Todd Farmer
Interviewed by Petch Lucas - 14 January 2002


The screenwriter of the upcoming Jason X has kindly granted an interview with Pit Of Horror. Friday the 13th enthusiasts will enjoy Mr. Farmer's anecdotes regarding his conception of the script, appearing as a supporting character in the film, and what might loom on the horizon. The Pit Webteam wish to express our appreciation for his time and effort.

When you first began the story development and scripting process for Jason X, was the futuristic sci-fi setting what you had in mind from the beginning, or were you considering other possible present-day approaches?

Todd Farmer, screenwriter and co-star of Jason X I was open to considering other ideas, but my main idea was to move Jason into the future. There were numerous reasons. One, we needed a story that would grab New Line's attention. If you were a New Line executive with all the FvsJ (Freddy vs. Jason) development issues on your plate, would you want to deal with another Crystal Lake movie? I thought we needed something different to get their attention. Two, by starting the story in the future we could tell whatever story we wanted and not interfere with what the FvsJ team had planned. Their storyline was in theory, supposed to follow both preceeding sequels. Setting Jason X in the future wouldn't step on any toes. Three, the move into 2455 allowed us to not only change the setting but also give the characters interesting toys to put up against Jason. Four and finally, I simply thought it would be a lot of fun to write.

Exposition as to how Jason "returned from Hell," vis-a-vis the conclusion of the previous film Jason Goes To Hell, would likely have made for an unnecessary aside for the pace of the script. Was it your idea to begin Jason X with the premise of a captured Jason already in the research facility, or did you initially have anything in mind to bridge this film with its predecessor?

Yes, my original take was to open the story around the year 2010 with Jason in chains (long after Jason's escape from Hell) and go from there. I never really considered dealing with how Jason escaped Hell because, again, FvsJ would deal with it and after so many drafts of that story and a still unwritten number coming, I couldn't know how they would eventually handle it in order to mention it in Jason X . To have taken it upon myself and addressed the issue or to have come up with my own take would have forced the FvsJ team to either followed my lead or ignore it. I honestly thought FvsJ had enough struggles without my tying them to an 'escape from Hell' issue. I simply didn't think it was my place.

Had we known then that FvsJ would still be in development today then there's a good chance we would have simply used Jimmy's (director Jim Isaac) 'Crystal Lake in the Winter' setting and told a story that takes place in present time. But we had no way of knowing that. From our point of view, there was still a good chance that New Line would finish and release FvsJ before we were finished with Jason X. Telling a story that started in the future and stayed out of FvsJ's way seemed the only logical step.

While the film bears a structural overlap with some of the Alien films, it retains much of the Friday the 13th gestalt, including teens in peril, a marauding hockey-masked killer with a machete, a somewhat-corrupt authority figure, and a plucky female heroine. And despite the perceived "cookie-cutter movie" reputation, each Friday entry exhibits directoral choices and tones of its own. Was there a particular Friday the 13th film (or films) which influenced your approach to Jason X?

Jason Takes Manhattan was an influence in that I liked the idea of seeing how Jason would handle himself outside his familiar environment. Granted, a space craft four-hundred years in the future is a long way from Manhattan, but the basics still applied.

You appear in the film as the character Dallas. While writing the script, did you write Dallas with yourself in mind, or was your casting something that happened later during the process?

It happened later, but in the back of my mind I knew I wanted to do a cameo. When I mentioned it to Jimmy and Sean, they asked which character I had in mind and when I told them Dallas, they said, "Of course." The real drive was the fact that Dean Lorey had a cameo in JGTH. Dean and I had developed something of a competitive relationship over the years. Whether it was playing racquetball or playing Quake II deathmatches (we've since moved on to Wolfenstein), our need to out do each other has become something legendary (even if in our own minds). Thus I "needed" a cameo in Jason X and I "needed" that role to be something special. :)

The digital company Toybox is credited with the visual effects on Jason X. Hence, that would indicate that a fair amount of CGI is used in the film. Yet the art of 'models against bluescreen' is not entirely dead, and the film includes shots of spacecrafts which could be accomplished by either method. In your opinion, how large a role did CGI play against traditional models and animatronics in the creation of this movie?

There are over 350 FX shots in Jason X. I'd say it played a pretty good role, but I'd also say that many of those shots are so seamless that you can't tell if Jason's really holding that machete or if it was inserted later with CG. In otherwords, Jimmy used FX when he needed or felt it would help the story. There are also models, pyrotechnics and make-up FX. Jimmy's background is in FX allowed him an understanding most directors don't have. We could not have had a better director for this project.

There is a much-alluded-to virtual reality sequence in the film which takes Jason back to Camp Crystal Lake. For this scene, did you have any ideas which alluded to events from earlier films in the series but which had to be discarded?

Originally, Mrs. Voorhees was in that scene. I'd asked early on if we could get her because I loved the idea of bringing her back to reprise her role and the moment I felt would have been strongly plot driven. However, later when the deal between Betsy Palmer and the producers could not be resolved I had no choice but to rewrite the scene.

One key ingredient of each consecutive Jason film has been the look of the character. When writing the script, did you envision Kane Hodder once again reprising the role, or did you see your incarnation of Jason independent of Hodder's interpretation?

I don't recall ever thinking anyone but Kane would play the role, but I didn't have Kane in mind when I wrote it. I simply thought of Jason.

