The Making of Prey

The 3rd Film

Prey was the first real attempt at making an entertaining film, but my 3rd short film. The first two were really practice runs to see if I could get a cinematic result at all, but Prey was the attempt to take what I learned from the first two and see if I could get close to at least a legitimate production. I would grade it a B movie effort, but overall, it has some moments that came out pretty well, and if I had the time, and resources to have shot it exactly as it was initially envisioned, it would have been a high caliber B-movie effort.

The film starred Mark Benjamine, the main baddie who did a pretty fun job getting his creep on. I think the character was kind of visually modelled after the antagonist of the 80s film Vice Squad. He really did bring this slimy charm to the role and is a super fun guy to hang out with. The girls, Lylah Dixon, and Lauren Reeder were a great choice playing prostitute vampires who eventually turn the tables on Mark and give him his come-up-ins.

The Production

Prey was shot on two locations, an actual club called the Satin Lounge in a seedier part of San Diego, and on set at a movie sound warehouse not too far from the club off of El Cajon Blvd. For the Satin lounge we had one day on Sunday to get in and get out before they resumed business. The club manager was awesome, so I put him in the film, he’s the guy sitting with the cowboy drinking a beer. lol. The owner of the studio warehouse was also super cool, and even shot photography during production. Both were super long days, morning till next morning, it was brutal, but also so much fun.

Shannie’s mom did the catering, we had Oscar nominated DP Jesse Aragon and his team filming, Eric Fox from Season 7’s FX’s show FaceOff on practical effects, my wife Shannie who did the costuming, and coincidently shared Award category for Makeup and Wardrobe at the Sand Diego Film Awards. We were robbed of the award, but it was still fun attending. lol. Super talented Michelle Vorachack did the set designs, and set ups, and Thomas Sturtevant was my Assistant Director, while Tim Clifton handled on-set sound.

Always running out of time

After shooting the first two shorts, I found that Directing all day after hauling a small apartment worth of gear to the set was just not a great way to get good results, and Prey wasn’t really any different, however I did plan and recruit a crew and handled it more like a legitimate movie set, and it was so much better to have a team handling things around me, that let me focus more on what was in the frame as opposed to what was out of it. I think that showed through a lot more on this film, but also it was a lot of fun just having the comradery of a team on set, and having those experiences shared, I could really see myself going further and doing a larger scale production in the future. The whole cast and crew were amazing, a time dear to my heart.

There were two elements that I didn’t get to shoot the way I wanted that would have really elevated the film, the first was the opening shot, the establishing shot of the film. You want to make that shot count to really bring the viewer into the world you created, and we just had no time to shoot it. We had one day at the Satin to get it all shot, and those establishing shots we’re the last thing we were going to shoot that night. The opening shot, the city, the club was not indented to be CGI, but the actual club entry. We would have had the girls enter the club from the parking lot after a long crane pan down, and walk through a crowded room, cameras behind, and that would have set up the cowboy pimp in the back and his crew. I wanted to get lots of neon and movement through the crowd, injecting a lot of personality into that first scene. Instead, we just get the CG club exterior and then cut right to the bartender. I even had an overhead shot dolly shot planned to give it a kind of Bladerunner feel.

The second element was the interaction in the last scene between Mark’s character and Lylah’s. It “almost” works, but there’s this moment in there where he’s going on with his monolog, really savoring the moment trying to frighten her before he makes his move, and he realizes she’s not giving him a real reaction to his menacing behavior which prompts the line, “What the hell is wrong with you?”, but at close to 4am, we were all just beat, and I wasn’t able to dig deeper into that transaction. There was supposed to be a subtle reaction shot that really sold the Vampire being more amused that frightened, and at the time I thought I had it, but it was missing in post.

In the end

After all was said and done, it was a fun experience, and for the most part I was happy with what we had set out to do, which was create something that had some style, was fun, and could be happy with it as a B-movie kind of venture. The first two films taught me to cut things down, and streamline the dialog and shots, get to the point, and keep the story economical. In that, I think it was successful. I had written a couple screenplays for full length films and about 5 other short films, but life and career kind of put my film ambitions on hold. Korben was born the next year, Maya a couple years later, purchased a house, switched jobs, started an indie game company with a couple partners and spent a few years on an indie game title and I just never got back to dipping my toe in it again.

I do feel like I may get back on it one of these days. My real goal, and this is a funny one, is I have what I think is a real cool take on re-booting the old early 80s film Saturn 3. I saw the trailer when I was kid in the theater back in 1980 when it came out, not the film, but the trailer, and at 11 or 12 years old, it was terrifying, and I had this vision as to what I thought that film was about. It left a real impression on me, then I saw the film on VHS a lot later and was like WTF is this? lol. It’s so bad, however I have this concept that I think is pretty fun and would love the opportunity to re-do that film and bring it to glory! Out of how many re-boots, and people, myself included being sick of them, I feel that is one of those films that’s just dying to be remade. Call me crazy, but one of these days…:-)

If you are interested in watching Prey, you can find it on Amazon Prime (Free if you have a Prime subscription)
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