While Scott C. Silver is unable to kill a werewolf with a single punch, he is the President of Silvatar Media and an award winning film editor. I became aware of Silver and Silvatar Media after watching their fantastic horror film, The Pyramid. I recently interviewed him to learn more about this film and Silver’s background.
You can learn more about Silvatar by liking their facebook page and by following Silver on twitter @scottcsilver. Also, if you are huge fan of horror and Fox Motion Pictures, make sure to follow @foxhorror and @20thcenturyfox.
Nicholas Yanes: When did you know that you wanted to have a career making movies?
Scott C. Silver: What most people find interesting is that I started college as a Pre-Med student. I had taken digital filmmaking while in high school and realized I was spending my entire senior year working on a school film project rather than going out with friends. That is when I first started thinking about filmmaking as a career. So after my first year of college and taking all science classes I took a leap of faith and put all my efforts into filmmaking.
Yanes: In addition to getting a film degree, you also studied business in college. How do you think this combination has helped you in career, as opposed to those how just study film?
Silver: My dad has run a business forever and so I instinctively learned management skills from him. When I decided to switch majors from Biology to Screen Studies, my dad said he would support my switch as long as I took accounting/management classes. I can’t tell you how much that has helped me in my career. Being business minded but having the knowledge of storytelling is a double threat many people in Hollywood don’t always possess.
In addition, I am grateful for my liberal arts background. When somebody is so focused on just learning to make movies they forget the bigger picture that film offers – stories. The more well-rounded and worldly knowledge a person has from a multitude of sources makes a filmmaker a much better storyteller. I will never forget listening to master filmmakers while at AFI and thinking “These people are so well read.” From Roman battle strategy to poetry the more knowledge that can be absorbed the better filmmaker a person will be.
Yanes: You founded Silvatar Media in 2008. What was the reason for founding Silvatar? Have you found that you have more opportunities because you are the co-founder of a company?
Silver: My business partner, Chady Mattar, and I graduated AFI in December of 2008 right as the world’s economy was deteriorating. Many of the studios were forced to lay off thousands of employees so finding a job was nearly impossible. We spent the first year cobbling together enough money to do a film with some of our classmates from AFI. It was the hardest thing I have ever done but we finally made Removal and in November of 2010 Lionsgate picked it up for release. Removal is a psychological thriller starring Billy Burke, Oz Perkins, Kelly Brook and Elliott Gould, and was named one of the five scariest films of 2011 by MoreHorror.com. Ever since then, Chady and I have been developing projects that we would want to see (not very scientific I know). The Pyramid is our first feature with a major studio and we have many more films, of all budget levels and genres, in our pipeline.
Yanes: You are a producer of the film, The Pyramid. How did you define your role as a producer? Are there aspects of the film that you fought to have in it?
Silver: Not only was I the producer of this film but also the editor. My role as producer changed during each aspect of the filmmaking process. Based off an idea that I had, Chady and I brought on two of the writers we worked with on Removal. After developing the screenplay we teamed up with Mark Canton who brought on Alex Aja and Greg Levasseur. From there we all re-worked the screenplay before Fox finally became interested and decided to make the movie. Then Chady and I had to move away from development and talk financing with the studio. Our company, Silvatar Media, was a financial partner with Fox on the film.
Once all the deals were done and we were ready to make the movie, Chady and I traveled to Morocco to oversee pre-production. We spent three months building the entire footprint of our pyramid to scale. And finally once we were in production we oversaw the shoot while ensuring that the dailies we were getting were of the highest quality. During this time I had to start my assembly edit to make sure we didn’t miss any shots. With such a massive set build there was no such thing as re-shoots on this movie. After the film wrapped I went to Paris to edit with Greg. Alex was next door to us cutting Horns with Baxter (his editor) so it was a great collaborative effort.
Everything on this film really was truly collaborative. Working with Fox was also symbiotic allowing the filmmakers to have a great experience on the movie from pre-production through release.
Yanes: What was the inspiration for this film? Was it always intended to be part of the found footage genre?
