Born in 1977 and raised in Melbourne, Aussie screenwriter, producer, and occasional actor Leigh Whannell alternated between work as a reporter and assignments as a TV-based movie critic on his native continent prior to his decision to attend film school in the early 2000s. As a production student, Whannell met aspiring director James Wan; the two forged a tight creative bond and quickly devised the premise for a new slasher franchise, Saw, co-authoring the screenplay of the premier installment.
The by-now infamous story of Saw concerns the plight of two successful men who black out, regain consciousness, and find themselves chained to rusty pipes in a subterranean bathroom. They are then tortured in unspeakable manners by an evasive predator in clown makeup, known alternately as The Jigsaw Killer and simply Jigsaw. To sell this genre effort, Whannell and Wan followed a marketing strategy identical to the one that Joel and Ethan Coen used to sell their debut, Blood Simple, 20 years prior: the budding filmmakers shot a "trailer" that showcased the film's atmosphere of relentless tension and high-wire suspense to secure a production deal. The gamble paid off; Lionsgate green-lit the project and sent it into production between 2003 and 2004.