Cabin in the Woods: Joss & Drew’s writing process


[For the next few days, we’ll be looking at The Cabin in the Woods: The Official Visual Companion from Titan Books. It features an in-depth interview with Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard, the film’s complete screenplay, cast interviews, and hundreds of full-color photos and pieces of production art. The book comes out April 17th.]

On my desk as I type this are the official visual companion to The Cabin in the Woods as well as the novelization of the film by Tim Lebbon. Both books come out next Tuesday (tax day, for you procrastinators).

Let me warn you right now: do NOT thumb through the visual companion if you want to avoid spoilers. It gives practically everything away, and one of the pleasures of the film comes from knowing as little as possible about it. It’s best to watch the The Cabin in the Woods for yourself before checking out the visual companion.

With that warning, let’s turn to the book’s extensive interview with Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard. During the interview, they describe their unique method of collaboration and how they wrote the first draft of the screenplay in one busy weekend. I’ve excerpted that spoiler-free section of the interview after the cut.

From The Cabin in the Woods: The Official Visual Companion:

How long was it between the original idea and writing the first draft?

GODDARD: It could have been as long as a year in terms of us talking about, “Hey, we should write a movie together!” “Hey, what if we did a horror movie?” “Yeah, that’d be fun.” My memory is kind of hazy. I was writing Lost. We were just working on other stuff, and we’d trade emails and phone calls.

WHEDON: It was a while. It was a long time before we had the opportunity. I had the idea for a couple of years.

GODDARD: There was like a month-long period where we really got serious, talking about the story every day. “Okay, what would the story be?” “What are our character names?” and all of those things.

WHEDON: We had a lot of meetings and sat down to dinner a lot of times to make sure that we were ready, and I wrote out a cast lift and an outline and the first 10 pages.

GODDARD: And then after that, we made the hotel reservations. I think we checked in on a Thursday night, but we didn’t write anything Thursday night. We checked in on Thursday night and then checked out Monday morning.

You actually checked yourselves into a hotel together to write this?

GODDARD: Yes. It’s in Santa Monica somewhere. And it was great — we had a bungalow with an upstairs and a downstairs. So I would just sit upstairs and Joss would write downstairs and I remember, we would get up at 7:00am and have breakfast and figure out the stories we wanted to deal with that day, and then he would write downstairs and I would write upstairs and we’d pass pages back and forth and we’d finish about 1:00am and we’d go to bed and then do the same thing the next day. It was very intense, but it couldn’t have been more fun. Joss and I both work very well around our wives. It’s not that. But when you’re at a hotel, everything can be taken care of. You don’t have to think about, “Where am I going to get food?” [laughs] Or “When do I have to drive to the office?” We knew we wanted to be near each other, because in order to write like this, if we had a problem, we had to be in close communication all the time. We wanted to take all the problems out of it, sort of go in a bubble, so that all you have to worry about is writing.

WHEDON: You know, the dream, the fantasy — and I’ve had this fantasy before, as have other writers — is that you lock yourself in a hotel, partially because it is more exciting to say, partially because I have children, and partially because your focus is absolute. Based on the fact that we had 10 pages written, we knew we each had an obligation to turn out no less than 15 pages every day for three days in a row. And that can’t be done if you have anything else to do. So when we got to the little bungalow, and he took the upstairs and I took the downstairs, we basically would talk in the morning about the acts, break it, divide it, and then go down. In a writers’s room, there are hours of gossip and chatting and personal stories, and there was none of that. For three days, we never talked about anything except the story.When we’d eat, if we decided to have dinner at the restaurant of the hotel, we’d only talk about the story. We had real focus. And you remove yourself from life to get that kind of focus.


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Don’t forget that you have a chance to win the Mondo poster for The Cabin in the Woods. The Escher-ific limited-edition poster (pictured below) is completely sold out, so this is your chance to actually get one.

Hubert Vigilla
Brooklyn-based fiction writer, film critic, and long-time editor and contributor for Flixist. A booster of all things passionate and idiosyncratic.