Interview with Tricia Lee – Director of Silent Retreat

Interview with Tricia Lee

I got the chance to ask Tricia Lee, director and producer of Silent Retreat (our review here) a few questions and she was nice enough to give us some answers despite her busy schedule. I began by asking –

How did the idea for the film come about?
In December 2011, I went on a Silent meditation retreat for 10 days where there was no talking, no eye contact, no gestures, no contact with the outside world. My writing partner Corey Brown told me to think of a thriller while I was there. It was a great place to set a low budget film! And I told him “Corey, I’m supposed to be meditating and clearing my mind!” So when I came back, I told him about my experience. I had carpooled with some people and when it was time to go home I was looking for all my passengers, but I couldn’t’ find one girl. I asked around and her roommate told me that she was sent home early. Corey and I thought, what a great place for people to disappear. With no eye contact or talking, we never get to know the people or even our own roommates. So if they leave a note saying they went home, we wouldn’t know if it were true or not. That was the genesis for this film and the environment it takes place in.

Filming sounded like it short and intense – was this the case?
We shot the feature in 10 days, plus 2 B unit days and we had a pick up day at the end, so a goal of 13 days. It was long hours, overnight and we all slept at the camp in Kettleby, Ontario where we shot.

What was the biggest lesson you took out of this?
With every film I make, I think I learn a lot. While it wasn’t a new lesson, I really saw what can come together when you work with a dedicated, passionate crew who believes int eh project. There were nights where I was so tired and barely could continue, but the crew pushed me to get the shots we needed to tell the story. They were amazingly supportive and you can’t make a no-budget indie film without a great crew.

Also, don’t shoot outside in Canada in November … it’s REALLY cold!

Was the gender battle in the film on purpose or just something that happened naturally because of the protagonist Vs antagonist nature of things?
The film was written to be about women standing up and using their voices. It was a theme that resonated with myself and the writer and it was something that I don’t think a lot of horror films take a look at. We wanted to do something different, but also something that meant something to us. I never take on a film unless I can find an emotional or thematic connection that resonates with me.

I didn’t, however, intend for this to be a feminist film. I think some reviewers have labelled it as such. I personally see it as a horror film with a strong theme.

Was it difficult finding financing for the film?
We have one private investor who believed in me and the project. We ran an indiegogo campaign and the rest of the deliverables and post were funded by my own bank account. So in a way, it wasn’t that hard to find financing, because we had the private financing in place before starting the project. Mind you, it was a very tiny budget, so I would say the hard part was making the film on such a tiny budget.

Was it difficult to shoot the effects scenes, giving the small budget?
Shaun Hunter, our amazing and talented SPFX supervisor and designer was able to make magic with no money. He designed and created the creature. We had 4 moulds so that after each day, we could dispose of the mask and hands and feet if they were broken in the process of taking it off. Also the script was written knowing we had a small budget, so a lot of the creature was hinted at in the shadows for the beginning half of the movie. This was a choice because of budgetary and creative reasons. I think it’s better to leave the creature in the shadows and in the viewer’s imagination for as long as possible, because what you anticipate is a creation of your own biggest fears, which is scarier than any creature we can put on screen.

Did you have a hand in picking any of the actors?
Yes, I ran all the auditions and had final say in who the cast was. Chelsea Jenish and Sofia Banzhaf were found during the audition process. They stood out from their very first audition. When I heard the words come out of their mouths, I also saw the character beam from them and pretty much knew right away that I had found my cast. Robert Nolan was a suggestion by a friend and my cast director worked with his agent to get us a meeting. Robert read the script and loved it and luckily for us, he agreed to play the Doctor!  

What kind of horror films interest you?
I like elevated genre films. Some of my favourites that I watched over and over and studied in preparation for Silent Retreat were The Descent and Let Me In.

Is there anything coming up in your future that you can tell us about?
Our next film is an elevated genre horror creature feature ONE DROP.
An elevated genre/dramatic horror about a single mother who overdoses and wakes up in a medical facility to find that everyone is dead and she’s nine months pregnant. As she struggles to escape she discovers the facility’s secret, they’ve tampered with the boundaries of death and brought people back to life, but those who’ve returned, have not returned alone.

You can find out more about One Drop

Silent Retreat is NOW AVAILABLE:

Online through iTunes, Google Play, YouTube, Playstation Network, Vudu, Amazon Video on Demand, Xbox, and Redbox Instant.

VOD through AT&T/U-verse, Verizon/Fios on Demand, Cox, Charter on Demand, Dish Network, Mediacom, Sudden Link, RCN, Optimum Bresnan Communications, and Frontier.
In Canada:
DVD from Black Fawn Distribution
VOD through Rogers, Telus, Sasktel, MTS, Shaw
Our previous film Clean Break is available in Canada on iTunes, and VOD on Rogers, Telus and Shaw.

Ryan Morrissey-Smith


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