Radio Silence's 'Ready Or Not'
Cinema Junkie / August 9, 2019
The new horror film 'Ready or Not' was brought to the screen by a collaborative known as Radio Silence. Filmmakers and online pranksters Chad Villella, Matt Bettineli-Olpin, and Tyler Gillett have a very singular vision about how to make movies. They discuss how they went from online videos to making a film in Hollywood, and how a board game helped them seal the deal for "Ready or Not."
Speaker 1: 00:00 Radio silence is trio of Chad. Matt and Tyler make scary movies, but you might be surprised by what scared them as kids.
Speaker 2: 00:07 The first one that scared me, this is Tyler, was empire strikes back. I as a kid thought that was a horror movie. I remember vividly watching Luke get his hand cut off and, and then hanging from by his knees from the bottom of the cloud city and thinking what this is the absolute scariest thing that you could possibly possibly see. Thanks mom and dad. I usually might have the first movie as on caters is empire. And my parents said that I was terrified of Darth Vader. But I think for me it was three more years because I thought when I was in fifth grade and it just, it just messed me up. It was like, cause I didn't know what I was watching and I had no contact but I'd never seen the original. So it was just like, Hey, welcome to this insane world. And I mean it still scares me. Right? And for me it's like I thought e t two young and I was terrified and had nightmares and meaty for years. I like just so far to the back. I didn't even rewatch it again til like 2013 I think I could just stay away from it because he's scared he's, when he sat his movie, it's just like it's heartbreaking and terrifying. All the bad guys are coming in and yeah, that, that one. That one's scarred me for a little bit. I watched it again. It's not that man.
Speaker 1: 01:21 Welcome to another edition of Cinema Junkie podcast. I'm Beth OCHA, Mondo
Speaker 3: 01:39 [inaudible]
Speaker 1: 01:39 radio silence has a new horror film called ready or not, and it opens in theaters on August 21st but I got to speak with these filmmakers and pranksters last month about their new film and their path to Hollywood. Here's a little of the trailer for ready or not in which a young bride discover some of the family traditions she's about to marry into.
Speaker 4: 01:59 Ah, I can't believe that in half an hour I will be a part of the [inaudible] scheming dynasty empire. A dominion for 2 million. I honestly can't wait to be a part of your family. [inaudible] this just one more thing and then you are officially part of the family,
Speaker 1: 02:23 so
Speaker 4: 02:24 at midnight you have to play a game. Why is just something we do when someone new joins the family again, what game hide and seek. Are you really going to play that? Wow. The rules are simple. You can hide anywhere. We then tried to find you so there's no way for me to win. Right? Let me stay hidden. Told on, no thank you. Good luck.
Speaker 1: 02:50 Speaking to Chad Velella, Matt Batonelli open and Tyler Gillette by phone call, the little like hurting cats. When three longtime friends work, they tend to talk on top of each other and complete each other's sentences in ways that can be hard to follow without the benefit of seeing them in front of you. But since they present themselves as one entity, maybe it doesn't matter who's talking. What does matter is this talented trio has a singular vision about how to make a movie and they've managed to bring their unique sensibilities to the screen without having to compromise. I asked the radio silence guys to identify themselves when they spoke and they mostly do, but even when you're not sure who's talking, I think you'll be as entertained as I was. But the energy, passion and craft these young filmmakers bring to the table. I'm going to take a short break and then I'll be back with the rowdy trio of radio silence.
Speaker 5: 03:44 First of all, the name radio silence is interesting for a group of people that have decided to work in movies. [inaudible] so explain a little bit about what radio silence is and kind of, um, what the genesis of this group was.
Speaker 2: 03:58 Uh, we started working together 10 years ago now. This is Tyler. We started working together 10 years, uh, 10 years ago or so. The name radio silence came about. Uh, it's sort of a, um, I mean, I, I guess it's based on the way that we, that we all started working together. We had this very do it yourself mentality. And uh, as we were starting to get some followers for the stuff we were making [inaudible] yeah. Online, we were getting a handful of meetings around town and we were oftentimes having conversations with people and that would end with a, hey, we should work together on something. Let's, let's find a project to do. And we of course were saying yes to everything. We wanted, nothing more than to continue to make projects that we would say yes and then follow up and never hear back.
