Scream VI arrives with major changes to the long-running slasher franchise. It’s the first film without Neve Campbell as Sidney. Directors Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett, known for V/H/S and Ready or Not, return to the helm after their requel success in last year’s Scream; which introduced Sam (Melissa Barrera) and Tara (Jenna Ortega) Carpenter as the new protagonists. The filmmakers handled the shift with a clear focus on the sisters in a frenetic new setting.
Scream VI takes place in New York City. Sam has accompanied Tara to college along with twins Mindy (Jasmin Savoy Brown) and Chad (Mason Gooding). Bettinelli-Olpin and Gillett use the city’s “relentless energy” to exacerbate the sisters complicated relationship. They’re still trying to process what happened in Woodsboro when Ghostface returns to murder and torment. Scream and Scream VI were shot in quick succession. The directors, who consider the cast and crew as a “family”, had two years with the new ensemble to establish strong connections. They hit the ground running when the production moved from Wilmington, North Carolina to Montreal, Canada.
Bettinelli-Olpin and Gillett reunite with their Ready Or Not star Samara Weaving, who has a fantastic cameo. The filmmakers discuss how the opening scene significantly changes the expectations and dynamic of the bloody story. They’re going in a different direction with new leads, but also paying homage and incorporating key elements from the previous storylines. Bettinelli-Olpin and Gillett also discuss their process as a team. They have distinct duties, along with Chad Villella, their partner in the filmmaking collective Radio Silence, who serves as a producer.
MovieWeb: You took over the Scream franchise from horror legend Wes Craven. On your second film, what can you tell fans is new and different about Scream VI?
Matt Bettinelli-Olpin: We really wanted to make sure that the city matters, that the relentless energy was infused into the movie. That’s a big part of it, but the movie starts and ends two hours later without an off-ramp. There’s no side quests. It’s very go go go. We love that in the movies. We got to spend a lot of time with the new characters and really create those relationships. We explore what they’re going through in a real, tangible way. Those two things, the high-octane action and deep emotional resonance, that’s what we’re most proud of.
MW: This is the first Scream without Neve Campbell as Sidney. Melissa Barrera and Jenna Ortega are now the franchise stars. Talk about them as the new leads. Did they feel any pressure?
Tyler Gillett: We felt no pressure to be perfectly honest. Melissa and Jenna are so connected and good at their jobs. Our job was to design the look, feel, and set-up of the movie, then step back, and let the people we’d already worked with just cut loose and do what they do best. One of the benefits of doing these movies so close, back to back, we got to see characters trying to process the events of the previous movie. Both came, Melissa and Jenna as Sam and Tara, with a lot to unpack. They’re siblings with a complicated relationship. You relate to that dynamic. Then you add the terror of Ghostface on top of that. You have something really accelerated and interesting to explore emotionally.
A Dynamite Open
MW: You have a dynamite open with Samara Weaving. I was a big fan of Ready or Not. Was she written in the script from the beginning or were you able to cast her later?
Bettinelli-Olpin: That was the first thing we read in the new script. It was fifteen pages in, Guy [Busick] and Jamie [Vanderbilt], the writers, had told us, “Oh [expletive], this is a different kind of script.” We know what you’re expecting and are going to mess with it. That informed the entire movie. As fans, reading the script for the first time got us really excited for the possibilities. We called up Samara, who we love dearly. Do you want to do this? Without hesitating she said of course. That scene changed the littlest from what’s on the page compared to the movie. The subversion of expectations was so important. It set the tone for the entire movie.
MW: How do you work as a team?
Gillett: We’ve been doing it for so long, I don’t think either of us could imagine it any other way. It’s a really exhausting process. You have to make a million and one choices. A lot of times those things happen very fast. I think having someone by your side that you trust to rattle test everything is wildly invaluable. It’s also why you see so many directors working with the same crew over and over. Once you find something that works, you rinse and repeat as many times as possible.
Gillett: As far as how it works technically, we both have different and specific strengths, but there’s a ton of overlap. We have a system of checks and balances to make sure the best idea wins. On set, it’s split evenly with the ensemble, Matt handles the actors most of the time, and I deal with the technical aspects like the blocking and cameras. Chad [Villella, Radio Silence partner] works the producing side of things. It also invites a type of worker into our mix who’s also excited about collaboration. It’s really kind and very familial.
Surmounting Obstacles as a Family
MW: What’s the best and worst day on the set of Scream VI?
Bettinelli-Olpin: I don’t think I can pinpoint the best day. Every day, the producers and cast, we went through the same thing in Wilmington. Being there together in Montreal was so effortless. We’ve already been a family for a couple of years. It was so special. It makes every day, regardless of obstacles and headaches, just surmountable because we’re doing it together. I know it’s a corny answer, but everything was good for that reason.
Gillett: This one was a challenge with Covid, but that’s just the reality we’re living in. It’s a new variable in a process with millions of variables. You can’t control it. But wrapping scene 87D [NO SPOILERS] was one of my best days. There’s always a sequence, on the page it seems we got that, and then it’s three rounds of the alphabet setting up. It ended up being over a hundred set-ups. When we wrapped, there was actual applause on set. People were like, “Holy sh*t! We survived scene 87D.” (laughs)
Scream VI will be released theatrically on March 10th from Paramount Pictures.