Ian Kammer is a writer and director, working in narrative film and branded content. Born and raised in a small, rainy Pacific Northwest town, eventually leaving to attend Art Center College of Design in Pasadena. A fan of atmosphere and genre, his work has been recognized with wins and short-lists at the Clios, D&AD, AICP, Cannes Young Director Awards, Porsche International Student Advertising Film Awards, and Vimeo Staff Picks.
Q & A
Name a Horror character you relate to on a spiritual/personal level?
I’ve always admired characters like Chief Brody and Ripley, just ordinary people catapulted into extraordinary circumstances.
You’ve gotta go through some bad ideas to get to the good ones. Tell us one of your bad ideas. How do you get past the bad ones to find your spark?
Originally the story centered around aliens, with strange lights in the sky being reported instead of earthquakes. We got some really honest feedback while writing it and made the decision to have the creatures come from underground instead. I don’t think we’re really fearing anything invading from far away anymore, the real threats are coming from our own backyard.
Do you consider yourself part of a horror community?
I feel like I'm pretty new to the community. I didn’t watch a ton of horror growing up, but some of my favorite films are horror films, especially from filmmakers not necessarily in the horror community.
When you’re building the world of your film, where do you look for inspiration?
I knew going into it that I didn’t want to show the creatures very much, for budgetary and stylistic reasons. Films like JAWS, Alien and especially Signs where you don’t really see the threat fully, were a huge inspiration. A lot came from the house itself, the multiple floors and hallways make it pretty cavernous, almost feeling like the hotel in The Shining. The interior design hadn’t changed much since the 80s when it was built so we didn’t have to do much production design to make it more interesting. I feel like really effective horror films make an ordinary activity or moment into a scarring experience. Alarm systems are common place now and you can get used the familiar alerts and beeps and think nothing of it. With Safe and Sound I wanted to set up the simple cue of the alarm beeps, then keep ramping them up until they become something much more sinister. I love building dread and tension, so the concept that the very thing that should be helping and supporting the characters is actually terrorizing them was fun to explore.
What would you do if you woke up inside of your film?
Hide somewhere with a solid foundation, but that might not be enough.
Who would be on your ultimate horror villain squad?
The Thing, then try to infect the other heavy hitters.
Lightning round: Freddy or Jason? Stephen King or H.P. Lovecraft? Practical or CGI? Post Apocalypse or Pre Apocalypse?
Jason Stephen King I think there’s a place for both CGI and practical effects, especially when they’re used together. I grew up watching the Mad Max films, so definitely post apocalypse.
How do you go about creating the props and sets for your film? How do you create objects that are relatable but unfamiliar?
Luckily the alarm system we used was already installed in the house, so we didn’t have to fabricate anything. In the early stages of writing, the alarm system only beeped, but eventually we added an electronic voice to make more of a character and give it some personality.
What scares you, and does it inspire your storytelling?
I’ve always been inspired by ominous, shadowy places where your “fear of the unknown” instinctively kicks in. I grew up in the Pacific Northwest next to a dense forest and spent a lot of nights just staring at the tree line form my window, waiting for something to come out. It’s classic human nature, but It’s there for a reason.
And finally, Ghostface would like to know ‘What’s your favourite scary movie?’
Alien and The Thing