Interview with Screenwriter Jessi Thind (NANUQ)

Currently Head of Narrative on Dead by Daylight at Behaviour Interactive, Jessi Thind brings his passion for all things Hitchcock and Lovecraft as well as his unique world-building experience to the game’s universe, including the recently released Stranger Things Chapter that features the Demogorgon. Previously the Narrative Director on Arkham Knight and an undisclosed game at Warner Brothers, Jessi was also one of the visionary talents behind Guy Laliberte’s Unknown Nine. He writes stories and spec scripts in his spare time when he’s not playing laser tag with his children.

Matthew Toffolo: What is your original spec script about?

Jessi Thind: Nanuq is about a group of well-meaning environmentalists who are brutally attacked and tormented by a polar bear out to avenge the death of her cubs to poachers. The two main characters attempt to rescue polar bear cubs from a gang of poachers but are too late, and they end up stuck in the poacher’s compound with a wounded and frenzied polar bear stalking them.

2. What genre does your screenplay fall under?

It’s a horror film that many in the industry are now referring to as the ‘monster-in-the-house’ genre. It takes inspiration from Jaws, Cujo and The Thing.

3. Why horror and not some other genre?

I enjoy writing in many genres, but I do have a special affinity for horror. I’d say the appeal is that horror is the one genre that is easy for audiences to get into without much set-up or exposition. Horror also taps into very universal and primal emotions that speak to us all, and unlike other genres, a well-designed horror tends to leave audiences glad to be alive. You watch an adventure and you leave the theatre wishing you were living another life. You watch an art-house drama and you break into discussions about existence and the meaning of life. You watch a romance and suddenly you’re having stressful, subtexty discussions with your significant other. But when a good horror ends… you’re just glad to be alive. That’s it, that’s all. You’re glad to be alive. You begin to breathe again, and you appreciate every single breath of your ordinary life. The gift of horror is your life back. It’s relief and gratitude all rolled into one. It’s that unique feeling of waking up from a nightmare to realize it was all just a bad dream.

4. How would you describe this script in two words?

Thrilling. Brutal.

5. What’s your favorite horror?

Depends on the medium. I’ve definitely got a bunch I enjoyed and it’s difficult to name a favorite. Shakespeare wrote one of the darkest, revenge horrors with his first critical success Titus Andronicus. Mary Shelly’s ‘Frankenstein’ and Agatha Christie’s ‘And then there were None’ are each terrifying in their own right. But the three that had me captivated as a teen were Jaws, Alien and The Thing. And of the three I think I’d pick The Thing because of its Lovecraftian look and feel.

6. What’s your favorite Stranger Things Season?

I enjoyed them all, but I definitely lean toward Season Three. I often say season one feels like Alien. Season two feels like it’s part Goonies, part Aliens. And Season three is like this crazy combination of Invasion of the Body Snatchers and The Thing that the Duffer Brothers actually managed to pull off in a way I didn’t expect. Season Three also had this undeniable Lovecraftian feel to it that is hard to put to words but is evident nevertheless.

7. What are some of your most memorable experiences with your writing?

Most memorable has got to be working with Mark Hamil on Arkham Knight. He’s such an incredible talent and a geniunely kind person I won’t foget that experience anytime soon. It’s hard to believe that watching Star Wars and the Big Red One as a kid I would ever dream I’d work with him and actually have him perform lines I wrote for The Joker. I also worked with Tim Kring, the creator of Heroes, on a project I am currently unable to discuss but am very excited about.
My second feature film ‘Killbird’ starring Elysia Rotaru and Stephen Lobo premiered at Dance With Films and will be featured at the upcoming TIFF festival.

Watch Screenplay Reading: 

Research scientists in the Arctic find themselves stalked by a vicious polar bear.


Jack: Allan Brunet
Mikey: Brandon Knox
Narration: Isabel Kruse
Rick: Aaron Williams
Ellie: Kyana Theresa

By matthewtoffolo

Filmmaker and sports fan. CEO of the WILDsound Film and Writing Festival


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