“I often think ‘what would Hitchcock make if he was alive today’? One of those things would be Get Out,” says Jason Blum. The Hollywood heavyweight was always confident about the artistic merit behind what has become one of 2017’s biggest hits. He was also sure of the talent and competency of its filmmaker, Jordan Peele (best known for the cult sketch comedy TV series Key & Peele), who would be making his directorial debut with the groundbreaking genre piece. Yet if anyone knows what a gamble show business can be, it’s Blum. As the namesake of Blumhouse Productions, the 48-year old has taken his boutique company from a low-budget horror specialist to an Oscar-nominated presence by hedging his bets.
“I think the fun thing about the movie business is you never know,” says Blum, who saw his company’s first greenlit film Paranormal Activity turn a $15,000 budget into a $193M international box-office juggernaut, spawning a now iconic horror franchise. The LA local established some guidelines 17 years ago when Blumhouse was first created, things that he thought would minimise risk in the notoriously risky business of movie making. Yet when he initially read Peele’s screenplay for Get Out, Blum admits that he wanted to be reckless. “The first time I read the script, I hoped it would be impactful and I hoped it would have the kind of reaction it has had,” he says, speaking from a hotel room in London. “It had been floating around for a few years, but no one was making it because it was kind of strange. We loved it because it was so odd and unique and original. Those are my favourite kinds of movies to make.”
Hitchcock immediately sprung to Blum's mind as he began to work with Peele, who leaned towards making Get Out more of a social thriller rather than a straight-out horror film. That worked for Blum, who – having big commercial successes with films like Insidious and scoring an Oscar nomination for Whiplash – understood the best thing he could do was leave Peele to his own devices. The result has been “happily surprising” according to Blum, who has spent the last several months doing something of a victory lap, touring the world promoting the film and doing press junkets with Peele. “I barely know what country I’m in right now,” he jokes. “But it’s certainly a lot less nerve-wracking having Get Out open and be successful in a lot of places before you even have to do the international press. It doesn’t usually happen that way. It has been great and I’m very grateful for it.”
Successful is an understatement. Peele made history, becoming the first black writer-director to cross $100M in the US with his feature debut. Earning $252M globally off a tiny $4.5M budget, Get Out has done more than just become hugely profitable. It was out for less than a week in the US before it became a phenomenon, with the #GetOutChallenge blowing up on social media and everyone from Snoop Dogg to Stephen King singing the film's praises. Yet it was Peele’s intelligent and timely examination of race and racism in America that had nearly every film critic in America deeming it an instant classic. “Jordan was very clear about it, very articulate about it,” says Blum of the film’s politically charged subject matter. “We dove in.” As the producer, his first inclination that they had a hit on their hands was the crowd’s reaction when it premiered at the prestigious Sundance Film Festival. Blum was still cautious, but “felt very positive”. Opening weekend saw it become the biggest movie in America, but it was on the second week of its release – when attendance dropped by only 20 per cent – that they were able to gauge the full extent of its reach. “It’s your dream as a filmmaker to have a critical and commercial success, says Blum. “You usually get one or the other: rarely do you get both. My company produced Whiplash, which was a big critical success but financially was really not at all – especially in the United States. You know, critics loved it but no one saw it.”
While Get Out’s theatrical release in Australia was comparatively limited, more Aussies than ever will get to see what all the fuss is about when the film releases nationwide on home entertainment this week. Just like in America – where the Black Lives Matter movement has taken root in response to ongoing acts of police violence and political injustice – Indigenous Australians have been vocally protesting institutionalised racism, deaths in custody and miscarriages of justice throughout much of 2017 with what seems like a new level of visibility. The accents may be different, but Get Out’s core message is one that has connected with people of colour on a global level… and with white people, who have squirmed uncomfortably through the duration of the film. Peele had a lot to say across the film's tight 100 minute runtime, but thankfully it won’t be the last opportunity audiences hear from him. Blumhouse have signed Peele for another four films that he’s set to start working on over the next several years. “I can’t wait to see what he does next,” says Blum. “I told Jordan whatever he wants to do, I’ll make it.”
Get Out is available on home entertainment from August 9.
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