Ask us what our top five most anticipated sci-fi films of the year are and you’ll hear ‘Sandy Collora’s Hunter Prey‘ included in the mix. If you’re one of the few sci-fi fans who haven’t yet heard of Sandy Collora or Hunter Prey, then you should take the time to visit io9 who, back in Nov 08 provided an in depth look at the film via a comprehensive interview with him.
If you want the short version: Collora is the filmmaker who in 2003 scored a demi-god hit with his fan-made short film, Batman: Dead End (the one where Batman battles against the Joker, an Alien, and a Predator). Since then he’s had a legion of fans chomping at the bit to see what he can do with a full length feature film. Hunter Prey is that film.
The story follows a team of special forces commandos who must recapture an escaped alien prisoner after the military transport ship carrying it crashes on a desolate and hostile planet. Although we’re yet to see any footage (more on when that will change included in the interview below), the first wave of stills had many fans comparing elements of the images to Star Wars. Further, our own discussions about the film have regularly evoked elemental comparisons with James Cameron’s Terminator, Ron Moore’s Battlestsar Galactica, Wolfgang Petersen’s Enemy Mine, Star Trek, 2001 A Space Odyssey, and more. Whether these comparisons turn out to be accurate or not, the reality remains that yes, we’re very eager to see this movie.
So when will we see it? Many people were expecting Hunter Prey to be released last month but once March came, and with no word on the status of the film to hand, the usual speculation that something was wrong began to surface. Fortunately we can now confirm that there is no further need for such speculation for yesterday Sandy Collora gave us a status update, sent over a few new never before seen images, and fielded a few of our questions with answers that have only served to heighten our anticipation.
INTERVIEW WITH SANDY COLLORA:
Last we heard you were embarking on adding all the visual effects. How has that turned out?
Sandy Collora: Phenomenal. I’m very pleased with all the Visual Effects for the film. Johnnie Semerad and his award winning team of artists have generated some truly stunning imagery that certainly elevates the film to another level. That aspect of the film has grown considerably since I first sat down in NY with Johnnie and discussed what direction I felt the CG should go and where I felt it most applicable. Once they started completing shots and Toby (my editor) cut them into the film, Johnnie would say, “Hey, maybe we do a little something here, on this shot or that shot…” Little things that just made some stuff more fantastic and engaging. He also talked me into an idea he had for the opening of the film, which turned out incredibly well. Johnnie has great instincts and is a very talented artist and painter, so his ideas and what he brought to the film as whole, were very cool. We’re finishing up the last half dozen shots or so this week, so I’m very excited. Everything from the simplest of cosmetic fixes, to the breathtaking planetscapes, look incredible. I think people are going to be shocked at the level of GC that was achieved for such a low budget film. Everything is seamless. Natural. Unobtrusive. The CG enhances the world and the story, and is only used where we felt it necessary, and is not overbearing. It compliments the movie quite well, I’d say.
Do you still have any post-production to wrap up or is Hunter Prey complete?
SC: The film is almost done. The only things left really, are the score, the sound mix and recording Erin Gray’s voiceover. We’re hoping to have the film 100% complete by June. I’d be lying if I told you that I didn’t think we’d already be wrapped up by now, but the reality of the situation is, making a low budget, extremely ambitious, independent, Science Fiction film like Hunter Prey is inexorably difficult. Getting all of the elements to kind of “line up” when they’re supposed to, is a very tricky thing. All in all however, in the grand scheme of things, taking into consideration how long most Hollywood movies are in post, I’d still have to say we’re doing pretty good, especially given our limited resources. Again, I think when people see the film, it’ll click. They’ll realize without any question, what we were trying to achieve here, and that we were pushing really hard for something that would transcend the usual type of genre movie you expect to see in this budget range.
Originally you had hoped to release Hunter Prey in March 2009. Do you have a new release date in mind?
SC: Ya know, that’s an interesting question because honestly, I don’t know if there was a misunderstanding on my part, or I didn’t make myself clear enough when I first spoke of that, but I never thought the film would be released by this March. That’s quite honestly, very unrealistic for an ambitious, FX heavy, film like this, that wrapped principal photography in May of last year. I think what I meant to say, was that I was hoping for the film to be completed by March, which still puts us a bit behind, as were now looking at June to deliver the finished film. As for when it will be released, I can’t answer that yet. We have a great international sales group called Moviehouse, involved now in London, and they’re planning a presentation at Cannes in May. We’ll see how things go from there.
