Jason Blum. Photo by Kaylin Balderrama

A Look Back: Jason Blum

How the production pioneer authored his own Hollywood success story

"I say to our directors ... unlike doing a pilot that disappears, I guarantee your movie will be seen. I just can't guarantee how it will be seen. I can't promise you a hit, but I can promise the movie is going to be yours."

Jason Blum is the founder and CEO of Blumhouse Productions – a multi-media production company that has pioneered a new model of studio filmmaking – as well as a two-time Academy Award-nominated and two-time Emmy and Peabody Award-winning producer. Blum is no stranger to SXSW and has been a 2014 Film Keynote and 2018 Featured Speaker with a 2019 Featured Session with John Pierson set for the upcoming March event.

During his 2014 SXSW Film Keynote, where he was joined by former Los Angeles Times staff writer John Horn, Blum told of his journey from first stepping into the entertainment industry as a studio executive in his twenties to leaving in 2000 to pursue his passion in launching his own production company. After producing eight independent films, "seven and a half of which no one had ever heard of," he jested, Blum grew frustrated and wanted to flip the script of the production process. Enter Blumhouse Productions, born from a vexation with the typical studio scene alongside a renewed inspiration in his mission to create high-quality, low budget films for wide release on the filmmaker's terms.

Since its launch in 2000, Blumhouse has produced more than 30 feature films including the Paranormal Activity, Insidious, The Purge and Sinister franchises. Looking back on the freakish success from the release of Paranormal Activity, Blum says he was lucky it happened later into his career, because it pushed him beyond clinging onto "scary movie success." By combining his experiences up to that time, Blum thought: "If I could make low budget movies independently and have the studios release the movies, that would be cool."

And that he did. Earlier this year, the Blumhouse blockbusters Split (from M. Night Shyamalan) and Get Out (from Jordan Peele), with combined budgets of less than $15 million, went on to gross more than $500 million worldwide. In October, Happy Death Day was the company’s third number one film of the year. In addition, Get Out was nominated for four Academy Awards in 2018, including Best Picture.

With television, Blum has won Emmys for producing HBO’s The Normal Heart and The Jinx. In 2017, Blum launched an independent TV studio with investment from ITV Studios. His latest projects include HBO's mini-series Sharp Objects and a mini-series for Showtime based on journalist Gabriel Sherman’s reporting on former Fox News Chief, Roger Ailes. Blumhouse is also bringing The Purge franchise to television.

Blumhouse Productions aims to work with experienced directors but with a fresh take on the average production deal. "We're going to pay you a very little amount, but in exchange for that you get to do what you want. Most of our directors have final cut," said Blum. "I often describe my company as 'auteur filmmaking' but for commercial movies." Blum's creative vision is clearly effective and enticing to directors as evidenced by the impressive list of Blumhouse collaborators and films making box office history.

During the 2018 SXSW Featured Session, The Bleeding Edge: A New Generation of Horror, Blum joined a panel of filmmakers and producers to explore the rise of the horror genre for audiences, and how it is allowing fans to connect to the genre anywhere, anytime via digital outlets. Blum delved further into the subject of identity as a producer and company.

"A lot of my identity is in the work that we do as a company, because I like the work that reflects my politics for instance, or my feelings about the world, or my feelings about race, sexism, and all of those things I feel are reflected in the movies and TV shows that we chose to do."

Jason Blum will be in conversation with John Pierson at the 2019 SXSW Conference as part of the Entertainment Influencers programming track. Pierson – noted for helping to launch numerous first time American independent filmmakers including Spike Lee, Michael Moore, Richard Linklater, Kevin Smith, Rose Troche, and Guin Turner – met Blum in 1993, when the latter was fresh out of college, when they worked together on a forgotten feature called My Life’s In Turnaround. 25 years later, the two will discuss how Blum and Blumhouse Productions seem to have conquered the entertainment universe.

Join us at SXSW 2019 for a Featured Speaker Session with Jason Blum and John Pierson to see what's next for this revolutionary producer, and how these two view that evolution of success.

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