Interviews: Director Tyler Savage Talks About His Psychological Horror Film Inheritance

Portola Pictures has releases Tyler Savage's Inheritance. Savage directed from his own script, putting a chilling twist on the universal feeling of being trapped by your family history, for better or worse. Following the world premiere at Dances with Films, Inheritance has received high marks at festivals around the country. Dread Central raved, "Savage uses the dark essences of an even more gloomy past to highlight this modern-day ghost story." You can read our review here.

Tyler Savage makes his feature film debut alongside executive producer Nicholas Gonda (Tree of Life), cinematographer Drew Daniels (Krisha, It Comes At Night) and producers J.P. Castel (Krisha), Dash Hawkins (Party Crashers), and Chase Joliet (It Comes at Night), who also leads the cast. Inheritance is now available to rent or own on iTunes and Amazon Instant Video.

Joliet is joined onscreen by Sara Montez (Pitch), Tim Abell (Sniper: Special Ops), Kate Norby (The Devil's Rejects), Dale Dickey (Hell or High Water, True Blood), Krisha Fairchild (Krisha) and Drew Powell (Gotham). The film was shot on location along the California coast and LA-based indie pop band Mini Mansions provided the score.

Ryan Bowman has just inherited a $2.5 million beach house on the central California coast from his biological father, a man he's never known and thought long dead. Arriving in the charming town with his pregnant fiancée, Ryan's curiosity about his father soon leads him into an introspective investigation. As a looming family presence tightens its grip on him, Ryan pushes away his adoptive family and expectant fiancé. When he finally discovers the horrifying truth about his birth parents, he might be too late to stop himself from repeating a similar pattern.

We had the opportunity to speak with director Tyler Savage about the film.

: First off, can you provide us with a little bit of background information. Did you always want to be involved in filmmaking? What type of training or schooling did you have? 

TS: Yeah, I’ve been fairly obsessed with film and storytelling in general since I was a kid. I made little shorts throughout my childhood, and put on one-act plays in high school. I studied film at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts, then landed a job as story editor at Warner Bros after college. But spending four years working with Terrence Malick was probably the best education in film that I ever could’ve asked for.

TMSWhat’s up with Inheritance? Where can people see it? And what do you want them to know about the movie? 

TSWe just launched on iTunes and Amazon, so we’re eager to get the word out there. This is not your typical horror film, but for viewers who appreciate thought-provoking stories that leave you with something dark to meditate on, then you’ll enjoy the experience.

TMSWhat was the inspiration behind this story? 

TSI wanted to make a film that straddled the line between my commercial storytelling instincts and my more experimental stylistic inclinations. Basically I wanted to make a genre film but approach it as an artist, to elevate a seemingly familiar set-up and say something more.

TMSWhat were the spiritual influences of Inheritance? Were than any specific films that you viewed while writing it? 

TSThere are always plenty of references in mind when you’re moving through a thing, but early Polanski (Knife in the Water, Repulsion) and Gotz Spielmann’s Revanche were frequent sources of inspiration.

TMSThis is a really unique kind of horror film. Did you know what kind of film you wanted to make when you started writing or did the idea evolve? 

TSYeah, I do think this was the film I originally intended to make. Some genre fans might be frustrated by the unexpected or unusual approach, but I knew my aim was a bit divisive.

TMSHow long did it take to get out that initial draft? 

TSProbably about two months, give or take.

TMSHow much did the script change over the course of the next few drafts? 

TSIt evolved a bit through rehearsals, but nothing too drastic.

TMSIs there anything you found more challenging when penning the screenplay? 

TSThe big challenge was keeping the ambiguity I wanted while still giving enough information that viewers wouldn’t feel lost.

TMSCan you talk about how you assembled your cast and crew? Your lead, DoP, and Ms. Fairchild all came from Trey Shults' crew right? 

TSA lot of this started with Chase and I wanting to do a feature. Drew and Margaux are close friends, so having them together as team just seemed ideal. And Krisha came aboard mostly because she was close with Chase. Ashley Spillers also helped us land Dale Dickey because they were on Vice Principals together. We just called in all the favors.

TMSIn terms of directing choices, anyone that you try to emulate? Or ones that have influenced you? 

TSThese are always the toughest questions. I do think that Malick had an impact on me, but I’ve been inspired by so many. Overall though, I think I’m inclined to be patient and methodical in my approach, so the great planners like Hitchcock often come to mind.

TMSHow long of a shoot was it? 

TSIt was twenty days with one day of pick-ups where we shot the underwater imagery in my mom’s pool.

TMSIs there anything you learned from working on Inheritance

TSI learned more from this process than I can even articulate. It’s something that everyone says over and over, but it’s true -- the best way to learn is to do. While there are things I might do differently looking back, I’m so grateful for the experience, and so eager to move onto the next project knowing what I know now.

TMSIf the movie was playing as one-half of a double feature at a Drive-in theatre what would be the perfect support feature? 

TSA recent reviewer just commented on watching Inheritance and Hereditary back to back. Now that wouldn’t exactly be a light-hearted evening, but it could be cool for those who dare… Or maybe we could play as the first feature before Hour or the Wolf.

TMSIf you had a choice to write the remake of a genre movie, what movie would you like to remake? 

TSThat’s a great question. It would need to be a project where there was room for reinvention, something beloved but not so beloved that a remake would feel like sacrilege. Maybe a new version of Don’t Look Now because I love the idea of grief as a source of terror.

TMSWhat's next for you?

TSI’m currently working with my friends and producing partners Dash Hawkins and JP Castel on a psychological thriller set in the Northwest. Hope to be in production by early 2019 or sooner.