Pat Casey and Josh Miller reflect on their careers as well as their latest film, “Violent Night”

"...The movie is about a lot of things, but a big part of it is about what Christmas is really about. It’s not about presents or money - it’s about spending time with people you love, it’s about generosity of spirit - and now, of course, about cracking some bad guy skulls...."
Casey

Pat Casey and Josh Miller have script writing careers many would sell their souls for. (I have asked around and I have not found the right demon to make this deal with.) With professional careers going back to 2000, Miller and Casey have co-written National Lampoon Presents Dorm Daze, Hey Stop Stabbing MeGolan the Insatiable, and Sonic the Hedgehog 1 & 2. Their latest co-written film is Universal’s Violent Night, a Christmas black comedy directed by Tommy Wirkola and starring David Harbour as Santa Claus. Wanting to learn more about their careers as well as Violent Night, I was able to interview them for ScifiPulse.

You can learn more about Pat Casey and Josh Miller by following them on Twitter.

 

 

Nicholas Yanes: Growing up, what were films you two loved? Are there any you love revisiting?

Josh Miller: When we first started hanging out in high school, we had a small group of friends that would rent a pile of horror movies on Tuesdays (it was ‘two for one Tuesdays’). We often were watching four films all in one night, and aside from being great fun in retrospect it also caused us to start breaking down genre tropes and conventions, picking up on things that would pop up over and over in these films. It was its own sort of film school. It was also during this phase that we watched all five of the original Silent Night, Deadly Night movies. Silent Night, Deadly Night 5: The Toy Maker has always been a fav of mine.

Pat Casey: We both really looked up to the Coen Brothers and Sam Raimi – the Coens were from Minnesota like us and we loved the weirdness of their films like Hudsucker Proxy, and the do-it-yourself example of the Evil Dead movies was really inspirational to us. We loved the movies – but also those were the guys that made filmmaking seem both fun and possible to us.

Yanes: When did you two know you wanted to pursue careers in entertainment? Was there a moment when these goals crystallized for you?

Casey: It’s funny, I had never considered a career in entertainment until I met Josh in detention in eighth grade. He immediately started telling me about the novels he was writing and all the movies he was going to make (and had already made – he was already making feature-lengths films!) and I thought “this guy is crazy!” We were in Minnesota – the idea of going to Hollywood and making big movies seemed very far removed from my life. But Josh was so sure he could do it that I got caught up in the fever too!

Miller: I was blessed with very supportive parents. Some kids were training to be in the NHL someday (we were in Minnesota after all). I was training for Hollywood. I roped Pat into my teenage moviemaking posse, but we didn’t become a true duo until college. If high school had been more like a hobby, in college our aspirations shifted towards how to kick things up a notch and make something we weren’t just showing to our friends. Our crystallization moment was after our junior year when we made a no-budget movie called Hey, Stop Stabbing Me!, which became our first film actually released on DVD. Everything we’d learned through trial and error we were able to put into that movie.

Yanes: Having a successful writing career, for many, is akin to winning the lottery. When did you two feel like you had made it as professional creatives?

Miller: I think that answer has evolved over time. Getting our names on the IMDB for the first time back in the day felt like a truly monumental achievement. We were able to succeed in the sense that we were getting projects off the ground, but each project felt like it was starting over again. We couldn’t get the kind of momentum going that one associates with the word “career.” So, when we finally got our TV show Golan the Insatiable on the air, that felt like the true turning point, even though it wasn’t particularly successful in the ratings. But that was the project that “opened the door” to the industry for us, where we could finally see a path forward if we hustled enough.

Casey: And then obviously the first Sonic film was a huge turning point. Finally, we had made something that the public was aware of and that had penetrated pop culture! All the other things we’d worked on, most regular people had never heard of. It was great to finally have a good answer when you meet somebody and they ask “Oh, would I know anything you’ve written?”

Yanes: Both of you have careers going back to 2000. Reflecting on life since then, what do you two think is the biggest change to the film industry?

Casey: I mean, the end of the home video market and the rise of streaming has really changed everything – mostly for the worse, unfortunately. There’s more content than ever but less residuals for the people who make the stuff, and it’s easier for new movies and TV shows to completely fall through cracks without audiences ever learning they exist! We count ourselves very lucky that Sonic movies and Violent Night have received pretty good marketing pushes – that’s the exception now rather than the rule.

Miller:  Streaming is great in the sense that you can, in theory, reach a wider audience more easily, but what was amazing about the home video market is it didn’t take a lot to start a small boutique distribution company. There aren’t exactly mom-and-pop streamers, you know? Our movie Hey Stop Stabbing Me! would never have gotten picked up by a streamer if we had made it as 20yearolds right now, because it is too small and weird. We’d have put it up on YouTube or something where likely no one would have ever noticed it.