Were there any reasons for the delay that you can elaborate on?
SC: There’s quite a few actually, there always are… People’s schedules were a big problem, because when you’re not paying people their full rate, or in some cases not even close to it, you have to be flexible as far as their schedules are concerned. People have businesses to run, bills to pay and families to feed. Their availability might not always click with when you want them to do something, which is very normal in the low budget movie world. You get put on the back burner because you’re not a big paying job, which is completely understandable. The Visual FX ran late because shots were added, or changes were made to certain things to get the best result possible. I felt it was better to wait a bit longer to have the shot be perfect. I tried very hard along the way, not to compromise the artistic integrity of the film. Too many people worked too damn hard, to just say “Oh, that’s good enough..”. It’s just that simple. I think it makes a huge difference and matters that much… I truly do.
The music also held us up for a long time. It’s finally worked out now and we have an incredibly talented composer named Chris Hoag scoring our film, but the guy I originally wanted to work with, just could not commit to the job and a lot of time and effort was spent, ultimately in vain, trying to accommodate him. It happens all the time in this business, you just move on… Things are proceeding along quite well now.
When can we expect a trailer?
SC: The teaser trailer will premiere on io9, next week. It’s done, approved, and now the technical issues of how it’s going to be hosted are being worked out. I’m very excited about it. Like the movie itself and all the promotional artwork, the trailer has a very 70’s, old school Sci-Fi, organic, feel to it. I can’t wait to see what people think of it.
You’re making a guest appearance at Monsterpalooza? Will you be showcasing Hunter Prey – or any of your unseen work – there?
SC: I will be showing the trailer and a special presentation reel, with some behind the scenes stuff at Monsterpalooaza. There will be a Q&A with myself, the actors, and the producers and crew, afterwards as well. There will also be a Hunter Prey table with costume displays and artwork from the film, promotional materials, T-shirts, and free swag, where people can meet and interact with all of us, get a sketch, a photo, or whatever. I’m looking forward to it. There will be a lot of friends and colleagues speaking and presenting there as well. It should be fun! We’re also planning on doing something VERY special for Comic Con this year, so stay tuned!
I think there’s going to be a lot of people that want to see this film, not just in the US but worldwide. Can you give us some idea of how you intend to distribute the film?
SC: Another good question, to which unfortunately, the answer is; I don’t know yet. Of course, I’d love for this film to get a theatrical release, both overseas and here in the states, but that’s not up to me. It depends on who likes the film, how much they like it, and how much they’re willing to spend on P&A to get it into the theaters. I’ll say this; I’ve seen films that I personally felt were not worthy of it, get released theatrically. They all had varying results. Some made money, some didn’t. But the fact of the matter is, there are many different reasons why films get released the way they do, and I openly admit, I have no idea what some of those are and what criteria a film must meet and for whom, to get released in a certain manner. Marketing a film to buyers is quite different from marketing a film to an audience, and again, I’m just starting to learn how that all works. What I do know for sure however, is this; I have a film that if marketed correctly, will appeal to a lot of people, and that it will definitely be released in some form. All of you will be able to see this movie. Don’t worry about it “never seeing the light of day” as some of you put it, because that is simply not the case.
One of your approaches to film-making is to be conscious of what it is that’s made other genre films great and to try and synthesize that into your own work. Do you think you’ve managed to infuse some of these elements into Hunter Prey?
SC: I think so. The true test of that of course, will be what audiences think. That’s more up to them at this point than it is me. I feel I’ve done my job. I feel I’ve given the audience, especially the Sci Fi fans, something they really can embrace. I see elements of great Sci Fi films that have come before it, in the film and think I’ve paid homage to them in the purest of ways… Of course I’m biased, but I truly think there’s some old school, 70’s Sci Fi magic in “Hunter Prey”, but I guess we’ll see soon enough.
