Interview: Jed Shepherd Talks Host and Future Plans

Jed Shepherd, writer and co-producer of the Shudder summer sensation Host, agreed to answer a few questions about Host and past and future projects.

Matt Armitage: How surprised are you at how Host has taken off, especially the love on social media? It seems to have become the Tiger King of horror. How are you coping with the massive amount of attention?

Jed Shepherd: Well, I obviously did not expect it and I thought it would play well with horror fans, but I didn’t expect it to get as big as it has. I didn’t expect it to go mainstream. So it has been really hard to take, it’s been really hard to understand why everyone loves it so much. [laughs] I mean we just made it with our friends. We just thought that would be the audience so it’s been a really crazy time trying to comprehend everything that has come and the attention it has got. It’s like a pipe dream, I still can’t believe it’s real.

MA: Did you always intend for it to be a shorter film than traditional feature-length, and was there any studio reluctance on the shorter run-time?

Jed: It was always going to be around the thirty to forty-minute mark because me and Rob [Savage, the director] thought it would be funny for it to end at the same time a free Zoom call would end, so we tried to do that, and in the film logic it is 40 minutes, but in real-time it is 56 minutes. It was always going to be that short. We didn’t want to tell a story longer than that, and I don’t know who makes the rules on how long a film should be, but who says we should keep to it? So no, there was no reluctance from anyone really. Shudder just let us do what we wanted. We are very lucky that we have Shudder on our side and they trusted us to deliver something that was good, and I think we’ve done that.

MA: Was there anything you would have liked to have done storywise with Host that just wasn’t possible with the restrictions you had?

Jed: No, we don’t see them as restrictions at all, we just see them as something we have to deal with, and I think the “restrictions” made it stronger because we had to use our friends, we had to use the people we knew and because of that, it made it better. Found footage is hung upon authenticity, and if you don’t have authenticity, your found footage film is going to be found out. The great thing about this found footage is there were about ten years of rehearsals because those girls have been friends since school, for real. So the relationships had developed over many years. Me and Rob had known them for many years, so you can see it all on screen. It’s so authentic and real, and I’m just so happy we got to make something like this with our friends.

MA: If the current situation continues for a while, how difficult do you think it will be for filmmakers to continue to come up with original ideas that require remote filming?

Jed: I think people will always come up with ideas to do in lockdown and not because of Host; I think they would have had those ideas anyway, but maybe because of Host they now believe that they can do it. The idea isn’t something that stops because of lockdown. I think if anything, people have more time to have those ideas. It’s just the execution before that they didn’t believe was possible, but now hopefully we’ve inspired them to make stuff. And if there are going to be a whole load more Zoom horrors from people, fine, bring it on. I encourage it.

MA: Dawn of the Deaf is one of the more original horror shorts in recent years. Do you still have plans to make a feature-length version, and, if so, do you have firm ideas of how to make it work for a longer run-time?

Jed: Back in 2012 or ’13, when I first met Rob, in our first meeting I pitched him Dawn of the Deaf, and I pitched it as a full-length feature film I think, and I’ve always had the idea to make it into a feature film. And although we haven’t announced a full-length feature film, hopefully, we will make that announcement soon, is all I can say. But yeah, we have very firm ideas on what we want and have done for years.

MA: Speaking of shorts, Salt has been the most effective two-minute horror films I’ve seen. The special effects are kind of amazing for the budget. Can you tell us anything about its genesis and making and any plans to make a longer version?

Jed: Yeah, me and Rob were at Sundance with Dawn of the Deaf, and Sundance is in the mountains and covered in snow at that time of year, in case people don’t know. Me and Rob got off at the wrong stop and left in the middle of nowhere in minus-15 temperature in the mountains, and we just had to basically walk it to civilization. I was really sick, as well, so to stop me from dying Rob was trying to take my mind off things, and we were coming up with film ideas. And Rob said he wanted to do a siege movie, and I said, aw, what about a siege movie in a salt circle? And it kind of came from there really. And like Host, we just made it a horror movie that we want to watch ourselves. And yes, there are plans to make a longer version, and yes, I can’t really say much about it at the moment.

