Five Nights At Freddy’s Movie: Jason Blum & Emma Tammi On YouTubers, Lore & Using Real Animatronics

Five Nights At Freddy’s Movie: Jason Blum & Emma Tammi On YouTubers, Lore & Using Real Animatronics

It’s been a long night at Freddy’s Pizzeria. After years of passing scripts back and forth, directors coming and going and movie rights changing hands, the Five Nights at Freddy’s movie has finally arrived.

What started as a simple point-and-click horror game in 2014 has exploded into a worldwide phenomenon, with over a dozen different FNAF titles to date that have driven the online community into a fervour.

It turns out that distilling that legacy into a movie wasn’t easy. Kotaku Australia had the chance to speak with producer Jason Blum and director Emma Tammi about how Five Nights at Freddy’s finally all came together.

Why did the FNAF movie take so long?

Image: Universal Pictures

The premise of the FNAF games is simple. You must survive a night at Freddy Fazbear’s Pizzeria where, after dark, the animatronics come to life with murderous intentions. Your weapons are a series of computer monitors, a hallway light and two switches to close the doors. Should one of the animatronics get the jump on you, it’s game over.

The premise may be simple but turning this premise into a movie was not. Jason Blum and his production company Blumhouse have been attached to the project since 2015, weathering a revolving door of different scripts and directors, alongside the game’s creator, Scott Cawthon.

“They didn’t look good to Scott, the earlier iterations…” Blum admitted.

“We finally found Emma who was the right partner for Scott and then it took a long time to actually whittle down the storytelling to figure out which he was going to use and which he wasn’t going to use and to have someone who would help him figure out which would be good for a movie and wouldn’t… so that’s why it took so long.”

It’s easy to see why. The FNAF games almost intentionally make little sense between instalments in the franchise.

“With this series of video games, you can have lore that doesn’t necessarily make sense with one another. But you really can’t do that in a movie. You know, the movie has to kind of make sense from beginning to end,” Blum explained adding that this was one of the most challenging aspects of making the FNAF movie.

“There’s so much to pull from,” Tammi added. “I was having a lot of conversations with [Cawthon] throughout the writing process and prep and production and post…. [trying to] really figure out what elements of the lore were going to be incorporated in this movie.”

Bringing a silent protagonist to life

Image: Universal Pictures

In the end, the team settled on the story of Mike, a young man who struggles to keep a job due to the trauma of losing his younger brother, which keeps him awake at night and asleep on the job. When Mike takes the job at Freddy’s Pizzeria, it’s out of desperation to continue supporting his younger sister.

“With Mike, the waters run deep even though he’s not saying many words,” Tammi said. “He’s constantly processing the past and he’s holding a lot of trauma and emotions and really just trying to keep it all contained enough to be able to take care of his sister. And, in the case of our movie, get through the night as a security guard at this haunted pizzeria.”

To bring the character to life, the team brought Josh Hutcherson on board, who Tammi said had “a sense for the character immediately.”

“[Josh] really clicked into that aspect of the character… he was constantly looking for the questions that Mike was asking himself throughout the story.”

One of the director’s notable previous works was QCODE’s sci-fi horror podcast The Left Right Game, which Tammi said helped her to establish a real sense of sound in FNAF.

“For me, I’m obsessed with sound design…” she said. “Any time you have the opportunity to just completely dial into one of your senses – and with podcasts, its sound – everything becomes so heightened. Once we started the sound design process in post, but also throughout production, [we were] thinking about how the sound is going to really bring a scare fully to life… [and] in the case of one of our character characters, Mike, how sound is a trigger for him entering a dream space.”

Image: Universal Pictures

Of course, the other major characters in the Five Nights at Freddy’s movie are the animatronics themselves, who were brought to by the Jim Henson company. Although the use of practical animatronics over computer-generated ones did not come without issue.

“The biggest challenge was probably time. It just took a lot of time to get them up on their feet, and with any movie schedule, it’s always a race against the clock,” Tammi reflected. “…There was one day where one of the servos started smoking and I heard from off-screen ‘uh, Foxy’s arm is on fire!’ and we quickly and calmly put that out.”

However, if you’ve seen any of the movie trailers for Five Nights at Freddy’s, you’ll know that the effort was worth it for such a realistic portrayal of these classic characters.

“To be able to achieve the amount of movement and expression that we did is such a testament to the team of puppeteers that were not just building these creatures, but then puppeteering them and bringing them to life,” Tammi added.

Working with the online fanbase

Image: Universal Pictures

Another thing the FNAF games have been lauded for is their ability to make horror more palatable for younger games, which is something Blum said the movie does as well.

“I think the movie makes horror more accessible to a younger audience,” he said. “We made it so that the fans of the game who were younger would be able to see the movie.”

While neither Blum nor Tammi admitted to being huge gamers, both had played the FNAF games and respected their cultural impact, particularly within the online community.

“Scott is so tuned in to the fanbase and what’s being said on YouTube at all times, and Reddit and all the online forums. So we really knew we had kind of an encyclopaedic knowledge of the fan base in him,” Tammi said.

“We were really trying to include that community as we were making the film. We’ve got some cameos and we had some YouTubers come visit set and walk through the pizzeria. They lost their minds when they saw it and we were like, ‘oh, yeah, we got it right.’ But you know, they were really like the gut check for us if you will, and it was so exciting to see it through their eyes.”

As for whether we’ll get any answers to long-standing Five Nights at Freddy’s questions in the movie? That remains to be seen. Try as we might, the duo stayed quiet when we asked them about the Bite of 87, so we’ll have to wait for an inevitable movie sequel (or a Markiplier video) to get the answer to that one.

Five Nights at Freddy’s releases in Australian cinemas on October 26.

Lead Image: Universal Pictures

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