Producing and Directing ‘Prey’ with Jhane Myers and Dan Trachtenberg

This week on the show, Giles Alderson and Dom Lenoir chatted with Prey producer Jhane Myers first and then with director Dan Trachtenberg. 

Jhane became involved in producing Prey when a lot of her other projects were put on hold due to the pandemic. ‘I started interviewing for extra things and this was the last thing that I interviewed for. When I did I just told my rep to get rid of everything else because I wanted to do this.’

How She Was Chosen for the Role

‘I got contacted by Scott Aversano, executive vice president of 20th Century, and he said what this film is lacking, or what it really needs, is a Native producer to bring the Native part of life. Would you be interested?’

He’d contacted a few people for suggestions and everyone told him that he needed to speak to Jhane, including the team at Marvel who were currently filming ‘Echo’ for Disney.

And Scott was like ‘that’s all everybody keeps telling me. So he called me because he wanted to meet me. And I had just interviewed for Marvel as well. So I took this over the Marvel job. I’m Comanche, full blood Native American, but I’m also Blackfeet. So the fact that I could work on content that was my culture and my tribe, was perfect.’

Getting Into the Film World

While living in Oklahoma, she ran a PR company which dealt with tribal and community public relations.

‘From that, I started getting into the entertainment side of it. I started doing music clients and then  film clients and that’s how I came through the back door of Disney publicity. I started working with their publicity and their marketing. So I’ve had a really unique career working not only in producing, but many different aspects within the film world.’

Producing Prey

‘I couldn’t say that this job was minimal because there was so much of the cultural aspect that had to be put in. We had to make sure that everything looked and felt right for the time period. 

Everybody says, if you had a magic wand, what would your dream project be; and it has to be this one. I had an office in the production office, and then we had a separate building at a different location that we rented for the fight sequence because the core cast went through a bootcamp. 

They worked with our stunt coordinator and then he hired a Native tactical person. Comanche’s developed a sign language, so we took this to our fight coordinator and tactical person and we blended the two together and created a sign language for the core cast to learn and you see that in the film.’

Jhane also had a satellite office, on set, so that she could be hands on, but could also keep in touch with the studio. ‘I stationed myself there to make sure that I saw how everything was going.’

How She Helped Her Crew of 330 People

Jhane believes that it’s ‘really important that you talk to everybody and that you attend their individual meetings. So that they know that you’re engaged and that you want to help them.’

She also tells everybody that her door is always open, if they need her. ‘People weren’t used to seeing a producer, at this level, being really hands on.’

Our Chat with Dan

This was Dan’s first opportunity to speak about the film and how he made it. 

‘Of course there’s secrets that I’d love to keep about this movie but I love talking about why I make movies. This is something I’ve been working on forever and I’m so proud of the work that we all did with it, it’s fun to be able to tell people about it.’

Why He Decided to Make a Predator-prequel Film

As a child he wasn’t allowed to see Predator, because the films were rated.

‘I was in third grade when it came out, and we were in a carpool on the way to a karate tournament, myself and a bunch of sixth graders, and they had all just seen Predator and they described the whole movie to me on the drive; and I distinctly remember them saying there was a scene with the Native American tracker fighting the Predator. And I eventually saw the movie and that scene is not in the movie. It’s implied, but it’s not in the movie.’

His mum was really strict, but it really fuelled his imagination during his formative years.

How Prey Came About

‘After 10 Cloverfield Lane, Fury Road had come out and so I was very inspired and driven to see if I could make a movie that was primarily told through action, thinking about making a survivalist movie in the vein of Gravity or Revenant, but I didn’t want it to just be man against the elements or a visceral experience, I really wanted it to be an emotional one.’

He also loves sports films, so wanted to add an element of that into the film; and wanted to focus on the protagonist being ‘someone that never gets to be the protagonist in a movie. Native Americans, and Comanche specifically, are so often relegated to playing the sidekick or the villain and never the hero. So all those things fused together into my first pitch for this movie.’

Locations!

When doing press for 10 Cloverfield Lane, Dan said that people often remarked on how it must be so challenging to make a movie in only one location. 

‘And my dirty secret was that’s what made it easier – not just from a mental capacity, managerial standpoint, but also from a filmmaking perspective: having your toolkit very clearly laid out in front of you allows you to be so much more creative and inspired.’ For example: ‘we’ve already done this in this location, so what’s a better way to articulate this scene?’

His Advice to Filmmakers

‘Watch movies without the sound, that’s how I learned, more than any film class. Take your favourite movie, turn it on, mute it, pause before every scene and remind yourself what the scene is about and then hit play.

And especially Spielberg, you just see, without any words, without any music, he is telling the story of what needed to be told for the scene.’

For more from Jhane and Dan, listen here

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