MA: I know you’re a big fan of Easter Eggs. I spotted the “Ship to Horlicks University” boxes.

Jed: [laughs] Good! One of the few people that did spot that. I wrote that really without Rob knowing. I was just like, to the art director lady, “just leave these boxes with me” but yeah, there’s quite a lot in Salt and so, so many in Host. There’s probably close to a hundred Easter Eggs in Host because of the run-time, and we just, like, were entertaining ourselves. I did an article on Shudder, for Shudder’s blog, with some of my favourites, if you want to have a look at that.

MA: So far you’ve mostly written with Rob directing, with the exception of Multiplex. Do you have any interest or plans to move into directing more?

Jed: Yes, I do have an interest and plans to move into directing more, and those plans haven’t been announced yet. They will be at some point. I’m trying not to announce too many things at once but yeah, there’s good stuff ahead for me in the directing, uh, direction!

MA: Our site started as a Twin Peaks/David Lynch focused site a few years ago. I know you’re a fan and interviewed the cast on the podcast JED Talks. What about Twin Peaks makes it so great for you and how did you discover it?

Jed: When I was a kid, I didn’t really have a curfew so I was able to watch anything and everything I wanted. And Twin Peaks was one of those things. I was too small to understand what was going on, but I could tell it was cool, that it had a good vibe. I rewatched it when I was much older and realised it’s a work of pure genius, and obviously, like most people who watch Twin Peaks, I’m completely obsessed with it. David Lynch is a genius and I just like all the weird stuff and that he doesn’t bow down to commerciality; he does things his own way and hopefully that’s something I take into the projects I do. I try to make things for me that I like, rather than bow to the audience. And hopefully, those two will cross.

MA: Can you tell us a bit about your slight obsession with Night of the Comet and how it fits into your own creative direction?

Jed: It’s not a slight obsession, it’s a major obsession. I love Night of the Comet. It’s the greatest film of all time, and yeah I just watched it one night on Channel 4 and ever since became completely obsessed. It seems to be geared toward my exact sensibility for movies, which is horror and comedy together. That’s why I like Evil Dead 2 so much, and Sam Raimi movies. I just think it’s perfect, the cast is perfect. I’m now friends with Kellie Maroney and Catherine Mary Stewart who are the two leads in Night of the Comet. It’s just so cool. It’s the coolest movie ever and more people should watch it. And I really want to be involved in any kind of sequel or remake, and I hope I am.

MA: Can you tell us anything about your upcoming Sam Raimi project?

Jed: While we were doing Host, we were working on that as well. In the last couple of weeks, we’ve been doing table reads with Sam and it’s the most fun thing ever, just to see Sam get excited about something you’ve created; yeah it’s like a dream come true to be quite honest, as Sam Raimi is my favourite director. So it’s just bonkers really, it’s just a bonkers life from now on, I guess. It’s just weird, I’m like, very happy at the moment.

MA: Any upcoming projects apart from this that you can tell me about?

Jed: Multiplex will come out soon, in the next couple of months, and that features all the girls from Host. Rob and I have a bunch of things we’re working on. I have a couple of things I want to direct as well. Hopefully, we’ll be doing some more stuff with Shudder; also, I have a couple of really interesting collaborations with cool people that I’m going to start work on soon.

MA: Aside from Night of the Comet, is there one horror you’d recommend that you think people may not have seen?

Jed: The answer to that is Lake Mungo. Lake Mungo is one of the best horror films, one of the best films ever. It’s found footage about parents that have lost their daughter. It’s scary and tragic and euphoric, and unnerving and just done brilliantly. So yeah, Lake Mungo.

Thanks to Jed Shepherd for taking time out from what is no doubt an exhausting schedule during peak Host-mania to talk to us. Much appreciated Jed, and we wish you and Rob further success in scaring us to death.

Host is available on Shudder in countries where the service is currently available.

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Written by Matt Armitage

Webmaster and Quality Weasel for Horror Obsessive. Also has been know to write when bribed with enough whisky. Likes weird, thoughtful, and confusing horror films.

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