Jason Tobias, star of such films as “aTypical Wednesday” and “Downrange”, talks about his new action thriller “FEAR” – which, he admits, is heavily influenced by PlayStation games.
GVN: When did this project come to be, Jason?
Jason: In 2017, Lucas Solomon (Executive Producer) and I founded Action Figure Entertainment and had been discussing shooting our first feature. Things ramped up in 2018 when I booked a commercial in Colorado for Blair Pennington’s company Restaurant Solutions Incorporated. Blair (Executive Producer) had his own production company (Fortnight Pictures) and had made commercials and shorts, but wanted to shoot features. So, I introduced Blair and Lucas to one another and the two hit it off. After that, I put together a pitch deck, a budget and pitched them the concept. Both liked it. We began discussing the logistics at TIFF that fall. By October, I’d reached out Marci Miller to have her read the script in the hope that she’d play ” Joe”. Geoff Reisner – who’s a long-time friend and collaborator, agreed to come on and co-direct with me. In November we’d moved into pre-production. Shortly after we started casting and found the amazing cast of Susan Harmon, Cece Kelly, Danny Ruiz, Justin Dray and Ivana Rojas. December was a mad dash to find the location needed to tell the story and Anna Bradley (Producer) found amazing locations up in Frazier Park, CA. We went to camera in January of 2019 and the rest as they say; is history.
And the inspiration?
There’s definitely been films, shows and video games, that influenced the concept. In particular, the Resident Evil videogame series. I played the original on Playstation and that’s when the survival/horror genre took on a new form for me. It wasn’t just jump scares and gruesome monsters. It was the relationships. The finite resources. It was the first time I’d really seen and understood that; monsters come in all shapes and sizes. Even your fellow man. The monsters, the zombies, all the threats were a byproduct of some ‘person’, or ‘persons’ behind the hideous creatures. They were the real monsters.
Is this a genre you normally gravitate towards?
I’ve always been a fan of thrillers, horror and the survival genre. In my heart of hearts though, Sci-Fi and Action Adventure is where I gravitate to the most.
Would you say there’s a message in the movie?
There isn’t one intentional or definitive message. Some of the primary themes revolve around Joe, Ethan and Desiree. For Joe it’s ‘Survival’. She must do what she has to – at any cost – to ensure the survival and safety of her family. For Ethan it’s ‘Redemption’. His family has been thrust into this terrible situation and he bears the weight of the events leading up to it. For Desiree it’s ‘Revenge’. She has the same intentions as Joe, just from her own point of view. Aksing the audience to look at the intentions of each character through their actions, their choices and decisions, maybe even agree with them…? Is what I believe creates good conflict. If the audience takes a single message away from this film, that’s for them. That’s personal.
Did you always intend on playing double duty, wearing two hats?
Not initially. Lucas, Blair and myself, knew we were going to have to wear multiple hats to make this film a reality. Independent film is truly a labor of love at its core. Geoff Reisner (Co-Director) and I had a lot of discussions leading up to shooting. We’re both very visual storytellers and the more we talked about it, we felt that co-directing would help execute the vision the way we saw things. Plus with each of us handling respective areas of the Director’s oversight, we were able to execute on a very tight shooting schedule of 12 days.
Tell us about those locations -the Pacific Northwest is almost another star of the movie…
Producer, Anna Bradley lived in the Frazier Park, CA area. When her and I started having conversations about locations in and around the Santa Clarita, one caveat for me was snow. We had to have snow. The story hinged on this family freezing to death with minimal resources. Anna said: “No problem. We get snow.”. This was clutch. I didn’t want it to be in a single location. An apartment building. A dilapidated city, or town. We didn’t have the budget to accomplish that, plus we’ve seen this done on numerous films and shows already. The area that we were in gets a good amount of snowfall in January and it’s only 65 miles away from Los Angeles. We were very fortunate to get some fantastic snowfall during filming. But, with snow and Southern California weather, it eventually melts – so continuity was something we were always fighting. It really was a fantastic location for the shoot.
If an awards ceremony were going to show a moment from the film, what moment would you ask them to play?
That’s tough… I personally love the scene with Susan Harmon (Desiree Murrow) and Marci Miller (Joe Allister) in the kitchen. Desiree has Avery in a leg lock and is choking him while Joe is trying to fight the urge to help, or not. Susan and Marci have such intense energy swirling throughout. We really start to see the extent that Desiree is willing to go to and how Joe is capable, but conflicted… When we were cutting the scene we got chills off of their performances.
Considering the year, we’ve had, most of us are appreciate film and other forms of entertainment more than ever. How have you been distracting yourself from outside worries during the past year?
I’ve continued writing. I have two more features in various stages of development from the time in quarantine. Additionally I was fortunate to get to the outdoors a few times. See nature and just be able to experience it to help with all the isolation and the encroaching feeling of fearing being in public and with others. It was a challenging year for us all.
Do you think theaters are going to bounce back?
I do. But, I think they’ll have to compete with new and evolving strategies that are coming out. ‘Day and Date’ releases are now becoming more of the ‘norm’. And we’ve seen how certain titles are being streamed for additional costs – as well as being in theaters, the day of. I believe we may see a shift in the number of theaters we have. You’ll always have a larger amount in more dense populations, but the smaller theaters will have a harder time surviving. It’s a shame, too… the theater experience is a magical one. There’s nothing like watching a film with an audience and vibing off the energy that everyone is feeling. I even remember Drive-Ins. Those were some of the best experiences I’ve had in cinema. Ones that I will always look back on lovingly.
Meantime, when and where can we see FEAR?
The film is currently available in the UK, Australia and New Zealand. We’re launching in N. America on June 15th on a full home entertainment release, with a day-and-date physical DVD and Premium TVOD, followed by a full digital release.
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