[Interview] Emma Tammi for FIVE NIGHTS AT FREDDY’S

In FIVE NIGHTS AT FREDDY’S, based on the terrifying horror game phenomenon, the film follows Mike (Josh Hutcherson) a troubled security guard who begins working at Freddy Fazbear’s Pizza. While spending his first night on the job, he realizes the night shift at Freddy’s won’t be so easy to make it through.

Leading up to the release of the film, Nightmarish Conjurings’ Shannon McGrew spoke with director/co-writer Emma Tammi. During their chat, they discussed everything from how they tackled making the film accessible to both fans and general moviegoers, working with those unique animatronics, and how FIVE NIGHTS AT FREDDY’S can easily be a communal viewing experience.

Thank you so much for speaking with me today, Emma, and congratulations on the movie! FIVE NIGHTS AT FREDDY’S is obviously a massive video game with a large fan base. When executing the film, how did you envision this movie appealing to both the fandom and the general moviegoer?  

Emma Tammi: We were thinking about the fans every step of the way, so I’m really hoping that we knocked it out of the park for them but I don’t think the movie and story is exclusive to the fan base. There’s a lot that the fans will pick up on that maybe a general audience would not but I think these are accessible characters in a really fun world. I hope people who are not familiar with the game will still really, really enjoy the film.

Josh Hutcherson is so great in this film and does a tremendous job of establishing a deep connection between his character, Mike, and the audience. What were your intentions on the emotions and themes surrounding his character and how that was used to elicit emotional responses from the viewers?

Emma Tammi: Josh stepped into this character wholeheartedly and was constantly looking for ways to make his performance resonate in a really truthful and authentic way. Mike, as a character, is dealing with a lot of loss and past trauma so he’s really going through a whole haunting that is internal and within his psyche, and he’s also taken a job at a haunted pizzeria so there’s this external haunting as well. He brought the deeper character elements through the movie, through all the fun, wild, and supernatural elements that [he] endures.

Within the horror community, there is an ongoing discussion about the distinctions between PG-13 and R ratings regarding elements such as scares and gore. How do you manage to balance between satisfying the audience’s desires while avoiding going too far beyond acceptable boundaries?

Emma Tammi: It’s a conversation that mostly ends up coming down to execution. If we’re going to have a kill, if we’re going to have any elements of gore, how much is it going to be? How much are we going to show? How much are we going to insinuate? We start with the script stage and then keep having that conversation during production and then keep having it during post. So it’s ever being tuned and fine-tuned to ultimately try to push the envelope as much as we can before we reach that R rating.

(from left) Foxy, Chica, Freddy Fazbear and Bonnie in Five Nights at Freddy’s, directed by Emma Tammi.

What was the process like in bringing the FIVE NIGHTS AT FREDDY’S animatronics to life? 

Emma Tammi: They were created practically and Jim Henson’s creature shop brought the designs and the builds to life, so that was incredible. We got to work with the best of the best in terms of making these puppets and they exceeded all expectations. Once they were built, we needed to figure out how they were going to move and fine-tune that for all the different scenes and tones that they needed to be able to step into, that was a whole other process as well. We had a huge team of puppeteers and it was both a robotic effort and a human effort to make these performances really come to life.

When filming were there any memorable scenes that took place? Maybe something that was funny or even scary? As someone who is uncomfortable around animatronics, I would have struggled a bit. 

Emma Tammi: What’s actually quite funny is at some point it becomes normal [to be around the animatronics] and then you’d step out of yourself for a second and realize that you’re having a conversation with a seven-foot animatronic bear [Laughs]. There were always quirks and things happening out of the corner of our eyes that were unexpected and we really tried to embrace those. I was standing next to one of the puppeteers with the joystick controls and Bonnie did a little eye wink or something and I saw that the puppeteer hadn’t touched the remote and I said, did you do that? And she said, nope! So the animatronics were quirky and fun and had a life of their own, and that was really something to embrace.

Lastly, what would you like to say to fans and general audiences to get them to go and see this film? 

Emma Tammi: I think this movie has such an amazing potential to bring friends together and honestly, be chatting all the way through the film. I know that’s not something that as a filmmaker you necessarily normally want audiences to do, talk throughout your movie, but in this case, it’s such a communal event.

Hopefully, everyone can come together and enjoy it together and shout out the Easter Eggs together and get scared together and laugh together and see these characters come to life that they’ve been waiting so long to see on the big screen and they’re really enormous and I think so beautifully crafted and terrifying. If you can get yourself in a dark room with other people and see them on the big screen and hear the sound at its fullest capacity, I think it should be a really, really fun popcorn movie and hopefully something that people really enjoy together.

FIVE NIGHTS AT FREDDY’S arrives in theaters and will be streaming on Peacock on October 27. In the LA County area and want to see FIVE NIGHTS AT FREDDY’S early? Check out our giveaway and learn how you can enter here.

Shannon McGrew
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