The Big Picture
- Brian Duffield’s film, « No One Will Save You, » is a sci-fi thriller that tells the story of a young woman named Brynn Adams, who faces an upheaval in her solitary life when aliens arrive.
- Duffield made the organic choice to tell the story without dialogue, relying on Kaitlyn Dever’s powerful performance as Brynn and the carefully crafted aliens to convey the horror.
- The film’s title, « No One Will Save You, » was chosen after a long deliberation, as Duffield wanted it to have a 50s sci-fi vibe.
In Brian Duffield‘s latest film, the sci-fi thriller No One Will Save You, a young woman named Brynn Adams (Kaitlyn Dever) lives a solidary existence, shunned by her community, until one day her quiet life is upended by the arrival of extra-terrestrials. And by the looks of things, they do not come in peace. In a surprising decision — one Duffield hopes will not dominate conversations around the film — the story is told entirely without dialogue, letting everything but the words convey the horror of Brynn’s situation.
In this one-on-one interview with Steve Weintraub ahead of Drumpe’s No One Will Save You screening and Q&A, Duffield talks about how he came to the « organic » choice to make his sci-fi thriller without dialogue, relying instead on the power of Dever’s performance as Brynn, and carefully crafted aliens to tell the story. They also talk about how he landed on the catchy, ’50s-esque title, and the importance of a good editor in helping a story come together.
You can watch the full interview with Duffield above, or check out the transcript below:
Drumpe: I’m gonna start with the most important question up front, which is what do they put in the water at Hulu? Because between this and Prey, I’m pretty impressed with what they’re pulling off.
BRIAN DUFFIELD: I think it’s technically what is in the water at 20th century. I mean, look my exec, and [Steve] Asbell the head of the studio, I think they just really love movies, and I think they really like taking swings. I mean, we can talk about this all day. But I think it’s a time in our industry where things need to be a little left of center for people to notice. And I think they’ve really embraced it. I think that’s why Prey is so good, it’s exactly a Predator movie, but it’s not in a way that you would have expected or seen coming. And I think that’s what [Daniel] Trachtenberg is so great at, and I’m just playing catch up.
Do you have a big LEGO collection?
DUFFIELD: I do.
So, was that the inspiration for her having a village?
How large is the LEGO collection?
DUFFIELD: It’s really big. I have toddlers now so it’s all in the garage. But I do, and I also buy LEGOs and save them for when the kids go to college and when I can build them without them destroying it. So, I have a big neighborhood, I have Isengard, Hogwarts, the Titanic. It’s big. The Haunted Mansion elevator.
I understand you have a problem and I love it. So, what do you think would surprise people to learn about making a movie in Hollywood?
DUFFIELD: Jeez. That it’s completely the opposite of the last one. And this being the best experience I’ve had. I feel like there’s that Simpsons episode where they return to Hollywood after they have a disaster of a movie and like the studios all like, “It’s ok. Come back. Welcome to Hollywood where everyone takes care of each other” kind of thing. And it’s like, that’s the great Simpsons joke. And I think that’s typically true of Holywood.
But I’ve been really lucky I think, in that I’ve had a lot of experiences where the irony hasn’t been ironic. There’s a lot of people that really look out and take care of each other, and I think you’re seeing it now in the two union strikes, of everyone really banding together, and supporting one another. So, it can be a cutthroat biz. But I think people would be surprised about how how nurturing and supportive it can be at the same time.
Jumping into the film, did you set out to make a movie without dialogue or did you come up with this idea, and as you were fleshing it out, you’re like, “wait a minute, I can do this without dialogue.”
DUFFIELD: The latter. Yeah, it was a surprise to me. I think it was always an idea that I thought would be cool. But I didn’t think about it for this movie until, there’s a scene that I always knew I was gonna write where where Brynn looks for help at a police station. I always knew how that scene was going to wind up, and that scene didn’t have dialogue. And then I got to that point in the writing process, and I don’t outline when I write, I just kind of go and, and see where the winds take me, and I kind of know ideas of where I will wind up. And I got to that point and I was just very surprised at where we were at. And then I thought that was a good time where it was like an Easter egg more than a feature. It kind of stemmed out of character and out of obstacle, but it wasn’t a selling point. It wasn’t why I set out to do it. And then it just felt like a cool little bit of whipped cream on it as opposed to the main event.
What was the reaction though, at the studio level to the no dialogue? Was it a hard sell?
DUFFIELD: We went on to sell it as a package. So it was a script, plus myself as a director plus Kaitlyn [Dever]. It was always what they knew, getting into it. And it was, it was never like a contractual “This is the thing,” and it was always kind of an unspoken thing. Like if we need it, we will use it. But I talked so much more about so many other parts of the movie than that element. So the surprising thing was that it really did not ever feel that different. My last movie has so much talking in it. I think I actually did more ADR on this movie than I did on the talking movie. So it really didn’t feel any different whatsoever.
Well, one of the things is that we’re very close to it being released, and nobody knows that there’s no dialogue.
DUFFIELD: No one knew it existed until like a week ago.
I’m wondering if it’s gonna make it till opening day, but there are screenings on Monday and Tuesday. You know, we’re doing a screening. I mean, it’s gonna come out, you know?
