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Gregg Hoffman

Gregg: "I've actually been working in the business for more than 15 years".

Conducted by Phil Davies Brown
October 24th, 2005

Whilst traditionally, the producer isn't normally the most popular member of a film crew by any stretch of the imagination, it has to be said I've met a few nice ones in my time and one of them was none other than Saw II Producer Gregg Hoffman.

With just a few short days to go until his latest movie hits theatres, he was unbelievably kind and talked to me at length about not only the pressure to deliver a sequel to last Halloween's box-office sensation, but also about his upcoming horror movies, the highly anticipated Catacombs and Silence.

Read on for some very juicy details about some of the most interesting genre films to come out of Hollywood in years.

What is your background in film? Despite a few film credits in the 90's and a role as producer on George of the Jungle 2, to the casual viewer, it would seem as though you simply came out of obscurity packing a punch with Saw.
I originally came to Hollywood to write. However, I quickly realized that I hated sitting alone in a dingy apartment all day and actually didn't have that much talent. Needing money to survive, I took a job working with an independent producer in the late 80's/early 90's. He managed to get a few films made and while none of them made even a dent at the box office, I learned a ton about different aspects of the film industry and actually collected a few credits both as a Music Supervisor and Co-Producer.

In 1993 I got a job as a junior executive at Walt Disney Pictures and over the next 7 years worked my way up the corporate ladder, eventually becoming a Senior Vice President. While there, I worked on most of the big live-action family films -- GEORGE OF THE JUNGLE, INSPECTOR GADGET, 101 and 102 DALMATIANS, etc.

Tiring of the corporate grind, I left the boardroom in 2000 and produced GEORGE OF THE JUNGLE 2.

At that point, I hooked up with my current partners Oren Koules and Mark Burg. We started developing a number of scripts at the studios outside the horror genre. So while it may seem that I came out of nowhere, I've actually been working in the business for more than 15 years.

How does one become a producer?
There's no one "right" way. It's all about material. If you have something people want, and you've been smart enough to protect yourself legally so it can't be stolen out from under you, "poof" you're a producer. You may not have the experience to oversee the production of the movie, but you'll end up with a credit at the end of the day.

How did Saw find its way to you?
It was a happy accident. I was at a talent agency office waiting for a meeting to start, when an agent I know came out into the lobby with a funny look on his face. He asked if I had a minute to watch something. We went into the conference room and he put a DVD into the machine. It turned out to be James Wan's short film -- in essence the jaw trap sequence from SAW except Leigh Whannell was in the jaw trap. My jaw hit the floor. I learned that it was from a writing/directing/acting team and that there was a script that built upon the scene in the short. I grabbed a copy of the DVD and the script and told the agent not to do anything until he heard back from me.

I raced back to the office and showed the short to my partners, who had the same reaction. Unbeknownst to anyone in town, we had quietly been looking for a low-budget film to finance ourselves. We read the script that night and made the decision that if James and Leigh weren't completely crazy, we were going to make an offer to produce and finance the film.

How did you first meet with James and Leigh and what were your first impressions of them?
James and Leigh were en route to Los Angeles from Melbourne when I saw the short and read the script. A day later they were in our offices fresh off the plane. They hadn't even checked into their hotel yet! My first impression was that they both looked like they were about 12 years old. But James showed us production design ideas and Leigh spoke intelligently about how he would play Adam and within about 15-20 minutes we made them an offer.

Gregg: "We staked our own money on it".

Could you tell early on that Saw had the potential to be something special?
Absolutely. We staked our own money on it.

Did you let the guys do their thing, or are you an overbearing type of producer?
It's my job to make sure filmmakers have the best resources the budget allows so that they can make the best film they can. I work almost exclusively with very green directors who have a lot of vision, but don't always know exactly how to translate that vision onto the screen. That said, I get very involved in the hiring of Directors of Photography, Editors, Production Designers, Composers, etc. I also make sure that the director is giving himself enough options (i.e. camera angles, performance choices, etc.)during production. Finally, I get very involved in the editing process, especially as we get close to finalizing everything.

