Dan Trachtenberg Talks Gaming, Improv, and ’10 Cloverfield Lane’

Andrew Hawkins

10 Cloverfield Lane is one of the best films of the year. The tense and unpredictable thriller surprised audiences by practically coming out of nowhere; and upon repeat viewings, the film holds up as a fantastic genre movie that deserves all the attention it can get. This is one worth watching and enjoying multiple times.

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Dan Trachtenberg’s major motion picture debut has been praised for its intense and brooding tone, amazing and emotionally driven soundtrack and intricately designed plot. Mary Elizabeth Winstead delivers a captivating performance as Michelle and John Goodman’s tense portrayal as Howard adds layers of suspense to a story that unravels and reveals itself more and more with each viewing. Here’s what the director had to say about 10 Cloverfield Lane and what we can also expect from the new Blu-ray release coming this Tuesday.

Fandom: What led to you directing 10 Cloverfield Lane?

Dan Trachtenberg: I was sent the script. I was talking to Bad Robot about projects of my own, and they sent it my way. I devoured it. I made the pages wet with sweat as I read it. It was so tense.

Fandom: What was it like working with J.J. Abrams on this?

Dan Trachtenberg: It was as awesome as you would expect. He’s a really great guy and he certainly made it much easier. He was very giving and allowed me the freedom to make the movie I wanted to make, and yet also had all the guidance that you would hope you could get from a guy like that. He was truly terrific and fun to geek out with and to learn from.

Fandom: How was it preparing for your first big film?

Dan Trachtenberg: Interestingly, I found that the prep phase was actually the most fun. I felt like a kid making a movie. It feels just the same as it does when you’re doing the movies in your backyard with your friends and your action figures. It’s everything I hoped it would be. The idea of it was always very scary and daunting to me, but doing it ended up being pure joy.

Fandom: You directed a really amazing group of actors here.

Dan Trachtenberg: It was truly great. I’m so glad the movie is as intense as it is, but the making of it was actually very fun. I didn’t do any method-y things, the only thing I did with them was I didn’t let Mary Elizabeth Winstead and John Gallagher Jr. see the bunker until it was nearly done and I made sure the first time they walked through it was a memorable experience.

Mary and I both got very sick on the final days of shooting. We were doing all the outside action stuff and at the time she had a 103-degree fever and had to run around like crazy, and I, unfortunately, lost my voice. The good news is I found out I’m very good at charades and we were still able to do everything we needed to do and it was pretty great.

I had a blast with Mary and Gallagher was hilarious every day. So many of his best moments in the film were improved, and the same thing with Goodman. His funnier stuff and his menacing stuff, a lot of that was just little things he decided to do and it was really great working with him.

Fandom: What were some of your favorite improv moments?

Dan Trachtenberg: I certainly love John Goodman’s dance for sure, but honestly one of my favorite things that’s now in the movie is when they sit down for the dinner scene, there was originally a three-minute long monologue that Howard gives about the Siege of Valencia. He intimidates them with this speech about being a traitor. We needed to cut some time off of the movie and that was a candidate.

Even though it was terrific and it was a great moment, we happened to find this little piece where he sits down at the table and gives this look to them. That look ended up to me like that Raiders of the Lost Ark moment where Indy draws the gun. I love that we had that moment with Howard’s look.

Fandom: What were the biggest changes in the final cut?

Dan Trachtenberg: A lot of it was in the opening. We had a more verbal version of the opening and we were trying to say too much. We had a little bit too much exposition and I think we ended up having an opening that was much more visual and stylistically keeping with the rest of the movie. Also, it retained more of the mystery and a lot of verbal stuff was trying to get across a story that was really hung on the beginning, middle and end for Michelle. I think we benefitted greatly by arriving at that version.

Fandom: What does the word Cloverfield mean to you?

Dan Trachtenberg: I think it’s now evocative of a tone of a genre or more pointedly that there is going to be a play on genre and that it’s going to be a unique take on genre. I think it’s now set up to be a platform to tell unique stories. There’s room for it to be this anthology series of films. I think there’s always something up J.J.’s sleeve and who knows what he’s got cooking for this.

Fandom: Do you have any fandoms you’d like to mention?

Dan Trachtenberg: Movies, video games, comic books. I’m a huge gamer. While we were shooting the movie, while we were editing and here I am in London doing an episode of Black Mirror; as much as I possibly can I’m playing games. I just finished Uncharted 4 which was an incredibly emotional experience and I truly geek out over video games. I just got the new Mirror’s Edge that I’m going to start to play, so yeah movies and video games.

Andrew Hawkins
Andrew Hawkins is a fan contributor at Fandom. He has been on the fan media scene since 2011. Arriving at Fandom by way of CHUD, GUY.com and Trouble.City; Andrew loves Sci-Fi Horror movies and supervillains. His dislikes include weak plotlines and sky lasers.
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