the script back and forth taking turns writing until we get to a 2nd draft we like. From there on out it’s pretty much the same process until you get to a place where you feel that it’s all working.

Same question for the directorial side. How do you direct the movie as a team? Are you both calling the shots at the same time or are there games of rock/paper/scissors to see who gets the Director chair that day?

It’s a 50/50 split. By the time we’re shooting we’ve storyboarded the whole film, debated every story beat, and found our common vision on the film. The joke on set from cast and crew is that you can speak to either of one of us and you get the exact same answer. We also finish each other’s sentences. We’re circus freaks.

You just had your world premiere for The Wretched at the Fantasia International Film Festival in Montreal. How important is the festival circuit to you as filmmakers?

Immensely important. We’re an independent film and that’s the only place we get to share the film with audiences. You spend years working on your film and you’re just praying that when you get to the fest circuit that people see what you saw in that little document you constructed on your laptop 2 years before.

It’s thrilling to play at the fest but also nerve wracking. I love it though. When you finish your film it’s the best reward to go to fests and see other filmmaker’s films. You see so many voices and interesting new ideas. It’s creatively reinvigorating and gets you cooking on the next thing.

How do you go about getting your films distributed? Can you share a bit about how that works?

This is the million dollar question. Everyone has an opinion on this and obviously a good festival run and good response to the film is key. You can get lost in the strategy of how to make your film to be attractive for distribution but Drew and I have always sided with trusting our gut and just making the movie we want to make.

We wanted to make The Wretched because we fell in love with our story and the potential for the ideas in the script. Our opinion is just make your movie “your movie” and work as hard as you can to make it the best possible film you can.

Your dad, Bart Pierce, was on the FX team for The Evil Dead (1981) and Evil Dead II (1987). I ran across a quote where he said, “People refer to my sons as the Sons of The Evil Dead because they are second-generation Evil Dead. They were born in the pits of the creation of The Evil Dead.”

What was it like growing up in those “pits”?

It scarred me forever 🙂 We had Sam Raimi, Bruce and all these filmmakers piling into our house for a couple months to finish the effects on the original Evil Dead. This served as a constant inspiration for us all our lives. The Evil Dead crew just went and made their movie and therefore that empowered us to do the same.

Evil Dead is this huge franchise now and it started with a group of filmmakers who just wanted to make something they were passionate about. We just followed that. We shopped The Wretched all over Hollywood and no one wanted it so we just decided to do it ourselves.

[TST Note: Just hangin’ out with Sam Raimi, Bruce Campbell, and all the rest? That’s pretty much the coolest thing I’ve ever heard.]

Is there anything you’ve learned while making The Wretched that will change how you handle your next project?

Yes. You learn every time. This time I would say I learned most in the editing process. Just always be willing to remove something from the edit or the script even if you love it. We cut a few things from the film that broke our hearts but the film is better for it. My brother always says after we watch a new edit of the film that he tries to clear his mind and watch the film as a new audience member who knows nothing. Near impossible but it does work and from doing this I think we really found the right pace of the film.

What advice can you give hopeful filmmakers looking to have their own world premiere someday?

Don’t wait on anyone to make your film happen for you. Just be honest with how much work it’s going to be and start working through it. Also, always be sharing your scripts and edits of the film with other people or filmmakers. Don’t be hurt by criticism, it just makes the movie better.

Now that people are clamoring to see The Wretched are there dates and times of future showings that you can share? And any plans for a streaming release?

We’re at the Traverse City Film Festival (where we shot the film) on August 3rd and then it’s on to Fright Fest in London on August 26th. Release info is TBD.

Is there anything else you’d like to share with our readers?

I really hope everyone checks out The Wretched. The film is a labor of love that we poured everything we have into and we can’t wait to see what people think of it.

From everyone here at The Scariest Things we’d like to thank Brett for taking time out of his busy schedule to chat with us. Best of luck to The Pierce Brothers as they continue unleashing The Wretched upon the world.

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