Speaker 5: 04:44 [inaudible]
Speaker 2: 04:46 and I think what it, the way, it was just a reminder that for us to continue to make stuff, it was, it was going to be about not asking for permission and to just go and do and tell the stories that we wanted to tell. It's been a reminder of how we started. But I think also, uh, how we love to work, which is to just find something that we love and then pursue it until it, until it's done.
Speaker 5: 05:05 So did you guys start with those online pranks and things like that? Was that where the, the group kind of had its big [inaudible]
Speaker 2: 05:13 yeah, yeah. No, we did. We started as Chad, Matt and rob. Um, our first chat man around video came out in July of 2007. That's Chad by the way. Yeah, this is Chad.
Speaker 5: 05:23 Okay.
Speaker 2: 05:23 Um, and uh, yeah, and we did the brain videos. We did a bunch of like random shorts that were kind of just all over the place. Uh, we did interactive adventures, which were choose your own adventure stories that kind of like, we're similar in theme and style and tone to what we did with ready or not. They kind of blended the different elements of action and comedy and Zahra and whore, uh, into, into their shorts. But you know, they're a choose your own adventure style. So you get, at the end of each video you got to choose another path to go down and hopefully you can make it there without dying.
Speaker 5: 05:59 And did you guys have formal film school education or did you just kinda jump into this
Speaker 2: 06:06 a chatty not and go to film school? I went to film school in Santa Cruz, which was more about, it was very, very art film based at the time when I was there in the 90s and Tyler went to this slightly more traditional film school, but all in all we, we kind of have always treated our work as its own film school. And we started making stuff together as Chad was just saying, you know, we had no money. It was just time and ambition. So we'd get together and decide where we want to make and then go out and make it. And that usually involved us doing everything from getting the costumes, to getting the food, to getting the camera to lighting it gapping it every, everything was on us at that point. And it was a good way for us to really learn all facets of movie-making. You know, we'd be editing it, we'd be doing the sound design. And what's great about the evolution from that is that now we can hire really talented people to do a lot of that for us who are much better than us. But it gave us a good, a good like birds eye view on the whole process.
Speaker 5: 07:06 Well, you guys are a lot younger than me. And so when I started and went to film school, you know, we had to shoot on film, which meant you had to get work prints and like there are a lot of these expenses and you know, you couldn't see what you were shooting at all. So do you feel that kind of the advances in technology have made it easier for people like you to kind of jump in and just start experimenting with the kind of stories and things you want to do a little more readily than say 20 years ago?
Speaker 2: 07:35 Uh, yeah. Uh, this is Tyler. Yeah, absolutely. Uh, the, the way that we started working it was all about just using whatever we had access to. And thankfully technology has made it possible for just about anybody who has a phone in their pocket to pick up a camera and shoot something. And for us working within the limitations that we had, uh, and that we still have is a really valuable way to sort of hone, um, to hone your value system creatively. Uh, you know, when you don't have a lot of time or a lot of a lot of money, you find yourself having to really make specific choices to tell the story you went the way you want to tell it. And for us, that's, that's always come back to finding interesting characters and getting really specific about what those, what the struggles between those characters are. And um, and yeah, you don't need a whole lot now to go out and tell one of those stories. And we're, so, we think it's such an amazing time to be both in the business, but also to just be a viewer and a watcher of content. Because there, there's such an incredible variety of, of stories out there now and there are so many that are so good that maybe, you know, 15, 10, 15 years ago, uh, wouldn't, wouldn't have been told. So it's a, it's a really exciting time for, for storytellers.
Speaker 5: 08:51 And how did ready or not come to you? Was this a project that you initiated or did it come to you a, as a script?
Speaker 2: 08:58 I, yeah, it can feel less as a script actually twice, one time we hate the first time it came to us, we didn't get attached to it. They're already down the bathroom with somebody else. The second time it came to us were like this, we can't let this pass up. Uh, again, uh, let's go after it hard. And we, we went in and met with a trip, Vinson, Jamie Vanderbilt, Kara Forney, uh, producers on the movie. And we, we did this visual presentation for it and look Wilkin we showed him what we wanted to do and we created this board game that had like all the different weapons on it. And we just newly tonally, it was exactly what we were looking for in terms of the way it blended both elements of the genre and all of the comedy was like something that we wanted to get back to doing. You know, we were coming off of found footage and we were coming off of southbound, which was a little bit more dark I would say. And we just wanted to get back to having fun making things. Luckily Tripp and Jamey bought it and we check them and they let us and they let us make it. I'm going to be trick spiritual life. And the shit went out Matrix for flight and uh, and they bought the script and they, they, they put their weight behind the movie and we got in May.
