Werewolves Within, which debuted at the 2021 Tribeca Film Festival, is to date the only video game adaptation that I have ever enjoyed. Well, that’s a lie because Super Mario Brothers rules, but I’m also saying that off the memory of seeing it when I was nine years old. Werewolves Within is based on the Ubisoft VR game of the same name. It’s also a twist on the classic party card game Werewolf and its multiple impersonations. I was happy to talk to the writer of Werewolves Within, Mishna Wolff. This is her debut screenplay and it’s truly a winner. She creates a great ensemble of characters that make you care about them and fear for them when all hell breaks loose. I can’t wait to see what she does next for the big screen. I’m also going to go back and check out her book I’m Down. She’s a great writer and I really enjoyed our conversation. Hope you do too!
How did you get connected with this project? Are you a video game fan? How did this happen?
I actually went to Ubisoft for a general meeting. My agent sent me to Ubisoft and I said “Oh yeah, this is going to be a sausage party!” I met this cool woman there named Margaret. She’s a genius exec. She’s young and super ambitious with awesome sensibilities. Which should make me sick, but she’s totally awesome. She was doing this women’s fellowship and she reached out to my agent and asked if I wanted to apply for it. It’s a really cool fellowship. It’s a paid fellowship, so you’re getting paid to pitch movies. They unlock the vault and give you access to their IP. All these really good titles. It’s a neat program and there’s not really anything like it. It’s two things in Hollywood that are hard to get your hands on: money and intellectual property.
“…two things in Hollywood that are hard to get your hands on: money and intellectual property.”
That’s amazing. I’m glad to know about that.
I was in the first year and when I was doing it, you had to be represented. Now you don’t. Anyone can apply. They’re super supportive. I brought in a few titles that I liked from the video games that I played and we discussed how we could adapt them.
Did you have a lot of rules imposed on you or did you get more freedom than you thought you would?
I will say that Ubisoft is the most creative place to work. They’re so supportive. Part of that’s being in the fellowship, but as a creative person, I felt so supported. It’s a safe place to take risks. I “What if?”-ed a lot. They never made me feel like I threw a turd into the room. It was always a conversation of “Yes, and…” and a lot of collaborative spirit.
How is it easier to write an adaptation versus original material and how is it harder?
I didn’t feel confined in any way regarding it being an adaptation. Because Werewolves Within is such a pared-down game. The essence of it is: it’s a VR game. You put on a headset, you’re around a fire with whoever else is playing, and you’re deducing which one of you is the werewolf. The thing that sparked me to it is the faulty logic people use to make their deductions. Also, humans aren’t scientifically minded, generally speaking. So, there’s a lot of room for faulty logic. The bias, the resentments. It was a great avenue for a lot of hostility and a lot of conflicts.
I really thought that was a great set-up for a movie. What if instead of a medieval village, it was a modern-day town? What if it was a town that was divided about a lot of things? Including class, gentrification, and a bunch of other things. What if masculinity was one of the themes of the movie? Then it started to feel like a video game, as well as the old ’80s horror movies I loved but also be about something. Something relatable and pressing to the reality we all find ourselves in today.