HCF exclusive interview with producer Mark Burg on Jigsaw

Somewhere in the darkness a puppet cackles: it can only be the new Saw. So far the franchise has had literally thousands of people working on it, including many writers, directors and actors. Yet two of them that have always stayed the same are the production team, and Twisted Pictures owners, Mark Burg and Oren Koules. They’ve been on board since the first came out, back in 2004. Now, with the eighth movie Jigsaw released today, Horror Cult Films took a call from Mark to talk about the latest installment, the previous ones and what’s next for the franchise. Please note that bits of the transcript have needed to be cut because we talked about specifics. As per the others, it’s best going into Jigsaw knowing as little as possible.

I’m a big fan of the series, and saw the new one today. That ending really blew me away

Thank you very much – so you never saw it coming at all?

Not at all. I was expecting something, ’cause it’s a Saw film, but not that

We have a really loyal following that we got to be smarter than – and they’re really smart. So it’s really hard for us, and getting harder all the time, to be one step ahead of the audience. It took a long time for us to figure out how it would work. When the writers pitched us the concept we said if we can execute that it’s going to be worth making.

It’s been a while since the last one

Yeah, seven years

This year we’ve had Chucky come back, and Leatherface. What made you also want to bring back Jigsaw?

You know, we were done. We didn’t want to make ‘em any more – we thought ‘you don’t want to do that’ and be the boxer who fights on too many fights. We were really happy being done, and accomplishing it. It was only after Pete Goldfinger and Josh Stolberg pitched us the idea that we thought ‘let’s try it’.

Were you worried about the genre having moved on since the last?

Yeah, that’s one of the reasons why we decided we’d go back to a movie that’s more thriller based. We never thought we were a torture movie in the beginning – we always thought we were making Seven or Silence of the Lambs. But then it got dubbed ‘torture porn’ and that was the direction the franchise went.

Oren Koules, Mark Burg and Tobin Bell attend Build series to discuss ‘Jigsaw

So far you’ve had 5 directors and different writers, yet you and Oren have been constant. What do you look for in collaborators?

In this case we’re good friends with all the people involved – and a bunch of the other filmmakers we stay involved with. James Wan and Leigh Whannel are still producers, we still send them the scripts and they still send us ideas. To this date Kevin Greutert has edited every single Saw movie. He directed two, but he edited all seven of them. And we needed him because he’s seen every single frame that’s been shot for a Saw movie. So after we decided to do it he was our first phone call – we asked if he could do us a favour and come back to work one more time. Him and Tobin Bell – because how do you make a Saw film without Tobin.

What did the Spierig brothers add to the franchise?

We had a script we liked and they came on a director’s path and worked with our writers and gave it a great visual look. What we wanted was somebody new, somebody different and somebody who’ll make a Saw movie – but not make it feel like a Saw movie. There’s no point in doing it if we’re just going to make it like the others. So they brought on this great visual sense, and the movie looks, sounds and feels like a Saw movie but just a little bit different – which is exactly what we wanted. They came in and pitched us our take and we were like ‘let’s do it’. They’re very talented brothers, and my biggest issue with them was telling them apart.

Going back to the very start, how did you see the James Wan short?

Somebody who worked for Oren and myself had a meeting in Beverley Hills and he had a meeting, but he didn’t have time to go for lunch. So he went to the talent agency early to wait in the lobby. And someone walked through the lobby saying ‘I just saw an amazing short from two young filmmakers’, and they were walking through, so he heard and said ‘can I watch it with you guys?’ And he did and was like ‘that’s awesome’. Then the agent, who hadn’t met them yet, was going to be meeting them the other day. So it was a giant fluke as he wasn’t supposed to be there. Then he came back to the office to show me and Oren the short and said ‘hey, this is part of this script’. And we all read the script that night and basically said let’s make the movie. Oren and myself were looking forward to making a movie for a million dollars we could finance ourselves. We’d just made by the movie John Q with Denzel Washington for 28 million, it grosses 100 million, then the studio looks at you and says ‘here’s how much money you lost’. At that point we said if we make another movie we’d own it and finance it ourselves. Then Lionsgate came on board, partnered with us as our distributors, and there’s nobody better at marketing horror than Lionsgate.

Since the mystery can only be the key focus first time, the traps had to become the recurring element

First we tried to come up with a great story. If the story worked then we’d add trap one, trap two and trap three. Then we’d start throwing around ideas about what would be a great trap – like have we done this or that and had we used water or fire and so on. Invariably the more intense they get then the more people like it.

You took a lot of risks– getting jigsaw captured in the opener of two and killed in three

Yeah, I dunno if I would do that again. (Laughs) It worked storywise, but it tied our hands. If you’d told me in 2004 that in 2017 we’d be making another Saw movie I’d have said ‘not a chance’. I’m sure Cubby Broccoli never thought that 40 years later he’d still be making Bond movies.

There was also a lot of the lore and an ongoing story that you go to great lengths to stick to

Yeah, but if you go back to things like the Bond movies, they had the same characters but played by different actors. We never started to make the next Saw movie until that one opens. Can I tell you we’ll make another Saw movie now? I can’t tell you that today, I may be able to on Monday, but not today. Though we have ideas where we’d like to take the next Saw movie – probably. We left ourselves some big questions.

This section of the interview is cut due to spoilers

So it was always sowing seeds rather than having an answer in mind?

Yeah, we always put in one or two thoughts, idea or questions I should say.

This time around the traps were probably more elaborate than ever before

It’s getting harder and harder, but more exciting at the same time, because you’re challenging yourself to come up with new innovative traps that are first of all doable – we always said any trap we’ve done that all the pieces need to be available to the general public. Like you could go to the home depot store and get everything you need. The other challenge is making them work so you know they could be pulled off.

It’s interesting that you want the characters, live but also to see what the machines can do

Thank you for that – that’s down to the Spierig brothers – they’re really, really talented. They’re technical geniuses. But they also know how to get the best performance from the cast. Just wish one of them would change their look a bit to tell which is which.

Thanks very much, and hope you get a huge opening weekend for another

I appreciate it, and you know what things we’re going to have to answer.

I’ll take them to the grave.

Jigsaw is released today. See my review here and the see the first 7 Saw films ranked here.

About david.s.smith 342 Articles
Scottish horror fan who is simultaneously elitist and hates genre snobbery. Follow me on @horrorinatweet

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