Yanes: You have both worked together on multiple projects. How do you two settle differences of opinions? Coin flip? Rock, paper, scissors? Fight pit?

Miller: I think the longevity of our partnership has a lot to do with the fact that we don’t disagree that often, at least not on big things that might develop into a true argument.  All our pit fights are just for exercise.

Casey: Almost always, one of us is able to talk the other one into coming around to our way of thinking using logic – and if that doesn’t work, then we’ll each just defer to the other if he seems really sure about something. A successful partnership is built on having a lot of faith in your partner’s judgment!

Yanes: Your latest film is Violent Night. What was the inspiration for this project?

Miller: It is a concept we’ve had kicking around since we were teenagers. It is a cliche thing for writers to say, but some ideas just don’t leave you alone. We also loved the challenge of trying to do a true Christmas movie. There is something really special about how we all view holiday movies. Most of us watch the same films on certain holidays every single year. If it is Thanksgiving you’re presumably watching Planes Trains and Automobiles, and if not that probably Addams Family Values or Home for the Holidays. I’ve watched Scrooged a billion times, but only around Christmas. And in talking about Christmas movies, we realized that most of us are still watching the same handful of Christmas action movies from the 80s/90s. It felt like action fans were due for another one.

Casey: It sounds like an insane thing to say, but the aim really was to try to make that kind of an annual holiday classic! Whether or not we succeeded, that’ll be up to history to judge.

 

 

 

Yanes: As Violent Night evolved from idea to script to final film, what were elements or characters who took on a life of their own?

Casey: Two of my favorite characters in the finished film ended up being Gingerbread and Candy Cane, who are the two main goons for our bad guy Mr. Scrooge. In the first draft of the script, it was like “Goon #1” and “Sadistic Goon” etcetera – but as we refined the script with our producers and director, we really had to start nailing down what the deal was with these goons and what each of them was like. We ended up with these two bloodthirsty henchmen who have what might be the funniest arc in the movie and definitely some of the funniest moments, with great performances from Andre Eriksen and Mitra Suri.

Yanes: I saw the latest Violent Night trailer run before Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, and each joke inspired the audience to laugh. Are there any jokes or scenes you two are particularly proud of from Violent Night?

Miller:  Santa licking a candy cane until it is sharp enough to be a weapon is something that we had in our initial pitch to Universal. It is always fun to see a gag survive the entire process and make it into the trailer! That’s the true victory of a joke.

Casey: Really the whole movie is kind of one big joke, “What if Die Hard but with Santa?” Everything flows from that – but the biggest joke is really that we all took that seriously. What if Die Hard but with Santa, but not just as a joke? How do we do that as a real movie? But as far as individual jokes, one of my favorites is a dumb action one-liner that somehow mad the commercials but got cut out of the movie: Santa saying “These guys are Feliz Navi-dead.”

Yanes: Given that Violent Night is a Christmas film, how do you two celebrate Christmas?

Casey:  Christmas, to me, is all about curling up by the fire with your loved ones, playing board games and reading the new books you just got for Christmas. And, for some reason, rewatching the Lord of the Rings movies. I’m not sure how I wound up emotionally attaching those movies to Christmas, but at this point it’s pretty firmly ingrained!

Miller:  I still can’t wrap my head around a Los Angeles Christmas. To me Xmas is about there being snow outside, which makes huddling up inside all the more enjoyable. Eating too much and watching some movies.

Yanes: When people finish watching Violent Night, what do you hope they take away from the experience?

Casey: We just want to send everyone home with a smile on their face, feeling some warm fuzzies, in a Christmas-y kind of mood. The movie is about a lot of things, but a big part of it is about what Christmas is really about. It’s not about presents or money – it’s about spending time with people you love, it’s about generosity of spirit – and now, of course, about cracking some bad guy skulls.

Miller: Yeah, our goal with the movie was to make it as gooey with Christmas spirit as it is violent. We don’t think cheering for broken bones and feeling warm holiday fuzzies are mutually exclusive. That’s the power of cinema!

Yanes: Finally, what else are you two working on that people can look forward to?  

Miller:  We’ve got Sonic the Hedgehog 3 underway and are extremely excited to see that become a reality. There are some big crazy ideas in this one! And we’re also currently working on an adaptation of another video game, It Takes Two, for Amazon. We’re both huge fans of the game, so we hope we can do it justice.

Casey: And there might be a couple of other things in the works that are, as of this moment, top secret. Can’t share too early or we’ll get in trouble!

Remember, you can learn more about Pat Casey and Josh Miller by following them on Twitter.

And remember to follow me on Twitter @NicholasYanes, and to follow Scifipulse on Twitter @SciFiPulse and on Facebook.

 

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