At our studios we get the chance to work with so many talented creators in the industry, something we never take for granted because we know we can continuously learn from each other.

Now we’re hoping to share some of those learnings with you through our ‘Director’s Vision’ series.

Creative Executive Officer and Founder of Pressure Cooker Studios, James Matthes, says:

“We believe the best way to innovate is to grow the talent in our industry, forming a community to set a new standard with every project we touch.
We know that by sharing information and creating resources, we can build a stronger platform for everyone. We learn from each other’s failures and successes, and we believe that no mistake should be learnt twice. We know that by working together, we can all achieve greater success.”

We have had the pleasure of working with Jem Garrard on their sci-fi space western series ‘Vagrant Queen’ in 2020 and handled the Music and Audio on their two recent films ‘Slay’ and ‘Invasive’. 

We asked Jem to answer some questions on their recent release, Invasive:

We have had the pleasure of working with Jem Garrard on their sci-fi space western series ‘Vagrant Queen’ in 2020 and handled the Music and Audio on their two recent films ‘Slay’ and ‘Invasive’. 

We asked Jem to answer some questions on their recent release, Invasive:

What was your vision for Invasive:
I wanted to turn the home invasion genre on its head. I’ve been fascinated by the concept of ‘phrogging’ (the act of secretly living in someone else’s home) for a few years. Rather than portraying the ‘phroggers’ and the concept of ‘the invaders’ as the antagonists, I wanted to explore the idea that the true horror lies in the home they chose and the person who owns it. The idea was to craft a film that feels tense and suspenseful, with multiple shifts in tone and narrative. I drew inspiration from the tonal shifts in the movie ‘Barbarian,’ which keeps the audience guessing and constantly subverts their expectations. I wanted to bring a similar unpredictability to ‘Invasive,’ including using darkly comical moments to leave the audience uncertain whether to laugh or just feel totally unsettled. I wanted the shots to feel slow and expansive to highlight the excessiveness of wealth and balance that with a sense of claustrophobia, so we shot everything on wide lenses to underscore both the vastness of the mansion and this creeping feeling of entrapment.


And what was your brief to Pressure Cooker Studios?
I wanted the score to feel pulsing and tense, keeping the audience on the edge of their seats. There were key moments where the music needed to push into a really unsettling, uncomfortable place, especially when Kay discovers some dark secrets inside the home. About an hour of the movie is spent in non-stop tension, so we needed a score that felt like it was constantly building and evolving. Later, there’s a tonal shift that opened up new sounds to play with, and my brief to PCS was to let their inner creep out! Nothing was too far.

How did music influence your filmmaking process?
I wanted the camera to feel like a character in the story, moving deliberately and never in a rush. This meant using a lot of long takes, and the music was key in making those shots work. I needed the music to be tense but also to have the room to build and grow with the slow camera movements. During some of these longer shots, whether exploring the house or following Kay as she runs around in a panic, we avoided rushing the camerawork. This gave the score room to breathe and gradually build suspense.

How did the music and audio elevate the storytelling overall?
Music and Audio are incredibly important in horror, and in a film like “Invasive,” where there are several tonal shifts, they play a crucial role in shaping the audience’s reactions. I wanted to keep the audience on the edge of their seats while also making them root for Kay throughout and PCS’s score and sound design did just that – it builds tension and unease, and makes us feel like we’re right there with Kay, experiencing her panic and later her absolute shock at what she’s discovering. The audio pulls us into her emotional state, making us feel for her the entire time.

Pressure Cooker Studios not only handled the music composition, but the entire audio process as well. Tell us more about having that under one roof?
Having everything under one roof made post-production so much easier and streamlined, especially sinceI was juggling post on two movies at the same time! When music, sound, and dialogue editing all come from the same place, they blend together seamlessly. This cohesion was evident throughout the entire process. Being able to deliver notes for both music and sound to the same team was a huge benefit. It ensured that everyone was on the same page and allowed for quicker adjustments and refinements. Honestly, now that I’ve experienced this setup, I’d find it hard to go back to having those elements handled separately. It just makes everything flow so much smoother and keeps the project feeling unified.

What was your experience working with Pressure Cooker Studios?
I’ve had the pleasure of working with PCS on my show ‘Vagrant Queen,’ so I knew how talented they were. But they completely blew me away with their work on both ‘Slay’ and ‘Invasive.’ These movies are so different, and the way they crafted distinct soundscapes for each one really shows off their creativity and skill. The whole process was fun, creative, and super collaborative. I absolutely love working with this team and can’t wait for our next project together.

Any tips for up and coming Directors when handling Music and Audio on a narrative Project?
Start a playlist in pre-production with tracks and scores from movies that capture the tone you’re aiming for. This will help you and your team get on the same page early on. Think about the journey you want your score to take and how it will evolve throughout the film. Do as much work as you can in your offline edits to give your sound and music team a clear idea of your vision. And lean on your post-audio and music team. They have a wealth of knowledge and creative ideas that can enhance your story. Make it a collaborative experience – their input can really elevate your project and bring your vision to life in ways you might not have anticipated.

Invasive is out now. Give it a watch.

And keep an eye out for our second Director’s Vision with Jem Garrard for their movie ‘SLAY’.