Speaker 5: 10:08 Uh, and so the other two of you could talk a little bit about what attracted you to the project.
Speaker 2: 10:13 Yeah. I mean it isn't that the, everything strategist said about tone is huge. And then also, you know, the fun, the chance to play with this kind of commentary on the 1% and the length that they'll go to, which they'll go to maintain their wealth. And is there an implicit deal with the devil when you have obscene amounts of money? You know, those are all really fun, somatics to play with in this heightened Zantera world. And I think there was something so exciting to us about the idea that we can get something like that on like the political end of the spectrum. And then something is personal is what would you do for your family? Like to what lengths would you go to preserve your family, which is something that Becky played by Andie MacDowell that her character really embodies. And getting to play that personal and political all is the subtext to the heightened genre story was something that I think just really excited all of us.
Speaker 2: 11:07 Yeah. And then I, this is Tyler. I think the other thing that we really were immediately drawn to was the script, uh, with such a page Turner. But within it, there were all of these wildly unique obstacles and set pieces and characters and, and yeah. And the characters that were running the, those gauntlets were so interesting to us. There was a real opportunity for us as filmmakers to try to try something new to, to design sequences that we'd never seen before and to do them with characters that, um, that we genuinely loved and whose perspectives were, were interesting and bizarre. And, and uh, I think ultimately what we're, you know, what was in the script is just, it's, it's this wild ride that captivated and had our attention from page one and we sit at cool opportunity to get to bring it all to life.
Speaker 5: 11:59 Now this feels like a script that is very tightly laid out on a certain level, but did you guys have an opportunity to put some of your ideas in or to kind of play around with a little bit of it or was it kind of a set in stone?
Speaker 2: 12:15 Oh, no, no. Yeah, we were able to put up a pretty much a big stamp on it. Um, we, we changed the premise, not premise. I guess the event we're changing the whole day. We can't be back from like being a weekend with the family meeting the amounts for the first time to a wedding and having grace being or wedding dress me entire time. Uh, we changed the end of the movie. So we did go through an extensive development process with both networking with the writer, Zachary officers and directors [inaudible] same page. Everybody wanted to find the best way to get this made and find the right path to get to production. Searchlight included. So there was all like creative sessions and we were fortunate enough to have guy and Ryan work without the entire time up until through production. And you know, they were even on Seth a couple of days, uh, just making sure we got it right and we had in tightly the team in place from that we started with, yeah.
Speaker 2: 13:07 You know, we should say too that oftentimes, I mean from the time that script was written until it was made, it's probably what, eight, eight years, seven, seven years in the first draft. Yeah. And there is, um, obviously a lot of development that happens on a story over that period of time. And oftentimes when a project is around for that long, people get afraid of making it or they think something's wrong. And that's why it's not getting made. So when it gets developed, instead of it becoming more specific and more singular, it gets a little more broad and more homogenized. And that was the opposite of what happened with our experience. We found working with the producers and then working with the studio that the movie only ever became a more distilled and more fun and more shootable version of what we loved about it in the first place. It, um, you know, we were so, we're so grateful that everybody believed in how weird it was and that they're, they're sort of a, everybody's, everybody's priority first and foremost was to protect what was unique about it instead of trying to, to shave those edges off. It was about pushing them and making it as bizarre and as unique as we possibly could.
Speaker 4: 14:11 Whenever the Ludo masses are presented with a new addition to the family, we place a blank playing card into the box. Our initiate then has the privilege of drawing the card and Mr Labell will tell us which game we play. I got chess, I got old mate. Seriously. What the fuck is old mate Fitch?
Speaker 3: 14:49 [inaudible]
Speaker 5: 14:49 so I just take the car, my dear. It is your turn.
Speaker 4: 15:07 [inaudible]
Speaker 5: 15:10 what does it say? Girl said since hide and seek. Are you really gonna play that
Speaker 4: 15:24 or anything? Okay.
