Chad Werner: A Conversation About Horror, Hosts, and More In the Film Industry

Writer-director Chad Werner has a new horror film set for release on DVD and VOD this February, The Perfect Host.  The film follows 2 friends who rent a lakeside Airbnb, but discover that their host may be more sinister than he appears.  I chatted with Werner about his film, as well as his love for horror:

1: What inspired you to become a film director?

I always wanted to do that.  I wanted to be an actor in elementary school.. but the more I watched movies the more I realized I wanted to be a director.  I wanted to do it for as long as I could remember.

2: Have you ever had any bad experiences with Airbnb, and if so, did they go into the screenplay for The Perfect Host?

Nothing extreme.  My brother stayed one time and the host wouldn’t leave them alone.  He kept telling them places where to go.  It wasn’t creepy, but my brother said he wouldn’t let up, which inspired the Tad character.

3: How did you go about finding funding for A Perfect Host?

I put a lot of effort into getting friends involved. and when we were in post-production we ran a crowd-funding campaign.  I made funny videos to show people it was coming.

4: The writing and performances here feel more realistic to me than most horror films.  How did you go about writing the film and directing your actors to be as believable as possible while still working within the parameters of fun psychological horror?

It was all very intentional.  I wanted to go to a crazy place but also bring the audience along and have characters that people liked.  I wrote a lot from just personal experience.  I wanted it to be something relatable.  In the performances, I gave my actors freedom to mess with the script.  There was a lot of improv.  I would tell the actors to stick to script but do what you want with it.  They worked really hard on building chemistry and relationships that made sense.

5: What did you look for in your actors when casting the film?

I was looking for believability.  A lot of the actors are friends of mine so it was easy to write for them.  When it came to Avery, I wanted her to be incredibly likable, but also anyone’s friend.  She brought such a relaxedness and relatability to her performance.  I think Katelyn [Marie Marshall] has a great future ahead of her.

6: How much additional stress was put on you being both the writer and director of the film?

It’s something I’ve always done.  I have a nice skill to separate the writing process from directing one.

7: Much of the soundtrack uses a synthesizer score reminiscent of horror from the 1980’s.  How did you decide to use that and go about implementing it while still retaining the very modern look and feel?

A lot of our inspiration was from classic horror movies.  We pulled a lot of shots directly from Psycho and the shining.  The first real horror movie I saw when I was 12 was Halloween.  Jeff [McQuitty] played Sam and also did the music… took what was already on the screen and made this… really eerie sound.  I like juxtaposition and when old period movies put in new music and vice versa.  I wanted every shot and every note to be intentional with that.

8: What advice would you give de any burgeoning film directors/writers?

There’s zero excuse not to do this.  The technology we have now, we can do things practically for free.  I had a short film that I shot on an iPhone and it looks great.   It’s the fact that we can do that now.  Now you can learn pretty much anything from YouTube.  My advice: Get some friends together, order a pizza, shoot a short film, and edit it on your iPhone.  I think a lot of people (including myself) get held back by their inhibition (I don’t have the money, camera)).  You can shoot something on a shoestring budget and it be amazing.  Keep writing and keep watching movies.

9: How did you go about incorporating Avery’s previous attack in the story?

Having friends that have experienced things like that and others who have co-opted that into their work.  For me, it’s an extreme version of something that’s happened in my life.  I wrote a play in college and my now-wife was kind offended at the play.  We had a conversation about it.

I wanted Avery to be a little more paranoid and mistrusting, but Sam to be a little more trustring because he’s been rejected this relationship

10: Why was Janet (a character)’s face obscured in her introduction?

I wanted to establish this relationship as a much more comfortable one than Sam and Avery.  I wanted it to be more about the guy’s point of view.  It was definitely purposeful and later we switch to her perspective.  I wanted it to be a little disorienting when we switch locations.

A Perfect Host will be available on DVD and VOD February 4th, 2020.

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