We talk with producer, Aaron Bergman, on his emotional sci-fi/horror hybrid for the new Welcome to the Blumhouse anthology film series, Black Box.
Welcome to the Blumhouse is the new anthology film series on Amazon, but the producer of Black Box explains why the entry is so important.
Each of the different installments in Welcome to the Blumhouse unpack a different style of trauma and anxiety, but they’re all thematically connected by how they examine things like family and identity. Amazon’s genre output greatly improves by having this new anthology film series to turn out unexpected and ambitious stories that may not be suitable for the cinema.
Black Box is an engrossing hybrid of horror and science fiction that grounds itself in a very human story about regret and family. It covers a lot of ground and marks a promising future for everyone involved. It’s also a creative departure from Blumhouse’s typical oeuvre of content. It took a lot of work to bring Black Box to life and properly reflect the values that the film does. Producer Aaron Bergman elaborates on how to find the humanity in science fiction stories, pulling from real life trauma for storytelling, and how to make an imprint on the space of genre filmmaking.
What about Black Box initially drew you towards this project?
Aaron Bergman: The script was sent to me and I read it probably faster than I’ve ever read a script before. What we found so compelling about it was its ability to operate as both a genre film, but also how it works in the space of a psychological thriller. It’s also saying so much about the discovery of grief and how that plays into our lives, both as someone who’s grief-stricken and someone who is dealing with the individual who has the grief. Black Bar Mitzvah, Jay [Ellis] and my production company, our mission is always to take worlds that we think we know and then spin them on their axis to show people a truth that that may not be aware of. This takes a genre that we think we know, and emotion that we think we know, and from a perspective that we don’t typically get to see. There are such diverse writers involved with this project and they’re the types of voices who wouldn’t be typically represented for this kind of movie.
Black Box kind of fits in perfectly with this block of Blumhouse horror films that have been put together for Amazon. Did their involvement influence the production in any ways?
Aaron Bergman: No, I mean we had been dealing with Blumhouse for a while as we tried to figure this all out. They were very collaborative in terms of trying to find the best place to work together. When production started, or even during pre-production, Jay and I were heavily involved, but then we actually started filming we were there for the entire shoot. We chatted with Blumhouse for absolutely every step, whether it was when we found the script, pre-production, production, post-production, so their involvement only improved Black Box. It was very advantageous to have them around through the production of the film.
The whole cast here is fantastic, but how do they help ground and bring out more of the humanity within this science fiction story?
Aaron Bergman: I have to admit, we got pretty lucky here. When we sent our cast lists out internally, our number one picks were Mamoudou [Athie] and Phylicia [Rashad]. We sent it to them, it spoke to both of them, and they said yes. So I want to say it was arduous on that end, but it worked out really well. And similar to our mission, we get to see Mamoudou in a role that we typically don’t get to see him in, and Phylicia—who’s always kind of like gets to be “America’s Mom”—is also in this very different kind of role. With Amanda [Christine], we saw a lot of different people for that role and it wasn’t easy, but she just blew us out of the water, both as a person and a performer. She shows such a range that’s really amazing.
Were you excited to tackle something with more of a sci-fi slant and to bring some of these grander effects and visuals to life?
Aaron Bergman: Yeah, Jay and I always talk about how within the genre space there’s often not a lot of representation from a diversity standpoint. Jay would say that when he would be out for auditions he’d either be up for like Character #6 or someone who dies really early. This is our first feature that’s going to play and so we wanted to make an imprint on the genre space to show that it’s possible to tell a story that’s universal to everyone, but the cast can still reflect the world that we live in. So can the director. So can the DP. So we felt very fortunate to have Black Box as the script to accomplish all of this.
The lighting during some of those Black Box sequences is so beautiful and adds a lot to things. Talk a little on those stylistic touches.
Aaron Bergman: We took our time finding a director and Emmanuel [Osei-Kuffour Jr.]’s vision was spelled out very clearly and also very thoroughly. Part of that was this aspect of how to play with light during different moments between the real world and the Black Box. Emmanuel really came in with that idea and then the DP guaranteed that we wee getting those shots and distinguishing the Black Box, but also creating this space with an artistic slant to it. We had a lot of meetings on it all, but the vision was there from the start.
This film unpacks some larger themes like control and independence, albeit in a unique way, but what do you think the film is saying on those topics?
Aaron Bergman: Yes. For sure. The film touches on so much and something that we really wanted to represent, which comes from personal experiences from both of the writers. They wrote about not only how the idea of grief affected them, but also how it affects others. It looks at how grief can take over people’s agency, which is present in a lot of characters in the film. It looks at how grief can manipulate all of that, but also how by coming to terms with that grief there can be independence and self-agency that’s regained.
There’s a constant struggle throughout the film within everyone. All of them in some way are struggling to find their independence, but to also come to terms with reality. It’s that fight that we thought was so interesting and that this emotional layer hadn’t been seen a lot before. That’s what excites us the most and we’re very interested in making more films that exist in the same place that Black Box plays in.
Next: Every Horror Movie Franchise Created By Blumhouse (So Far)
Welcome to the Blumhouse’s Black Box premieres on Amazon Prime on October 6.
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