Speaker 5: 15:28 That was a clip from the film ready or not, which opens in theaters on August 21st I'll be back with more of my interview with radio silence after this short and final break. So it's pretty common for people to do storyboards before their films. But you talked about you had actually kind of developed a game. What did you kind of learn from creating the game that helped you when you actually got to shooting?
Speaker 2: 15:53 The game that we created, uh, was entirely for town. It was basically a tone board. It was kind of, it was a part of our pitch to search, to be really clear on what the kind of movie we wanted to make was. And, and that's something that once we were shooting we'd are, we worked really hard to solidify the tone by that time that everybody who got on board from cast the department head, everybody knew what we were aiming at and that as long as we had the same target, we could get there and make something that could somehow walk the tight rope of being scary and funny and genuinely emotional simultaneously or very close to simultaneously all within one movie and it, and it really, a lot of it did actually stem from making that initial board if when a lot of stuff kind of clicked for us in terms of what, what this movie should feel like when it's completed.
Speaker 2: 16:44 And then it gave us a target to aim at throughout the process. And this a shadow by the way, we did storyboards, I'm seeing this to, to, to help sell them on it. And I think one of the storyboards we did first, that is probably the most close to what it was in the film, was that the opening teaser with the boys running through the home and turning on the guy with a spear in his chest. So we did find value in storyboards and if we had more resources we probably would've storyboarded a lot more. You take what you could. Yeah. Yeah.
Speaker 5: 17:12 I didn't mean to imply that you guys wouldn't storyboard. I just,
Speaker 6: 17:18 yeah, yeah. Cause I mean you've got everybody,
Speaker 5: 17:23 but he can claim they designed a board game to kind of [inaudible].
Speaker 6: 17:26 Right.
Speaker 5: 17:28 Was unique. And I want to talk a little bit about the, the notion of horror comedy because your youtube videos have this mix of kind of being scary being funny, being pranks on the surface it seems like comedy and horror don't have anything in common, but on closer inspection that like the whole sense of like attention and a payoff and timing all seem to be like very important to both of those.
Speaker 2: 17:52 Yeah. You could have just adapted Joe for a scare. Yeah. I year, you're 100% right. And, um, there's also something about the experience of being scared or of laughing that's better when you're around other people when there's this kind of communal or community vibe. That's something I think everyone is kind of hungry for things or funny or when you're with other people and things are certainly scarier and more fun when you're sharing them with an audience of, of other people as well. But, um, in terms of, in terms of walking that tight rope, I mean for us it's all about and has been since we first started working together about really trying to ground that tone through our characters to, uh, tell stories about characters who regardless of the situation they're in, they're always acting and reacting very honestly and not equipped to deal with whatever that said situation is.
Speaker 2: 18:40 Yeah. We're not a fan of telling stories about experts that I think one of the, one of the very common themes in all of our work is there. There is one or multiple fish out of water. It's a, it's about a normal people walking into a situation that they're, that they're just wildly unequipped to deal with. And out of that situation is where, uh, tension and thrills and comedy are really born. But, um, there's so much of that as is also just about cast and how those characters are played. And, and very thankfully, you know, everyone that we cast was super on board and understood very specifically what that tight rope is because that, that tone gets lost very easily if someone sort of wandering outside of the guard rails and it was a, I mean, we're, we're just consistently amazed at how successfully the cast red red that their roles and then embodied them and grounded them emotionally throughout the project.
Speaker 2: 19:36 If it's something that we're just, we're so, we're so proud of, and also to speak to the horror and comedy of it. Uh, if you, I think one of the reasons we're so drawn to it is, is that in real life, they are actually very close. It's like, you know, people laugh at funerals, like that kind of thing. You know, people are sad at weddings like these, they're not as separate as we like to pretend that they are. When we talk about genres and when you look at some of like the classics of Genre Cinema and you look at like aliens jobs and shining. These movies all have truly comedic moments in them. And it's something that has been present for a long time and I think it's really exciting to see it. It's taking its own kind of shape now, especially with like Chris rock getting involved in the south theories. Jordan Peele obviously with get out, it's like there's like a whole new wave of this kind of horror that that is allowed to have a sense of humor. And I think it's exciting it as, as, as a filmmaker and as an audience.
Speaker 5: 20:32 Well, what I like about all those films that you mentioned in your own is it has a sense of humor, but it's not the kind of nudge, nudge, wink, wink, Haha. Kind of humor. It's more built into the story. Yeah, exactly.