You’ve endured a lot of challenges to get to the point of even being able to produce an indie film. What’s been the biggest challenge you’ve faced during production?
SC: Every element of it is the biggest challenge, until you figure it out and move on to the next thing, which then of course, becomes the biggest challenge… True, but to answer more succinctly; I’d have to say the biggest challenge was raising the money. To me, the creative parts of filmmaking come very naturally and are fun and challenging in different, less stressful ways than the the business end of things for me.
Is everything coming together in line with your original vision?
SC: Yes it is, but even the biggest of A-list directors, making 100 million dollar films, will tell you it’s never exactly what you want. Making a movie is like being in a war. You’re always fighting the budget and time, people doubting you, all kinds of stuff, but I’d have to say, most of this movie has fallen into place the way I originally envisioned it. Some things, mostly because of the budget, had to change. Some for the better, some not, but that’s part of being a director. You have to be on your game, every minute of every day and be able to think on your feet when different situations present themselves, whether good or bad. Being able to adapt and deal with things that can change on a minute to minute basis, is essential to making a good, low budget film. I’m very happy with the movie. It’s very much the picture I wanted to make. I’m proud of it and I’m proud of the cast and crew, who supported me with the gifts of their time, talent and dedication, making my vision for Hunter Prey, a reality.
What has turned out better than you could have hoped for?
SC: Wow. Lots of things. Honestly though, the biggest thing that turned out better than I could have imagined, was the fan reaction to the first photos and interviews about the movie. I was truly overwhelmed by the warmth and outpouring of love and support for the film. My email box was literally jammed the first few days after io9 ran the first piece, and people couldn’t believe how cool everything looked. A lot of people said very nice and very encouraging things. Some even went as far as to say that what they saw in those pictures, was the kind of stuff they had expected to see in other popular Sci Fi films, but were always left unsatisfied. I think people can really relate to the film and to us, because we’re the underdogs, the little guys. We get it. One website in particular, that was pleasantly surprised by the amount of attention we’re getting, called us; “The little Sci Fi film that could.” I love that… So cool.
The music score to a movie is to my mind one of the most important aspects of a film – the right music can really make a film shine, the wrong score can break even an otherwise good film. You’ve commented on various aspects of your film before but I don’t think you’ve mentioned the music. How do you see the importance of the right score and what has been your approach to the soundtrack for Hunter Prey?
SC: There’s a good reason why I haven’t talked about that aspect until very recently. Like I mentioned above, the guy that we were trying to do a deal with to score the picture, kind of strung us along a little bit. He’s an incredible musician, but for many reasons that unfortunately became apparent to me too late, he had a problem with making a commitment to us and to the project. In the end, it just became too difficult to get him involved, and we went in another direction. Which worked out very well and in this case, much, much better. We were fortunate enough to get a very talented guy named Chris Hoag to score Hunter Prey. Chris has got me so excited about the work he’s doing, I can barely hold a thought. He earned an emmy nomination for his work on the TV show House, and he’s kind of an “old soul” if you will, when it comes to film scores. He’s very much into the same movies and movie music that I am, and we see 100% eye to eye on what the score for this film needs to be and he’s doing an incredible job. The score will be very traditional, in a sense, with heavy thematic pieces and title music, but will also have a very odd, Planet of the Apes edge to it. As Chris describes it: “The first part of the movie, when they crash on the planet and start tracking the creature, needs to be very primitive, very alien… Lots of odd percussive elements and things to make you go; I don’t think we’re in Kansas anymore…”
If there was one thing you could say to get people excited about Hunter Prey, what would it be?
SC: It comes from the heart and is pure…
I’m also aware the story of Hunter Prey is part of a bigger picture…if it’s successful, do you plan to take the story into a sequel?
SC: Well, a sequel to Hunter Prey is certainly possible, and myself and Nick Damon, who co wrote Hunter Prey with me, have definitely tossed some ideas around. Again, I think the reality of a sequel is going to be dictated by the performance of the film. I’m also prepping two other projects. One is a horror film, that I also developed and wrote with Nick, and the other is another Sci Fi movie, but with a much bigger scope than Hunter Prey. We’ll see what happens… I’m sure I’ll do something cool… Stay tuned.