Because of the timeline-jump to 2455, any further sequels are obviously relagated to futuristic storylines, unless a new plot development would return Jason to present day. Do you have anything in mind for where you'd like to see a Friday the 13th, Part Eleven take the storyline?

First off, one of the reasons Jason X's story opens on or after 2010 instead of say, 2003, was so that we could have sequels to FvsJ or sequels to JGTH. There's ample time to have numerous stories be told from our current time period. At some point, however, the last of those movies would need to end with Jason, not destroyed, but captured and chained. In my opinion it would be similar to what Frank Miller did with Batman. On one hand you have the original comics following Batman as he does his thing and on the other hand you have Frank Miller's older, more hardened, gun-packing Batman existing in the future. Both storylines exist at the same time. Batman in the present, Batman in the future. I saw no reason why we couldn't do the same thing with Jason.

I personally think a Friday the 13th, Part Ten needs to be told. Granted the 'X' in Jason X referred to the tenth installment, but Friday the 13th, Part Ten could certainly follow and tell the story of what happens after FvsJ as Jason X, Part Two could follow Jason X. I have ideas for Jason X, Parts Two and Three and have since the beginning. They would most likely involve UberJason making a guest appearance in the past, but unless they were Studio pictures I doubt I'd pursue them.

The internet has evolved into a dynamic communications medium. It is now possible for fans to communicate with moviemakers via chat rooms, message boards, etc. Do you see this as a means to affect editorial decision in moviemaking (as per the current "N'Sync in Star Wars" online uproar), or do you think online input will become inconsequential?

No, I think online input is here to stay. I think for the most part, it's a good thing. I think it does come with a price, though. Anyone wanting to know the detailed beat by beat structure of a yet unreleased movie can simply spend time on the net and find it. Thus, I think it can go to far.

The last several years have seen an increase in commercial bankability of horror films, particularly the teen-stalker subgenre. As a result, there has also been a harsh backlash against the slasher resurrection. Where do you see Jason X fitting into today's movie-going climate?

I don't think there is such a thing as a movie-going climate. I think that's a made up term by a couple of executives with Marketing degrees who were trying to impress their boss. No one can guess what an audience will do or how they will react to any given movie. No one has found the secret to writing the screenplay because every screenwriter has his hits and misses. No executive has found the secret formula to the blockbuster because every executive has his hits and misses.

If there has been a harsh backlash against the slasher resurrection then it's the first I've heard of it. Scream was a big success and as a result a number of Scream-like movies followed. Nothing wrong with that. If as a result the media or Hollywood or whoever wants to call that a backlash against the slasher, then so be it. The fact is entertainment shows need their viewers, magazines need their subscribers, Hollywood executives want to keep their jobs and the individual movie goer is and should be entitled to their opinions.

Jason X has its place because it was made by a group of people just trying to make the best version of Jason X they could. The same goes for Lord Of The Rings. The same goes for A Beautiful Mind. The same goes for Brotherhood of the Wolf. No one can read the minds of the paying audience. All that a writer or director or executive can do is make the best movie they can make and hope the majority feels the same.

Scream didn't kill the slasher flick, nor did SE7EN kill the standard serial killer flick, nor did There's Something about Mary kill the clean comedy.

I personally don't want the success of one movie ruling out the existence of another. Seems sort of silly to me. Because I want my variety. Sometimes I want Freddy, sometimes I want Meryl Streep, sometimes I want Steve Buscemi, sometimes I want an ogre made of CGI. And sometimes I want something I've never seen before. And that's the beauty of the Friday night movie listing. It's also the curse of the unreleased movie, because at the end of the day, all the work boils down to the uncontrollable mood of the paying audience.

So, what's a writer, director, producer, executive to do? Smile, have fun and make the best movie you can and hope that the majority shares your opinion and choices.

When New Line Cinema purchased the Voorhees franchise from Paramount in 1992, it would seem they owned the rights to the title Friday the 13th. Yet the ensuing film was named Jason Goes To Hell: The Final Friday. This suggests that perhaps licensure issues exist between the two studios, at least where the Friday the 13th monicker is concerned. Did any of this play a role in the titling of your screenplay?

As far as I know, JGTH was called Jason Goes To Hell because...Jason goes to Hell. :) That whole licensing thing is simply fan rumor. We called our little adventure Friday the 13th, Part Ten for about ten minutes, then that mouthful simply became too wordy so we started referring to it as Jason X. I can't recall one instance in which we all sat down and said, "Ok, what are we going to call this movie?" Everyone was referring to it as Jason X and the title stuck.

At the time of this interview, Jason X has no confirmed release date. But it will eventually hit screens, and we'll all see it and be blown away. After that, what's next for Todd Farmer? Do you have any other scripts or ideas in the works which you'd like to hint at?

I sold a serial killer spec back before Christmas. I'm finishing up an action piece now and have plans to begin another thriller just after. Jimmy and I have talked about a FX-driven monster movie that I'm excited about because not only would working with Jimmy again be alot of fun, but the idea will be fun to write. At the end of the day, that's the main driving factor for me.

Thank you very much for your time, Todd. Are there any further comments you'd like to add for fans who are looking forward to Jason X?

I think the key was that we all had fun. We had fun coming up with the idea. I had fun writing it. Jimmy had fun shooting it and Kane had fun playing Jason. And I believe it all shows on the screen. Sure, we had our moments of dismay, but you get that on any project. At the end of the day we made the best Jason X we could make and we hope you guys will all agree.

be safe
tf

Todd Farmer and Petch Lucas, August 2004.


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