Speaker 2: 20:46 And for us, that's the guiding, guiding principle is if the humor has to come from the characters and, and then if it's a funny, it's more about like humorous moments as opposed to jokes. Like there are a few jokes that were actually in the script that were funny on the page and they were really well written. But when, you know, we, we got into the kind of nuts and bolts of making it, we just realized they didn't work. They just kind of stepped outside of the lines of what, what this movie had become. So you'll notice that there's, while it hopefully it's very funny, it's not, they don't feel like jokes. Yeah. And I, this is also one of the benefits of having such a, such a fun ensemble of characters that represent a wide dynamic range of personality types and, and sort of belief systems when it comes to the ritual.
Speaker 2: 21:35 Uh, you've got an Helene on one end and you've got, you know, uh, Alex and Daniel on the other. And so you get to, you get to have all of the fun, uh, of this sort of more arch approach that on Helene tags. But, but then you come to understand why she is who she is. And, and the same goes for Daniel. You take this guy who's, you know, who's, um, who's sort of the, the jokester at first, but there's a sad desperation and that that's very, that's very real and very emotional and, and coming from a very real place. So that range while it's, um, while it's certainly fairly wide, uh, it's everyone that has a very specific point of view and, um, and it's justified in a way.
Speaker 5: 22:25 One of the things, uh, about a two you mentioned, uh, the characters and one of the things that I really liked is that you could on a certain level, take away the horror aspects and it's just about this kind of dysfunctional family get together because these characters really do have kind of some nicely drawn, uh, traits and personalities.
Speaker 2: 22:44 Yeah. That, this is Matt. That's, that's one of the things that we love from, you know, our first read of the script. And it gets to why we're able to ground the whores and the scares like we've been talking about for us. One of the best kinds of quote jokes that still lives in the movie is when the fish character played by Christian is a texting with his buddy and he, you know, he's like, what do you want to do? And he's like family shit. And you're like, right, because at the end of the day, this is just a family drama of quote, whacky, messed up family and, and this, you know, poor woman who's forced to deal with them. And it is, it's one of our, one of our, kind of another guiding principle for us is always like, if you take away the genre, is the movies still interesting on a character level? You know, what you're talking about is exactly that.
Speaker 5: 23:34 [inaudible] so how do you guys work on the set together? Cause there's three of you. Do you kind of divvy up duties? Do you overlap? Uh, are you all three on the set? All the time? How does that work?
Speaker 6: 23:45 Chad takes Mondays. I take today a lot of vacations. Literally, it's about vacation. No, it's um, you know,
Speaker 2: 23:54 for us, Tyler, Tyler, for us it's all about, about really getting specific about what our vision for the material is as early on as possible and, and all getting on the same page and, and really honestly trying to create as much creative friction as possible, as early as possible so that you can arrive at the best idea before you even show up on set. Cause inevitably you're going to find yourself having to problem solve something. But if we, if we're all pointing towards the same true north, it becomes a lot easier to know what the right idea or the right solve is in those moments. But when we're actively on set, we kind of described the way we work as, as a band, we all play different instruments. Well we all know how everyone else plays their instruments, but it only works if we're all playing them together.
Speaker 2: 24:42 So yeah, it's all hands on deck every day when we're on a set. And certainly we all have different specialties which make the process not only efficient, but also not confusing for the people that we have to have to communicate with. But it hasn't let us down yet. I think that we move, we moved really fast and there's really a unity of vision that comes from having worked together for, for 10 years. And, and I think sharing a lot of the same tastes, but also really wanting to create a process that's inclusive and collaborative and fun and that everybody feels like they can put their, their creative mark on. I play, I mean Kazoo.
Speaker 6: 25:22 The chocolate. Yes. Do not mistake chat.
Speaker 5: 25:29 Well, it also seems like with three of you, you know, it seems like sometimes when you're on a studio set with, you know, pressure to bring in a film on budget or on time or to deliver certain things. It seems like if you're just one person trying to hold onto that vision, it might be harder than if you're kind of a team where you can go, no, no, no. You are right. Don't, don't give in.