DUFFIELD: Yeah! It’s for everyone else now. My goal was always that it wasn’t the coolest thing about the movie, and that it’s a cool part of the movie. But you know, we’re able to pull it off because we have a lead performance that’s absurdly good. For me it’s more about Dever being an insane actress than it is about no talking or whatever.
I completely agree. The no talking is the cherry on top of everything else, but it’s a very tasty cherry.
DUFFIELD: It’s a tasty cherry. Yeah, we’ll see how the next week goes. We’ll have a lot of fun on Tuesday.
100%. So, was it always this title or did you almost have something else?
DUFFIELD: I never almost had anything else, but it took a really long time to come up with this title. I’m trying to remember if when we sold it, it had this title or not. I think it did. It didn’t have another title though, but I know I was showing the script to people with no title for a long time. It just said “Written by Brian Duffield” on the title page. There wasn’t a another contender, ever. And then I can’t remember why this one popped into my head. But then once it did, it was kind of like, “oh, that’s really thematic and on point” and I remember what the downside of having a movie called Spontaneous is that it was impossible to find out anything about the movie, because it was such a generic word.
So there’s a part of me that’s like “it needs to be like a little bit of a combination of words that wouldn’t be too common on Twitter.” And so there’s that element too, but I also like that you could do like a ‘50s-style poster with it and for a little bit I debated having the exclamation mark at the end, but it didn’t feel like it was the right tone of the movie. So no exclamation mark, but I like that it had like a kind of a ‘50s sci-fi vibe.
You have learned also the art of SEO and Google, because when you have a title that is also other things, it is very hard to rank on Google.
DUFFIELD: I know, and it’s, I always, when there’s bands that like have [names] like Air, you have to [search] “Air band,” it seems so hard. And so this was nice in that I was like, it’s common enough. It’s not the most esoteric title. But it’s a little less common than a one word title.
I love talking about editing because it’s where it all comes together. So, how did it, how did the film change in the editing room in maybe ways you didn’t expect?
DUFFIELD: There’s a really big one you should ask me on Tuesday night. That’s very, very spoilery but very funny too. And then beyond that, I had a really wonderful editor, Gabe Fleming. And that what I love about an editor is that they make the movie their own, and they see the movie and what it should be, in a way that you can really argue. Not that I butted heads with was Gabe, but it was great to have that extra force that was kind of like, “I really feel like the movie is telling us that we could lose this moment” or, or “this scene needs to be bigger. I’m not feeling what I need to be feeling in this scene.”
I feel like there’s always, a director has a desire to like edit themselves, and then every time I work with an editor, you’re like, oh, that would be so stupid because they kind of take ownership of the movie from you and can kind of tell you what you’re too stupid to realize, or what you’re so used to seeing that they realized. And so I really valued Gabe on this movie. And I think for us it was just trying to make it as relentless as possible, really like edge of your seat, hold your breath. But also give Kaitlyn and Brynn the space that she never feels like a rag doll that you’re just kind of bopping around the movie, that this is a really full dimensional, interesting character that I would probably watch in a movie without aliens. But she just happens to be in this really terrible situation.
So kind of figuring out how to really keep that pace going, but also giving Kaitlyn the space to be Kaitlyn. And then you have one of the best actors alive, you don’t want her just running and screaming for 80 minutes. You want to see that character that she’s building. So it’s just a lot of pushing and pulling in that direction to make sure it felt fast, but that you were giving her the space to knock it out of the park.
So one of the things about this is you have to design the aliens language and their movements, how much had you figured that out in the script and how much was that being figured out in post production once you’re like, “oh, I really got to figure out how they’re gonna move right now.”
DUFFIELD: Less so in post, because we had done a lot of it in prep too and we’re not a big budget. We definitely were the kind of movie that we knew every shot that had an alien in it way before we were shooting because they cost money. So a lot of that too was we kind of knew what our parameters were every day on set. And there was some push-pull every now and again, but for the most part, it was really, “ok, the alien is walking here to here and it’s at this pace because the camera needs to do this.” And we could only do four shots in this scene because we can only afford four shots in this scene because we have so much alien in the movie. And so it really, it kind of stemmed from that. So we did a lot of it in, in prep.
And the guys at DNEG were great. We didn’t do mocap for the animation, but we had a mocap day or two in prep to just kind of see what those figures that we designed would do. And a lot came out of that, like the hand motions that are in the movie are from that. The way they walk and move is from that, and it just kind of stemmed out of, “ok, let’s make them feel really intelligent.” It was really important to me that the aliens felt like they had a culture that they had a faith. And that was something we got to do a lot of before the movie and then in post, it was just kind of converting on that.
Yeah. I really appreciated how smart the aliens were in the film.
Good, cool. It’s really hard. One of the things as a nerd, a fellow nerd, you get this too where it’s like too smart and you just get into Star Trek territory, they just become Vulcans. Probably the longest part of it was making them feel smart, that they also felt dangerous. It was really interesting. There’s probably some psychological component to that, that I’m no well-versed enough to know, but there are things where I was like, “oh, if the alien does this, you’ll know, they’re really smart,” and then we would try it and then you’re like, “oh, they’re in a different [thing], they’re in Star Wars, they’re in Ahsoka now. It was really, really interesting to figure out that balance, and I don’t know what that cocktail is, but hopefully it works the movie.
No One Will Save You is now streaming on Hulu.