An Interview with Patrick Rea – By Kirsten Walsh

For more than a decade, SenoReality Pictures has produced more than 50 short films and feature length films. Patrick Rea has held the role of co-founder and director within SenoReality Pictures, and has hit the horror circuit with full force as “Nailbiter” takes the viewer on a wild tornado of a ride. Primarily based out of the midwest- Kansas and Missouri, Rea’s views and ideas on horror have a distinct flavor of the vast open fields and mid-west mannerisms. Rea has a traditional history in filmmaking, attending film school at the University of Kansas, and starting his company fresh out of school, but took a fresh approach to his film style and his marketing ideas.

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KW: With "Nailbiter", which is the excellent horror film you are releasing this year, how did you come up with the concept for the film, especially the gruesome parts?

PR: When I was 16, a couple buddies of mine and me got stuck in a tornado warning in Nebraska and we ran to a house. The house was occupied by two very cute seniors, who let us stay in their basement for about 45 minutes. I often wondered what would have happened if that had gone horribly awry. Haha.

KW: That is a little eery, I must say. The story centers around a tornado storm that rapidly approaches- how did you shoot the tornado footage? Did you actually go out storm chasing?

PR: Actually it was nice and sunny most of the days that we needed to shoot those scenes, so we had to do the best we could since we were shooting on a limited budget. The actual tornado was a digital effect designed by BranitFX in Kansas City. BranitFX has done effects for “Lost”, “Breaking Bad” and “Fringe”. They were also able to replace the sky in a few scenes to make it look more ominous.

KW: Awesome. They looked excellent in the film. Let’s talk about the directing process for you- in "Nailbiter", you work with a variety of ages, and they all come across as full blooded characters with history and background. What were your experiences with working with children and how did you get across to them?

PR: I’ve done a lot of short films with child actors, so I’ve grown pretty accustomed to directing that age range. I’m a child at heart, so it isn’t that hard for me to communicate what I want in their acting performance. You just have to make the shooting experience lighthearted and fun, even though your filming something that will come across as creepy to the horror audience. I love directing a variety of ages. Every age has a different and fresh perspective which always surprises you.

KW: I don’t want to give it away for our readers who haven’t seen it yet, but there are some very tragic deaths that definitely set this film apart. Were you trying to hit a nerve in some of your viewers?

PR: We definitely were trying to make those scenes effective. I’m surprised how many folks were surprised by them. In all honesty I’ve been with the film so long that I tend to overlook how those scenes can be shocking. However, we made sure they were done in a way that was classy and not graphic. We figured the audience would turn against us if we took it to a different level.

KW: A different level indeed. I would say I saw some of it coming, but was still a little shocked. It definitely added to the overall film though. Now, story ends on an open note, leaving the opening for a sequel. Is there one in the works or in the future?

PR: Yes, absolutely. There is a script written and we intend to start the next film where this one leaves off. Just need to secure financing. Currently, I’m working on a couple other projects and then plan to come back to “Nailbiter: Part II” with fresh eyes. We also wanted to see how this one was received by the public.

KW: Of course, the creature design- I want to know everything and anything about your practical effects. You paired some practicals with CGI, can you talk about that experience? And the eyes of the creature- they were awesome- how did you accomplish that?

PR: We did the creatures practically. Allan Holt, a effects expert from Los Angeles, made the creatures based on a combination of designs I made and his own creativity. He did an awesome job. We then had a suit that we had an actor wear to balance out with the shots of the puppet Allan created. It was a challenge. I didn’t want to do CGI with the creature. The only real CGI in the film is the tornado. Everything else is either done with make-up prosthetics or the monster puppet.

KW: That is excellent. As a huge fan of practical effects, you guys definitely pulled it off well. Now, moving into your history as a filmmaker, you took the traditional route of going to film school. What would you say to future filmmakers who may be trying to decide between film school and jumping into productions? Do you feel that it has helped your film career?

PR: I always tell people that film school was very beneficial to me. It is what you make of it. If you go to film school, get involved and make films. Don’t coast through it and expect everything to fall into place. I always tell people that the majority of the people I have worked with for the last 10 years I met in film school. I know that “Nailbiter” would have never been made if I hadn’t gone to the University of Kansas.

KW: Also, how do you feel about film festivals? Many filmmakers I’ve talked to recently are feeling that festivals can be a waste of time and money, and no one ends up seeing the film in the end. Per your production company (SenoReality Pictures) webpage, I see you’ve had a good chunk of your films travel to multiple festivals- which is awesome.

PR: Well, again it is what you make of it. I tend to focus heavily on film festivals because it’s a form of ‘branding’. People get to know the work we’ve done by checking out our short films at multiple festivals. Because of the word of mouth about our shorts, it increases the visibility of our feature film projects. When we finished “Nailbiter”, we had a lot of interest due to the fact that we had been screening our short films at festivals across the country for 7 years.

KW:What is your next project? I see your upcoming short, "I do" listed on your website, but no features on the way? And what is next for "Nailbiter"- what festivals will it be traveling to and where can people find it?

PR: I have several short films in various stages of production. We’ve shot three short films this year and are planning another in a month or so. Our next feature is titled “Enclosure” and we hope to shoot this year, fingers crossed. I’m also working with Blanc-Biehn Productions (Michael Biehn and Jennifer Blanc-Biehn) on a time travel film, which we hope to shoot next summer. As for “Nailbiter”, I’m hoping it continues to find an audience and that it will lead us to successfully fund the sequel. Currently the film is at the Redbox nationwide, Amazon Prime, Itunes, Blockbuster, Vudu, etc.

KW: As a director and a writer, what mistakes have you made that you have learned from and carried with you- being in the film industry for over 10 years?

PR: Well, my very first few films I didn’t create a shot list or storyboards. Finally in 2006, I started storyboarding my films myself and it has helped tremendously over the past 7 years. I typically draw each shot out and then my DP, Hanuman Brown-Eagle and I will go to our locations and take pictures with stand-ins. Once that’s complete, he is able to figure out the lighting set ups. So, I guess the big lesson is ‘be prepared’. Things happen on a movie set that you’ll never see coming, so control what you can.

KW:Can you share with us a secret from the depths of "Nailbiter"?

PR: Well, the film took several years to shoot, despite it taking place in one day. There is a scene literally in the cellar where we had to stop shooting for an entire year and come back and pick it up. The actor turns to react to something and it’s a year later. Haha. We were able to match it all by having an early cut of what we shot the year before on set with us.

KW: What is your advice to aspiring filmmakers?

PR: I always tell aspiring filmmakers to find a way to make your films no matter what. Don’t settle for excuses, especially in this day and age where there are so many cameras readily available to the public. But first and foremost, tell a good story. That’s where a lot of early films suffer. Find a compelling story and your audience will overlook any of the flaws it may have in terms of production quality.

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Excellent words from an excellent director! Check out more information on “Nailbiter” and Patrick’s other films here: https://www.facebook.com/nailbitermovie, http://vimeo.com/senoreality, http://www.senoreality.com