Wes Craven Talks YEAH! and His Untold Stories

Wes Craven's New Nightmare Wes Craven Cameo

During the SXSW Film Festival, AMC Networks launched its own streaming movie service, YEAH!. Films on YEAH! will also include bonus features which the viewers can pause the movie and launch. Filmmaker Wes Craven was in Austin to promote the launch of YEAH!. He has two films on YEAH!, A Nightmare on Elm Street and Scream, for which he tells many stories in the YEAH! extras. We got 27 minutes to talk with Craven in depth about the latest stage in film exhibition, and analyze Freddy, Ghostface, Horace Pinker and the Collingwood parents. Spoiler alert for Scream, Last House on the Left and The People Under the Stairs, because we went there.

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CraveOnline: Entering this new phase of the industry where there are all these different platforms to stream, what did you think of the idea of YEAH! that includes extra features?

Wes Craven: I think it’s a terrific idea. It’s kind of a better version of director’s commentary on DVDs. The problem with that always was, you’d be watching your own movie and there’s a terrific story coming up about this next scene but the scene’s only a minute and a half long and the story’s two minutes long. You always felt too pressed for time to be able to really tell the details that you’d like to tell. In this, there’s really technically no limit. I mean, when I did Nightmare on Elm Street and Scream for YEAH!, I think they’re a couple minutes at the most but it’s nice, and you can stop the movie. They told me it’s for fans that have seen the films a lot of times, although if you haven’t seen the film, you can just watch the film also which is another option. There’s lots of stories you can tell if you have time to tell them and this gives you the time.

I was going to ask, as a filmmaker do you really want people stopping the movie to watch bonus features?

Not on the first watching, but that’s the nice thing about this. Yeah gives you the ability just to watch the movie if you haven’t seen it before, but a lot of these are sort of evergreen movies. The majority of people that will be using it I think will have seen the films, and maybe even watched the DVD commentaries, but this has a lot of different things. It has quizzes and it has text and all sorts of things. If you find it annoying you can shut it off and just watch the movie or just click on the things that you’re interested in.

You did Nightmare on Elm Street and Scream for YEAH! Did you have stories that haven’t been on the DVDs for those films?

Yeah. And stories in more detail because as I said, you have time.

There was a four hour documentary on the Nightmare series that you were a part of, so even more stories than fit in that?

Well, I don’t know. Four hour documentary, I don’t know. This is the shorter version of the four hour documentary.

If they get around to doing People Under the Stairs, Shocker or all the way back to Last House on the Left, would you have material for all your films?

Oh, absolutely.

What further films would you hope they do? I guess New Nightmare and the Scream sequels would make sense.

Yeah, any film you make there’s a bunch of stories that are fun to tell. Sometimes you think of things that you haven’t said before. I think any director worth his or her salt can tell you interesting things about the film, from how you thought up the idea to difficulties or things that happened on the set that are funny, whatever it is. I like these platforms. It’s allowed the films to have a long life.

Which of the films on YEAH! are you looking forward to watching and exploring all the extras?

Well, I watched The Exorcist when they first gave me my passkey to the service. I was going to see how it basically worked and watch a couple minutes, and I ended up watching the whole movie and learned a lot of things about it I didn’t know. Things about the opening that takes place in Iran, but it was interesting. I’ve never heard Friedkin talk about the movie so I learned a lot of interesting things about the making of Exorcist.

If VOD were a platform when you started making films, do you think you would have made a movie like Last House on the Left?

[Laughs] I don’t know. That movie, it sounds odd to put the word naivety on Last House, but it was just two guys, me and Sean Cunningham. He happened to own an editing machine and someone offered him, they wanted a scary movie for their theater chain to show as a second feature. So we didn’t know anything about making real movies. We didn’t know anything about the movie world. We didn’t know anything about Hollywood or rating systems, anything. We just made what we thought would be a scary movie so we weren’t thinking about it in any way except getting the movie done, with a crew of I think eight and six actors. It was all very, very basic. We never thought about anything beyond the day.

That’s why movies like that existed in the ‘70s and when video came out, a different sort of movie came along. Now with VOD lots of different types of movies can reach an audience.

Yeah. I mean, you think that was the days of classic films but even then our little office, our little two room office was in a building that had a lot of documentary filmmakers in it. And those documentary filmmakers were probably five years earlier just inventing the whole process of taking newsreel cameras and converting them into something that could be put on the shoulder and be highly mobile. Time Life gave a bunch of their still photographers these new cameras and said, “Go out and make documentaries.” We literally used one of those cameras and a documentary film cameraman. So that gave us a lot of mobility, the ability to move quickly, so we were already making a new kind of movie at that time for very little. $90,000 was the whole budget.