Silver: I have always been fascinated with Egyptology. So much so that I even had a dedicated Google Alert feed set up to monitor news in the surprisingly fast-moving world of archeology. It was late in May 2011 when I first heard about the use of satellite technology to survey Egypt and the subsequent discovery of 17 lost pyramids and tombs (that’s all real information). It set my mind racing to come up with the idea for The Pyramid.
I was fascinated by the idea that the use of this technology could reveal an unexplored environment on a scale that archeologists hadn’t discovered to date. Utilizing that information I imagined a team of archeologists venturing into the dark and discovering the horrors within. After coming up with the initial plot I brought the idea to Chady who loved the idea and we decided to bring on Nick Simon and Dan Meershand to write the film.
The film is really not found footage – it’s more in the style of a faux documentary, like District 9 where we use found footage with an omnipresent camera.
Yanes: On this note, what was it about this movie that attracted you to it?
Silver: As I said above, the allure of Egyptology has always been inspiring. And thinking back to all the movies I have seen in the past 20 years I don’t remember a horror/thriller film taking place in a pyramid. That is when we knew we had something different, something special.
Yanes: Despite mummies and Egyptian iconography being part of American film since the 1930s, but rarely are these films set in a contemporary era. What were some challenges you encountered modernizing this genre?
Silver: Since there hasn’t been anything like it in quite some time we were free to explore the genre. We knew we wanted a scary, yet fun and adventurous film. Basically our pitch was Indiana Jones meets the Descent. But to keep it contemporary we added modern history and state of the art technology into the screenplay. First, our band of explorers is forced to evacuate the site due to the riots raging in Cairo. That immediately puts our film into the 21st century. Add on top of that that the site was located using NASA satellite technology and using. Shorty, a fully equipped NASA rover – like the ones we sent to Mars – just smaller, to be the first object to enter the pyramid and you have something familiar, yet original.
One element that the entire team was adamant about was that the Egyptian history made sense and propelled the story forward. We knew the Book of the Dead was one of the most discussed documents in Egyptology so we took the “myth” of these incantations and turned it on its head. All the history discussed in the film is factual. Having said that, we also wanted to make sure it felt believable even though – no spoilers – the end is pretty wild.
Silver: Working with a studio actually makes the business of financing and distribution much, much easier. It is films like Removal where the financing gets very tricky and one slip-up could be the end of the movie – no matter what aspect of production you are in. We knew we had Fox behind us to make sure the film was completed but we still treated it as if it was an indie film. Using our cost cutting techniques we managed to finish production one day early and under-budget. We later used the excess money to record a better sound mix and enhance some of the visual effects.
It was on the marketing side on this film that I really learned how things are done in the studio world. Since I edited the film and my company co-financed it, I volunteered to help cut some of the marketing material. From my first featurette edit to the last one, I really took note on what the marketing execs like and didn’t like and what could help in the grand scheme of the campaign. Working with the marketing department also gave Chady and me the initiative to take a second look at our current projects in development to make sure they have unique marketing hooks that could help sell the film to moviegoers. While our key objective is to make the best film possible, we also have to make a profitable film for the studio as well as for our investors.
Yanes: What are your long-term goals for The Pyramid? Do you see it as a potential franchise that can be built?
Silver: I would love for it to be a franchise. However I think running around the same pyramid might get redundant. One thing we have going for us is that by using the NASA satellite angle we could set our next story anywhere.
We have tossed around some ideas of what if we went back into the pyramid and what would be there. Or what if we just move it to another continent to find something even more threatening.
Yanes: Outside of The Pyramid, what are some other projects that you are working on that people can look forward to?
Silver: Chady and I have another horror/thriller film in the works. Like we did with The Pyramid, this film is something that hasn’t been done in a long, long time (if ever). We also have a fun heist story in the vain of Catch Me If You Can and Oceans 11. Those, along with a few other films and TV projects in development we hope will make for a very productive 2015.
Remember, you can learn more about Silvatar by liking their facebook page and by following Silver on twitter @scottcsilver. Also, if you are huge fan of horror and Fox Motion Pictures, make sure to follow @foxhorror and @20thcenturyfox.