Jeff Betancourt talks about the differences from the first film and pulling double duty
Jeff Betancourt isn't your average director. After a decade as a film editor, Betancourt got the opportunity to direct Boogeyman 2 sequel. I had the chance to interview the director over the phone.
This seems like a much different story than the first Boogeyman film. How did you try to set this apart from the first one?
Jeff Betancourt: Well, when I first heard about the project, I talked with the producers and one of the things that I was really hoping, and turned out to be true, is that they would come up with a different take on what the Boogeyman is and what it could be. We all sort of felt like the first movie did a fine job and finished that story. So, rather than rehash the same storyline, we wanted to come up with a new take on it. My feeling had been all along the way, is that each Boogeyman film could be that writer, that director's interpretation of what the Boogeyman is. It could make a very interesting series of films, and I hope we achieved that.
So this isn't a sequel in the traditional sort of sense? It's just a re-imagining of the character?
Jeff Betancourt: Yeah. There are sort of ties, themetically, to the first one. There are a couple of themes that tie in, but, in the end, it is a new beginning. For Laura Porter, our main character, this is what her Boogeyman is, versus the character in the first film, that was his Boogeyman. Also, we learned from the mistakes in the first one, and we didn't want it to be a CGI creation. We wanted it to be very real, and that we can knock it out of the park for this one, hopefully.
Yeah, it seems that there's a very different look for the Boogeyman in this movie. What kind of influences did you take on for this new Boogeyman?
Jeff Betancourt: In terms of the look of the film, I'm a huge Ridley Scott and John Carpener fan. I grew up watching Halloween and The Thing and all of those early films that really had such a distinct visual style and atmosphere. So we knew we really wanted to have that. Because we had a lower budget, we really felt that writing, and atmosphere and finding a knockout location like the clinic that we found, we could really accomplish a lot more by doing that, and making it seem like a more polished product and a better film.
In terms of the actual Boogeyman himself, I kind of went back to stuff that I found scary as a kid, and images that disturbed me. We looked at a lot of skeletal things and bird corpses, for like the texture. I found a designer through Quantam Creations, our make-up guys. They had a designer there and I just sat down with him and we sort of just put all these images out on a table, and from that we started pulling ideas and he had five or six ideas of what the Boogeyman could look like. From there we just went, "Well, we like this part from this one, and that part from that one." It was just all us putting those images and ideas that would be frightening for us, and hoped it would carry over to the audience.
This is your first directorial effort, after being an editor. You served as the editor as well as being the director?
Jeff Betancourt: I did, yeah.
How was your directorial debut in general, and what was it like pulling double-duty?
Jeff Betancourt: Oh man, I had a great time. I was a little nervous going in. The thing that made me the most nervous going in was working with actors, which is something I hadn't done as an editor. I feel, as an editor, my job is to help the director tell the story as best as possible, using everything that I can to help them tell the story and connect to the audience. So I found directing to be sort of a natural extension of that. Being on set, I could really take advantage of a great cinematographer, a great production designer, and pull all these elements together. I ended up with this really great crew, so it couldn't have gone any better for me. Again, the thing that made me most nervous was working with actors and communicating with them, but our cast was so good. They came up with so many fresh ideas and we brought so many things to the table, it really made my job such a pleasure. It was sort of like going to the grocery store and picking out a piece of fruit. You could sort of walk around and pick the best parts, because they come with so much. It really was a great time. I really did enjoy directing a lot more than editing. (Laughs). One of the things I kept telling people is that as an editor, if I come up with an idea, I'm the one who has to execute it. As a director, the best part is you have cinematography and if you go, 'You know what would be cool is if we have this shot here," and he'll go and do it and knock it out of the park. It's so great having those creative people around you. It's so much fun.
So what kind of special features can we look forward to with this DVD?
Jeff Betancourt: Yeah. We've got a couple commentary tracks from myself and writer Brian Sieve, where we talk about the creative process of coming up with the movie and executing it. I've always enjoyed commentary tracks from the actors, so we have one with Danielle Savre, who plays Laura, and Tobin Bell on another track with two of our producers. Then there's another little feature that I put together. I always find it interesting to see the evolution of the production design,
and all of that stuff. So what we've really got is all the sketches of the different effects scenes and the make-up effects starting from the very beginning sketches, through the actors going through make-up, and then how it actually ended up in the film. We have the design of the Boogeyman as well, so you sort of see the evolution of it. It's not dry or boring, we really did it more like a music video so you could really see it quickly, with some of the score from the movie, and I think it turned out great.
This is one of the first non-Jigsaw roles from Tobin Bell in awhile. What was it like to work with him?
Jeff Betancourt: (Laughs) It was so great working with him. I was so nervous when I met him for the first time, because you hear that voice, and you have all those images of Jigsaw in your head. He seems like he can be so intimidating, but he really couldn't have been a nicer guy. We sat down and had lunch together and he had all these ideas for the movie that were just great, not just in terms of his character but in terms of all the characters. He just wanted this to be a cut above the rest. He didn't want any of us to settle, and I think that's what made him so happy was to see that none of us were going to settle and that all of us were there to take advantage of the opportunity and make something great. I think that once he figured that out, he was with us 110% and really contributed in a huge way. One of the things he said to me, was that he really enjoyed the physicality of the part. As Jigsaw, he's usually on a gurney or a table or something, and he doesn't move around a lot. So in this he got to have some fight scenes and move around in a way he hadn't before, so he really relished that, in addition to sort of understanding what he as Tobin Bell brings to the project. In the same way like you might have hired Karloff or Lugosi in the 30s or 40s, he knew that by playing a part, he was very smart about how he would affect the project. He was really a great collaborator.
For those who have only seen him as Jigsaw, what sort of other nuances can we expect from him in this film?
Jeff Betancourt: In this one, he's much more... gosh, what's the right word. He plays a doctor in this film, and if you can imagine what it would be to have someone like Jigsaw as your doctor (Laughs). You're never quite sure whether to trust him 100%, but at the same time there's this intelligence that you can't deny, so it's a really powerful tool that he has. He can stare right into you. This whole movie is about fears, and what scares you, and he really brings, in a good way, a lot of the stuff from Jigsaw to this movie.
Is there a possibility of a third Boogeyman with you at the helm?
Jeff Betancourt: It's always a possibility. I'm not sure what the plans are right now. I'm also looking for other stuff to do, but it's also my hope that they find a new director that can bring their interpretation. I think I mentioned it before, but each one would have its own director and its own interpretation of what the Boogeyman could be. That's my hope for the series anyway.
Finally, is there anything you can tell us about The Ruins, which you're editing, or anything else on the horizon?
Jeff Betancourt: Yeah. The Ruins is going great. We're hopefully locking picture pretty soon, but it's going great and I think that fans of the book are going to be really happy with it. It's been great working with DreamWorks and everyone over there. It's sort of a fresh take on the horror genre.
Well, that's about all I have. Thanks a lot for your time, Jeff.
Jeff Betancourt: Cool. Thank you very much.
Boogeyman 2 is currently on the DVD shelves now.