I loved this script. By striking a perfect tone between scary tension, moments of real humor, and nuanced performances that make a commentary on the all-consuming life of a social media influencer, we can create a movie that feels truly unique and poignantly terrifying.
Creating a hybrid cast of real influencers and more traditional actors is something I've done numerous times and to great effect. Aside from the obvious PR benefits of having a built in fan-base, the characters of Lauren and Megan really lean into what Lauren Elizabeth and Claudia Sulewski do best. Being a YouTuber myself and coming up through that world, I've always had great camaraderie with other social media-addicted influencers. Combining them with generous actors (for characters like Dave and Kara) and creating a comfortable environment can get us some real moving and natural performances, while maintaining the personality and levity of these ladies that their fans have fallen in love with.
A natural comedienne, Lauren is the queen of sarcasm and wit. When weird shit starts happening in her room she reacts to it like we all would, by laughing about it. But as things get weirder and Lauren's personality starts to morph, it'll leave us asking if she's joking or just possessed?
While friends with Lauren in real life, Claudia brings a totally different energy which will be a great contrast. More of the vulnerable, raw, and sincere type, she'll represent the other type of influencer we've come to love. And with Claudia's recent lead roles on Tagged and The Commute, she should be ready to take on the challenge of a slightly darker role that asks what the limits of sharing your personal life on camera are.
One of the things that really sticks out to me about The Stack is that while it has fun with the tropes of fame, fandom, and selfies, it in no way panders to the fans. Our characters are self-aware while also owning their identities. In the same way that the characters feel honest, the scares should too. The part where the demon child snaps Megan's boyfriend's neck is so visceral and surprising, which I love. Young audiences nowadays are very smart and have short attention spans, so we need to keep them on their toes at all times. Instead of settling for a Disneyfied teen-girl type of tone, I'd love to get real emotions, real moments, and real tension. We can follow in the footsteps of movies like Paranormal Activity, Scream, and Get Out that have appealed to a wider audience by always pushing the unexpected. This will all add up to deliver the fantastic ending of The Stack, where nobody escapes in tact.
There are so many great ideas to explore in this script. What resonates with me most is the idea of being constantly connected, under watch, with your privacy not really belonging to you anymore. And being surrounded by young people that believe they are owed access to your life. They consume people with no boundaries.
The adjoining hotel rooms of Lauren and Megan are a huge part of The Stack and I would love to have as much control as possible with those. If we found an older hotel that we could take over for a few days to shoot the VidCon stuff, we would design the rooms and adjoining hallway to match that hotel and build them on a stage. Something gothic with cool wallpaper and carpeting would be great. That way we can move walls and get great angles on our characters and our location. The room is old and un-updated compared to the hotel, so we can take creative license by making it visually very interesting as opposed to the sterile hotel rooms of your common convention hotel.
One of the aspects that makes this a modern horror comedy is the various formats we'll be capturing our moments with. While this is something that's tried and true, it is surprisingly effective. Whenever possible, I'd love to capture media with the same device that the characters are using. We'll always shoot coverage in some insanely high resolution that we can use in post, but you can never beat the authentic look of a tiny lens on a phone or laptop.
I've worked on many productions where we need to re-create large scale events and there are a lot of great tricks to do it on a budget. I directed a movie where we needed our main character to walk out into a UFC fight. We convinced UFC-president Dana White to allow us to film our actor at an actual fight, complete with screaming fans and octagon. We also took 100 extras and turned them into a giant crowd for our finale tournament sequence using VFX, lighting and camera-tricks. Since the experience for YouTube celebrities at events like VidCon are so hectic, I'd love to capture that with a handheld camera as we're traveling through "throngs" of people (strategically placed in front and at the edges of camera) to create the feeling of walking through a giant crowd.
A Unique View
From my first reading of this script I saw there was something original about this viewpoint. It's a horror thriller that doesn't trap its main characters in a location or with a monster. There aren't teams that get together to go save the day with some magic amulet. Everything that contains these characters is based on their relationships to each other and their fans. Like one of my favorite films, Rosemary's Baby, the protagonists never quite know what is happening, and the audience is with them the entire time.
I also really like the transition of protagonist from Lauren and Megan to Dave as the movie evolves, leaving us following threads we wouldn't have expected.
All-in-all this project has a ton of potential to make a film we're proud of and that would consume audiences just like they've consumed its stars.