Speaker 2: 25:54 It is. It's, I mean we, we this Matt, we love the sort of insulation that comes with being a team where for better or for worse, you know, we can, we can complain together, we can work together, we can like problem solve together. One of the great things about ready or not was that we shot a lot of it at this place at Parkwood estates, about an hour outside of Toronto in Austraila and we had an hour drive both ways every morning and every night and it was a really great time for us to just like fit, fit together and cause when you're, when you're shooting everything is so chaotic and we had this kind of force hour to assist together and just talk through okay. Exactly how exactly we're going to do. We've already talked about it but like let's just go over it again. Let's like really settle in double, triple, quadruple check. Anything we thought we'd might have problems with. And at the end of the day was really good to kind of have a like, you know, how did the day go moment and really talk about it and be like, we can do this better tomorrow. We need to work on this, this worked great, let's replicate that. And it's, it's those little things that help us do the big thing better.
Speaker 5: 26:58 And what was it like shooting it? I mean it's a single location in the sense of it's this one giant house. You get a lot of different kind of places to play around there. But what is it like being a, you know, doing a script where you do have this certain kind of confinement to it?
Speaker 2: 27:16 I mean, this is Tyler. I mean, it was a challenge, but it was also a fun challenge. I think that, um, one of the things that we were looking for very specifically when we were scouting, where are these locations that had, um, they had a very clear sense of geography and uh, and that over the course of this movie, because it's confined to a singular location for so much of it that you're feeling the evolution of this space. Um, even though you know, even though it's a series of corridors and hallways that essentially exist on the same grounds, there is a real sense of, of a progression and a, of a d evolution as things continue on. And so much of that honestly was also just working with an incredible DP who had a really great sense of how the lighting design was going to evolve over the course of the movie and how things are going to start really steady and really controlled and become more handheld as we, as we get deeper and deeper into, into Grace's nightmare.
Speaker 2: 28:09 So, so there, there are a lot of, you know, visual tricks as well. But you know, for us the house is as big of a character as any of the characters. And it was, it was really incredible that we found what we found, uh, to shoot in practically. Um, it's actually a combination of three locations at Casa Loma in downtown Toronto, the Parkwood estate in Oshawa. And then the wide WCA, uh, also in Oshawa. And we had an amazing production designer who, who added a ton of a ton of interesting elements that are carried from space to space and make it all feel like it's a, like it's a singular location.
Speaker 5: 28:43 Talk a little bit about the way you wanted it to look cause it had this great visual look of kind of feeling a bit vintage and, and with the early, the title sequence, you know, you have all these games and these older games and stuff and just how did you want it to look?
Speaker 2: 28:58 Isn't that we wanted it to, to have a lived in vibe throughout, you know, it'd be really warm and be able to like live in this House lit by candle light. And we, we kind of tend to always steer away from technology in, in our work. It's not something that we love. So there's this very old school vibe that we wanted to get through out, you know, and then the fun of it for this movie was then you have greats who represents the opposite of all of that coming in and you know, tearing it all down and that, that, that does was just a really fun juxtaposition to have everything be grand and old. And the camera is very controlled in the beginning when the family's in charge and then, you know, as great kind of taste, taste the rain, the face, the camera gets a lot more frantic, it gets a lot more chaotic visually. And it was just something that, that helped us tell the story in a way that hopefully keeps it through Grace's perspective as much as possible and keeps it kind of exciting and Punk Rock, you know?
Speaker 1: 29:56 All right, well I want to thank you all very much for taking some time to talk.
Speaker 2: 29:59 Thank you. Thank you. That one free. Yeah, it's been a pleasure.
Speaker 3: 30:11 [inaudible]
Speaker 1: 30:11 that was Chad Velella. Matt Bet. Tonelli open and Tyler Gillette also known as radio silence. Their new film ready or not opens on August 21st cinema junkie comes out every other Friday. And if you enjoy the show, please subscribe to the podcast and leave a review on iTunes or just tell a friend to take a listen. Thanks to everyone who's already left a review or converted friends into subscribers till our next film fix on Beth, like a Mondo your residents, and I'm a junkie.
Satisfy your celluloid addiction with the Cinema Junkie podcast, where you can mainline film 24/7. This film and entertainment series is run by KPBS Film Critic Beth Accomando. So if you need a film fix, want to hear what filmmakers have to say about their work, or just want to know what's worth seeing this weekend, then you've come to the right place