After finding success on the festival circuit with his party crowd funded second film Blue Ruin (2013), Jeremy Saulnier became the name on the American independent scene's lips. Brutal, introspective and brilliantly assembled Blue Ruin gathered an armful of awards and featured in numerous 'end of year' lists, praised for its stark imagery and unbearable tension.

On May 9th, Saulnier will release his follow-up, Green Room. Concerning a punk band trapped in an isolated Neo-Nazi bar after a gig gone sour, the film is an exercise in both breakneck moments of shock and simmering wrath. Starring Patrick Stewart, Anton Yelchin, and Imogen Poots, Green Room establishes its director's name once again at the forefront of the scene, and perhaps as the next independent filmmaker to step into the big leagues.

I spoke to Jeremy about Green Room, his love of hardcore punk, and what it feels like to be a director in demand.

Hi Jeremy, how are you?

It's going good, how are you doing?

I'm not bad thanks, I finished watching Green Room about 3 hours ago and my heart is still pounding, so congratulations on that... where did the idea come from?

I've always wanted to set a genre film in the punk rock and hardcore scene, and I thought there'd be no better way to do that than to set it around a venue, and there's no better part of the venue than the green room. It's a backstage holding area; it's usually not easily accessible so I thought it's such a wonderful environment to do the traditional pressure cooker scenario, and integrate all the great textures as well as the energy of the music to propel this intense siege scenario. I've always gravitated towards genre filmmaking, so the kind of film I love is kinetic and visual and high stakes, so I finally got the resources and the access where it could be made into a reality and I jumped at the chance.

Music obviously plays a large part in the film, with everything from the full songs the band plays down to amplifier feedback playing a role in heightening the experience, so did you go into directing the film with a specific idea of how you wanted to use music?

It was really about atmosphere more than anything and creating an immersive environment and to really have that charge of energy from a live performance. The music itself can also serve as a soundtrack up to a certain point, and that was really fun to play with the different layers of the music and how it came together with the score. Eventually, the film kind of sheds itself from the punk rock and hardcore scene and just becomes a horror movie. At a certain point the music, as far as live performances or pre-recorded stuff that comes through the PA system, disappears so when you dump it you're running on rocket fuel, and the energy is still paying off from the beginning.

Is punk rock and hardcore something that you're personally interested in?

Yeah it was really a huge passion of mine in my teenage years. I was introduced to punk rock early on, when I was about 8 or 9, by a skateboarder. I just fell in love with it being a soundtrack for something so expressive and physical as skateboarding and this carried over into when my friends and I were mobile, and we had our driver's licenses so we could drive across the bridge from our suburban Virginia world into the hardcore scene that was in Washington DC. Going to shows and just being part of a scene like that was really definitive as far as my upbringing is concerned. The music and the feeling of being at those shows was just so engrossing and intense and gritty, but it's also the release, you know? Like when you're coming home from a show and you're in a convenience store parking lot with a can of beer, you're decompressing and still covered in grime and sweat, so I really wanted to capture that texture.

The film itself is quite like that in a sense, as in when they get out of the green room and into the forest... it takes on a different life and is a completely different atmosphere.

Totally, your ears are still ringing, but it has this surreal vibe like taking a wonderful breath of fresh air, which is why we set part of the movie in the Oregon woods because it's so lush and was a great contrast to the disgusting interiors.

How has life been since Blue Ruin, and what was the step up in terms of your career like?

It's been crazy; it's very hard to keep up. I've written and directed everything I've done and Blue Ruin and Green Room were each 2-year journeys. It's intense, it's protracted and it's exhausting! I'm just now coming up for air. It's great to finally release Green Room and to unleash it for audiences enjoy and for me to step away. All I'm asking from the audience is 94 minutes; it's a very intense 94 minutes and hopefully it plays well, but to be on a film for that long is a struggle. I'm really excited to have this wonderful archive of not only my youth and the music and films that inspired it but as an archive of my first movie that was funded by other people and made within the system and still retains a certain amount of independence and vision. So I'm now just trying to gauge what the next step will be... I have opportunities I'd never dreamt of so I'm just trying to hold on and not fuck up.

I imagine you're a big fan of crowdfunding after Blue Ruin, but where did the money for Green Room come from? Did the outside funding make this a completely different experience from your perspective?

It was tough to adjust to not having total control over everything, that's what I'm used to. For Blue Ruin it was very easy as far as directing. I was of course incredibly stressed out and didn't sleep, but the pressure was all internal. This time, the pressure was "this better be fucking good" because there's so much at stake. I take outside investment very seriously so it was a different kind of pressure, external this time. I was doing my very best to fight and maintain my vision and make the film I wanted to make... which is not your average movie. It took a lot of extra energy to be diplomatic, and to be more collaborative in a way that's beyond the crew level and beyond the actor level. It's just strange knowing to an extent that this time you don't own your own movie, which is very difficult for someone like me to adjust to. But it was a very worthwhile process. I really got a gauge of how to work within the system and ideally not ruffle as many feathers.

You've written and directed everything you've done so far, so is this level of control something you want to pursue as your career inevitably gets bigger? Would you be open to directing someone else's scripts and perhaps writing for another director?

The current projects I'm pursuing are not things that I've written myself. That takes so much time and with Green Room I was really pushing hard with all the film festivals and promotion that I didn't have time to write anything in-between. Now I'm looking to jump on a movie that I didn't write and practice the craft of directing. Eventually, I'll write again but as far as the near future I can only write material that I intend to direct. That might change but I think when you write something it's your baby and it's a rare opportunity to be able to write and direct, so who knows if I'll trust my material with other people. Also, the way I write is very bare bones, and very much for the screen, and incorporates how I see it visually so it might be very tough to translate my scripts if you're another director and you don't have the fore-knowledge I have. I actually see the movies as I write them, and I kind of direct them as I'm writing them, so without that DNA level knowledge of my script, it might be difficult.

With the bigger budgets comes the opportunity to work with people like Sir Patrick Stewart so did you have to change your approach to acting and drawing a performance this time?

The way I direct is not really overwhelming, I don't do much as far as directing actors and getting into the nuance of their craft, delivery, or infliction. I can do story beats very well, and I can guide them with authority through the beats we need to hit, but also I'm very hands off when it comes to performers, I really cast them because of their intuition and investment in the characters. It's very easy for me to step back and guide them as a storyteller rather than the traditional director role. I think I do need to learn vocabulary, though. I should take a minute, if I ever get a break between movies, to learn more about the craft of acting so that I have more of an idea of how to communicate with actors in their own words. Usually I kind of keep it general and talk about story and not as much about delivery or subtext, which is something else I'm excited to learn about. I think I have a better grasp on the stories I'm telling and I'm attracted to less exposition, less backstory and more on a physical intuitive performance from my actors... Working with Macon Blair has spoiled me, he's my best buddy and we have shorthand. I rely very much on his ability to act in a physical way. So I'm now trying to surround myself with more actors who are that invested and have that physical aspect to their performances.

Is horror something you want to continue working in or do you eventually see yourself moving into and exploring different genres?

I'll definitely try some new genres but it's always story first. I get a lot of scripts that are darker and more action or horror related, but I love those. The only thing I control as far as defining a new style is what I write, and so the next film I write will likely be a little lighter in tone. But, as long as I keep getting all these really great scripts I'll keep jumping on projects and get better as a director. As a filmmaker you're pushing something up a steep hill for so long, so by the time I make a movie I often don't even see myself as a director, more a caretaker to whatever vision I had going in, and then I hang on for dear life.

GREEN ROOM is released in the UK on May 9th.