Were you pleased with the finished product, and it's critical and commercial success? (I guess that question is kind of rhetoric).
Ummmm.... yeah! (laughing) That's not to say there arenít things in the film that we all feel could have been better with a little more time and money. As for its critical reception, I certainly don't think the critics were kind, especially here in the US. But at the end of the day, what matters is that the people spoke and the people liked it!

Who first had the idea of pressing ahead with Saw 2 and what were your thoughts on the idea?
I think the conversation first started on the Saturday after the movie opened. Obviously, we were all blown away by the success. The film far surpassed even our most ambitious financial expectations. The good news was that our killer lived, so we didn't have to go through any ridiculous plot contortions to continue the story. My thought process was simply that if we were going to go for it, we better not screw it up. I hate quickie sequels as much as the next guy, so even though we were immediately in a time crunch, we had to do everything in our power to get it done right.

What can you say to the sceptical fans who are perhaps worried that it has become about money, and that you guys have rushed into production on a sequel to make a quick buck?
Let's be honest here -- sequels are always about money. The trick is not to burn the fans. We've gone to great pains to not do that. Several key cast members returned and a lot of time was spent on the script. Leigh Whannell was critically involved in the final drafts of the script and gave it his seal of approval. The fans will ultimately tell us whether we've succeeded or not, but I personally feel that we've done everything we could.

Gregg: "Darren had a great vision for the film".

How did Darren Bousman land the job of director?
An original script of Darren's and his short films found its way to my desk. I liked it very much and pitched the idea to my partner Oren Koules. At the time, James and Leigh were touring the world in support of the original SAW and we were trying to come up with an idea for the sequel. When he heard Darren's idea, he immediately said "that could be SAW II." We bought the script and started to rewrite for the SAW universe. Darren had a great vision for the film, and as I've always said, I'd much rather take a chance on someone hungry with vision than play it safe with a middle-of-the-road, "safe" choice.

How do you think Darren coped with the task at hand?
Darren was a total stud. This was NOT an easy assignment. He had to adapt his own script into SAW II (Leigh came in towards the end of the process) and prepare for his directorial debut in a very short, intense period of time. That's a lot to ask of a 26 year-old kid who's total cinematic output was 3 shorts and a Virgin Cola commercial campaign. There were some tough times to be sure, but he had such a specific vision of the film that we just kept on believing in him!

Were James & Leigh pleased with the way the project was handled
I think this is better asked of James and Leigh. I CAN tell you that they both like the finished film quite a bit. It's a different movie than they would have made, for sure, but I think they definitely feel itís a worthy successor to the first film.

You managed to attract a great cast again, did you have to convince many people that it was going to be great or was that all evident in the writing?
I think the potential of the film was evident on a story level when we started to cast. We did a lot of late-night writing once we had the cast read-through and got a sense of how the actors were going to embody their characters. Donnie Wahlberg and Tobin Bell in particular were extremely involved in shaping their scenes together and I think it shows in the finished product.

As for the cast itself, I think the success of the first film played a big part in making the actors feel comfortable coming into the sequel. With the exception of the director, they were going to be surrounded by the exact same creative team as the first.

What can you tell us about your upcoming projects such as Catacombs and Silence?
CATACOMBS was shot in Bucharest, Romania and Paris earlier this year (before SAW II). Because of the rush to complete SAW II, we're just finishing post-production on CATACOMBS now. It stars Shannyn Sossamon and Alecia Moore (aka Pink) and is another claustrophobic horror/thriller, only this time itís set in the Catacombs under Paris. We're going to do some audience testing on the film here in the U.S. over the next several weeks and firm up the release date and plans shortly thereafter.

SILENCE was James Wan's second directorial effort. Leigh wrote the script. It's very much an updated take on the old Hammer Films style horror story (with a bit of Twin Peaks tossed in for good measure). It's quite different than SAW -- much less brutal, but VERY macabre and atmospheric. It continues with James' fascination with creepy puppets. This time there's over 100 of them!!! We made the film for Universal and it will be released in the U.S. either in the Spring or Fall of 2006. The film wrapped principal photography the end of August so James has only been editing for a few weeks.

Finally, is it likely we will see a Saw III?
I'll tell you Saturday, October 29th once I hear how we did Friday night!

"Thank you ever so much for taking part in this interview Gregg.
And we wish you the very best of luck in the future."

Don't fall behind, make sure you get help
writing college papers fast.


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