Dee Rees (Getty)
After its Sundance Film Festival premiere in January, Netflix acquired Dee Rees' latest directorial effort, "Mudbound," for $12.5 million. The film, which made its World Premiere at the annual premiere event for American independent cinema, is a big-screen adaptation of Hillary Jordan’s 2009 novel of the same name, which is set in 1946 in the wake of World War II, and follows the fates of two very different families that collide while struggling to make their dreams come true in the Mississippi Delta.
Rees has yet to announce her feature film follow-up to "Mudbound," although she directed 2 episodes of Dustin Lance Black's ABC TV miniseries "When We Rise" which aired earlier this year. But maybe a May 11 New York Times profile of Jason Blum of Blumhouse Productions (producer of the year's biggest hit, "Get Out", as well as "Split" and several other low-budget/high-grossing movies) may tell us something about what's next for Dee Rees in terms of films (or at least, what's in her future).
Buried within the New York Times Magazine piece, titled "The Scarily Profitable Hits of Jason Blum," is this:
Rees, it emerged, was a serious horror fan. She told Blum about two recent movies that she especially admired, “Hush” and “Creep,” and Blum said that as it happened they were also Blumhouse projects. Rees said she had an idea for her own low-budget horror picture — one location, tiny cast — set in a small town not unlike the one where she has lived for the last year. Blum listened carefully.
“You’ve got me and my wife, two black lesbians, and when we first moved in, we fought every day over all these little things: ‘Why is this over there? Did you move that?’ ”
Blum leaned in, nodding. This was promising.
“Maybe it was a ghost,” Rees continued. “Or maybe it was some other force — like us not wanting to be there or fitting in.” Blum was nodding more rapidly. “Anyway, that’s my horror-movie pitch,” Rees said.
“It almost makes me nervous,” Blum said, then leaned back and looked up. “The idea of working with you.” He paused. “But anything you want to do, I’m in. I’m in, I’m in, I’m in.”
Now obviously that's not enough for us to conclude that Dee Rees and Jason Blum are definitely working together on developing Rees' horror movie pitch, but then, deeper into the New York Times piece, there's this:
A few weeks after Blum met Rees, I called her to see if anything had come of their impromptu pitch meeting. Something had, Rees said. They’d met for lunch and talked about a deal. She told me what was most surprising wasn’t that she was suddenly developing a horror movie centered on the domestic lives of black lesbians in rural America but that Blum had followed up at all. “I can’t tell you how rare it is that people mean what they say in this business,” she said. “He’s just letting me make the best possible version of what I want to make.”
So, based on the above, it's safe to say that Dee Rees and Jason Blum of Blumhouse Productions, are indeed developing Rees' horror movie pitch about black lesbians in rural America who might be living in a haunted house, or, are being essentially being told in some supernatural way that they are unwelcome by the townsfolk because they are black and lesbian; there are a number of directions to take this. Horror is a genre that really allows for exploration of society's ills while simultaneously entertaining you. So I'm most certainly looking forward to what develops here. Of course, much still has to happen before it becomes a film that's coming to a theater near you, but it's exciting to know that the journey to that eventual destination has officially begun.
Worth noting that Blumhouse is also behind J.D. Dillard's "Sleight" which is out in theaters, and his upcoming horror film, "Sweetheart," starring Kiersey Clemons. Blum will also be working with Jordan Peele again, who just entered into a first-look production agreement with Universal Pictures that will see Peele develop his next film, an untitled "social thriller," and produce a wide range of films for the studio, including several microbudget projects on which he will partner with Jason Blum as he did on "Get Out."
Exciting times ahead for lovers of genre cinema - especially when created by black artists, at this high profile level, which is rare.
Read the full New York Times Magazine profile of Blum here.